This is the original site of information about original versions of numbers recorded by Elvis Presley, which I began in about 1995. Other sites have copied it, some have translated it, but this site is the one that is best maintained.
This list only includes numbers that were recorded by someone before Elvis's own version: it does not include numbers that Elvis recorded first.
If you have any information or comments, contact me.
WARNING: This site is designed to be used with modern CSS2-compliant browsers. It would appear that you are using an outdated browser. This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device (I think!).
I am fortunate to have enjoyed a broad introduction to popular music. Although I grew up in the coal-dust dusted Rhondda Valley, in south Wales, my coalminer father had a magnificently varied collection of 78 rpm records, made of highly breakable shellac, each decorated with a label, some more exotic than others. I especially remember one label that contained a sailing-ship (perhaps more than one) and another that featured a horse and jockey galloping past the winning-post.
I spent hours playing these records on a large valve-drive radiogram, enjoying the different types of music, though never paying attention to the names of the performers. After all, I was still less than ten years old, so such details were of no importance to me.
Saturday mornings, however, were reserved for the "pictures." That meant up the valley to the Workman's Hall to see a film. The film on one particular Saturday was Loving You, starring a chap called Elvis Presley. I came home with Teddy Bear and Party in my head, together with dreams of a red and white cowboy suit. We soon had Elvis playing on the radiogram, of course.
That's what started my interest in Elvis. But I was soon to leave my father, to move to England with my mother following my parent's separation, and the 78s remained in Wales. A few years later, my mother bought me a tape recorder, however, and I recorded everything by Elvis that I could find on 45s and LPs that my friends at school owned. Later I was able to start my own record collection, and later still repeated the whole exercise with CDs.
I had moved to Belgium in 1971 and in about 1990 listened to a series of programmes on a Flemish radio station, in which the "original versions" of numbers later recorded by Elvis were played and spoken about. I bought the accompanying CD and was surprised by the supposed original of Are You Lonesome Tonight?, which was sung by Al Jolson and sounded far too good a recording to date from the 1930s, when the man was said to have made it, a date that had always been reported in articles that referred to the number. I decided to discover the real origins of the song and it was this that lead me to search for other originals, too. The search for Are You Lonesome Tonight? proved long and arduous and presented many problems that I would also encounter with other titles: there is a surprising amount of misinformation out there! I learned to become ever more suspicious of what I read or was told.
When I started my hunt for originals, I imagined that I would perhaps discover a hundred or so titles. I soon reached that hundred mark and two hundred was not far behind. The number of titles continued to increase and I decided to publish my list as a simple web page for the first time in about 1995. This prompted new titles to be suggested by Elvis fans from all over the world and by the early 2000s I had over 400 titles. At the request of several followers of the web listing (which had by now turned into its very own multi-page site), I decided to publish the list in traditional book format and so Roots of Elvis was published. I now realise that this was too early for such a publication: the list was not complete, contained numerous inaccuracies, and did not really offer sufficient background information for each title.
Since then, the number of titles has increased to over 500. I have, I think, made the website easier to navigate and have provided more information for many of the titles. The site now also contains sound clips for many of the original versions, as well as, in many cases, an image of the original record label (I also provide a separate gallery site where all of the original labels I have been able to find can be seen).
I hope you enjoy Elvis Presley, The Originals, and that it will help you better appreciate the musical legacy of Elvis Presley. For suggestions, additions, corrections, etc., please contact me.
I noticed a comment in an Elvis fan forum some months ago, in which the indignant writer wondered why I put things in my site that were not correct.
Finding information about original versions of numbers later performed by Elvis Presley is not as simple or straightforward as it might at first appear. When I started my journey in the early 1990s, there was as good as no Internet. I had to buy many books, pore over information in the liner notes of LPs and CDs, search through fan magazines… Later, of course, the World Wide Web offered more information, though I soon discovered that more was not necessarily better: misinformation was rife and so I had to learn the hard way to try to sieve out the truth.
To give an example of the problems involved, take Arthur Alexander's Burning Love. Searching the WWW, it was easy enough to discover that Alexander's original recording of Burning Love was first released on the album Arthur Alexander. Finding the recording date was not so simple, however, and the only reference I could find at the time was in the usually reliable book, "The Soul Discography" by Bob McGrath. At the bottom of page 16 of that book are the details of an Arthur Alexander recording session held on 30 November, 1972, including Burning Love. So is that the recording date? Well, one might think so, if one did not know that the LP on which the number first appeared was released in February/March 1972, some 9 months before the reported recording date!
Here's another example and one that shows that even the best of sources can be misleading and quite simply incorrect. In 1970, Elvis recorded a number called A Hundred Years From Now. Writing credits on the Elvis Country album and most subsequent releases were shown for Flatt and Scruggs. Noted Elvis recordings researcher Ernst Jorgensen also lists Flatt and Scruggs in his book, Elvis Presley: A Life In Music. One would think, then, that Flatt and Scruggs truly wrote the number.
Indeed, Bear Family Records released a major collection of Flatt and Scruggs recordings in 1991, called Flatt & Scruggs 1948-1958 which included A Hundred Years From Now with writing credits given to Hein and Royle.
They didn't write it, either!
Yes, they were responsible for a number with the same title, but my own research showed that Hein and Royle's A Hundred Years From Now was a completely different song, dating from a 1905 Broadway musical.
So there you have just two fairly glaring examples of the problems involved in trying to provide accurate information pertaining to the original recordings. Other problems can be much more subtle and occasionally there is almost no information to go on, especially when one is researching very obscure artists or the smaller record labels for which little or no documentation exists.
Obviously I do not intentionally put incorrect information on Elvis Presley The Originals, but I can only base myself on the information I am able to find. If you think that something needs correction, please feel free to contact me.
Title of number recorded by Elvis on...; Type
Here's a brief explanation about the information listed in Elvis Presley: The Originals.
The title is the official title of the track, as recorded by Elvis, including parentheses. The titles are sorted with a simple ASCII sort, so parentheses appear first. The date recorded is often the source of headaches! For studio recordings, I've given the date of the recording of the first officially released version (see "One Night" for an idea of why this is necessary). For live recordings, I've tried to give the date of the first official recording, though this is often problematic. Take the case of Money Honey, for which I give the date of the RCA session in January 1956 that gave us the original release that appeared on the "Elvis Presley" LP. Recently, an earlier live version was released (it's on the Sunrise CD, amongst others), that was recorded some time before the studio release. I maintain that this live recording was not recorded for official issue, so the studio recording takes precedence. Many people have contacted me to say that such-and-such a CD has an earlier recording, but these are inevitably "unofficial" releases and the recordings made were never intended for release. However, BMG has seen that there is a lucrative market in such releases, too, so have released several such tracks on their FTD (Follow That Dream) label, a label aimed specifically at collectors; again, I've tended to ignore these, if there is a standard official release. Then there's the problem of numbers that have not (yet) been officially released, or numbers that Elvis recorded on a tape-recorder at home. Often I've had to compromise. The Type is one of Concert/Informal/One-liner/Studio. Concert generally refers to a commercial-quality recording made at a concert; Informal indicates a spontaneous recording made in a studio, not intended for commercial release, or to a home recording; One-liner is the most difficult recording-type, as it encompasses more than pure one-liners and includes any brief snatch of a number; Studio refers to a commercial studio recording.
Usually straightforward, though sometimes problematic, especially when Elvis recordings indicate "Traditional," as is often the case with gospel numbers. Wherever possible, I've tried to locate the original writers for these. Sometimes I've qualified the writers credits with remarks in the comments about a track; this is often the case with tracks that are based on classical melodies.
Originally recorded by
is really what it's all about. In some cases it has been easy enough to locate the artist(s) who recorded the original version, but often this has been nothing short of a nightmare and I do not pretend that the search has finished! Many contradictory sources exist, even for relatively straightforward numbers. My aim, in any case, is to locate the original recorded and released version of a number. Note that I have absolutely no intention of indicating any influence on Elvis. I do not presume to be able to tell you which performance influenced Elvis; I believe only one person is able to do that and he's dead! Anyway, Elvis normally made each song so much his own, that those that might be considered as showing signs of influence would be so few in comparison, that it would simply not be worth the effort of a site like this. Of course, almost every Elvis recording was preceded by a demo made by someone else, in order to give Elvis an idea of what the song was like. These demos are not considered "original recordings" for the purposes of this site, even if they have been subsequently issued, as such issues are generally aimed solely at collectors. However, I do occasionally refer to these demos when discussing the "real" original. I admit this is a bit of a hit and miss evaluation, but I'm afraid you'll just have to put up with my opinion. Next to some entries, you'll see little
buttons. Clicking the
button will provide a roughly 30 second mp3 soundclip of the original recording (note mp3, so you will not hear anything in browsers that are unable to handle mp3, such as FireFox: perhaps I'll deal with this in the future). I keep the clip to about thirty seconds in order to avoid possible copyright issues; you can pause and continue with the
button. (Note that the ♪ symbol next to a title on the index page indicates that a soundclip exists for that title.)
Hear Elvis's version on
A very difficult choice, as the Elvis catalogue changes, it seems, every week. And that's not counting the unofficial releases, whose availability is often limited. Anyway, where possible, I've provided at least one major official CD or LP title (even if these have been deleted in the meantime, they can probably be located easily enough) and, where no other option is available, have shown an unofficial title on which the number can be found.
Finally I provide some sort of comment. This might relate to the song itself, the composer(s), the original artist, or Elvis's own version, depending on my whim at the time of writing. I have written what interests me and I hope that at least some of this will also interest the reader. I have therefore written quite a lot about "Moonlight Sonata" because I find the story interesting and perhaps less about more well-known Elvis recordings, simply because there is already so much information about these. The point here is that Elvis's music covers such a wide range of styles that tracing the original versions can help us unearth all sorts of stories, anecdotes, facts, and pieces of trivia -- not always too serious, sometimes so, but always interesting to someone. As time goes by I might well expand the comments.
Many entries have a link associated with them. Such a link will (should) take you to a page or site that contains more information relative to the entry. Unfortunately, the nature of the Web is that neither individual pages nor whole sites are necessarily permanent. I first wanted these links to go to "private" sites, dedicated to the performer/composer/lyricist and that is how Elvis Presley The Originals
started. Sadly, because so many of these private pages/sites have faded and disappeared with time, I have had to change many, if not most, of the links to point to WikiPedia articles, which, although relevant, are, I feel, less exciting. It is quite possible that you will find a link that returns a not found
error. In such a case, either feel free to contact me
, or simply wait until the next time I check the links (which is usually once a year). And should you feel you wish to suggest a more relevant or interesting link, please let me know
what it is.
Thanks to all the people who have provided feedback and additional information that I've been able to use to improve this site and its contents: Garth Bond (UK?), Sebastiano Cecere (Italy), Chris Deakin (UK), Stig Ericsson (Sweden), Mark Hillier (UK), Joop Jansen (Netherlands), Torben Jensen (Denmark), Robin Jones (Saudi Arabia), Bob Moke (USA), Henk Muller (Netherlands), Rami Poutiainen (Finland), Aad Sala (Netherlands), Trevor Simpson (UK), Leroy Smith (Netherlands), Philippe Spard (France), Kris Verdonck (Belgium). If I've forgotten anyone, please forgive me!
The best site for other originals is probably The Originals Project
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