Category Archives: Elvis Presley

“Love Train” lyrics

“Love Train” is a killer recording featuring Jackie Wilson’s powerful voice turned playful and a churning Dick Jacobs arrangement. It’s all built on the foundation of a terrific Blackwell/Scott collaboration. Throughout the song, Jackie mimics Elvis Presley.

You can hear the song being played as some fabulous dancers named Mark and Genevieve put it to the ultimate rock’n’roll test. As they used to say on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand: “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”

Lyrics. The only problem is that Jackie is imitating Mr. Presley’s mushmouth diction, and consequently, the words are indistinct in two lines that are repeated throughout the recording. Even after enlisting the services of my buddy Dennis West, the best I can offer here is a “mostly accurate” stab at the words.

The line “My heart is like a deserted terminal” may well be “My heart is like a deserted tavern” or a “deserted tank” or a “deserted tomb” or just about any other one-syllable or two-syllable noun beginning with the most commonly used consonant in the English language. I’m going with the word terminal (pronounced “term’na”) because it makes sense that a train would not stop in an abandoned train station, but it may be an abandoned town, because a train wouldn’t stop at a ghost town either.

And I am not totally certain about the following line, which I believe is “No locks in the windows and none on the door,” although it sounds more like “No love’s in the windows and none on the door,” and it just may be “No lights in the windows and none on the door.” Ah, make that “the dough.” (Sorry. I’m getting silly).

Love Train
Otis Blackwell, Winfield Scott

Aaaaaaaah, baby!
I want you to listen to me
In fact, everybody out there
Pay attention now
I got a story I want to tell . . . uh-huh

You know, that Love Train don’t stop here no more, uh-huh
My heart is like a deserted term’nal
No locks in the windows and none on the door
When that Engineer Cupid drives on by
You know, I can see it in Cupid’s eye
That that Love Train won’t stop here no more, uh-huh

I thought it was fun to tell little girls lies, uh-huh
I didn’t care which ones I made cry
Hah! That Love Train won’t stop here no more
My heart is like a deserted term’nal
No locks in the windows and none on the door
When that engineer Cupid comes on by
I can see it in Cupid’s eye
That that Love Train won’t stop here no more

Well, I’m gonna check in ta Heartbreak Hotel, uh-huh
Somewhere on a lonely avenue, yeah, yeah
No sense in hopin’ ’cause I know too well
That’s all that’s left for me to do, I tell you . . .
That Love Train won’t stop here no more
My heart is like a deserted term’nal
No locks in the windows and none on the door
Well, that Engineer Cupid show us all
He ain’t gonna let no little fine girls off
That Love Train won’t stop here no more

(instrumental break)

Well, I’m gonna check in ta Heartbreak Hotel, uh-huh
Somewhere on a lonely avenue, uh-huh
No sense in hopin’ ’cause I know too well
Yeah, that’s all that’s left for me to do, I tell you . . .
That Love Train won’t stop here no more
My heart is like a deserted term’nal
No locks in the windows and none on the door
Oh, Engineer Cupid, show us all
You ain’t gonna let no little fine girls off
I told ‘em that Love Train won’t stop here no more

Why not? I don’t know!
Why not? I need my baby.
Let her off!
Oh, Mr. Conductor . . .
Stop the train right now!

Otis Blackwell

Otis Blackwell

The songwriters. Otis Blackwell was a major force in shaping rock ‘n’ roll. He wrote “Fever” for Little Willie John, and he wrote both “Breathless” and “Great Balls of Fire” for Jerry Lee Lewis. For Elvis Presley, he wrote “Paralyzed,” “All Shook Up,” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” and he collaborated with Winfield Scott to write “Return to Sender.” Another major Otis Blackwell hit, “Handy Man,” was first recorded by Jimmy Jones. Winfield Scott himself made additional significant contributions to the popular music canon, writing “Many Tears Ago” for Connie Francis and writing or co-writing two of LaVern Baker’s best known songs, “Tweedlee Dee” and “Bop Ting A Ling.”

“Bop Ting a Ling” is a personal favorite of this writer. I have always imagined the feisty Baker, a longtime friend of Jackie Wilson, was singing to Our Hero:

Bop Ting a Ling
Winfield Scott

Bop ting a ling, you handsome thing
I’d like to get next to you
Doo wah diddy, you walk so pretty
You thrill me through and through
Rang dang doozy, you got me woozy
You look so heavenly
Great day in the morning, I’m giving you warning
You better watch out for me

Great day in the morning
Great day in the morning, man
Great day in the morning
Oh baby, take me by the hand
Great day in the morning
Great day in the morning
Great day in the morning
Bop ting-a ling, I feel so grand

Ting a ling, you handsome thing
I’d like to get next to you
Doo wah diddy, you walk so pretty
You thrill me through and through
Rang dang dilly, you got me silly
My heart won’t let me be
Great day in the morning
I’m giving you warning
You better watch out for me

Well, I’m afraid I have digressed a bit here.

My unanswered questions. Blackwell and Scott wrote “Return to Sender” for Elvis to use in the movie Girls! Girls! Girls! (released in November 1962). Jackie’s “Love Train” appeared on the LP Baby Workout, which was released the following spring (April 1963). I am trying to ascertain whether or not “Love Train” was actually written for Elvis Presley. It may even have been one of the songs offered for the film. I think Jackie and Elvis visited while Elvis was making that particular movie, and I wonder if Jackie heard about the song from Elvis.

“I Hurt So Bad” is another recording on which Jackie Wilson sings in his “Elvis mode.” This song appears on Jackie’s “The Lost Tapes” CD, and I suspect it was also written by Blackwell.

If anyone reading this has further information or a photo of songwriter Winfield Scott, I would appreciate hearing from you.

The “Black Elvis” book (Part One)

Doug [Saint] Carter. The Black Elvis: Jackie Wilson. Jacksonville, Florida: Heyday Publishing, Inc., 1998.

As I stated in an earlier post, some Jackie Wilson fans cannot get beyond the title of the Doug Carter book, The Black Elvis: Jackie Wilson.

The most angry insist that “Elvis is the White Jackie. Elvis stole every stage mannerism, every concept, all his music from Black artists.” This extreme position is, of course, ridiculous, and so are the less extreme positions if “stole” is taken seriously as theft or anything else negative.

Take race off the table and ask yourself how many people complain that Michael Jackson “stole” his spins from Jackie Wilson. (Of course, there was a limit to what MJ could take from Jackie. Mike never mastered Jackie’s back-bend half-split or Jackie’s up-from-the-ankles reverse knee drop, did he?) You can watch video of Michael Jackson and see what he borrowed and modified and incorporated from Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Elvis Presley, and Fred Astaire. He didn’t “steal” anything except in the most playful sense of that word. He studied the greats and became great himself.

Copiers are just that. They watch someone else and try to do exactly what that performer did. Really good copiers are called impersonators, and an impersonator who can accurately imitate many other celebrities is often valued as an entertainer in his or her own right. Individuals who can only copy one entertainer are not generally held in high esteem. Such performers contribute nothing of their own, not even insight into the performer they mimic.

Neither Elvis nor Jackie were copiers or impersonators. They were great artists. Artists are creative people.

Creativity. All singers adapt material, both vocal stylistics and stage mannerisms, from other singers. The truly creative in any field study the best of their predecessors and contemporaries, cull some of the most impressive features, and distill those with their own innovations to create their own unique styles. It’s true with writers, architects, and film makers, as well as performing artists.

A friend of mine, artist and illustrator Chuck Richards, lectures his College of Design students at the beginning of their first year: Disabuse yourself of the notion that great ideas come out of the ether and shoot into your brain like a thunderbolt. Creativity doesn’t work that way. The most creative people are the ones with the most knowledge and sharpest memories in their heads, their sketchbooks, and their journals. Creativity is the result of re-sorting all available ideas and mental images. Re-combining the bits and pieces already in the mind gives birth something different, better, unique.

In one of the earlier posts for this blog I traced how Jackie, who had studied Elvis in order to create a “takeoff” (not an impersonation) of EP’s “Don’t Be Cruel,” was so successful that Elvis, after studying Jackie’s performance four nights in a row, revamped his own stage performance of that song. In the Million Dollar Quartet Tapes, you can hear in Presley’s own words how Wilson moved his feet, shook his head, pronounced certain words, altered the tempo—and so forth. And although we are not blessed with video of the performance Elvis saw, we have later video evidence of Jackie employing EP’s rebel sulk or and audiotape evidence of Jackie utilizing Elvis’s diction, just as we have the evidence of Elvis’s new Jackie-fied “Don’t Be Cruel.”

So I guess I have made my position clear on the matter of Jackie and Elvis’s mutual admiration society. Still, many are uncomfortable with the “Black Elvis” phrase.

How the term took hold. I only remind everyone that there are conflicting recollections of who first applied the term to Jackie Wilson. It has been stated that when the two singers finally met, one of them said, “So the Black Elvis and the white Elvis finally meet.” Some claim that Elvis made the statement, and several of Elvis’s ever-present entourage have said that the words came from Jackie’s mouth. Either way, the reference was probably to the “Don’t Be Cruel” performance Jackie gave when Elvis first saw him, when Elvis didn’t know Jackie’s name because Jackie was the un-billed lead singer for Billy Ward and His Dominoes.

Doug Carter says it was Elvis who used the term to describe Jackie, not the other way around.

Doug Carter sees both entertainers. Doug Carter was ten years old when his father took him to see Elvis Presley perform. Seven years later, on the date John F. Kennedy was assassinated, his father took him to see Jackie Wilson for the first time. Jackie’s performance astonished, thrilled, mesmerized the young man, and in the years that followed, he could not fathom why Jackie Wilson never achieved the fame that what so clearly his due. His book is an attempt to understand.

Doug Carter was not a writer or journalist by trade. He simply admired and enjoyed Jackie Wilson’s talent and wanted to know more about the man. (I can empathize with that position, believe me!) The book is amateurish in many ways, but personally, I can forgive that easily enough, although I don’t forgive some other things about the book, which I will cover in subsequent posts.

That said, there is much to learn from and enjoy in the book, ranging from Carter’s interview of Reverend Anthony Campbell of Russell Street Baptist Church at the book’s opening to several eye-popping revelations late in the volume, such as Bill Frazier attempting to organize a “hit” on Nat Tarnopol (fortunately, Jackie found out about his valet’s plans and intervened) and Juanita Jones visiting Jackie while he was in custodial care. Harlean Harris, Jackie’s court-appointed wife, banned both Jackie’s chosen wife, Lynn, and Jackie’s great friend, Joyce McRae, from visiting his bedside. Did she intentionally permit Juanita, who shot Jackie but most likely wanted to shoot Harlean, to visit?

Reverend Campbell describes his boyhood friend. The interview with Campbell describes Jackie Wilson’s mother, Eliza Mae Ranson Wilson Lee, in very positive terms. However, the facts he offers do not coincide comfortably with facts presented in other sources, particularly in Tony Douglas’s books on Jackie Wilson.

Campbell says that Eliza Mae Wilson came north from Mississippi to work in a Dodge automobile factory and did so until, like all Black women (and many other women), she was laid off after World War II. (The men returning from the armed forces were given the jobs.) At the end of the war, Jackie would have been at least eleven years old. It also means that Jackie’s parents would have separated already, and Eliza Mae would have married Jackie’s stepfather, who worked at a Ford plant. According to Campbell, Eliza Mae took in foster children after she lost her job at the auto factory.

It seems strange that Freda, Jackie’s first wife, would not have mentioned this to Douglas, particularly because by Douglas’s account, Eliza Mae’s marriage to Lee improved the household income substantially, allowing the family to move to a better neighborhood. Because Jackie was in juvenile detention twice and stopped living with his mother when he married Freda at age sixteen, Douglas’s picture of Jackie Wilson’s childhood suggests an only child who ultimately had a much younger stepsister he would have shared a home with only briefly, whereas Campbell’s account suggests Jackie grew up in a house with other children.

However, other information in the Campbell interview does ring true. Campbell discounts the image some promote of Jackie as a street-fighting gang member, pointing out that gangs of that era were nothing like what we know in America today. He says that everybody belonged to one gang or another, that it was “like saying that he was a member of the boys’ athletic club.” Campbell states emphatically that “[Jackie] was not a gang leader. He was not criminally involved.” Rather, he tells Carter, Jackie had always been a leader “because he was the class clown and he could sing and he was good looking.”

That does sound like Our Hero.

To be continued . . . 

________________

On the author’s name. My personal copy of this book has “Doug Saint Carter” on the front of the dust jacket and “Doug Carter” on both the title page of the book and the copyright page of the book. The author’s name at birth was Gale Allen Ellsworth, and he used the name Doug Carter as a radio personality. I’m only guessing here, but I think the “Saint” may have been added to disambiguate the author from other writers named Doug Carter. (By the way, my copy is signed “Doug Saint Carter.”)

Brown-eyed handsome men (Part One)

Jackie Wilson was a “brown-eyed handsome man.” So were two of his good friends, Sam Cooke and Jesse Belvin. Owing to the nature of American racism in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the southern states, brown-eyed handsome men in show business were at risk for harassment and bodily harm.

JW in concert with fan

Jackie Wilson in concert singing to an attentive fan

American racism has mutated decade by decade since World War II, manifesting itself differently over time. Most historians date the African American Civil Rights Movement from the mutilation/murder of Emmett Till in 1955 to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. During these most turbulent and dangerous times, Jackie Wilson and his friends Sam Cooke and Jesse Belvin reached the peaks of their careers, and Sam Cooke and Jesse Belvin met their untimely deaths.

Each of these men was making every possible effort to have his music “cross over” to white audiences, the people in America who had the money to buy the 45 rpm records rated on the Billboard Hot 100. By 1960, teenagers were a major segment of the record-buying public, and teenaged girls were the target market. The conventional wisdom was that boys spent their money maintaining their cars and paying for movies and burgers on dates while girls spent their money on clothes and records.

Simultaneously, racists in the southern states were engaged in often violent efforts to discourage and retaliate against “race mixing” in public accommodations and schools. This resistance to integration in schools, restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues was maintained to prevent the ultimate mixing of races, sexual intercourse between a white person and a Black person. Most abhorrent to these racists was the prospect of a Black male in intimate relations with a white female. This was The Great Taboo.

The Great Taboo and the potential for violence. Many of these racists considered rock and roll itself a danger. Asa Carter, head of the North Alabama Citizens Council, led a campaign to induce establishments with jukeboxes to purge recordings by Black artists. The April 18, 1956 issue of Time quotes Carter: “Rock and roll music is the basic, heavy-beat music of Negroes. It appeals to the base in man, brings out animalism and vulgarity.”

Some of Carter’s associates in the Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy (one of many different organizations to use the KKK label) were averse even to the mild-mannered Nat “King” Cole singing  love songs before an audience that included white women. They charged the stage and assaulted Cole at a 1956 performance in Birmingham, Alabama. Cole suffered a back injury during the beating and never again performed in southern states.

Can you imagine how enraged such men would be at the thought that a white girl might take the place of the Black girl pictured above at a Jackie Wilson concert?

The rage racist white males felt at the thought of “their” women finding Black men attractive was a risk Jackie Wilson faced on every tour (see Bruised . . . and beaten?). That same rage may have been the root cause of Jesse Belvin’s death, which occurred after a concert Jackie and Jesse performed in Little Rock, Arkansas (see What happened in Arkansas?). The Little Rock concert was the first in that city to be performed to an integrated audience.

Chuck Berry’s song. The phrase brown-eyed handsome man, code for “irresistibly sexy Black man,” is the title of a brilliant song written by Chuck Berry. He recorded it in April 1956, and his record company released it as the flip side of “Too Much Monkey Business” in September of the same year. The lyrics touched on a range of stereotypes about Black men, including their athletic prowess and their likelihood of being arrested for things that were not and should not be crimes; however, the central focus of the song was how much a woman would do or endure to win or protect a brown-eyed handsome man.

Brown-Eyed Handsome Man
(Words and music by Chuck Berry)

Arrested on charges of unemployment
He was sittin’ in the witness stand
The judge’s wife told the district attorney
She said, “Free that brown-eyed man
If you want your job, you’d better free that brown-eyed man”

Flyn’ across the desert in a TWA,
I saw a woman walking ‘cross the sand
She been walkin’ thirty miles en route to Bombay
To meet a brown-eyed handsome man
Her destination was a brown-eyed handsome man

Way back in history three thousand years
In fact, ever since the world began
There’s been a whole lotta good women sheddin’ tears
For a brown eyed-handsome man
A lot of trouble with a brown-eyed handsome man

Dutiful daughter couldn’t make up her mind
Between a doctor and a lawyer man
Her mother told her “Darling, go out and find
Yourself a brown-eyed handsome man
Just like your daddy, he’s a brown-eyed handsome man”

Marlo Venus was a beautiful lass
She had the world in the palm of her hand
She lost both her arms in a rasselin’ match
To meet a brown-eyed handsome man
She fought an’ won herself a brown-eyed handsome man

Two, three, the count with nobody on
He hit a high fly into the stand
Rounded third, he was headed for home
It was a brown-eyed handsome man
That won the game, it was a brown-eyed handsome man

Coded lyrics. This song, by the way, was later recorded by many artists in addition to Chuck Berry, among them Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash. Chuck Berry’s version is a subject of discussion on The Million Dollar Quartet tapes, where Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis can be heard trying to sing it and failing to get the lyrics straight. These tapes were recorded in November 1956, roughly two months after the record’s release, and the group’s interest in the song is worth noting—especially since it was a B-side that had become a hit only on the rhythm and blues (or “race”) charts.

All these artists understood the coded message of the song. Although it was not the only use of race in a pop song of that era, Berry’s song was an exceptionally daring combination of sexual and racial references. Note the comic reference to the Venus de Milo. All women, even ancient Greek women, fell under the spell of the brown-eyed handsome man. This was a song that encompassed what racists feared most, and it dealt lightly with the topic that was not supposed to be publicly discussed. Furthermore, the record had been released barely one year after the gruesome mutilation/murder of Emmett Till, the event in the national consciousness most associated with The Great Taboo.

Emmett Till. For those of you who do not know this sickening event in American history, here are the basic facts. Emmett Till was a Chicago teenager visiting relatives in the small southern town of Money, Mississippi when, apparently because his companions dared him to do so, he flirtatiously whistled at a twenty-one-year-old white woman who was the proprietor of the store Emmett and his friends were leaving.

The fact that he and the other boys were leaving the store, plus the difference in age between Emmett, who had turned fourteen only the month before, and the woman, who must have seemed an old crone to the youths, would be enough to convince any intelligent person that Emmett was not attempting a serious advance on the woman.

Days later, the woman’s husband and his brother seized Emmett from his uncle’s home and took him to another location. They knocked out his teeth, smashed his nose, gouged out one of his eyes, shot him in the head, weighted down his body, and dumped him in the Tallahatchie River.

Emmett Till

Emmett Till

I was eight when Emmett Till was murdered. My parents were among the first working-class people we knew to invest in a television, which they valued for information as much as entertainment. They tuned in the early evening news every night, and although the news was not a “show” I liked, I sensed it was something important and watched it faithfully with my big sister and parents. I didn’t comprehend the significance of the news stories, but I learned to recognize the faces of famous people.

Emmett Till became one of the most famous people in America. The picture of him shown on broadcasts had been taken the Christmas before his death. He was thirteen in the photo, but he looked younger—baby-faced, innocent, as lovely a child as had ever lived. The story mystified and frightened me.

By the time I went to college in 1965, The Great Taboo was a joke for most people in the northern states, but in the southern states change came about more slowly. Anti-miscegenation laws remained in some states until 1967, and when the laws went away, the attitudes did not always go away with them.

Free that brown-eyed man! When Jackie Wilson and his drummer were arrested in a southern state on what was termed “morals charges” in 1968, the “crime” was that two Black males were in a hotel room with two white females. The youngest person in the room was twenty-four and all parties were present of their own consent. All together, now, let’s sing:

Arrested on charges of unemployment
He was sittin’ in the witness stand . . . 

The nuisance arrest amounted to little in legal terms, but the resultant bad publicity helped propel Jackie into his marriage to Harlean Harris, an event which in turn set up the tragedy of his final years. (See Jackie Wilson Biography.)

To be continued . . .

“The Way I Am”

NOTE: This post originally contained an embedded link to  a YouTube video that is no longer available. You can see a different copy of the video here in a slightly distorted aspect ratio. The comments mentioned in the post were with the original YouTube video.

One of the many delightful pop tunes Jackie Wilson recorded early in his career is “The Way I Am,” released as a single in 1961 on the other side of “My Heart Belongs to Only You.” The video that survives of this song was produced for a teen movie, “Teenage Millionaire,” a dreadful Jimmy Clanton vehicle which is with us today because it features a number of interesting performance clips, including this one and a second one from Jackie (“Lonely Life“). I honestly cannot remember where I read it, or I would name the source, but Elvis supposedly sat through this horrible flick twice to watch and re-watch Jackie’s performances.

The movie itself was black and white, but all the performance clips were tinted with various color transparencies. Jackie was among the more fortunate artists in getting a sort of pinkish beige wash. Poor Marv Johnson’s “Oh, Mary” was swathed in oceanic blue.

I love reading the YouTube comments on this video. One woman proclaims, “Lawd have mercy! That man was fine and sexy as hell….throwing my panties at my iPad.” Someone responded to her by saying that Jackie had “serious swag.” Another woman wrote, “I feel…flustered. What a babe.” Yet another states that she has “been lovin on this fine ass man since 1965!” And so it goes. I put some screen shots from this video up as a gallery. While I was putting the post together, I accidentally hit “publish” instead of “save draft.” I hadn’t removed the default “like” button yet, and when I reopened the post to finish it four minutes later, some woman had already found the photos and “liked them.”

See the screen shots here.

“The Way I Am” is actually a very catchy pop song. The lyrics announce that while the singer’s no saint, he is in love with the woman he addresses, and she can have him as he is. She shouldn’t try to change him. After all, he “ain’t her Sunday hat.” The tune and arrangement, complete with “umms” and “oh, yeahs” are engaging and hummable, but with this video, the song becomes dynamite. Take Jackie the way he is? Utterly gorgeous? Oh, yeah.

I have said many times that one of the things I miss most about the performers of the Fifties and early Sixties is the way they dressed. On stage, the men looked as though they had just come to your door to pick you up for a special date. In this video, Jackie looks as though he’s about to hand you a corsage and take you to your senior prom. You can practically smell his aftershave.

Jackie’s apparel and grooming and, well, Jackie, are so spectacular in this video that a woman starts looking at this man as though he were a birthday gift. You see that bow tie as the package ribbon and that pleated silk shirt and custom-tailored suit as the wrapping paper and before you know it, you’re fixated on what’s inside.

Umm, yeah!

JW and EP and “Don’t Be Cruel”

On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley makes the first of his three appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and performs his smash hit, “Don’t Be Cruel.”

At the time, Jackie Wilson was the lead singer for Billy Ward and His Dominoes. You can bet he had heard the record many times by this date. It’s likely he saw Elvis performing the song somewhere—possibly on this Sullivan broadcast. (The show was guest hosted because Sullivan had been injured in an automobile accident.)

Elvis sees Jackie. The Dominoes played Las Vegas as a lounge act, and part of their entertainment menu included their own renditions of current hits. Jackie had a go at several Elvis Presley numbers, and guess who ended up in the audience four nights in a row in November, 1956? Right. Elvis. A few weeks later, Elvis, sitting in the Memphis studios of Sun Records with Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash, describes the performance of a “real slender” “colored guy” (“a Yankee”) who is “one of Ward’s Dominoes.” The conversation, along with Elvis’s demonstration of Jackie’s interpretation of the song, is preserved on the recordings known as the Million Dollar Quartet sessions.

Note that Elvis says that the singer is doing a “takeoff” of him. I hardly ever hear that term anymore, but it was common in the Fifties. Rather than being an impersonation, a “takeoff” indicated that an artist approached something by adopting and adapting someone else’s performance: starting with an exaggeration, perhaps, of some features of the original, then proceeding to improve on the original, making the performance unique.

As you can hear, Elvis declares that Jackie “sang hell outta that song” and sang it better “than that record of mine.” Also note that Elvis has studied the details of what Jackie did, including footwork, diction (“don’t ta” is a “Yankee” pronunciation of Elvis’s Southern “doan a”; “tel-ee-phone” draws a laugh from the whole Southern crew), tempo, and Jackie’s big finish for the song.

Elvis incorporates Jackie-isms. Jackie studied Elvis. Elvis studied Jackie. Each knew he had seen something worth analyzing. Each would use the other’s vocal and stage mannerisms–often playfully. Look at Elvis’s January 9, 1957 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, just a month after his Sun Studios explication of Jackie’s performance. Listen to his pronunciation of the word telephone at :15 and then watch him grin. What do you think he is thinking about? No doubt in my mind. At :54, check the sexy “ummm” and the resultant laugh. Note the slightly slower tempo—and the need for the “big finish,” which is unfortunately compromised by the order to photograph Elvis only from the waist up. Since he cannot get down on the floor with a microphone, Elvis elects to just spin out of the camera shot, but it’s a far step from the tame ending he used in his first Sullivan appearance.

 

Jackie does Elvis. One of my favorite Elvis bits in Jackie’s repertoire is the music video for “Lonely Life” from the teen movie Teenage Millionaire. Jackie’s fans know the man loved to smile. Well, he holds off long enough to give us a taste of an Elvis-as-tortured-rebel face before that smile sneaks in. Supposedly Elvis sat through this horrible Jimmy Clanton movie twice just to see the two videos of Jackie the film contained (“Lonely Life” and “The Way I Am.”)

For Jackie doing an Elvis sound-a-like, listen to “Love Train.”

I hate those “X stole from Y” arguments, but I love looking at how Jackie and Elvis showed each other respect and admiration. After he became so extremely famous, Elvis disliked going out to clubs, but he would make an exception when he got the opportunity to see Jackie perform.