#904: Suspicion by Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was born on in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935. His twin brother, Jessie Garon Presley, was stillborn. When he was eleven years old his parents bought him a guitar at the Tupelo Hardware Store. As a result Elvis grew up as an only child. He and his parents, Vernon and Gladys, moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1948. The young Presley graduated from high school in 1953. That year he stopped by the Memphis Recording Service to record two songs, including “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”, song #1097 on this Countdown. Elvis’ musical influences were the pop and country music of the time, the gospel music he heard in church and at the all-night gospel sings he frequently attended, and the black R&B he absorbed on historic Beale Street as a Memphis teenager. In 1954, Elvis began his singing career recording “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” at Sun Records in Memphis.
In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. In 1956 he had his first #1 record titled “Heartbreak Hotel.” He had a sound and style that uniquely combined his diverse musical influences and blurred and challenged the social and racial barriers of the time. Bill Haley & His Comets ushered in the rock ‘n roll into mainstream culture in 1955 when “Rock Around The Clock,” appeared in the film about juvenile delinquents and anti-social behavior in an inter-racial school. The song became an anthem for teenage rebellion. However, it was Elvis in 1956 who ensured rock ‘n roll was here to stay with his swiveling hips and R&B infused songs with sexually suggestive lyrics. He had his first number one hit with “Heartbreak Hotel” in February 1956. He starred in 33 successful films, made history with his television appearances and specials, and knew great acclaim through his many, often record-breaking, live concert performances on tour and in Las Vegas. Globally, he has sold over one billion records, more than any other recording artist.
Between 1956 and 1959, Elvis Presley continued his chart-topping ways with “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”, “Hound Dog”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Love Me Tender”, “Too Much”, “All Shook Up”, “Jailhouse Rock” and “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”, “Don’t”, “Hard Headed Woman” and “Big Hunk o’ Love” peaking at #1. But during his chart run he got a letter from Uncle Sam.
Sergeant Elvis Presley served with the U.S. Army from March 24, 1958, to March 2, 1960. His return to civilian life saw a return to a string of successful single, album and film releases. From April 1960 to March 1961, Elvis topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “Stuck On You, “It’s Now Or Never,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” and “Surrender” for a total of 17 of 52 weeks in that timeframe. The album from his first film on return from serving in Germany, G.I. Blues, was a best-seller at the box office (#2 on Variety Magazine for the year 1960) and a number one album in October 1960. He released His Hand In Mine, a collection of sacred gospel music and in November, 1960, began to record his 13th studio album, Something For Everybody.
Presley continued to have major hits in 1961-62. In Vancouver he topped the charts with “Marie’s The Name (His Latest Flame)”, “Little Sister”, “Good Luck Charm” and “Return To Sender”. Other Top Ten hits included “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and “She’s Not You”. In 1962 Presley released his seventh studio album, Potluck. From that album the song “Kiss Me Quick” would peak at #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964. But his song, “Suspicion”, climbed onto the CFUN chart in the summer of 1962.
“Suspicion” was written by Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus. Shuman, was born in Brooklyn in 1938 of Polish, Jewish immigrants. Together with Doc Pomus, Shuman wrote many hits in the early rock ‘n roll era including “A Teenager in Love” for Dion and the Belmonts, “Turn Me Loose” for Fabian, “This Magic Moment” for Jay & The Americans, “Save The Last Dance For Me” and “Sweets For My Sweet” for The Drifters, “Go Jimmy Go” for Jimmy Clanton, “Hushabye” for the Mystics, “A Mess Of The Blues”, “Surrender”, “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame”, “Little Sister” and “Viva Las Vegas” for Elvis Presley, “Little Children” for Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, and Andy Williams 1963 hit “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”. Shuman produced the Off-Broadway musical, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, which began it’s four year run in Manhattan in 1968. Shuman went on to write numerous songs in french and lived in France.
Jerome Solon Felder was born in Brooklyn in 1925. He contracted polio and walked with crutches in his youth. He eventually spent much of his adult life in a wheelchair. Felder wanted to become a blues singer and billed himself as Doc Pomus because he liked it better than Jerome Felder. He wrote magazine articles for R&B recording stars. He began songwriting and wrote “Lonely Avenue” for Ray Charles in 1956. Pomus had a big break when he co-wrote “Young Blood” for the Coasters, together with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The single climbed to #8 on the Billboard pop chart in 1957. In addition to the songs mentioned above that Doc Pomus co-wrote with Mort Shuman, he also wrote “She’s Not You” for Elvis Presley and “Don’t Try To Change Me” for the Crickets.
With lag irons and a wheelchair, Doc Pomus gained a lot of weight. But he was the life of the party. He spent a quarter of a million dollars in earnings by 1963 and his wife left him for a career on the stage. In a review of Alex Halberstadt’s Lonely Avenue: the Unlikely Life and Times of Doc Pomus, Christopher Hawtree writes that after his wife left, “Another young woman, Shirlee, came along, stayed – and shied as much from a gun-waving Phil Spector (who gave the grateful Pomus a blank cheque) as she did from the homespun gamblers with whom Pomus augmented funds. Such sessions ended when the Mob moved in, one participant ending up in the East River. Another friend’s death inspired Looking for Mr Goodbar.” Doc Pomus died of lung cancer at the age of 65 in 1991.
“Suspicion” is a song about suspicion in a romantic dating relationship. The narrator is suspicious that there is someone else their lover is involved with. When they kiss it reminds them they’re not certain their partner loves them. It undercuts the verbal assurances by the partner that they “really, really, really love” them. The dating couple aren’t living together. And the guy keeps getting put off by his date who always puts off getting together until “tomorrow.” However, the final verse calls into question all his suspicions. He begs her to “wait until I drive all these foolish fears out of my mind.” Much as he is suspicious of her, he knows himself well enough to also suspect that he is just being overwrought and introducing needless drama into the romance. Suspicions can be either justified or ludicrous. The guy is too nervous and jittery to calm himself down enough to pay attention to what is really going on. While he wonders why she is torturing him, he is the one who is emotionally torturing himself with the scenarios he’s conjuring.
“Suspicion” climbed to #9 on CFUN in Vancouver in July 1962. When Terry Stafford covered the song in 1964 some radio stations also play listed Elvis’ original version. The original Elvis version had its best chart runs in 1964 in Milwaukee at #15, and in Houston (TX) and Chilliwack (BC) at #16. In 45 states across the USA radio stations put Terry Stafford’s cover on their play lists and not Elvis’ original. Elvis’ original version stalled beneath the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964 at position #103. In Denmark Elvis’ “Suspicion” climbed to #3 in 1964. While in the Netherlands and Norway it peaked at #9, and in Belgium “Suspicion” peaked at #6. Belatedly, Elvis’ “Suspicion” climbed to #9 in the UK in February, 1977. The King of Rock ‘n Roll died six months later on August 16th.
In 1964, rural Oklahoma born William Nathan “Bill” Stafford billed himself as Terry Stafford and took “Suspicion” to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was no small accomplishment, as his was the first single to break a lock on the Top five spots at the time, all held by the Beatles. Stafford had a minor hit in the Top 30 later that year and faded from stardom. Stafford died of liver failure at the age of 54 in 1996.
After “Suspicion” climbed into the Vancouver Top Ten in July 1962, Elvis continued to enjoy more Top Ten hits between 1963 and 1965. His most notable hits were “One Broken Heart For Sale”, “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise”, “Ain’t That Loving You Baby”, “Such A Night” and “Crying In The Chapel”.
But after 1965 Elvis found it increasingly challenging to enter the Top 30. Between the end of 1965 and the winter of 1968 Presley released 22 singles and only four of these made the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 30. But in 1969, Presley had his best year since 1962 charting three singles into the Top Ten with “In The Ghetto”, “Suspicious Minds” and “Don’t Cry Daddy”. Between 1970 and 1983 Elvis released 36 singles, including eight posthumous singles. Of these, “Burning Love” and “The Wonder Of You” were his most successful and six others made the Top 20 on the Billboard charts.
Over his recording career Elvis Presley earned 14 Grammy Award nominations including for Record of the Year with “A Fool Such As I” (1959) and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” (1960) and won six Hall of Fame Awards. After his comeback tour in 1968 Presley had continued to tour extensively, with 168 concerts in 1973, a pace he kept through the mid-70’s. By 1976 he was suffering from multiple ailments: glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon, all believed to be related to prescription drug abuse. He died on August 16, 1977, and a funeral was attended by over 80,000 mourners. His legacy continues to live on. There were also numerous sightings of Elvis including around the 40th anniversary of his death in 2017.
February 26, 2019
graceland.com (Elvis bio)
Elvis Presley: Rock’s First Icon, Rolling Stone, September 22, 1977.
Lichter, Paul. The Boy Who Dared to Rock: The Definitive Elvis. Garden City, NY: Dolphin Books, 1978.
Elizabeth Nix, 7 Fascinating Facts About Elvis Presley, History.com, July 1, 2014
Sauer, Wendy. Elvis Presley: A Complete Reference. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1984.
“Mort Shuman Dies 52; Devotee of Jacques Brel,” New York Times, November 4, 1991.
Christopher Hawtree, “The Last Dance of Doc Pomus,” Telegraph, UK, August 16, 2007.
Alex Halberstadt, Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life & Times of Doc Pomus, De Capo Press, 2007.
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