In the August 1956 issue of COUNTRY SONG ROUNDUP, with Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley on the cover, there is a poll of favorite singers compiled from magazine readers and from the Jimmie Rodgers Day Committee in their poll of the Country music trade. The magazine wrote that:
"The achievements of Mr. Presley, of course, need no further explanation. All we can do is agree that he's one of the most dynamic performers to ever hit the music scene - and a wonderful boy besides."
Here are the results for the top singers of 1956:
Top Ten Male Singers
1. ELVIS PRESLEY
2. WEBB PIERCE
3. FARON YOUNG
4. HANK SNOW
5. CARL SMITH
6. ERNEST TUBB
7. WILBURN BROTHERS
8. RED FOLEY
9. SONNY JAMES
10. JIM REEVES
Top Ten Female Singers
1. KITTY WELLS
2. JEAN SHEPARD
3. GOLDIE HILL
4. WANDA JACKSON
5. JUNE CARTER
6. CHARLINE ARTHUR
7. PATSY CLINE
8. MARTHA CARSON
9. HARVIE JUNE VAN
10. ANITA CARTER
The Truth Behind "Love Me Tender"
In has been claimed that because Elvis would sometimes make slight changes to the songs he recorded, that's why he was credited as co-writer. Many authors and websites still credit Elvis as co-writer of "Love Me Tender" along with Vera Matson because that's the way it was listed on the original RCA release.
But that is NOT correct!
Read about the songwriter who actually wrote "Love Me Tender" and the other three songs sung by Elvis in the 1956 film now available on a CD-ROM with audio and video features -- click here
What's The Best Elvis Record?
What was the best 45 RPM record made by Elvis during his entire career?
There are so many to choose from and the choices will be many, depending on who you ask.
Some fans might pick one of his uptempo hits like "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog" or "Jailhouse Rock."
Others might prefer one of the slow ballads like "Love Me Tender," "Don't" or "Can't Stop Falling in Love With You."
All of these songs were mileposts along the Elvis music highway.
But for me, and for Elvis himself, his best record was not even a rock n'roll song.
It was instead based on an old Italian tune. His mother had a 78 RPM record of it sung by the famous opera singer, Enrico Caruso.
Okay, have you guessed the record title yet?
The multi-million-selling record (which sold for 98 cents back in 1960, about the same as a download today) was...
"It's Now Or Never"
Recorded April 3, 1960, RCA Studio B, Nashville
In his very thorough book, Elvis Presley: A Life in Music - The Complete Recording Sessions, Ernst Jorgensen describes this million-selling record perfectly when he writes:
This was pure pop music, delivered with both superb musical command and the highest level of professionalism.
This song, with English lyrics by Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold, was based on the popular Italian song "O Sole Mio," which Elvis had heard Mario Lanza sing in Italian. Elvis had also heard an earlier record by Tony Martin titled, "There's No Tomorrow."
The Elvis record of "It's Now Or Never" stayed at the No. 1 spot in the USA for five weeks and eventually sold over 20 million copies worldwide, making it the largest selling single of his entire career. With just a few sudio takes, Elvis had made "It's Now Or Never" the most brilliant and accomplished record of his singing career. It was also reportedly the favorite recording of Elvis himself.
And now, on its 50th anniversary, isn't it time to pay tribute to "It's Now Or Never" again?
With that 1960 record, Elvis had reached beyond being just another popular rock n'roll singer.
He had become the greatest singer of the rock 'n' roll era and inspired many a singer and songwriter after that record came out.
I know because I was one of those songwriters.
My song, "Dream World", written the next year of 1961, pays homage to that great Elvis record.
So "It's Now or Never" to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the best of all the Elvis recordings.
-- Roger Hall, 2010
Read more about the record in this excellent reference book:
The Elvis Encylopedia by Adam Victor
"It's Now Or Never" is available on the special anniversary CD:
Also available on the 4 CD Set with the same title:
Elvis Presley and The Jordanaires
It was in 1956 that Elvis made his first recording with The Jordanaires. Elvis had known about this quartet in Memphis and he asked them to join him. Their first recording as backup singers with Elvis was in the RCA Studios in New York on July 2, 1956.
Their first song with Elvis was "Any Way You Want Me" (words & music by Aaron Schroeder-Cliff Owens). This was the B side of the hit single, "Love Me Tender," from the first Elvis movie. The single was released on September 28, 1956 and by Christmas of that year it had already sold 2.5 million records. It also happens to be the first Elvis record I purchased as a teenager and I played it so much I wore it out.
The members of the Jordanaires between 1954 and 1956 were:
Hoyt Hawkins, Gordon Stoker, Neal Matthews and Hugh Jarrett.
Gordon Stoker (shown second from the left in the above photo with Elvis) is the only one from that time still a member of The Jordanaires. The other early member is Ray Walker who joined in 1958.
Elvis Presley On Television
Elvis Debut On National Television
By Roger Lee Hall
Cleveland disc jockey Bill Randle was the one who introduced Elvis Presley on national television on The Dorsey Brothers program, Stage Show.
Elvis made his first appearance on that TV show on Saturday night,
January 28, 1956.
Contrary to many accounts, Elvis did not sing "Heartbreak Hotel" (by Mae Boren Axton and Tommy Durden) for his national TV debut appearance, even though it had been recorded by RCA on January 10.
The "Heartbreak Hotel" single was the A side of the first official RCA record. It was released January 27. The B side contained the song, "I Was the One." This first RCA single became a million seller by April of 1956.
Bill Randle told me that Elvis wanted an upbeat number for his TV debut and RCA wanted to be sure their new singer had a chance to be seen on television so Elvis held off singing "Heartbreak Hotel" until his February 11appearance on Stage Show. He sang the song again on the March 17 and March 24 telecasts.
For his national television debut on January 28, Elvis sang two songs in a medley:"Shake, Rattle and Roll" (Charles Calhoun) and "Flip, Flop and Fly" (Charles Calhoun and Lou Willie Turner). Elvis also sang the Ray Charles song, "I Got a Woman," on that first TV appearance.
This is the cover of the original 2 LP set --
This is Elvis (2 DVD Set)
The TV footage showing Bill Randle introducing Elvis on that national debut in 1956 is featured in the two hour documentary film, This is Elvis (1981). This film combines both original films of Elvis and various Elvis impersonators who portray him during his life. Yet it is still remains one of the best film documentaries about Elvis.
All the songs sung by Elvis on the Dorsey Brothers "Stage Show", "The Milton Berle Show", "The Steve Allen Show", and "The Ed Sullivan Show" are found on this outstanding 4-CD Box Set:
Elvis - A Golden Celebration
Elvis Television Performances (1956-1957)
Stage Show (CBS TV, hosted by two Big Band musicians: Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey)
January 28 -
Tommy Dorsey introduced Cleveland disc jockey Bill Randle, who spoke about Elvis on his first national US TV appearance - Songs: "Shake, Rattle and Roll / Flip Flop and Fly" and "I Got A Woman"
February 4 -
Songs: "Baby, Let's Play House" and
February 11 -
Songs: "Blue Suede Shoes" and
February 18 -
Songs: "Tutti Frutti" and "I Was the One"
March 17 -
Songs: "Blue Suede Shoes" and
March 24 -
Songs: "Money Honey" and
The Milton Berle Show (NBC TV)
April 3 -
Songs: "Heartbreak Hotel" and
"Blue Suede Shoes"
June 6 -
Songs: "Hound Dog" and
"I Want You, I Need You, I Love You"
The Steve Allen Show (NBC TV)
July 1 -
Songs: "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" and
The Toast of the Town (or The Ed Sullivan Show) (CBS TV)
September 9, 1956 -
Actor Charles Laughton not Ed Sullivan in New York introduced Elvis from Hollywood - Songs: "Don't Be Cruel"; "Love Me Tender"; "Ready Teddy"; "Hound Dog"
October 28, 1956 -
Ed Sullivan introduced Elvis -
Songs: "Don't Be Cruel"; "Love Me Tender"; "Love Me"; "Hound Dog"
January 6, 1957 -
Ed Sullivan introduced Elvis -
Songs: "Hound Dog"/"Love Me Tender"/Heatbreak Hotel" (Medley); "Don't Be Cruel"; "Too Much"; "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again"; "Peace in the Valley"
In the booklet essay for the 3 DVD set, Greil Marcus writes that...
"almost everyone says 'and then we saw him on Ed Sullivan.' NOBODY ever says they saw him on the Dorsey show, Milton Berle, or Steve Allen."
Well, sorry Mr. Marcus, but I saw Elvis on ALL those TV shows in 1956-57.
I watched him go from the rough and raw Memphis Flash to a slick and sexy "Electric Elvis."
Those three famous Ed Sullivan shows are now available in the 3 DVD set -- the first two shows have Elvis in full frame, while the third program is "from the waist up"