elton john used to collect elvis bootleg albums

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 minutes.

TO RAISE FUNDS FOR HIS AIDS CHARITY, Elton John sold his record col­lec­tion through a Sothe­by’s auc­tion in 1993. The col­lec­tion con­tained more than 70,000 items, in­cluding sin­gles, al­bums, 8-track tapes, cas­settes, and com­pact discs. Pro­ceeds from the sale went to the Elton John AIDS Foun­da­tion, which re­mains an on­going con­cern that has raised more than $400,000,000 over the past quarter-century.

I be­came aware of Elton John’s pro­cliv­i­ties as a col­lector in the early 1970s when he wrote an ar­ticle for one of the Amer­ican music mag­a­zines listing his fa­vorite al­bums. While I wasn’t a par­tic­u­larly big fan of his, I was sur­prised to see how many of his faves were also my faves. I re­member that, like me, he rated BE­TWEEN THE BUT­TONS near the top of his list, a choice that’s even more idio­syn­cratic now than it was then.


Many of these bootleg al­bums were su­pe­rior to al­most any­thing that RCA Victor in the US had ever produced!


And what does any of this have to do with Elvis Presley? All this came to mind while I was looking up some­thing about Elvis bootlegs and I stum­bled over an in­ter­view with Paul Dowling on the Elvis In­for­ma­tion Net­work from a few years ago. Paul is a bit of a legend in the Elvis world as he was in­volved in pro­ducing and man­u­fac­turing many of the finest Elvis bootleg al­bums ever made. These in­clude but are hardly lim­ited to:


Elvis RockinRebel 1 top 600b

Elvis RockinRebel 2 bootleg 600

Elvis RockinRebel 3 bootleg 600

Elvis 68Comeback bootleg 600a

Elvis 68Comeback 2 bootleg 600

Elvis BurbankSessions1

Elvis BurbankSessions 2 bootleg 600

Elvis RockinWithElvisNewYearsEve bootleg 600

The im­ages avove are is the three vol­umes of THE ROCKIN’ REBEL se­ries; the two vol­umes in THE ’68 COME­BACK se­ries; the two vol­umes in THE BUR­BANK SES­SIONS se­ries (each a two-record album); and ROCKIN’ WITH ELVIS NEW YEARS EVE (also a two-record album). Each of these covers would rank at the very top of the list of the most at­trac­tive Elvis covers that RCA Victor is­sued on an LP album in the US.

Rockin’ New Year’s Eve

These two Bur­bank al­bums were each two-record sets that col­lected all four shows that Elvis per­formed be­fore a small in­vited au­di­ence in NBC’s studio in Bur­bank, Cal­i­fornia, in June 1968. These shows be­came the back­bone for the Singer presents Elvis tele­vi­sion spe­cial that res­ur­rected Presley from the dead and placed him on the road back to the top­per­most of the poppermost!

I rank both vol­umes of the Bur­bank ses­sion al­bums as among the most es­sen­tial Elvis al­bums ever made. The sound is ex­tra­or­di­narily fine mono and the pack­aging puts al­most every album that RCA Victor in the US ever re­leased! In fact, BUR­BANK SES­SIONS VOLUME 1 is my “desert is­land” Elvis album.

Many of Dowl­ing’s other bootleg al­bums were su­pe­rior to al­most any­thing that RCA Victor in the US had ever produced—both in terms of the quality of the record­ings and the de­sign and man­u­fac­turing of the jackets. But the two un­der­ground en­tre­pre­neurs were even­tu­ally busted by the Feds in 1982 and the line if su­perb Elvis al­bums came to a halt.

Dowl­ing’s al­bums had a lot of cus­tomers, in­cluding a few celebri­ties: “I know Anita Bryant or­dered a lot. John Wilkinson also was a good cus­tomer of some of our ear­lier LPs. Some told me that Eddie Murphy the co­me­dian or­dered from us but under an as­sumed name.”


EltonJohn record collection 700

Elton standing in an aisle be­tween the rows of shelves holding his record col­lec­tion. The red arrow drawn on the pho­to­graph points to his copy of the bootleg album ROCKIN’ WITH ELVIS NEW YEARS EVE.

Elton was a big Elvis fan

But there was an even bigger fan of Elvis and of Elvis bootlegs: “A friend of mine sent me this photo of Elton John in his record room and take a look at the red arrow and where it points to,” said Paul. “Yep, my ROCKIN’ WITH ELVIS NEW YEARS EVE. I found out from Erick that Elton was a big Elvis fan and had heard about the show and wanted it bad so [con­cert pro­moter] Tom Hul­lett fixed him up with a copy of the LP.” (Elvis In­for­ma­tion Net­work)

Elton met Elvis at one of Pres­ley’s con­certs in Wash­ington D.C. “It was a big mo­ment for John, who idol­ized Presley. Un­for­tu­nately, the meeting was not what John hoped. ‘It was so sad be­cause he turned into this big man with no eyes,’ John told Oprah Win­frey years later. ‘They had sunk into the back of his head and it was pathetic.’ ”

Elton told bi­og­ra­pher Tom Doyle that meeting Elvis had been dif­fi­cult for him: “It was sad. It was someone who was in a com­plete drug haze giving nylon scarves away to these fans. And yet it was still, in a way, mag­ical.” (Cap­tain Fan­tastic – Elton John’s Stellar Trip Through the ’70s)

In 2015, Elton John posted this mes­sage on­line: “I un­loaded my en­tire record col­lec­tion in 1991. It was the first thing I sold to help set up the Elton John AIDS Foun­da­tion. Happy to say that I’ve re­cently started col­lecting vinyl again. LPs will al­ways oc­cupy a very spe­cial place in my heart.”

Whether or not he’s back to col­lecting Elvis bootlegs, right now, someone some­where has Elton John’s copy of one of Paul Dowl­ing’s most fa­mous bootlegs in his or her col­lec­tion and may not know it . . .


8 thoughts on “elton john used to collect elvis bootleg albums”

  1. Back in the day, the “Bal­ti­more Boot­legger”, Paul “Balls” Dowling was the king of the boots.
    How­ever, the dis­tinc­tion of the best boot ever goes to Jerry “Mr. Music” Os­borne’s “The En­ter­tainer” 1954-1976”.. Best of 50’s & 70’s King.

    • D

      THE EN­TER­TAINER was in­deed a good album and I bought it waaay back when (first pressing with blue cover on thick stock). As for it’s being the best ... well, dif­ferent strokes, dif­ferent folks, yada yoda blah blah blah.


  2. Hi Neal,
    Hope you are well and staying healthy. I re­member reading that one of the first things Elton did when he had $$ was to buy Elvis’s 5 Sun Records. And in the film “Rock­etman”, it is clear that, like count­less others, Elton ini­tially wanted to be just like Elvis.

    • B

      Since we don’t stream here, we see all our tele­vi­sion se­ries and movies on DVDs from the li­brary. As sai in­sti­tu­tion is not open for the fore­see­able fu­ture, we were forced to gra­ciously ac­cept a free, 30-day trial to the Net­flix DVD rental op­er­a­tion. The first two movies we elected were ROCK­ETMAN and THE MULE. We should have them to­morrow. If I don’t forget to re­member, I will re­turn and tell you my im­pres­sion of the Elton John movie.


      PS: Hoping it in­cludes my two fave EJ tacks: “Bennie and the Jets” and “Philadel­phia Freedmon.”

  3. Hi.I have never been an Elvis com­pletist and so never both­ered with bootlegs apart from the cost in the old days.I just bought the one in 1971 for 3 pounds.A lot then.It is called I Wanna Be A Rock N Roll star.Its ba­si­cally a col­lec­tion of 60s sound­track not gen­er­ally avail­able then.It was pro­duced by a guy called Vin­cent Lust.I still have the album of course but have never seen it men­tioned any­where to this day.Wondered if anyone else has ever heard of it.Its pretty crap quality.

  4. Oh, my goodness—incredible ar­ticle, dude! Thank you. How­ever I am en­coun­tering trou­bles with your RSS. I don’t un­der­stand the reason why I am un­able to join it. 

    Is there any­body else having the same RSS prob­lems? Any­body who knows the so­lu­tion will you kindly



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