THE HISTORY OF ROCK N ROLL – 1962 – PART FOUR

Posted: March 31, 2017 in MUSIC

CHRIS MONTEZ – CAROLE KING – BOBBY “BORIS” PICKETT & THE CRYPT KICKERS – STAX RECORDS – BOOKER T AND THE MG’S – RUFUS THOMAS – OTIS REDDING – AND OF COURSE, ELVIS PRESLEY

by Robert Seoane

THE MISSILES, AND HITS, OF OCTOBER

For thirteen days in 1962, between October 16th and 28th, the world was bracing itself for a possible nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. After the Kennedy Administration discovered that the USSR was responsible for the buildup of medium-range ballistic missiles in Cuba just 90 miles away from American shores, President John F. Kennedy delivered an ultimatum: dismantle the missiles or face war.

“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” –President John F. Kennedy, October 16, 1962

As Russian bluster clashed with American determination, the world held its breath. Cuban Premier Fidel Castro, expecting another US invasion at any moment after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, encouraged Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev to launch an attack. Kruschev wasn’t so sure, and delivered a personal letter to Kennedy on October 26th. Attorney General Robert Kennedy described the letter as “very long and emotional”. Kruschev proposed that the United States take away the Jupiter missiles aimed at the USSR in Turkey and Italy, which ironically enough were nearly obsolete anyway, and the USSR would take away the missiles aimed at the US in Cuba. They also asked for one more thing. To never invade Cuba again.

“I propose: we, for our part, will declare that our ships bound for Cuba are not carrying any armaments. You will declare that the United States will not invade Cuba with its troops and will not support any other forces which might intend to invade Cuba. Then the necessity of the presence of our military specialists in Cuba will disappear.” –Nikita Kruschev

By the 28th, the two leaders arrived at an agreement. The United States withdrew the Italian and Turkish missiles, and Kennedy promised that the United States would never attempt to invade Cuba again.

Admittedly, the American and Soviet governments did indeed avoid nuclear conflict, but the approximation this world had to a nuclear winter was not just prevented by the highest echelons of government. Nuclear annihilation was deterred at one point by one Soviet commander with common sense.

On October 27, an American spy plane was shot down over Cuba by a Soviet missile. The same day, a Soviet submarine armed with nuclear missiles was discovered near American shores. A small depth charge was deployed by a U.S. Navy missile near the sub trying to signal it to come up, but the submarine was down too deep to have the ability to signal to the Navy ship, so they assumed war had begun. The personnel in the Soviet sub immediately prepared to launch a nuclear torpedo. The decision to launch had to be made unanimously by the three commanding officers on the submarine. The Captain and the political officer authorized the launch, but Second Officer Vasili Arkhipov refused. As a result, the torpedo never launched. Yes, it took one man to prevent the world from blowing up, and had he not made that decision, we could very well not be here reading this blog today.

In the meantime, life went on as usual. Except for regular news broadcasts on the crisis, all other media ignored the event. Rock ‘n’ roll music, still its infancy in 1962, was completely apolitical. The only political commentary heard in song came from folk music. Political folk songs were heard on the radio in the 1930’s and 1940’s by folk groups like the Weavers to protest World War Two. It wasn’t until Bob Dylan recorded his original work in 1963 that folk music returned to political commentary, and it wasn’t until 1965 that Dylan single-handedly melded folk protest with rock ‘n’ roll simply by walking on stage at the Newport Folk Festival with an electric guitar in hand, much to the horror of folk purists. That day alone marked the advent of political commentary in rock music and opened the door to many a protest song during the Vietnam War and many other causes. But in October of 1962, the top songs on the charts were mostly fluff, comprised of dance music, love tunes and a timeless “novelty” song.

 

LET’S DANCE – CHRIS MONTEZ


Chris Montez

Still years away from Carlos Santana’s fusion of Latin rhythms with rock music, there was barely a smattering of Hispanic-American musicians playing rock ‘n’ roll in 1962. The first and most famous of them all at the time was Ritchie Valens, but his sudden, shocking death at age nineteen with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper in the infamous plane crash on February 4, 1959, halted any further blending of the two genres. It wasn’t until the early part of the Sixties that another Hispanic musician managed to make it to the higher echelons of the Billboard Pop chart with a song of his own, a fun little rock ‘n’ roll ditty called “Let’s Dance.”

Ezekiel Christopher Montañez was born in Los Angeles, California and grew up in Hawthorne, the same hometown as the Beach Boys. Born of Mexican immigrants, Chris was raised in a musical family, often singing falsetto on Mexican “rancheras” with his brothers as a pastime. They taught him to play guitar, and by the time he reached his junior year in Hawthorne High School, he had formed his own band. Inspired by Richie Valens, Chris shortened his last name from Montañez to Montez, just like Valens shortened his from Valenzuela, and with his high school group, they managed to record a few of Chris’ own original songs.

A representative from a local label named Monogram Records heard the recordings and released “All You Had To Do Was Tell Me” a slow, steamy burner ideal for slow dancing at the high school hop. It became a local hit but didn’t make a dent in the national charts.

In 1962, Montez recorded his first and only national Top Ten hit. It was an insanely catchy song that begins with a war drum-like percussion before an organ comes in to fill in Montez’ vocals. It was one of the first records to showcase an organ, a musical instrument that would become ubiquitous in many classic Sixties recordings. Like so many other songs of the day, its simple lyrics enumerate the dance crazes that were sweeping through teenage America at the time.

“Hey baby, won’t you take a chance? Say that you’ll let me have this dance, well, let’s dance, well, let’s dance… We’ll do the twist, the stomp, the mashed potato too, any old dance that you wanna do but let’s dance, well, let’s dance…” –Chris Montez, “Let’s Dance”

“Let’s Dance” is also featured in “National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978) to showcase John Belushi’s character instigating a food fight in the University cafeteria.

The song made it to Number Four in the Billboard Pop chart on October 6, 1962 and Number Two in the UK. The success of the song made Montez a headliner and he toured for the next year with Clyde McPhatter, Sam Cooke, the Platters and Smokey Robinson. In a tour of Liverpool in 1963 with co-headliner Tommy Roe, Montez’ opening act were the Beatles.

“Who are these guys The Beatles? I try to keep up with the British scene, but I don’t know their work.” –Chris Montez

Unlike that opening act, Chris Montez never cracked the Top Ten again. His early music didn’t much reflect his Hispanic roots either. When he signed with A&M Records in 1965, he was determined to capture his earlier success by singing rock ‘n’ roll songs, but A&M label owner Herb Alpert suggested he tone down his style to sing soft ballads instead. The result was a recording originally sung by Petula Clark, called “Call Me” that, although only reached Number 22 in the Pop chart, made it to Number Two in the Easy Listening chart and has become more popular over the ensuing years, having been used in many movies, most notably, Harrison Ford’s “Frantic”.

Chris Montez’ popularity waned throughout the rest of the Sixties. By 1972, he finally tapped into his Latin roots and began to record songs in Spanish, which did quite well internationally, but never managed to break through in the United States. He recorded his final album in 1983, “Cartas de Amor”, exclusively Spanish language material.

As of 2017, 74-year-old Chris Montez continues to tour occasionally in the US and the UK as part of the Solid Silver 60s show, a nostalgia tour showcasing various performers from the decade that was to change music forever.

 

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IT MIGHT AS WELL RAIN UNTIL SEPTEMBER – CAROLE KING


Carole King

By 1962, Carol Joan Klein had changed her name to Carole King and was already a songwriter with a few Number One hits under her belt. The Shirelles became the first girl group in the rock ‘n’ roll era to make it to Number One with King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” on January, 1961. The song was written along with her husband Gerry Goffin when they both worked for famed record producer Don Kirshner in New York’s Brill Building, where young, up-and-coming talented artists such as Neil Sedaka and Burt Bacharach, along with King, were writing for Kirshner to supplement the pop stars of the day with original material.

Each week, Kirschner would hold a meeting to listen to all his songwriters’ newest compositions, and the best songs would be assigned to any of a long list of recording artists in need of material. King and Goffin had already composed “The Loco-Motion” a dance song written for their baby sitter, who would record the song under the name Little Eva and make it to Number One Pop on August 25, 1962, and “Chains” for Little Eva’s backup vocalists called the Cookies who took it to Number 17 on December 29, 1962, and was later covered definitively by the Beatles on their debut album “Please Please Me” in 1963.

During that time, King had written another song that Kirshner liked called “It Might As Well Rain Until September”. KIrshner gave King’s song to Bobby Vee, who had had a hit the year before with another King Number One, “Take Good Care of my Baby”. Carole recorded a demo version of the song for Vee, but Kirshner liked her demo recording so much that he decided to release it as a single. Other Kirshner artists, particularly Sedaka, were both songwriters and performers of their own work, so releasing the demo with King performing it was nothing new, but because it was a demo and never intended for release as a proper single, there is no master tape but only an acetate, and therefore the quality of the song is inferior. Still, “…September” managed to climb to Number 22 on October 6, 1962. In the meantime, Bobby Vee buried his recording of the song in his 1963 album and didn’t release it as a single because King’s version was already out.

“IMAWRUS” was Carole King’s first self-performed single. She wouldn’t record herself again until nine years later, in 1971, when she released her landmark solo album “Tapestry” and paved the way for future female songwriters to do the same.

Part of the reason it took Carole King nine years to record her own songs again can be traced back to her 1962 singing debut on TV’s American Bandstand when she first performed “It Might As Well Rain Until September”. King never fancied herself to be a pop star. She considered herself much too plain looking and boring for that. Besides, she already had two kids to take care of and had no interest in going on tour for the record, so going on TV was her best alternative.

King lip-synced the song just like everyone else did on the show, but because it was a demo, it sounded muffled. At the end of the program, the studio audience graded her performance as being the poorest that week and gave her a 42 rating out of 100. Although the record sold well, the disappointing reaction to her AB appearance could have had a lot to do with King’s reticence to record her own voice again. But the audience could very well had also been responding to the poor quality of what they were hearing and because of that, gave the overall performance a bad rating.

It’s a good thing for music fans everywhere that she ultimately overcame her initial setback because “Tapestry” is a fine album, filled with classics such as “I Feel The Earth Move”, It’s Too Late”, “So Far Away”, “You’ve Got A Friend”, “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman”, and her own, slowed-down version of the song that first made her a songwriter to be reckoned with, the way she meant to have it performed, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”.

 

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THE MONSTER MASH – BOBBY “BORIS” PICKETT

Riding the tide of Sixties dance songs was a novelty record that’s still heard to this day, particularly around Halloween. Its popularity made a career out of one Robert George Pickett, the tune’s author, whose abilities to imitate the voices of Frankenstein’s Boris Karloff and Dracula’s Bela Lugosi, made famous by their respective Universal movie releases in the 1930’s and 40’s, made for an affectionately funny nod to the macabre world of the undead.

Pickett, a horror movie fan since childhood, was a struggling actor by day and lead vocalist for a band called the Cordials by night. One evening, he decided to satirize the Diamonds hit single “Little Darlin’” by singing it like Boris Karloff. The audience loved it, and fellow band member Leonard Capizzi noticed. Capizzi urged Bobby to capitalize on the impersonation. In May 1962, they sat down to write a novelty song incorporating Bobby Pickett’s talent for mimic. Much like rock ‘n’ roll itself, Pickett and Capizzi took two different genres, horror movie monsters and the current dance crazes, the Twist and the Mashed Potato, and blended them together. Due in large part to alliteration, they chose the Mashed Potato as opposed to the Twist to spinoff a dance reserved for creatures of the night, and called it “The Monster Mash”.

“I was working in the lab late one night when my eyes beheld an eerie sight. For my monster from his slab began to rise and suddenly to my surprise he did the mash, he did the monster mash, the monster mash, it was a graveyard smash, he did the mash, it caught on in a flash, he did the mash, he did the monster mash…” – Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt Kickers

Every major record label passed on the song except for one producer by the name of Gary S. Paxton. Paxton had already scored a Number One Pop novelty hit in 1960 called “Alley-Oop” with his group, the Hollywood Argyles. He also had modest chart success in 1959 with a Top Twenty single called “It Was I” when he was part of a singing duo named Skip and Flip. When Paxton heard Pickett perform “Monster Mash”, he saw another novelty hit, so he agreed to produce and engineer the recording. Paxton quickly put together a back-up band that included twenty-year-old pianist and future star in his own right, Leon Russell, and called them the Crypt Kickers. “The Monster Mash” was released through Paxton’s Garpax Records on August 25, 1962.

Paxton added special effects to the recording, reminiscent of the old Universal horror movies. The single opens with what sounds like a creaky coffin lid slowly opening, but is actually the sound of a nail being pulled out of a wooden board. The sound of a cauldron bubbling was simply Paxton blowing bubbles through a straw into a glass of water, and the rattling chains were actual chains being dropped on the studio floor. Amidst it all, Bobby spoke/sang the tune in his best Karloff impersonation, and gave us a smattering of his Lugosi impersonation for good measure.

“Out from his coffin, Drac’s voice did ring, seems he was troubled by just one thing, he opened the lid and shook his fist and said ‘Whatever happened to the Transylvania Twist?’”

“The Monster Mash” remained in the Number One position on Billboard’s pop chart from October 13th through October 27th, 1962, smack dab in the midst of the aforementioned Cuban Missile Crisis, and soon became a million seller. That wouldn’t be the end of the song’s chart success, however. In fact, it was only the beginning of a cottage industry that would sustain Pickett for the rest of his life. “Monster Mash” was re-released in August, 1970 and again in May, 1973 where it climbed to Number Ten and sold another million records. It was then released that same year for the first time in the UK where it reached Number Three, having been censored back in 1962 because it was deemed “too morbid”. It re-entered the UK charts again in 2008 where it climbed up to Number 60.

To capitalize on “Monster Mash”, Pickett recorded a follow-up Christmas single called “Monster’s Holiday”, reaching Number 30 during the 1962 holiday season. An album filled with monster-themed novelty tunes like “Me and My Mummy” and “Irresistible Igor” soon followed. The album had to be called “The Original Monster Mash” to distinguish it from another version of “Monster Mash” that had been quickly recorded by a singer named John Zacherle for the Cameo-Parkway record label.

In 1967, Pickett took his song concept to the stage and wrote a musical play with TV author Sheldon Allman called “I’m Sorry the Bridge Is Out, You’ll Have to Spend the Night”, which was produced in a smattering of local theaters around the US, then followed it up a few years later with another musical called “Frankenstein Unbound”. In 1995, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, who had just written “Toy Story” for Disney, produced a movie version of “Frankenstein Unbound” and called it various titles, including “Frankenstein Sings” and “Monster Mash: The Movie”, starring Pickett himself.

When Rap music became popular in the Eighties, Pickett recorded “Monster Rap” in 1983, a worthy successor to “Monster Mash”, and found cult popularity on a national radio show hosted by a DJ named Barry Hansen, better known as Dr.Demento, whose show can still be heard online.

In 1993, Pickett wrote yet another “…Mash” spinoff and called it “It’s Alive” which also played regularly on Dr. Demento’s radio show.

He dusted off his novelty songwriting pen yet again in 2005 when he wrote “Climate Mash” in protest of the American government’s inaction towards global warming. That same year, Pickett released his autobiography called “Monster Mash: Half Dead in Hollywood”.

“Monster Mash” has been re-recorded and sampled by other artists throughout the years, from the Canadian arena rock group Rush, incorporating bits of it in their instrumental track, “Limbo” off their 1996 album, “Test for Echo” to the Misfits, a horror punk band who released a music video of them performing “Monster Mash” live in 1997, then recorded it twice, in 1999 for release as a single and again in 2003 for their album “Project 1950”.

Bobby Pickett died on April 25, 2007 of leukemia at age 69. The Dr. Demento show paid tribute to him two weeks later on May 13 with a retrospective of his work. Although most of his songs are only known by a small cult following, his “Monster Mash” has become the most played song during Halloween. It’s interesting to note that the two fads the song was inspired from, Universal monster movies and Sixties dance fads, are now lost in the cobwebs of nostalgia, but their offshoot child, “The Monster Mash” lives on.

 

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STAX RECORDS AND THE BIRTH OF MEMPHIS SOUL

The refurbished Capitol Theater located at 926 East McLemore Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee became Stax Records in 1961.

Besides Detroit’s special brand of R&B coming out of Motown Records, there was another city that came to the fore in 1962 playing host to a unique sound that was to become known as Memphis Soul. It was comprised of music legends that could have otherwise been ignored had it not been for one record label in particular that was born out of Memphis thanks to a forward-thinking pair of siblings named Jim and Estelle.

Until then, Memphis had been not only known for its C&W music but also for pioneering rock ‘n’ roll in the Fifties, thanks to Sam Phillips’ Sun Records and his golden boy, Elvis Presley. But it took a handful of young producers and entrepreneurs to lead the way during the subsequent decade in defining and releasing classic soul records that represented the new Memphis sound of the Sixties through a record label called Stax. Stax Records would become one of the most popular soul music record labels during the Sixties and Seventies, second only to Motown in sales with its raw, gritty, un-Motown-like sound. The two competitor labels paralleled themselves even in slogans. While Motown dubbed their headquarters the all-encompassing “Hitsville USA”, Stax retorted with their more urban “Soulsville USA”.

Undiscovered until the label’s advent, renowned musical legends soon blossomed over the ensuing years. People like Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Booker T. Jones, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Wilson Pickett, Bobby Womack, the Box Tops, Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, the Dramatics, The Bar-Kays, Delaney & Bonnie, the Delfonics, Eddie Floyd, the Spinners, Joe Tex, Rufus Thomas, and his daughter Carla, all got their start with Stax, and it all began when a twenty-seven-year-old young man decided to indulge himself in his love for music.


Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton

Inspired by Sun Records’ owner Sam Phillips, Tennessean Jim Stewart wanted to start a record label, so in 1957 he founded Satellite Records in Memphis. Over the next two years, the label’s recording output would consist of country & western and rockabilly music. In 1959, he hired a twenty-one-year-old recording engineer named Lincoln Wayne “Chips” Moman to be Satellite Record’s staff producer.


Chips Moman

Moman, not content with just recording C&W artists, introduced Stewart to R&B music and suggested he scout local R&B talent to record, whetting Stewart’s interest in this uniquely ethnic but delightfully catchy new sound. By the summer of that same year, Satellite Records would release its first R&B single called “Fool In Love”, written by Moman and performed by their first, newly discovered doo-wop group called the Veltones.

The early Satellite recordings were sub-par and Stewart knew this, but he needed money to buy his own recording equipment. Like him, his sister, bank clerk Estelle Axton, was also a music lover. Wanting to become totally self-sufficient and improve the quality of his recording output, Stewart asked his sister to invest in Satellite Records with him by helping him purchase recording equipment for the label. Estelle persuaded her husband to mortgage their home and they used the funds to purchase an Ampex 300 tape recorder for $2500 (approximately $21,000 in 2017 dollars). By 1959, Estelle quit her job and the siblings joined forces. Moman helped them find the former Capitol Theater at 926 East McLemore Avenue in Memphis and together they turned it into a recording studio. The stage was the control room and the auditorium was converted into studio space. The size and various floor levels of the auditorium were left intact, creating interesting acoustics and adding a unique sound to the recordings.

“The studio wasn’t designed like studios are today,” Cropper recalls. “I mean, we took this old theatre and pulled the seats out of it. We had to go and hammer all of the screws down into the concrete before we could put carpet down. And we were all there helping to do that, making burlap baffles and so on, without any knowledge at all of what we were doing.” –Steve Cropper

One of the first jobs at hand for the fledgling record label was to find session musicians who could play C&W as well as R&B to back up their artists in the recording studio. Estelle’s son and Jim’s nephew, Charles “Packy” Axton had that ability. Packy was an aspiring tenor sax musician who played in a high school group named the Royal Spades. Besides Packy, the Royal Spades consisted of Wayne Jackson on trumpet, Jerry Lee Smith on keyboards, Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass and legendary guitarist, then seventeen-year-old Steve Cropper. In 1958, Estelle and Jim offered the Royal Spades the opportunity to play back up for their artists as session musicians for Satellite Records. The teenage boys eagerly agreed and worked for them from that moment forward in various incarnations. It wasn’t always harmonious however, as Packy had a penchant for alcohol and could become overbearing. During one session, he actually came to blows with his guitarist Cropper, who briefly quit the band after the fight. Packy’s alcoholism never abated after that incident, and he ultimately died in January of 1974 at age 32 of cirrhosis of the liver.


The Royal Spades; left to right, Don Nix, Steve Cropper, Packy Axton, Duck Dunn, Terry Johnson, Ronnie Dtoots and Wayne Jackson

In order to make ends meet as they struggled to record hits, Estelle and Jim turned the Capitol Theater’s foyer into a record store, which would ultimately prove more valuable than just being a center of profit at the time. Estelle stocked the store with the best in R&B records of the day, inadvertently expanding her knowledge of the competition and influencing the music Stax recorded, and encouraged young folk attracted to her inventory to use the store as a meeting place while they listened to their favorite songs. She would often play the acetates of their own latest recordings for the store visitors to gauge the song’s popularity. Sixteen-year-old Booker T. Jones was a frequent visitor, and he would often spend hours there listening to records and chatting with Estelle and Cropper, who Estelle hired to work at the store part time.

“She just loved music, loved people. She was always bringing us up there (the record shop), having us listen to records. She kept us in touch with the music industry. I doubt there would have been a Stax Records without Estelle Axton. She encouraged the entire Stax roster from her little perch behind the counter.”–Booker T. Jones

 

RUFUS THOMAS


Second row, from left, Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, unknown man, Andrew Jackson. Front row, from left, unknown couple, Cara & Rufus Thomas, Janis Joplin and Sam Andrew

“Rufus Thomas embodied the spirit of Memphis music perhaps more than any other artist, and from the early 1940s until his death… occupied many important roles in the local scene.” –The Mississippi Blues Commission

One of the first African-American artists to record in the new Stax studio was Rufus Thomas, with his daughter Carla sharing lead and her brother Marvell on keyboards on an R&B wailer called “’Cause I Love You”.

Booker T. Jones began his musical career there playing baritone sax on the recording. The record caught the ear of Atlantic Records co-founder Jerry Wexler. The song gave Stewart the opportunity to work out a deal with Atlantic Records to distribute Satellite’s output nationally. One of the artists Atlantic wanted Stax to keep as part of their agreement was Rufus Thomas’ daughter, Carla who had a hit in 1961 with her debut single, “Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes).”

Rufus Thomas enjoyed a long career with Stax, particularly during the Sixties and Seventies, with popular novelty singles like “Walking the Dog” (1963) and “Do the Funky Chicken” (1969).

 

BOOKER T & THE MGs

Stewart attributed his new-found love for R&B music as being “a blind man who suddenly gained his sight.” From then on, Jim and Estelle agreed to record exclusively R&B music, but they had an image problem, since for the last four years, Satellite Records was known as a C&W record label. He and Estelle soon realized that they needed to re-invent themselves. By September of 1961 they had changed the name of the record label from Satellite to Stax Records, deriving “Stax” from a portmanteau of their surnames, Stewart and Axton. From then on, with Moman sharing the helm, Stax Records would come to define Memphis Soul.


Booker T & the MGs; from left to right, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper and Al Jackson

Witnessing all this change, the label’s young session musicians wanted to also record a single of their own. Packy bugged his mom for years, along with the rest of the group, until Estelle ultimately agreed in 1961, but on the condition that they changed what she considered to be a dreadful name, “The Royal Spades”, to the Mar-Keys, referring to the old Capitol Theater’s marquee outside Stax. They agreed to the name change if it meant recording a song on their own. The result, “Last Night”, was written by Packy Axton, Chips Moman, Floyd Newman, Gilbert Caple and Jerry Lee Smith. The instrumental would climb to Number Three Pop and Number Two R&B on the national Billboard charts that year. The young group was thrilled and it marked the beginning of a varied musical career for them.

“Jerry Lee ‘Smoochy’ Smith came up with the piano riff that was played on organ. Since [producer Chips] Moman didn’t want a guitar on it for whatever reason, I wound up playing the hold-down on the organ on the root note. It hurts me in the Mar-Keys history when people say I wasn’t in the Mar-Keys because there’s no guitar on ‘Last Night’ but I have to differ with them.” –Steve Cropper

By 1962, shake-ups within the label had already begun. Moman left Stax towards the end of the year before due to a disagreement over song royalties. Stewart then turned to Cropper, who admired the young man’s maturity and talent, and offered him Moman’s vacated position as A&R director. Cropper immediately took to the job, working as writer, producer and session lead guitarist for scores of Stax singles. In one of his first recording sessions under this new configuration, Steve was backing former Sun Records artist Billie Lee Riley on a song with Booker T. Jones on keyboards, bassist Lewis Steinberg, and drummer Al Jackson. During downtime, the four session musicians would play around with a bluesy organ riff. Jim Stewart was in the control room at the time and liked what he heard, so he suggested they record the riff. Soon after that, they laid down another instrumental track and before they knew it, they had themselves an impromptu single.

GREEN ONIONS – BOOKER T & THE MGs

The resulting recordings were titled “Behave Yourself” and the profoundly funky “Green Onions”. Stewart wanted to release “Behave Yourself” as the A-side of the single but Cropper begged to differ. DJs who had heard the two tracks mostly agreed that “Green Onions” had a subversive rhythm that got under your skin and never let go, so Jim relented and released it as the A-side of Booker T & the MGs’ debut single.

“We were all real excited about this thing. The next morning I called Scotty Moore over at Sun and I said: ‘We got a hot one, can you make me a dub on it?’ So I ran over and he says, ‘Man, that’s funky!’ Then I took the dub over to Reuben Washington at WLOK and he just threw it on live, played it four times in a row. And I’m tellin’ you, the phones lit up.” –Steve Cropper

With Booker T. Jones handling the insanely funky keyboard, Steve Cropper adding his tasty, brief bursts of Fender Telecaster licks to the mix and Steinberg’s steadily unnerving bass, the sudden new group had to scramble for a name once the song hit the airwaves and settled on Booker T & The MGs. By September of 1962, “Green Onions” had climbed to its peak Number Three position on Billboard’s Pop chart.

Booker T. & The MGs would go on to be considered the Greatest Backing Band in the History of Soul, cooking up the funkiest rhythms for the artists they backed during their tenure at Stax. By 1964, Donald “Duck” Dunn replaced Steinberg on bass and along with the rest of the group, played on songs such as Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”, Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”, Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood”, Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and Sam & Dave’s “Hold on I’m Coming” among scores more.

“I like to pat ourselves on the back. When you hear Booker T & the MGs, you can pick one instrument and there’s a separation there. It’s not cluttered. It’s just like it was written, but it was all done off the top of the head. It was just a lucky marriage of us four, I think.” –Donald “Duck” Dunn

 

OTIS REDDING


Otis Redding

A promo man for Stax’ distribution label, Atlantic Records, by the name of Joe Galkin was so taken by “Green Onions” that he made it a point to send his Macon-based Johnny Jenkins & the Pinetoppers to the Stax recording studios to record with Booker T & the MGs, who were soon get the distinction of being the best backing band in the South. The session unfortunately, proved unproductive. At the end of it all, with hours of recording time spent and nothing to show for it, they begrudgingly allowed one of the members of the group, a 21-year-old singer/songwriter named Otis Ray Redding, to lay down a ballad he had written called “These Arms of Mine”.

“The cat sang about two lines and everybody’s eyes just went like this – Jesus Christ, this guy’s incredible!” –Steve Cropper

THESE ARMS OF MINE – OTIS REDDING

“These Arms Of Mine” was released through Stax’ subsidiary label, Volt, in October 1962 and charted the following year, ultimately selling over 800,000 copies and becoming Stax’ most popular record to date. It marked the beginning of the first chapter of the Stax Records legacy, the Otis Redding period, when the rising star would lead the label to unparalleled success until Redding’s tragic plane crash in 1967 ground everything to a halt.

CLICK BELOW TO GO TO ELVIS PRESLEY

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ELVIS PRESLEY

“Despite all his money, Presley today is one of the most considerate, well-mannered young gentlemen in the movie colony. He addresses his seniors as ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’ and his treatment of co-workers, no matter what their salary scale, is courteous, sincere and democratic. He is warm, charming and friendly to everyone … Elvis is regarded as a paragon of virtue, ‘one star who has kept his nose clean.’” –Lloyd Shearer, Parade Magazine; November, 1962

Elvis Presley jumped the shark in 1962. It was the year when he became a certified movie star over a rock ‘n’ roll star. Rock ‘n’ roll in the early Sixties was still not a potent moneymaking industry in comparison to Hollywood, so movies became Elvis’ day job. Col. Tom Parker, Presley’s manager, was the mastermind behind making Elvis a movie star. Elvis had confessed to the Colonel when they first met that his true ambition wasn’t to sing rock ‘n’ roll but to be a serious actor. The Colonel promised him he would get him into the movies, so in 1955, he called Harry Kalcheim at the William Morris Agency in New York and told him that he was “interested in making a picture with this boy”.

The result was a movie contract signed on April 25, 1956 with Paramount Pictures, pushed forward thanks in large part to a producer named Hal Wallis. After Wallis saw Elvis perform on TV for the Dorsey Brothers, he promptly offered him a screen test. By April, they had hammered out a contract with Wallis as producer of seven movies and a payment structure where Elvis would get paid $15,000 for his first movie, $20,000 for his second movie, and incrementing each year until reaching $100,000 by his seventh movie. The Colonel also managed to negotiate allowing Elvis to make one movie per year with another movie studio.

Wallis waived his contractual right to produce Elvis’ first movie because he couldn’t find a suitable script yet, so the Colonel quickly exercised their right to work with another studio. Because Presley’s star had risen so quickly, Parker was able to negotiate with 20th Century Fox a $100,000 salary for Elvis’ co-starring debut in “Love Me Tender”, with an option to produce two more films, for $150,000 and $200,000. When Wallis finally found a script that satisfied him, the Colonel also managed to score a $50,000 bonus for Elvis, along with the agreed-upon $15,000 salary for “Loving You” in 1957. The following year, for his fourth movie “King Creole”, the Colonel cajoled Wallis into not only also adding a $50,000 bonus with Elvis’ $20,000 salary again, but also including an extra $30,000 to cover Presley’s personal expenses while filming. Parker picked up a third movie contract for Elvis with MGM, and negotiated a $250,000 salary for Presley to be in “Jailhouse Rock”, plus a 50% share of the profits from the film.

By 1962, the Colonel had re-negotiated Elvis’ contract with Paramount and picked up yet another contract, this time with United Artists, that was paying the King half a million dollars per feature and a 50% share of the profits. The Colonel had made his golden boy’s dream come true –but with a caveat. Although Elvis wanted to be considered a serious actor, his dramatic films didn’t fare as well at the box office as his musical comedies, so the Colonel convinced Presley to drop his thespian ambitions and follow the money.

Elvis Presley seemed to have reached the height of success in 1962. His life had become one of excess, partying all the time, taking amphetamines to stay up (a habit he picked up during his Army days on maneuvers), and indulging in all the girls who were more than willing to spend an evening or two with the King. Yet the good Colonel made sure he looked all cleaned up to the public. Gone was the rebellious teenager from the Fifties with the greasy, uncombed hair singing with abandon and swiveling his famous pelvis, replaced by a clean-cut, carefully combed, suit-and-tie-wearing movie star.

 

ELVIS PRESLEY’S 1962 MUSICAL RELEASES

In one way, it was a stroke of luck for Elvis to be making movies full-time at this point in his career because 1962 would be the first year he would experience a downturn in the popularity of his musical output. He celebrated his 27th birthday on January 15 by signing a four-year recording contract with RCA Records, the same label he’d been with since ‘56 when Sam Phillips’ Sun Records sold the label his contract for $40,000 (approximately $362,000 in 2017 dollars). Elvis spent a grand total of seven days inside an RCA recording studio that year, spending most of his time in a movie studio instead. Much of his musical output had shifted from releasing Top Ten singles to filling up the soundtracks for his filmic vehicles, primarily because his movie soundtracks were outselling his studio recordings. His previous movie soundtrack album, “Blue Hawaii”, released in November of 1961, vastly outsold his 1962 studio release, “Pot Luck”, by around ten to one. One of his best-selling double-sided singles, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” with “Rock-A-Hula Baby”, were two songs from “Blue Hawaii” that dominated the charts in the winter of ‘62.

Elvis had decent but deteriorating chart activity in 1962. Nine of his singles charted in Billboard’s Hot 100, with seven of them in the Top Forty and three of those in the Top Ten. He charted his last Number One hit, “Good Luck Charm”, in 1962 that wouldn’t be matched until his comeback seven years later with “Suspicious Minds” in 1969. That seven-year gap between Number Ones coincides with his total immersion into moviemaking. He released one studio album and two studio EP’s in 1962. EP’s, or Extended Plays, were somewhat smaller than LP (Long Play) records and contained up to only six songs, as opposed to LPs which could contain eight or more.

GOOD LUCK CHARM – ELVIS PRESLEY

“Good Luck Charm” was written by the songwriting duo of Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold. Schroeder would ultimately write seventeen songs for Elvis and five of them, “It’s Now or Never”, “Stuck On You”, “I Got Stung”, “A Big Hunk O’ Love” and “Good Luck Charm” were Number One hits. His partner Gold co-wrote “…Charm” and “it’s Now or Never” with Schroeder.

Recorded in Nashville on October 15, 1961, “Good Luck Charm” was released on February 27, 1962. Although catchy, it didn’t match the originality of his Fifties hits. The lyrics, requiring the subject of the song to be nothing more than a sort of rabbit’s foot were a clever, albeit patronizing, vehicle for a love song. It reached Number One Billboard Pop on April 21 and stayed there for two weeks.

SHE’S NOT YOU – ELVIS PRESLEY

Elvis’ next Top Ten single was recorded in March of 1962 and released that summer, written by Doc Pomus in collaboration with Lieber and Stoller, the songwriting duo who wrote hits for Elvis like “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock”. This tune, like “GLC”, was reminiscent of his other Doc Pomus-penned post-Army releases “Marie’s the Name (Of His Latest Flame)” and “Little Sister”. Released on July 17, “She’s Not You” made it to Number Five the following month.

POT LUCK – ELVIS PRESLEY

Besides his singles output and movie soundtrack albums, Elvis Presley released only one studio album in 1962. It was called “Pot Luck” and it’s easily his best album to date, even though its title pretty much describes its content, a mixture of great songs with not-so-great songs. But the great songs make the album worth it. Recording sessions for “Pot Luck” spanned a year, but only involved five days in the studio: three days in March, June and October of 1961 and the remaining two days on March 18 and 19, 1962. All those days were spent recording in RCA’s studio B in Nashville, Tennessee. Inexplicably, none of the songs on the album were released as singles until years later. Still, the album mad it to Number Four in the Billboard Pop album chart. The following collection of songs from “Pot Luck” are the album highlights.

KISS ME QUICK – ELVIS PRESLEY

The album opens with the best of the new Elvis, a tango-infused beat carrying a catchy melody that the King sings as only he can sing it. It’s one of those songs you never heard but is unmistakably Elvis. It leaves the listener optimistic that the album would be more of the same.

Like four other tracks in “Pot Luck”, “Kiss Me Quick” is written by Doc Pomus, one of Elvis’ most prolific writers. He co-writes this one with Mort Shuman, a singer-songwriter who worked with Pomus on many other hits including “Save the Last Dance For Me” for the Drifters and a bouquet of other Elvis songs including “Little Sister”, “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame” and “Viva Las Vegas”.

“Kiss Me Quick” was released as a single in Europe and remained on the UK Pop chart at Number One for eight weeks in the summer of 1963. It wasn’t released as a single in the United States until April 13, 1964 but by that time, the radio airwaves were filled with the sounds of the British Invasion lead by the Beatles. The single only managed to climb up to Number 34 in Billboard’s Pop chart.

GONNA GET BACK HOME SOMEHOW – ELVIS PRESLEY

”Pot Luck” comes to a sudden halt with the second track, the maudlin “Just For Old Times Sake” before arriving at another Pomus/Shuman rock ‘n’ roller, the aggressive “Gonna Get Back Home Somehow”. Pomus, stricken by polio as a child and forced to use crutches all his life (and in later years confined to a wheelchair), had a knack for writing R&B-tinged pop songs despite being a white Jew. He had changed his name from Jerry Felder to Doc Pomus only because it sounded more like a blues songwriter. “Gonna Get Back Home Somehow” gives Presley plenty of opportunity to add his trademark growl and unique phrasing as only he can. Once Elvis performs a song, he makes it his own.

(SUCH AN) EASY QUESTION – ELVIS PRESLEY

Another hidden gem thanks primarily to the way Elvis sings it, “(Such An) Easy Question” was written by Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott. Blackwell’s songs had put Presley on top of the charts before with “Don’t Be Cruel” and “All Shook Up”. He also wrote “Return To Sender” with Scott, a longtime collaborator with Blackwell.

Like all the tracks from “Pot Luck” none of them were released during 1962. “(Such An) Easy Question” wouldn’t be released as a single until 1965 when it was featured in the Elvis Presley movie “Tickle Me”, and barely missed the Billboard Pop Ten, climbing as high as Number 11, but did manage to reach the Number One spot on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart and stay there for two weeks during the summer of 1965.

SUSPICION – ELVIS PRESLEY

Side two of “Pot Luck” opens with another forgettable ballad before the highlight of the album, a wonderful composition named “Suspicion”, also written by Pomus & Shuman. This song should have been a hit for Elvis but became a Top Ten single for a singer named Terry Stafford instead. “Suspicion” was never released as a single by Elvis until after Safford’s version came out in April, 1964 right in the midst of the Beatles’ lock hold on the charts. In fact, it was Terry Stafford’s “Suspicion” that broke the Beatles Top Five monopoly, when the Fab Four’s singles occupied all five positions, and broke the streak after one week by breaking through to Number Three spot that April.

NIGHT RIDER – ELVIS PRESLEY

The Pomus/Shuman rockabilly “Night Rider” was one of a trio of songs from “Pot Luck” that wound up in the 1965 Elvis movie “Tickle Me”, the others being “I’m Yours” and “(Such An) Easy Question”. The reason for delving into the Elvish treasure chest for this movie was because Elvis was in trouble with the IRS and needed extra cash to pay them. Col. Parker approached Allied Artists to put together an Elvis movie to pay the taxes off. Elvis received $600,000 for that movie.

THAT’S SOMEONE YOU NEVER FORGET – ELVIS PRESLEY

The final track on the album is special only because Elvis shares co-writing credit with Red West and was supposedly written in memory of his deceased mother, Gladys. Besides that, it wasn’t a particularly memorable song. Allegedly all he really contributed to the song was the concept and the title.

“’That’s Someone You Never Forget’ was a title that came from Elvis. He said, ‘How about coming up with a song with the title of “That’s Someone You Never Forget”?'” –Red West

Co-writer West was a member of Elvis’ entourage and a high school friend who later got fired in 1976 along with other members of his crew by father Vernon, who hated them all. To be fair to West, he was quite vocal and against the King’s growing addiction during his final years. He wrote a book called “Elvis” What Happened” which was published just weeks before his death. In it, he speaks of Elvis dive into drug addiction. Many accused West of trying to cash in on his friendship with the King.
After “Pot Luck”, Elvis took a four-year hiatus of any more studio recordings. From then on, he’d focus on only releasing albums that supported his movies. It was a perfect promotional cycle, as the soundtrack album would promote the film and vice versa. Elvis had found his money-making machine, but it left the world of rock ‘n roll without a leader. The vacuum could be felt, too. By 1962, rock ‘n’ roll had lost its edge. In the meantime, the musical stirrings occurring across the pond in the United Kingdom were still two years away from taking America by storm.

 

ELVIS PRESLEY’s 1962 MOVIE RELEASES

“I’d rather try and close a deal with the Devil.”
–Paramount Producer Hal Wallis on Col. Tom Parker’s negotiating skills for Presley’s movie contracts

1962 played host to three Elvis movies, more film than he had ever released within the span of twelve months. It was to become the norm. Two of his movies that year were distributed by United Artists and the other one by Paramount. United Artists had agreed to pay Elvis $500,000 plus 50% of the profits for each picture. According to his contract with Paramount, Wallis could have offered the same amount to make additional movies with Presley that year but, seeing that the King’s salary was increasing each time the Colonel signed a new contract with another movie studio, Wallis stuck to just making one movie a year as per his much more economical agreement.

By now, Elvis was a proven star. Elvis movies had become ubiquitous with its steady churning of new movies every four to six months. Dozens of songwriters contributed their compositions for consideration to perform in his films. Presley received approximately 300 demos per movie, even though the songs Elvis and the Colonel favored were the ones that had publishing arrangements connected to Elvis Presley Music and Gladys Music, the two companies both he and Parker owned. Because they received so many demos every time they set out to make the next movie, songs they particularly liked but couldn’t fit into one film were saved for future use, since the words in all those tunes usually had nothing to do with any of the movie plots anyway.

FOLLOW THAT DREAM

Elvis Presley began shooting his ninth movie, and his first for United Artists, right after the Fourth of July holiday, on the 6th, in the middle of a sweltering summer in 1961 Florida. Based on a book called “Pioneer, Go Home!” written by Richard Powell, Producer Walter Mirisch changed the title of the movie because they couldn’t find a word that rhymed with “pioneer” for the theme song. Mirisch chose instead the title “Follow That Dream”, basically just because he liked the song. Elvis recorded it right before America’s 185th birthday, on July 2nd.

The song “Follow That Dream” was written by Fred Wise and Ben Weisman, two songwriters who would contribute many of their works for Elvis movies. In fact, Weisman, an eccentric fellow Presley nicknamed “The Mad Professor”, holds the record for most compositions written for and sung by the King, –fifty-seven.

Author Powell wasn’t too thrilled about having Elvis star in the movie version of his book. His novel was a satire of a family on vacation whose car breaks down in a deserted area in Florida and then decide to take possession of the land and make it their home. Powell’s previous book, “The Philadelphian” (1956), was a serious novel that spent six months on the New York Times’ best-seller list and was made into a movie with A-star actor of the day Paul Newman, called “The Young Philadelphians” (1959). Powell hadn’t considered the idea of his follow-up comedy to be turned into a musical starring Elvis. After it was released however, the author admitted that he was satisfied with Presley’s performance. Elvis displayed a natural comedic timing that allowed for his sense of humor to come through.

Presley met many fans in his brief life. Those wistful moments fans treasure, of being in the presence of the King for nary a moment, profoundly influenced the beholder to the point that many of them chose a career in music. Not many musical artists make such a powerful impression by their mere presence. A handful of these lucky fans grew up to become famous themselves. One such incident occurred during the filming of “Follow That Dream”. One of the members of the production crew came to work one day with his 11-year-old nephew. His nephew was Tom Petty.

“I remember this vividly. There was a huge crowd; the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen in the streets of Ocala, and then, I swear to God, a line of white Cadillacs pulled in. All white. I’d never seen anything like that. I was standing up on a box to see over everyone’s head, because a big roar started up when the cars pulled in. He stepped out radiant as an angel. He seemed to glow and walk above the ground. It was like nothing I’d ever seen in my life. At 50 yards, we were stunned by what this guy looked like. And he came walking right towards us. Elvis’ hair was so impossibly black that it glistened a deep blue when the sunlight hit it. And that’s when Elvis walked directly over to Uncle Earl, Aunt Ellen and little Tom Petty. We were speechless. I don’t know what he said because I was just too dumbfounded. And he went into his trailer.” – Tom Petty

Young Tom was mesmerized that day, watching Elvis do take after take of the same scene, getting out of his car and walking into a bank.

“…and every time Elvis’ car rolled up, the crowd went insane, breaking through the barricades and charging toward the star. And I thought at the time, ‘That is one hell of a job to have. That’s a great gig.’” – Tom Petty

The movie is permanently memorialized in Florida. Yankeetown, one of the small Florida towns “Follow That Dream” was filmed in, changed the name of their main highway on July 27th, 1996 to Follow That Dream Parkway, thanks to the efforts of four Elvis fans.

The movie was released on April 11th, 1962. According to Variety, it was the fifth most popular movie for three weeks during its original release. It finished at Number 33 on the year-end list of the top-grossing films of 1962.The accompanying movie soundtrack album was released as an Extended Play (EP) a month after the movie’s premiere. The mini-album included the title song and three other unremarkable tracks. Of course, the movie did nothing to advance Elvis’ career as a rock ‘n’ roller one iota. Back in the Fifties, part of his attraction was the way he danced, but they had tamed him so much that by 1962, Elvis was delivering the movie’s title song laying down.

KID GALAHAD

Elvis released his tenth movie four months after “Follow That Dream”, on August 11th, 1962. This time, Elvis played a boxer known as Kid Galahad, and some critics have considered this Elvis’ best film performance. He practiced the art of pugilism with former world junior welterweight champ Mushy Callahan, who also appeared in the movie. They shot it the previous November in California with a talented supporting cast that included future Academy Award nominee Gig Young and future action star Charles Bronson.

“Kid Galahad” was a remake of a decidedly un-musical 1937 drama with a classic star line-up: Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart. The remake did fairly well in the box office and typical for an Elvis movie, opening at Number Nine on Variety’s weekly Top Ten Debut chart, and ranking Number 37 on the trade newspaper’s list of the top grossing films of 1962.

The accompanying EP, this time with six tracks, was released at about the same time as the film, keeping the flow of new Elvis material steady.

KING OF THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD – ELVIS PRESLEY

This could very well have been the song that sparked his moniker, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Sung by Elvis over the credits of the movie, it’s similar to the open of his previous film in that it also opens with a vehicle travelling on the road with him in it. This time he’s hitching a ride on the back of a truck, dressed in a servicemen’s uniform to exploit his recent Army stint, and singing his rock ‘n’ roll heart out. “King of the Whole Wide World” is a catchy little pop ditty, as disposable and easily to digest as his movies. It was the only single to be taken from the EP and it reached Number 30 In the Billboard Pop chart.

THIS IS LIVING – ELVIS PRESLEY

“This Is Living” is a danceable Wise/Weisman composition where Elvis once again doesn’t dance, but sits. This time however, he’s allowed to slap his hands on his legs to the beat. It’s not clear whether this lack of any choreography has to do with the budget of each feature or the censorship still looming over all those televised gyrations from the Fifties that shocked an uptight nation.

RIDING THE RAINBOW – ELVIS PRESLEY

“Riding the Rainbow” is a pleasant tune that features actors Gig Young and Charles Bronson in the back seat of an old Model T while Elvis drives and sings the second Wise/Weisman tune in the movie. It’s interesting to see how often Elvis sings in some form of vehicle or another in these movies, either coming, going or wandering. It could be unintended symbolism, this seeming obsession of having Elvis do anything but dance in his movies. In the “…Rainbow” scene, Bronson has an obligatory smile pasted on his face throughout Presley’s performance, but Gig Young looks more like he’s enduring the moment, attempting not to show that he’s either laughing or trying not to throw up.

The other songs rounding out the EP include “Home Is Where the Heart Is”, the obligatory love ballad sung by Elvis to his love interest, Joan Blackman, who also played his love interest in “Blue Hawaii”.

Elvis is finally given the opportunity to dance with Blackman when he sings “I Got Lucky”, but it’s very tame choreography that doesn’t compare to the King’s unique abilities to shake and wiggle. His 1956 dance style was pretty much gone forever by 1962.

GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS (FILM) – ELVIS PRESLEY

Elvis returned to Hawaii for the second time since “Blue Hawaii” the previous year to film his eleventh movie, “Girls, Girls, Girls”. Paramount Producer Hal Wallis was correct in patiently waiting for the right script to come along instead of trying to cash in on the still-growing Elvis movie star phenomenon, because “GGG” wound up getting nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical in 1963, and Elvis received a 2nd place Laurel Award for Best Male Performance in a Musical. “The Music Man” took the Golden Globe that year instead, but it was the closest an Elvis movie ever got to receiving artistic recognition.

“Girls, Girls, Girls” was released on November 21, 1962, opening at Number Six on the Variety box-office chart that week and ending up Number 31 on the box-office year-end list. It earned $2.6 million (approximately $21 million in 2017 dollars), a decent amount for an Elvis movie during a time when Hollywood was still a decade away from producing blockbusters that would earn $100 million and more.

This time, Elvis plays a fisherman in Hawaii with ambitions to buy his own boat and live on the sea. The movie opens with him on a boat (once again in a vehicle) singing the title song.

GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS (MOVIE SOUNDTRACK ALBUM) – ELVIS PRESLEY

The accompanying musical soundtrack release to “Girls, Girls, Girls” was a proper LP, a long-playing album, released two weeks before the movie’s debut and containing thirteen tracks. Unfortunately, most of the tracks on the album and movie were uninspired. But there was one stand-out, and it became one of Elvis biggest single hits of his career. The album peaked at Number Three on Billboard’s Top Pop Albums chart and was certified for a Gold record by the RIAA on August 13, 1963.

RETURN TO SENDER – ELVIS PRESLEY

“Return To Sender” would be the last time an Elvis Presley record made it higher than Number Two on the Billboard Pop chart until the end of the decade in 1969. The single would go on to sell over a million copies and receive a Platinum certification. Written by Winfield Scott and Otis Blackwell (“Don’t Be Cruel”, “All Shook Up”), “Return to Sender” is somewhat dated in that the lyric refers to “no such zone” because in those days, one to two-digit postal zones were used instead of today’s zip codes. The timing of its release was perfect, on September 5, 1962, because it made it to Number Two in November, just a few days before the debut of “Girls, Girls, Girls”. It helped the movie to have a Number Two song showcased in the film.

In 1993, when the U.S. Postal Service issued Elvis Presley postage stamps to commemorate the King, fans who purchased the stamps mailed letters to unknown addresses in the hopes that the letters would come back with “return to sender” written on it.

“I gave a letter to the postman, he put it in his sack. Bright ‘n’ early next morning, he brought my letter back. She wrote upon it return to sender, address unknown, no such number, no such zone, We had a quarrel, a lover’s spat. I write I’m sorry but my letter keeps coming back…” Return to Sender – Elvis Presley

GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS (SONG) – ELVIS PRESLEY

The original version of the song “Girls, Girls, Girls” was recorded by the Coasters and released as a single in the late Summer of 1961 but it stalled at Number 96 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Elvis recorded his version of the Lieber/Stoller tune along with all the other songs on the album on March 26, 27 and 28, 1962. The song opens and closes the movie. The song sounds like it fits better on an old-fashioned singer like Frank Sinatra, due primarily to the backing horn section giving it that swinging big band feel. It’s a catchy and instantly forgettable tune that pretty much objectifies women, with a Coasters’ like sax solo as a small saving grace, and not at all associated with the Motley Crue song of the same name released in 1987.

“Girls in tight sweaters, girls in short dresses, a-walkin’ and wigglin’ by, yay, yay, yay… Girls out boatin’, girls just a floatin’, so pretty, Lord I could cry. I’m just a red-blooded boy and I can’t stop thinkin’ ‘bout girls! Girls! Girls! Girls! Girls! Girls!” –Elvis Presley

I DON’T WANNA BE TIED – ELVIS PRESLEY

Elvis is allowed to loosen up and dance onstage during “I Don’t Wanna Be Tied” in the movie, but it’s a tamed down version of his signature moves, complete with the encore ending he practically patented. In the scene, beautiful Sixties “bombshell” Stella Stevens appears as one of his love interests, and character actor Robert Strauss, the kind of actor whose face you know but not his name, plays the club owner who tries to convince Elvis to give up the sea and perform in his club.

SONG OF THE SHRIMP – ELVIS PRESLEY

Elvis was showcased playing the guitar often in this movie, one of the many talents he possessed but didn’t exploit much. In “The Song of the Shrimp”, he sings a nautical tune that sets a pleasant tone for his character’s life on the sea. Elvis wears his roles well, and his depiction of a sailor suits him in this scene, particularly because at this stage in his career, he was at peak physical and vocal form.

THE WALLS HAVE EARS – ELVIS PRESLEY

Elvis never looked better during this scene in “Girls, Girls, Girls” and his voice is a perfect instrument of aural sensuality. His sense of humor peeks through as he breaks into a brief Spanish dance that introduces the song, “The Walls Have Ears”. This scene preserves the King at his best– young, thin and tanned.

WE’RE COMIN’ IN LOADED – ELVIS PRESLEY

It can’t be too bad working on a fishing trawler if your captain is Elvis Presley and he sings to you as you toil. He’ll even let you sing along too, as in this scene. The harmonies are so good that you figure Elvis chose his fellow fishermen based as much on their vocal talents as their fishing expertise. It’s eerily reminiscent of Elvis and his Memphis Mafia that tagged along to all the parties, coming home with a big catch and coming in “loaded”.

Elvis’ last single release of 1962 was a reject from the “Girls, Girls, Girls” movie soundtrack, although it appeared on the album. “Where Do You Come From” is a not very good attempt at copying “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, and its chart activity was a harbinger of the half-assed recording career Elvis would carry on throughout the rest of the Sixties. The single barely cracked the Billboard Hot 100, climbing no higher than Number 99.

*************

“My daddy invests my money. Colonel Parker manages my show-business career. I look after my private life. Right now I’d like to get married, but the older I get, the more choosy I become. To me right now the most desirable characteristics in a girl are a sense of humor, understanding and loyalty. I’ve dated quite a few girls, and women with those qualities are mighty hard to find, especially understanding. But I’m in no rush. I’ve learned to live with a little loneliness. And I’ve learned to take care of myself. I eat health foods. I weigh 174. I use a little will power and I don’t stuff myself. I smoke, but I don’t inhale and I just do it to use my hands instead of biting my fingernails. I’ve got a lot of nervous energy.” –Elvis Presley, Parade Magazine, August 1962

Despite all the seductive pleasures Elvis was confronted with every day, he still remained in contact with the fourteen-year-old girl he met in Germany back when he was in the Army, Priscilla Beaulieu. They planned a get-together that summer once Priscilla got her parents to give her permission to visit him in Graceland. In the meantime, between movie-making and music recording, Elvis spent his nights with his buddies, a gang of yes-men on his payroll who enjoyed the spoils of Presley’s fame with him. While on tour, they’d all pile into Elvis’ Dodge mobile home, complete with a double bed for him, two bunks and a kitchen – and all of it air conditioned, a luxury for 1962. His buddies, the Memphis Mafia, were an integral part of his daily life. They ate with him, drank with him… even lived with him.

“Actually, I’ve only got five guys living with me, and Billy Smith, my little cousin. He’s so small, no one would give him a job, so I’ve put him on my payroll doing various odd jobs. The other boys—they all have specific jobs. One is a bookkeeper. Another takes care of the cars. Another helps drive my Dodge mobile home between Memphis and Hollywood. They look after my clothes; they do the packing and the unpacking. They also happen to be my buddies, my friends and in some cases my relatives.” –Elvis Presley, Parade Magazine, August 1962

As 1962 came to an end, Elvis’ career was to become more of the same. It seemed like this life would never end for him. He sat the Sixties out and lived his life of legendary fame and indulgence.

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