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. Share on X

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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