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50 Years Later
November 2022 – First part

By Neil Colombari


At the time of writing, it has been almost fifty years since RCA released the last of the original series of Elvis albums on the budget Camden label. The first, Elvis Sings Flaming Star, came out in April 1969, and the tenth, Sepate Ways, hit stores in December 1972.

Over the years, fans have had a love-hate relationship with the ‘Camdens’. On the one hand, they are seen as an artistic misstep, as they were released at a time when Elvis was topping the charts and performing again, so why was it necessary to further saturate the market with a series? of albums containing little-known songs? Some of whom had been in the vaults and were not considered worthy of release? On the other hand, many younger fans of the 1970s and 1980s could only afford these inexpensive releases and used them as a way to explore a small part of Elvis’s vast catalog. Furthermore, for the collector, Camdens was the only way to obtain many of these songs on an album, and in the case of the unreleased songs, it was the only place to obtain them.

Roy Carr and Mick Farren, in their excellent book ‘Elvis: The Complete Illustrated Record’ (1982, Eel Pie Publishing), noted in relation to the C’mon Everybody album that “These tracks appear to have been selected in the same way.” since many people choose racehorses – with a pin,” and many fans feel the same way about the entire series. Closer analysis, however, reveals that a lot of planning was put into the tracklisting and themes of many of the albums (certainly more than some budget albums by other artists), and although for the most part the songs were not well known , each album contains a number of gems, and only a handful of truly weak songs are included in the entire collection.

Although much has been written about these albums, there have been very few detailed articles. What follows is an attempt to review each album and the collection as a whole, using the original US releases as the primary reference point. However, in some cases details about other versions have been included.

Whether you love or hate Camdens (or are somewhere in between), we hope this article provides a slightly different perspective and leaves you with a new appreciation for this collection released half a century ago.


RCA launched its Camden label in the early 1950s. The label, named after Camden, New Jersey, the city where RCA was headquartered since its beginnings as the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901, was primarily a means to issue (and reissue) older products at an affordable price. As George R. Marek, then vice president and general manager of the RCA Victor record division, noted: “We are proud of the opportunity to make great music from great artists available to millions of people thanks to the low prices of RCA Camden records.” .

Camden’s first LP (CAL 100) was in 1955, with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra (under the pseudonym the Warwick Symphony Orchestra) conducted by Leopold Stokowski, performing Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Saint -Saëns.

Over the years, some of RCA’s biggest artists released their music on the Camden label, including Glenn Miller, Mario Lanza, the Boston Pops Orchestra, Jim Reeves, Perry Como, Dolly Parton and many others, including, for Of course, Elvis. .

Elvis’s Camden Contract

Colonel Parker was always looking for opportunities to increase Elvis’ exposure and income, especially when little work was required. Compilation albums such as For LP Fans Only, A Date With Elvis and Elvis For Everyone had demonstrated how singles, EPs, unreleased tracks and other lesser-known songs could be released with very little effort to increase Elvis’ (and the Colonel’s) popularity.

The first of Elvis’s Camden releases was Elvis Sings Flaming Star, a reissue of Singer Presents Elvis Singing Flaming Star And Others from five months earlier (October 1968) as a promotional tie-in to the Elvis TV special, which was sponsored by the Singer sewing machine company.

Following the television special and Elvis’ return to the charts and stage, the Colonel looked for additional ways to promote him, including more Camden releases. The initial contract, signed on December 12, 1969, specified four Camden albums between Easter 1970 and Easter 1971, with RCA having the option to release two more albums in 1971. An advance payment of $300,000 (divided 50:50 between Elvis and the Colonel). in January 1970, representing payments for the first 1,700,000 units sold (1,300,000 in the US and 400,000 in other countries). Beyond that, royalties payable to Colonel’s All Star Shows were $0.20 per domestic album sale and $0.10 per foreign album sale. If RCA decided not to exercise its option on the additional albums in 1971, $10,000 would be paid to the Colonel. It was certainly a win-win for everyone! A follow-up contract from March 1972 guaranteed three more Camden albums, and Elvis and the Colonel each received an advance payment of $90,000 as part of the deal.

Elvis's Camden Contract
Elvis's Camden Contract

The December 1969 contract also stipulated that “All repertoire and actual release dates…must be mutually agreed upon by Colonel Parker for All Star Shows and Harry Jenkins for RCA Records,” and Elvis apparently had little or no involvement on what was released and when.

Information provided by Antonio Gte González. “Walk A Mile In My Shoeshttps://www.facebook.com/groups/146836475332645/?ref=share

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