RIP the greatest Elvis-novelty-movie-song writer ever

Sid Tepper’s Los Angeles Times obituary today:

Tepper and Bennett never had a big hit with an Elvis song — many of them were novelty numbers. For “Girls! Girls! Girls!” (1962), they wrote “Song of the Shrimp” with lyrics from the point of view of a shrimp.

Goodbye mama shrimp, papa shake my hand
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’

The songs were in sharp contrast to the gritty numbers that made Elvis an electrifying star. But Tepper made no apologies.

“I believe that Elvis’ movies and their songs made a mighty contribution to his career,” he told Sharp. “They brought him to the attention of millions of people who otherwise would never have known the greatness of the King.”

A few favorites from Tepper’s bunch as I learn about him this morning…

The shrimp song (and, somehow, a Frank Black cover of it):

A Tepper song I’ve mentioned before here, Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce:

One I just discovered today, a duet with Ann Margaret, which is weird and delightful, The Lady Loves Me (and more about how the song came about):

And the first novelty Elvis movie song I ever heard (somehow among the tracks on my first Elvis tape), Cane and a High-Starched Collar:

The heyday of Elvis-Pelvis

A year or so ago, when Angela Burke died, her obituary caught my attention. “Angela Burke-Kerrigan blazed a trail for female journalists,” the Toronto Star headline said. My favorite line? “In 1957, the Star sent her to cover an Elvis concert, after which she wrote an entertainment column that ran with the headline ‘She Likes Elvis But Not Pelvis,’ admitting the king of rock and roll seemed both impressive and dangerously charming.”

This morning, while trying and failing to find an image to cheer up a friend with a recently fractured pelvis, I came across the Elvis-Pelvis story, and it lived up to all expectations one could have. Here’s part one and part two. Both come from a terrific archive of Elvis concert reviews.

Says Burke, “After seeing Elvis in action, the question is not what’s going to happen to the teen-age squealers who undoubtedly will recover their equilibria, but what will become of this Bible-reading, non-smoking, non-drinking boy who is so good to his mother.” Says Presley at the press conference, “You can be as hot as poker one day and colder than an ice cube the next.”

All of this is so much better than the tour’s subsequent coverage in Spokane: “It’s hardly original, but if any daughter of mine broke out of the woodshed tonight to see Elvis Presley in Empire Stadium, I’d kick her teeth in.” Yikes.

On the death of Elvis and the future of everything

I can’t remember how this link came my way today or if it actually came my way today at all. Could have been yesterday. But somehow this 2005 blog post of a 1977 Lester Bangs column on the death of Elvis ended up in my browser tabs. The column is as strong and opinionated as you would expect from Bangs, and your agreement with his points may come and go. But the tough, lengthy windup is worth it for the final paragraph’s pay-off.

If love truly is going out of fashion forever, which I do not believe, then along with our nurtured indifference to each other will be an even more contemptuous indifference to each others’ objects of reverence. I thought it was Iggy Stooge, you thought it was Joni Mitchell or whoever else seemed to speak for your own private, entirely circumscribed situation’s many pains and few ecstasies. We will continue to fragment in this manner, because solipsism holds all the cards at present; it is a king whose domain engulfs even Elvis’s. But I can guarantee you one thing: we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis. So I won’t bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you.

‘I’m afraid I’ll go out like a light, just like I came on’

On the death anniversary, friend Matt dug up one of his favorite Elvis stories tonight. That find sent me looking for one of my own favorites. I ran across this interview a few years back in Peter Guralnick’s fantastic Last Train to Memphis. Even if you’re not an Elvis fan, it’s worth a read.

Before a 1956 show, Elvis sits in a darkened Cadillac with Bea Ramirez, a seemingly young reporter with the Waco News Tribune. Ramirez puts the interview in a far more raw format than you read in entertainment reporting at the time. (You can read the full version here.) The result:

“What do you want to know about me, honey?”

“Elvis, have you any idea at all about just what it was that started the girls going crazy over you?”

“No, I don’t. I guess it’s just some thing God gave me. I believe that, you know. Know what I mean, honey? And I am grateful. Only I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’ll go out like a light, just like I came on. Know what l mean, honey?”

Presley has a way with that “honey” business. When he talks, he looks straight ahead, or sort of dreamy like in no direction at all. Then he turns with that “know what I mean, honey?” His face is close, real close. Right in your face — almost.

“Elvis, I hear you walk in your sleep.”

“Well, I have nightmares.”

“What kind?”

“I dream I’m about to fight somebody or about to be in a car wreck or that I’m breaking things. Know what I mean, honey?” (I don’t have any idea what he means).

“Where are you from?”

“From Memphis, Tenn.”

“Oh, yes, that’s where all the hillbilly singers come from, isn’t it?”

“Maybe so, but I’m no hillbilly singer.”

“Well, have you typed yourself. . . I mean your type of singing?”

“No, I don’t dare.”

“Cause I’m scared, know what I mean, honey? Real scared.”

“What of?”

“I don’t know. . . I don’t know. Know what I mean, honey?”

At this point I thanked him for his time and started to make a beeline for the door. He grabbed my hand, sat there looking sleepy-eyed into my face and fanned his long lashes while he said:

“Write me up good, will you, honey?”

Night and you

Ending the night by watching one of my favorite late Cheers episodes, the one where Sam dreams of talking to Elvis about fatherhood. Last time I mentioned that episode in the blog, I missed the chords of Blue Hawaii playing in the background. They stood out tonight for whatever reason — maybe the light humidity, which has me finding physicality in the air night after night recently. I now expect to have the song in my head for days. This soft version is near perfect for late spring drifting.

To close Elvis Week, we learn something

Elvis Week, you know, is a week on, not a week off. This year, in a true Elvis Week miracle, friend Colleen and I learned a reason we’ve never been enemies is that we both love the King. God bless us, everyone!

So, it was also nice to come across a No Depression essay, “The Top 30 Recordings of Elvis Presley.” The essay, the author explained, “would have been better titled ’30 Great Elvis Songs that Have Mostly Been Forgotten’ but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it and wouldn’t apply to some of the material here.” Half the songs I’d somehow never heard before. To catch up, I ran to YouTube, an underrated Elvis spot.

Song I never truly appreciated until now: Long Black Limousine.

Song I’d loved but hadn’t thought of in years: Baby, Let’s Play House.

Song you possibly haven’t heard and may like the most: Don’t.

Song totally new to me and could’ve been a classic James Bond theme song if they had pumped it up and worked on it more: Edge of Reality.

Song that makes you want an Elvis and Glen duet: Gentle on My Mind.

Song that’s fun in its released form, but between that version and its stripped demo, you know it could’ve been all kinds of bluesy awesome.

I had to leave town for a little while,
You said you’d be good while I’m gone,
But the look in your eye done told me you told a lie,
I know there’s been some carryin’ on

Baby (baby), you wearin’ that loved-on look
Shoop, shoop, shoop shoop,
Baby (baby), you wearin’ that loved-on look