another reason not to trust wikipedia’s “facts” about elvis

Estimated reading time is 6 minutes.

WIKIPEDIA’S ENTRIES ON ELVIS and other music-related matters are not the most trustworthy sources for accurate information. In fact, visiting the site to look up anything about Presley can be a bit of an adventure. While adventures can be fun and even rewarding, some writers might not enjoy being made fools of when they discover that the Wiki-derived information on their blog is outrageously incorrect!

I have written about this before and don’t necessarily want to keep beating that poor proverbial dead horse, but it’s hard to turn down an opportunity like the one below. I had reason to look up Presley’s second LP album (ELVIS, RCA Victor LPM-1382) and found this paragraph under the article’s first sub-heading, Content:

“RCA Victor producer Steve Sholes had commissioned two new songs for this batch of sessions [1], Paralyzed from Otis Blackwell and Love Me from Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller [2], the authors of Presley’s summer hit of 1956, Hound Dog, the first record to top all three of the Billboard singles charts then in existence: pop, R&B, and C&W [3].

Presley decided upon three Little Richard covers, and selected three new country ballads respectively from regular Everly Brothers writer Boudleaux Bryant and guitarist Chet Atkins, Sun staff musician and engineer Stan Kesler, and Aaron Schroeder and Ben Weisman.

The latter two, contracted to Hill and Range, the publishing company of Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker [4], would write dozens of songs for Presley through the 1960s. Also included was the song with which Presley won second prize at a fair in Tupelo when he was ten years old, Red Foley’s 1941 country song, Old Shep [5].”

Yes, it’s too long and would read better onscreen as three smaller paragraphs. And, yes, it reads like someone who has never had a copy editor marks up their pages. But those things we can live with.


Elvis OldShep 45 dj a Graceland 600 copy

Elvis OldShep 45 dj b Graceland 600

Hoping to duplicate the phenomenal and unprecedented success of Love Me from the first EP album pulled from LPM-1382, in early 1957 RCA Victor shipped one-sided promotional copies of Old Shep to radio stations across the country. The idea was to promote the second EP from LPM-1382. But whereas Love Me was a Top 10 pop hit and helped move more than a million copies of the first EP, Old Shep never got off the ground and the EP didn’t approach a million in sales. (This copy of the record was part of the Graceland auction.)

Typical schizophrenic fashion

It’s these things that follow that we should not have to live with. (I have indented my comments so that you know these paragraphs refer directly to the Wiki paragraph above.):

1.  To commission something means “to appoint or assign to a task or function,” or in this case, hire Leiber and Stoller to write a new song specifically for this project. Steve Sholes did not commission anyone to write anything for Elvis, either for this session or any other. Songwriters were invited to submit songs for Presley’s consideration, usually in the form of a demo recording.

2.  Sholes certainly couldn’t have commissioned Leiber and Stoller to write Love Me, as they had written it two years earlier. They had given it to Willy & Ruth, an R&B duo who released it as a single on Leiber and Stoller’s own Spark Records. In typical Wikipedia schizophrenic fashion, the editors got this information correct on their entry for the song Love Me. Meaning that entry contradicts their LPM-1382 entry.

3. In 1956, when Hound Dog was released, Billboard was running nine important singles charts:

Best Sellers in Stores
Most Played by Jockeys
Most Played in Jukeboxes
Top 100
Rhythm & Blues Records – Best Sellers
Rhythm & Blues Records – Juke Box Jockey
C&W Best Sellers in Stores
Most Played (C&W) by Jockeys
Most Played (C&W) in Jukeboxes

The Top 100 survey used a secret recipe involving sales, jukebox plays (a nickel apiece), and spins by disc-jockeys to determine chart positions. Hence it was not a survey of the best selling records (and much more amenable to manipulation). Regarding the C&W charts, Billboard makes note of the three separate charts in other articles, such as “List of Billboard number-one country songs of 1956.”

That’s three boners in the first sentence! (This may sound “too technical” if not downright trivial to many readers but each of these charts played an important role in the recording industry at that time.)

4.  My boy, my boy! I never heard anyone suggest that Tom Parker owned Hill & Range Music! Here is what Wikipedia has to say about that publishing company in its entry for the company (edited for brevity and clarity):

“The company was founded in Los Angeles in 1945 by Julian Aberbach and his business partners Milton Blink and Gerald King, who owned Biltmore Music. Aberbach’s brother Jean joined in the early 1950s and thereafter the two shared control of the company. In 1955, the Aberbachs were responsible for setting up an unprecedented arrangement in which the publishing rights to all songs recorded by emerging star performer Elvis Presley were split 50:50 between the Hill & Range company and Presley and his management. The Aberbach brothers established their younger cousin, Freddy Bienstock, as head of Elvis Presley Music—in effect, a subsidiary of Hill & Range.”

5.  According to most sources—including Graceland—Elvis finished in fifth place that day at the 1945 Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show.

6.  Red Foley and Arthur Williams wrote Old Shep in 1933, with Foley recording it that year, although it wasn’t a hit. Red released it a second time in 1941, which was probably the version that inspired the 10-year-old Elvis. So the final line in the paragraph should read either “Red Foley’s 1933 country song” or “Red Foley’s 1941 country hit.”


Elvis OldShep EP Australia orange 600

Elvis OldShep EP Australia green 600

In Australia, RCA compiled a different EP album featuring Old Shep and titled the album after the Foley song. The original jackets featured a front cover that resembled LPM-1382 with an orangey-brown backdrop. Later jackets switched to an icky green backdrop.

Don’t muff it

Tangentially, as I was composing this piece this morning, I received an update from The Round Place In The Middle. John Ross had just published an article with the convoluted title, “She May Want to Go There When She Dies . . .  but She Wasn’t Raised There (What We Should Expect From Critics: Eighteenth Maxim).”

I am not going to tell you what John’s article actually addresses —read it yourself—but in it, he coined a new maxim: “If you are writing an opinion piece and are only called upon to assert one fact, the odds of your opinion being respected will increase exponentially if you don’t muff it.”

John intended this maxim owes to be heeded by professional writers expressing an opinion. It certainly applies to Wikipedia’s contributors, who—despite not being paid a thing for their efforts—should follow two of my maxims:

1.   “Know when you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
2.  “Look it up twice, then look it up again.”

The problem with that second one is that if you don’t know what you’re talking about (or much of anything else), you probably don’t know when your research has led you to another writer who doesn’t know what he is talking about. 

Wikipedia’s entries on Elvis and other music-related matters are not the most trustworthy sources for accurate information. Click To Tweet

Elvis LPM 1382 Heritage 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page is the top portion of the front cover for the original pressing of Elvis’s second (and second self-titled) album, ELVIS (RCA Victor LPM-1382). This photo was also used on the first two EP albums pulled from LPM-1382: ELVIS, VOLUME 1 (EPA-992) and ELVIS, VOLUME 2 (EPA-993).

Finally, if you want to read another look at the gross errors in a single article (this time on a Fats Domino album), click HERE.


2 thoughts on “another reason not to trust wikipedia’s “facts” about elvis”

  1. I’m a lot more lenient with people who don’t do it for a living (even though i try to practice strict professional standards myself)...If you are getting paid you should be REALLY diligent. And one would think some place like Rolling Stone would have editors and fact-checkers to make sure you are.

    But evidently they don’t!

    • JWR

      I have made corrections to Wikipedia articles about Elvis and rock & roll and had them turned back to the incorrect “facts” because I cited myself (“I’m Nealfuckingumphred!”) rather than quote some site that may be run by someone who may not know what he is talking about.

      I have made corrections to articles on the RIAA site, the Billboard site, and the Rolling Stone site. Not a one was acknowledged let alone corrected. Haven’t a clue why they would be satisfied with misinformation on their sites, but they are.

      But I’m not satisfied with errors on my sites and I doubt you’d reject a correction for your site.

      Yada yoda blah blah blah.


      PS: Wikipedia has $100,000,000 in donations, so they can hire real editors and fact-checkers but won’t.


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