#632: Loving You 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 #1117 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 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.
In 1956-57 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” all climbing to #1. The B-side to “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” was “Loving You”. While that song stalled at #28 on the Billboard Pop charts, in Vancouver it climbed to #2.
“Loving You” was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The duo wrote over 70 songs that made the pop charts across three decades. Their first song was in 1952, “Hard Times,” Charles Brown’s final Top Ten R&B. Lieber and Stoller’s last hit record was “I Keep Forgettin’” recorded by Michael McDonald in 1982. In between they collaborated with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to compose “On Broadway” for The Drifters. They’d also co-written “There Goes My Baby” for The Drifters with Ben. E. King and when King went solo, they co-wrote “Stand By Me.” Leiber and Stoller had one of their best successes with The Coasters who recorded the duo’s “Searchin’” “Yakety-Yak,” “Charlie Brown”, “Love Potion No. 9” and “Poison Ivy” among others. But Leiber and Stoller struck gold writing songs that are now part of Elvis Presley’s most memorable tunes. These include “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Don’t,” “King Creole”, “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)” and “She’s Not You.” They also wrote “Trouble” for Elvis from the 1958 film King Creole. Other notable hits they wrote include “Kansas City”, a hit for Wilbert Harrison in 1959; “Black Denim Trousers And Motor Cycle Boots” for The Cheers in 1955; And “The Rev. Mr. Black” for The Kingston Trio in 1963.
Jerome Leiber and Michael Stoller were both born in East Coast USA Jewish families in 1933, the year Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany. Leiber left Baltimore and Stoller left Long Island. They met in Los Angeles in 1950 when they were each seventeen years old. In addition to being a successful songwriting team, Leiber and Stoller founded Red Bird Records in 1963. The label released “The Leader Of The Pack” and “Remember Walking In The Sand” for The Shangri-Las, “Chapel Of Love” for The Dixie Cups and “I Wanna Love Him So Bad” by The Jelly Beans.
“Loving You” was the title song from the film Loving You which gave Elvis top billing as a star. The plot concerned a delivery man named Deke Rivers who is discovered by a music publicist and a country–western musician who want to promote the talented amateur. The film was based on the short story “A Call from Mitch Miller.”
After the end of the four day engagement, Deke’s Rivers management is offered a one-man show in Freegate, Texas. Due to the terms of the contract, bandleader Tex Warner, fires Susan Jessup and her singing trio, leaving only Deke in the show. Before he has to begin his new tour, Deke drives Susan to her family’s farm. At the farm, Deke and Susan talk, where she tells him about being fired. They are about to kiss when they are interrupted by her parents, who ask him to sing the song he promised. After Deke sings “Loving You”, a surprised Susan remarks that she never heard him sing that way. Deke confides that he never felt that way before. “Loving You” is a song of endless devotion. It champions a lifelong one and only love to last a lifetime.
In 1958 Elvis starred in his fourth film, King Creole, based on Harold Robbins 1952 novel A Stone For Danny Fisher. The plot concerned a 19 year old male who gets involved with crooks and two women. Nineteen-year-old high school student Danny Fisher works before and after school to support his surviving family: his father and sister Mimi. After Danny’s mother died, his grieving father lost his job as a pharmacist, and moved his impoverished family to the French Quarter in New Orleans. To make the film, Presley was granted a 60-day deferment from January to March 1958 for beginning his military service. Location shooting in New Orleans was delayed several times by crowds of fans attracted by the stars, particularly Presley. The film was released by Paramount Pictures on July 2, 1958, to both critical and commercial success. The critics were unanimous in their praise of Presley’s performance. King Creole peaked at number five on the Variety box office earnings charts for the film industry. The debut single from the film, “Hard Headed Woman,” quickly became a top seller. It was #1 for three weeks in July 1958 on the CKWX charts. Another song from the film, “Trouble” was a big hit in Vancouver, peaking at #5.
King Creole was the fourth of four films in a row whose plot concerned a Presley cast in the role of a musical performer. But though he acted in 31 films, (the 32nd and 33rd being documentaries about his film career), he was increasingly unhappy with the roles he was cast in. When his studio contract ended in after filming Change of Habit in April, 1969, Presley devoted his career to recording and concert appearances.
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 6th studio album, Something For Everybody.
Something For Everybody contained no single releases. However, in Vancouver the track, “Judy”, climbed to #9 in the summer of 1961. Another film track, “C’mon Everybody,” was from an extended play of four of the twelve tunes in the 1964 film, Viva Las Vegas. Elvis’ hits between 1961 and 1965 that included “(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame/”Little Sister”, “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, “Return To Sender”, “Good Luck Charm”, “She’s Not You”, “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 13, 2019
graceland.com (Elvis bio)
Elvis Presley: Rock’s First Icon, Rolling Stone, September 22, 1977.
Paul Lichter, The Boy Who Dared to Rock: The Definitive Elvis, (Dolphin Books, 1978).
Elizabeth Nix, 7 Fascinating Facts About Elvis Presley, History.com, July 1, 2014
Wendy Sauer, Elvis Presley: A Complete Reference, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1984).
William Grimes, “Jerry Lieber, Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyricist, Dies at 78,” New York Times, August 22, 2011.
Richard Williams, “Jerry Leiber Obituary: Ingenious Writer of Witty and Irreverent Lyrics Set to Music by Mike Stoller,” Guardian, August 23, 2011.
Randy Poe, About Lieber and Stoller, Lieber Stoller.com.
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