Monday, 2 February 2009

Don't Be Cruel - The King and the BBC

Elvis Presley - RCA 47-6604
Bill Black Combo - Hi 2026

Following another coast to coast TV show with Steve Allen, Elvis, Scotty, Bill, DJ and the Jordanaires entered the RCA Studio in New York to cut a session. Together with painist Shorty Long they'd laid down Hound Dog before tackling r'n'b songwriter Otis Blackwell's omposition, Don't Be Cruel. Kicking off with some neat bass lines from Scotty and Bill Black, the mid tempo rock'n'roll groove had smash hit written all over it. The Jordanaires who sometimes sounded a bit obtrusive, are spot on and Elvis is in complete command as he teases with the words and adds vocal gimmicks like never before. He had hinted at it as early as a year before on Baby Let's Play House but by now the King was on his throne and was playing with the songs, knowing he was getting at every teenage girl in America. Even Sam Phillips was impressed enough on hearing it, to pull his car off the road, saying "They've finally found this man's ability".

The Bill Black Combo had obvious Elvis/Memphis connections. Apart from Black the group also featured Reggie Young and the producer was ex-Sun artist Ray Harris. One of the owners of the Memphis based Hi label was Joe Coughi, who also owned the regular Elvis haunt, Poplular Tunes record shop. Their instrumental version of Don't Be Cruel was a grits and gravy southern boogie taken at a faster pace than Elvis'. Young's guitar figures are the real driving force, with both organ and sax taking turns up front. The sax is low down and dirty and has the Memphis feel but the organ, a popular instrument at the time, sounds dated today and slightly spoils the effect. The Combo's version was great for the time (it reached No.11 in 1960) - Elvis' is perfect for any time!

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