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TWO PART INTERVIEW!
ERNST TALKS ABOUT:
* THE UNKNOWN CANCELLED SECOND SUN SINGLE
* HIS NEW BOOK
* NEW INFORMATION ON SUN MATERIAL
* THE 50'S,60'S,70'S SESSIONS
* FUTURE RELEASES
* BILL RANDLE FILM
* FILM OUTTAKES
* MOVIE OUTTAKES
* MUCH, MUCH MORE
Since 1987, Ernst Jorgensen (an Elvis fan and the first person to author a book dealing with Elvis' Recording Sessions in 1974 or 1975) has been the man responsible for producing the BMG releases on Elvis. He has heard everything that BMG has in their possession on Elvis and probably knows more about Elvis in the studio that anyone alive today. I first began corresponding with Ernst around 24 years ago when he had just come out with his first RECORDING SESSIONS booklet. Since then, many versions of this have been printed but none can compare to his current book ELVIS PRESLEY - A LIFE IN MUSIC - THE COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS (pictured above),The interview below (possibly the longest printed interview Ernst has ever done) was taped via the phone on two days - Feb. 27, 1998 in New York and on March 1, 1998 in Nashville. During this almost two hour conversation he reveals all kinds of new information about Elvis' recording sessions, unreleased songs, upcoming releases, and many, many other interesting and unknown details that are written here for the first time ever! Because of the length of it, it will be divided up into three parts - THE 50'S; THE 60'S; and THE 70'S AND BEYOND.
NOTE: Many thanks to the following people who supplied me with some of the questions: Dale Hampton; Jimmy Carpenter; Sebastian Jeansson; Paul Alner; Brian Sommers; and Mike Hermenet. I really appreciate their help.
WWE: Let's talk about your upcoming book! It's called ELVIS PRESLEY: A LIFE IN MUSIC (THE COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS) published by St. Martin's Press. How different is this than your original RECORDING SESSIONS books?
ERNST: I think it differs mainly from our previous books and definitely Joe Tunzi's book in two elements. It has more information and more accurate detailed information which is obvious. Every new book on recording sessions will have everything that was there before and then some and this definitely has a ton of more information in there. Secondly, it's also a book you can read. All of the sessions are described - or most of the sessions - are. The story about the songs - how the recording sessions went, the atmosphere, quotes from Elvis during the sessions and all that kind of stuff is supposed to give a whole picture actually of ... it's three stories told at the same time. It's the story of Elvis Presley. It's also the story of the maneuvering of Colonel Parker. And it's also the story of RCA records and Elvis Presley releases and that's why it's 460 pages or whatever it is. I don't know if that's the exact number of pages but it's a very systematic analysis of his career from the beginning to the end so there is a lot of text to read other than the listings.
WWE: Do you list songs Elvis recorded that haven't been released?
ERNST: Songs that we know he's recorded that haven't been released are mentioned. There's a decision to be made whether it's really official that they exist or we just think they exist and that the evidence is overwhelming that he did record them although we don't have a tape. But it doesn't deal with speculation because, to the best of my knowledge, there is no reason to speculate what he recorded at the sessions because we know what he recorded at the sessions. But, obviously there's a gray area in that I have not included and nor have intentions of including tapes that I have been told about but haven't yet heard. Of course, there will always be a lot of those tapes out there with little bits of pieces, but, for instance, if I know a tape is there like the "Linda Thompson tape" or if I know that a tape was recorded in Germany although we still can't find it I will write that in there. I have not listed Elvis and Sean Neilson singing "Let Me Be The One". There will be things that could have been in there, there could have been a list of songs Elvis sang "live" that appears on bootleg, but I haven't done that. I don't necessarily want to say you can't hear Elvis singing anything other than what's here because you can. That's not really the meaning of the book. It discusses recordings as they were generally as recording sessions. Hopefully, we'll find out more information and we'll go into a second or third printing and we will update it. I'd be very happy if I didn't have corrections to make. You know from your book that when you have tons of facts like that in there that there will be little mistakes of various sources that nobody spotted and it will be very nice if people will care to write and say, hey, there's a mistake there and there's a mistake there and I either agree or not agree but you should never think you can put a book out like that and never have mistakes because that doesn't happen.
WWE: Did you go back and interview a lot of people you had interviewed before?
ERNST: Yes. A lot of people.
WWE: Did you find out a lot of things that you never knew before?
ERNST: Oh yeah! There's a lot of stuff in there like a session that was booked and every musician was booked and the songs selected and was cancelled at the last minute.
WWE: When was that?
ERNST: 1967. It's something that I found by just keep working at it and I ended up talking to people who should have been there but didn't go.
NOTE: Ernst wanted to keep some things as a surprise for fans to learn when they read the book so he didn't go into any more detail about this!
WWE: Did you find anything new about SUN recordings?
ERNST: Only what this Dutch guy told me which was a very interesting piece of information that was under my nose all the time which is that there was a tape called "THAT'S ALRIGHT + 2 other selections" that RCA got from SUN records. It doesn't stipulate whether the two other selections were Elvis or some other artists. Another new finding was that Elvis, in Las Vegas in 1970, kept introducing "Tiger Man" as his second record! Not too many people heard this. I have it on tape! And that was this Dutch guy who came out with that observation so I've had a lot of help from people who gave me little pieces of information here and there.
WWE: So, it seems possible that his second SUN release was planned initially to be "Tiger Man"?
ERNST: Yes, it appears that that might have been the case.
WWE: What about the SUN acetate of "It Wouldn't Be The Same Without You"? Does BMG own this and will it come out?
ERNST: Yes, it's going to come out but not this year.
WWE: What about other SUN material?
ERNST: We're still stuck with the horrible problem that most of those tapes were dumped. There are two tapes that have disappeared - "When It Rains It Really Pours" and "Harbor Lights". If they pop up again there may be one or two outtakes there but you never know. Someone could have a copy of something somewhere. But it seems almost certain that RCA got rid of a lot of tapes, not only Elvis, but thousands of tapes back in 1959 and that includes, from the list I have, quite a lot of Elvis tapes.
WWE: Is the master take of "Blue Moon" on the same tape (pictured in the 50'S MASTERS box booklet) as the outtakes?
WWE: Are there two false starts on the tape as well?
ERNST: I think so. I don't remember but there are false starts on there.
WWE: I remember reading several years ago that the SUN outtakes of THE GOLDEN CELEBRATION box set did not come from RCA but from SUN. In other words, they did not come from the tapes turned over to Steve Sholes by Sam Phillips, but tapes left behind that were found later. Is this true?
ERNST: Yes, that's true.
WWE: You haven't seen or heard the ROY ORBISON TV SHOW from 1954 that I told you about in 1982 have you? (WWE: In 1954 and 1955, Roy was the host of a weekly TV show in Odessa / Midland, Texas. Elvis was one of a number of stars that appeared on it.)
ERNST: No. Danny Mayo (the owner of this kinescope - WWE ) is out of reach I think and it's not going to happen. I don't even know where to find him anymore.
WWE: What about the Bill Randle "TOP JOCK" (aka "THE PIED PIPER OF CLEVELAND") film? What is the real story behind this and the publicity it got around 10 years ago? Does it exist?
ERNST: In that whole process you know..where that rumour started recently again like a few years ago, NO ONE during that whole period of talking about money or anything found it. Nobody ever saw it! So it's a question, you know...I think Bill Randle still lives in Cleveland but he seems to be playing some kind of weird gane and, as you know, most of those people who play weird games don't have anything.
WWE: Have you ever interviewed him?
WWE: Have you ever tried to?
ERNST: No. I really don't think he has it or he would have sold it to us if he does.
WWE: Have you interviewed Sam Phillips a lot? Can you believe a lot of the things he tells you?
ERNST: Yes. But I don't trust his memory. He's not out to lie, I promise you that. I don't trust his ego - you know, who said what - and the whole story on Marion Keisker, whether it was her or him that recorded Elvis is a little bit on the painful side. Also, exactly who took Elvis on the HAYRIDE is another one of those stories where you have as many stories as you have people.
WWE: It's too bad that he didn't keep better notes.
ERNST: Yes, and even when we played him some stuff to trigger his mind it was damned difficult to get anything from him. We played the "echo" tapes, you know, of "How Do You Think I Feel" and the only thing we learned from him was that it was the guitar reverb echo tape but he had no memory of the song.
WWE: Do you think there's anymore MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET material left?
ERNST: I spoke to Shelby Singleton (WWE: Shelby purchased the entire SUN catalog at least 20 or more years ago! It has been thought they he still has tapes of Elvis in the vaults but no one has yet to prove this!)about that yesterday and he said he's damned sure that there was more but he says he doesn't have it and he knows of nobody who claims to have it. Because I basically said to him, Shelby, if you have it we can make a deal and he wants to make a deal so if he had it he would tell me.
WWE: A lot of people think he still has material on Elvis that he won't sell.
ERNST: Well, if he has it, he will definitely come up with it because it's only in their interest. They can make money on letting us release it.
WWE: Does he own "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin"?
ERNST: He controls them. I think the owns them.
WWE: Concerning the "erased" tapes from January 1956 ("I Got A Woman"; "Heartbreak Hotel"; "I'm Counting On You"; and "I Was The One") - I understand that all complete takes have been released, but do the preserved Elvis recordings start at the beginning of the released, complete versions?
ERNST: There are bits and pieces other that what's on the CD's but it's only half verses or the ending or the start of it because it was recorded over.
WWE: The first session tapes are mainly missing or lost also, correct?
ERNST: Well, there is the "Heartbreak Hotel" stuff so we don't need more outtakes of each of those songs, especially because he does them so close to the originals. But it would be fun to have more outtakes of "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" and "Shake Rattle And Roll" and "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Tutti Frutti". (WWE- Ernst mistakenly mentioned not having outtakes of "Lawdy" and "Shake" because RCA does have quite a few of these!) I'd love to hear that and I would also love to hear the one you asked about ("Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel") especially because we think that both of them must have changed a lot because there were so many takes on them. The early takes are going to be probably quite different than the later takes. Yes, because what if he recorded...when he started he recorded in like he had done on the TV shows with the bump and grind ending. That would be fun to have. But in reality are fun for collectors editions but there's a limit to how much you can release of it. There's not a lot of times where you've got something that's a totally different version.
WWE: How were the "Rip It Up" outtakes found?
ERNST: The "Rip It Up" outtakes were found one day when I was walking in the basement over in the old building and I saw a number that I thought was an Elvis number and picked out the tape and it was outtakes of "Rip It Up" but it actually had the wrong number. It had "4733" instead of "4732" and that's how it survived. The rest of the session was unfortunately lost but this one survived because it was filed under a wrong number.
WWE: Was there a STEREO version of "Let Me" recorded with both Elvis and the instrumental track at the same time?
ERNST: It's Elvis overdubbing to an instrumental track and it's basically a three track recording, two tracks as the original instrumental track and then Elvis doing a third one.
WWE: What about all the other takes of "Hound Dog"? They haven't been found, have they?
WWE: Were the KING CREOLE sessions possibly recorded in BINAURAL?
ERNST: Yes, but no tapes are known to exist.
WWE: Besides "Treat Me Nice", do any of the other JAILHOUSE ROCK recordings exist in BINAURAL?
ERNST: Yes, but in not very good quality. Binaural, remember, is Elvis in one channel and everybody else in the other. It doesn't necessarily make a very good listening.
WWE: Will BMG ever plan to release them?
ERNST: Not at this time.
WWE: Why wasn't the February 1, 1958 "My Wish Came True" ever released?
ERNST: Because no tape exists. It is not on the master reel and we don't know whether there's a complete take or if there ever was a complete take of it.
WWE: Do you have any outtakes from the 1957 Christmas sessions?
ERNST. No. None at all. It's like with the second album, it's heartbreak territory because who wouldn't want to hear another version of "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" or "Blue Christmas". I would. There's no reason to believe that they're in the vaults but that it doesn't mean that they couldn't be in the vaults because there's still some stuff from Indianapolis that hasn't been unpacked but that stuff is by definition not RCA's own tapes. These are tapes of other companies for whom we pressed records. But, that's in principle. Reality is always somewhat different to principle, but, you know, out of the many artists we have and the many tapes we have if there's stuff in there that is RCA's it would still be a very, very lucky punch if any of it was Elvis. We cannot find anything else by luck like we did before because the tape that I found by luck in the old basement (WWE: in other words- "Rip It Up") would now exist on a computer today with the wrong number on it but it would still say "Elvis Presley". I check all of the stuff that goes into the computer so we know that of the 4000 Elvis tapes that are in the computer (which is everything) that they found that had Elvis' name on the boxes or in any other way could be connected to Elvis we know what those tapes are.
WWE: What about releasing more outtakes from the ELVIS IS BACK sessions?
ERNST: If we had them - definitely.
WWE: Do you have any outtakes from this session?
ERNST: We don't have anything. We could find another take of one or two songs . Some outtakes have been released - I think there's been outtakes of "Fame And Fortune" and on "Fever" there' s no complete takes. I'm not going to release the MONO version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight". So, unless we find those tapes (and that's not very likely) nothing more is going to come out.
WWE: What generation tapes were used for "It Feels So Right" and "A Mess Of Blues"?
ERNST: We don't know. Like several generations down.
WWE: What about "Playing With Fire"? Do you think this is just a rumour or do you think Elvis really recorded it?
ERNST: It was not recorded by Elvis but of course it exists as a song (by Terry Stafford) but, with the movies, there were often 40 or 50 demo songs submitted for a movie and a lot of those songs were obviously rumoured because they almost made it into the movie and "Playing With Fire" was one of those that almost made it but was tossed out at the last minute. For example, there were about 5 or 6 songs titled "Wild In The Country" that were submitted. There are only those instances where they used two songs from the movie like "Kissin Cousins" and "Kissin' Cousins (No. 2)" and another scenario that was the same was the "King Creole" and "Danny" thing - which one was going to be the movie title song. The movie could have been called DANNY if "Danny" had been considered substantially better than "King Creole" but everybody had doubts on the KING CREOLE soundtrack - how commercial it was - and that's why "Danny" was recorded.
WWE: There's a rumour that there's a much better version of "Little Egypt" from ROUSTABOUT, possibly a more rockin' version. Is this true?
ERNST: Well, that's out on the TIME LIFE MOVIE MAGIC CD.
WWE: Is that the rumoured one?
ERNST: Yes, it's not that much better. It's just slightly different, that's all.
WWE: What is the real reason why "Crying In The Chapel" wasn't released until 1965? I've always heard the explanation about copyright problems but thought that didn't sound right!
ERNST: Well, there is the story about the copyright but there is actually a deal between Elvis' music publisher and the original publisher for Elvis to get his usual break on it. There's two references to it. One is that at the session it's written that there is no master to the track and Steve Sholes also refers to it somewhere else where he says Elvis wasn't satisfied with his performance.
WWE: What is the situation concerning the KISSIN COUSINS sessions? Did Elvis record his vocal to a pre recorded backing?
ERNST: Yes, the backing tracks were recorded in Nashville and Elvis supposedly had a cold. He overdubbed them at MGM soundstage in Hollywood in early October 1963.
WWE: Have the original tapes been lost?
ERNST: No, the original tapes exist. RCA has a few, MGM has a few but it's only instrumental tracks.
WWE: Do you have "Pappy, Won't You Please Come Home?"
ERNST: Yes, but this was not recorded by Elvis but by a session singer.
WWE: Does RCA have any outtakes from GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!; DOUBLE TROUBLE; or FUN IN ACAPULCO? Or, I guess I should ask you what movies haven't you found outtakes from?
ERNST: We have very little from GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!. We only have a few alternate masters. And the same thing goes for ROUSTABOUT and especially on ROUSTABOUT we'd be interested in finding these because Elvis recorded another song called "Roustabout" at the session written by Otis Blackwell as opposed to Giant-Baum-Kaye. That one was, after they had recorded it, it was rejected and they came in with a new song by the same title where they recorded the track that Elvis later overdubbed. (WWE- In other words, the Otis Blackwell song was rejected and the Giant-Baum-Kaye one was recorded and released!) .
WWE: So that's definite that he recorded a completely different song called "Roustabout"?
ERNST: Yes, he recorded another "Roustabout".
WWE: What about FUN IN ACAPULCO and DOUBLE TROUBLE? Do you have outtakes?
ERNST: DOUBLE TROUBLE - no. On FUN IN ACAPULCO - yes. On VIVA LAS VEGAS - we once had some stuff that has been lost.
WWE: What about the rumor that Elvis and Ann-Margret dueted on "Today, Tomorrow, And Forever"?
ERNST: That's not a rumour. That's true.
WWE: Does BMG have this?
ERNST: No, we don't have this. It was planned - this duet of "Today, Tomorrow, And Forever" - for A GOLDEN CELEBRATION box set when it first came out. It was on the original track listing for that as was certain home recordings from Graceland with Elvis playing piano.
WWE: What about those home recordings? I know there are a quite a few of them but the quality isn't that good, is it?
ERNST: No, but it's as good as "If I Loved You" and "After Loving You". Some of the earlier German home recordings like "Bad Nauheim Medley" and "He's Only A Prayer Away" and "Soldier Boy" and stuff - that tape is very badly damaged but there's quite a number of other tapes from various periods, some in Germany, some around 1960 and 1966.
WWE: Will there ever be a CD release with all of these on them?
ERNST: Well, a lot of them are going to released at some stage definitely.
WWE: Are there any plans to issue any of the instrumental tracks that Elvis never recorded a vocal for, such as "Poor Man's Gold"; "Memory Revival"; "The Wonders You Perform"; and "Come Out, Come Out"?
WWE: The version of "Suppose" that was used on the GOLDEN CELEBRATION box sounds very much like a professional studio recording, perhaps an outtake from the session that produced the released version found on the SPEEDWAY soundtrack. Is it?
ERNST: No, the version of "Suppose" is the one that Elvis and Charlie recorded themselves. Then it was sent to Nashville and then all the instruments were overdubbed and that's the version you hear on the 60's box so the vocal on the GOLDEN CELEBRATION is the same that's on the 60's MASTERS set.
WWE: Was "Let's Forget About The Stars" originally commissioned for use in the "Little Less Conversation" segment of LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE?
ERNST: It was submitted several times for several movies. I can't remember which one. I think it was submitted for LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE but whether it was for that particular segment I don't know but it was recorded for CHARRO.
WWE: Did you go back to the original home acetate recordings for "Mona Lisa", etc. on the GOLDEN CELEBRATION CD issue and remaster them using the new noise reduction processes?
ERNST: No, the GOLDEN CELEBRATION and ELVIS ARON PRESLEY box sets were transferred directly from the original LP masters. There were touchups and repairs but in general it's just the albums as they were. There was a decision made that we either did them as they were or we would not do them at all and just take the material from them and use them on other packages, but the mail we got from fans indicated that they wanted them to come out as they were so the basic decision was that we would release them as Joan Deary created them in those days and we just would keep on releasing other stuff as well.
WWE: Well, apparently much of the distortion is gone.
ERNST: No, I don't think so.
WWE: Do you possess the outtake of "Let Us Pray" found on the MEMPHIS, TN. bootleg LP as well as any other CHANGE OF HABIT outtakes?
ERNST: No, there are no CHANGE OF HABIT outtakes at RCA and I don't think there is one on a bootleg. Obviously, there is one version in the film that is different but that's because there are two vocals on the master take - two different vocals - so you could mix it with a different vocal if you wanted to.
WWE: Have you enhanced the sound of the 1961 Hawaii Benefit show for the upcoming ELVIS ARON PRESLEY silver box set?
ERNST: No. It sounds better because it's not on vinyl and it's spread out more. I mean, the original tape sounds better than the vinyl record and therefore the CD will sound better.
WWE: Have the master tapes for the FOLLOW THAT DREAM soundtrack been found?
RNST: The missing ones - no.
WWE: Which are missing?
ERNST: Four of them including "Follow That Dream". We found the box that they were in but there was no tape in it.
WWE: Is it true that the STEREO "Follow That Dream" has come out
ERNST: Not as far as I know. I've heard that rumour too but no one has been able to say here it is.
WWE: Argentina is claiming that their 25 GRANDES EXITOS CD has the STEREO version of "Follow That Dream" on it!
ERNST: If anyone really has this, they can send the tape of it to us! We'd love to get it. Unfortunately, it is lost.
WWE: Were the master takes from FOLLOW THAT DREAM as well as the master take of "Come What May" ever planned for a possible LEGENDARY PERFORMER VOL. 5 by Joan Deary?
WWE: Has either an instrumental take or a vocal version of "Leave My Woman Alone" been found?
ERNST: An instrumental take has been found but no vocal.
WWE: Does BMG possess outtakes from LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE and TROUBLE WITH GIRLS?
ERNST: Nothing from TROUBLE WITH GIRLS. From LIVE A LITTLE LOVE A LITTLE we have one or two on some of the songs. I think we have two or three versions of "Wonderful World". Cause remember it's only vocal outtakes. The instrumental track is the same on some of them.