In these iconic recording sessions Elvis would only record three songs, which would mark his artistic career: “Hound Dog”, “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Any Way You Want Me”.
Elvis had already been performing “Hound Dog” in his live performances for a while, before recording it.
It is believed that Elvis was reluctant to record the song, but was persuaded to do so, due to its popularity at his live shows.
Over the years, it has been rumored that the song ”Only You” may have been attempted at this session. ”Only You” had been a hit for The Platters in 1955 and Elvis is known to have sung it frequently during his appearances at the time, although no recording has surfaced to date.
The photographer Alfred Wertheimer, commissioned to photograph a 21-year-old Elvis in these sessions, when he arrived at the building on 24th Street, between Lexington and 3rd Avenues, could not imagine that the photos he took that day would achieve immortality.
Located on the ground floor, the main studio where Elvis recorded was a large room with lots of acoustic padding covering the walls. There were two smaller adjoining rooms, one of which was reserved for sound engineers. Instead of having to hire session musicians, Elvis brought in his own crew: Scotty Moore on guitar, DJ Fontana on drums, Bill Black on bass, and the Jordanaires as backup singers. Shorty Long was hired as a pianist.
The producer was Steve Sholes, his regular RCA producer, and Ernie Oehlrich was his sound engineer.
The recording session began in the early afternoon and lasted until nightfall.
In this session, everyone who was in the studio witnessed the greatness of Elvis as an artist. He controlled the direction and production of his songs, which he was honing more and more with each take. Until he was satisfied, the recording could not be finished, And since Steve Sholes gave him the freedom to act freely in these sessions, this helped Elvis to have complete control of what he was doing at all times.
This would be the first time that Elvis assumes total control of a recording session, being the teacher, the producer and the director; and he insists on reaching perfection in every song, repeating each take until he is completely satisfied.
The musicians, the singers and the entire recording team were very nervous, since Elvis did not want to stop until he got what he wanted. Steve Sholes was near despair. Elvis was the only one who would remain calm and completely focused.
The first song they recorded was “Hound Dog”, after recording 31 takes.
The second was “Don’t Be Cruel”, of which they would record 21 takes, until Elvis gave his approval.
And the last song they recorded was “Anyway You Want Me”, recorded with so much feeling that even the musicians themselves were moved during their performances.
Interestingly, despite the appearance of hundreds of outtakes from Elvis’ recording sessions throughout his career, outtakes from this key recording session have never surfaced to date.
This RCA session would be the last time Elvis would record in New York.
“Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” were released by RCA as two sides of the same single. This was the only time that both sides of a single reached number one on the charts.
A recording session for eternity…
Pictures: Alfred Wertheimer.
Information provided by ELVIS. El Chico De Tupelo
Rosa Garcia Mora
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