pressed between the pages of mac davis’ mind

SONGWRITERS ASSOCIATED WITH ELVIS that re­ceive the most credit in terms of Pres­ley’s suc­cessful ca­reer are two teams: Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller and Doc Pomus-Mort Shuman. But an­other team was para­mount in Elvis’s tran­si­tion from the sappy movie matinee idol of the mid-1960s to his emer­gence as a po­tent figure in 1968-1969: Billy Strange-Mac Davis.

In the 1950s, Leiber and Stoller penned a dozen tunes for Elvis, mostly for three of his movies. These in­clude the title songs to those movies: Loving You, Jail­house Rock, and King Creole. The two writers from New York and the singer from Mem­phis gelled cre­atively with the three men working to­gether as peers, some­thing un­usual (and un­ex­pected) for Leiber and Stoller.

 

“Mem­o­ries pressed be­tween the pages of my mind. Mem­o­ries sweet­ened through the ages just like wine.”

 

The sound­track for Jail­house Rock was prob­ably the apex of their col­lab­o­ra­tions. Aside from writing sev­eral great songs—such as I Want To Be Free, (You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care, and Treat Me Nice—Leiber and Stoller were ac­tively in­volved in pro­ducing the ses­sions and Stoller ap­peared in the movie! The three in­tended to do work to­gether on the en­tire sound­track for the next movie (King Creole) but “the Colonel” put an end to it. But that’s an­other story.

In the early ’60s, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman al­most filled the same spot, writing more than a dozen songs for Elvis. This in­cluded A Mess Of Blues (a huge hit in the UK in 1960 but al­most un­known out­side Elvis cir­cles in the US), Little Sister, and Viva Las Vegas. The latter has ap­peared in the back­ground of nu­merous movies in the past thirty years and has be­come the un­of­fi­cial theme song for Las Vegas.

There were other teams (es­pe­cially on the movie songs) and in­di­vid­uals who de­serve no­tice. For more about them, check out “Elvis Presley’s Hit Song­writers” on the Elvis His­tory Blog.

 

Elvis LiveALittle movie photo chair 600 crop

Many writers have men­tioned that Elvis got in shape for the taping of the NBC-TV in June 1968, losing weight, working out, growing his side­burns, get­ting a deep tan, etc. But this photo was taken from the same pho­to­shoot for the movie Live A Little, Love A Little that pro­vided the photo for the pic­ture sleeve for Al­most In Love / A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion (below). Prin­cipal pho­tog­raphy for that movie began on March 13, 1968, so the movie-Elvis was looking like the comeback-Elvis months be­fore the come­back.

The Strange team

Billy Strange was a sought-after ses­sion guitar player in Los An­geles and was a member of the leg­endary Wrecking Crew. He was also a recording artist who had re­leased more than a dozen solo al­bums by the time he was called in to work with Elvis Presley. In March 1968, he was brought in as Mu­sical Di­rector for the sound­track for the movie Live A Little, Love A Little. He brought with him a new song­writing partner, Morris “Mac” Davis. 

Strange and Davis wrote five songs for Elvis be­fore Davis branched off and started writing solo (under the pseu­donym Scott Davis). As a writer, Davis tends to get over­looked, es­pe­cially by “se­rious” rock fans and his­to­rians. This is un­der­stand­able: While Leiber, Stoller, Pomus, and Shuman had solid cre­den­tials in the R&B field be­fore and after their work with Presley, Mac went on to a suc­cessful ca­reer as a laid-back country singer. (Or an easy-listening singer with a country twang.)

But the few songs he con­tributed to the Elvis Presley Legend were hugely im­por­tant to the singer’s res­ur­rec­tion as a po­tent per­former and the re­vi­tal­iza­tion of his recording ca­reer. Below I look at the seven songs that Davis wrote that Elvis recorded in 1968-1969. The songs are listed as they were recorded.

Each song in­cludes the writers, dates of recording and orig­inal re­lease on record, the peak po­si­tion of those records re­leased as sin­gles on the Bill­board and Cash Box pop charts, and other data. There is a Progress sec­tion in each song where I com­ment on the headway that Davis was making in be­coming a fa­vorite writer of Elvis songs.

 

Elvis LiveALittle movie poster Turkey copy

This is the orig­inal 1968 poster for Live A Little, Love A Little as it was used in Turkey. The title “Biraz Yasa, Biraz Sev” trans­lates lit­er­ally to “A Little Law, A Little Love.”

Grading the songs

To make things in­ter­esting, I have as­signed a grade to each title. The grade re­flects a com­bi­na­tion of the quality of the song and the quality of the recording of that song (the arrange­ment, pro­duc­tion, and per­for­mance). The grades re­flect my opinion (hope­fully rea­son­ably) bal­anced by his­tory:

✮ ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮  G-r-r-r-eat!
✮ ✮ ✮ ✮      Ex­cel­lent in­deed
✮ ✮ ✮           Very good
✮ ✮               Merely good
✮                   Not so good

Easy enough, yes?

 

Elvis 47 9741 InTheGhetto Rockaway 600

On the five songs above, the song­writing credits went to Strange-Davis, which im­plies that Billy Strange wrote the music while Mac Davis wrote the lyrics. Both In The Ghetto and Don’t Cry Daddy solely credit Scott Davis, the pseu­donym that Mac Davis used at the time. Most of us didn’t learn his real name until he started putting records on the charts as a singer in 1970.

Personal fave

The Per­sonal Fave rating is even easier:

Top 10        This is among my ten most-favored Elvis record­ings.
Top 40       This is among my forty most-favored Elvis record­ings.
Top 100     This is among my hun­dred most-favored Elvis record­ings.

To place these three “cat­e­gories” in per­spec­tive, RCA Victor re­leased more than 500 studio and sound­track record­ings along with six LP records worth of live record­ings while Elvis was alive! To be in the Top 100 of that mas­sive a canon is rea­son­ably im­pres­sive.

 

Elvis 47 9610 ALittleLessConversation PS 600

Elvis 47 9610 AlmostInLove PS 600

These are the front (top) and back (bottom) of the US pic­ture sleeves for A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion / Al­most In Love (RCA Victor 47-9610), re­leased in Sep­tember 1968. The single was a dismal com­mer­cial failure with the two sides peaking on Cash Box at #53 and #91, re­spec­tively. On Bill­board, they fared even more poorly, reaching #69 and #95, re­spec­tively. Both sides of the sleeve de­vote more at­ten­tion to the movie Live A Little, Love A Little than to the ac­tual record­ings.

A little less conversation

Writers: Strange-Davis
Recorded: March 7, 1968
Re­leased: Sep­tember 3, 1968
Cat­alog number: RCA Victor 47-9610

Bill­board Hot 100: #69
Cash Box Top 100: #53

For the movie Live A Little, Love A Little, Billy Strange and Mac Davis co-wrote A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion. Every­thing about the song and the record it be­came was solid: music and lyrics, arrange­ment and pro­duc­tion, Elvis and the mu­si­cians’ per­for­mance. Mac pro­vided the in-your-face lyrics:

A little less con­ver­sa­tion, a little more ac­tion, please.
All this ag­gra­va­tion ain’t sat­is­fac­tioning me.
A little more bite and a little less bark,
a little less fight and a little more spark,
close your mouth and open up your heart and baby sat­isfy me.

These were not your usual Elvis lyrics! They didn’t sound like any­thing that a member of the emerging coun­ter­cul­ture would say to a woman, but they did sound like some­thing that a member of the Rat Pack might say. A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion was re­leased as the b-side to an­other sound­track song, the syrupy but ef­fec­tive ballad Al­most In Love.

 

“It’s pretty amazing to me that my first hit record was an Elvis Presley record.”

 

But the record-buying public failed to flip for the ballad so the DJs flipped the record and started playing A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion. Alas, this was a solid but un­ex­citing single in the heady mi­lieu of Top 40 radio in 1968. So Mac Davis’s first con­tri­bu­tion to the Presley canon peaked at #53 on Cash Box while pooping out at #69 on Bill­board.

Not being re­motely country, this record did not come close to the na­tional country Top 40 sur­veys.

In the UK, A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion failed to chart.

Need­less to say, this record has not sold enough copies to qualify for an RIAA Gold Record Award.

Overall grade: ✮ ✮ ✮

Personal fave

No. While it was good hearing a real rock & roll record as an Elvis single in 1968, this has never been a par­tic­ular fave of mine. The ver­sion that was in­tended for in­clu­sion in the NBC-TV spe­cial was a much hotter and more soulful out­take from the Live A Little, Love A Little sound­track ses­sions. Un­for­tu­nately, it was cut from the spe­cial and wasn’t re­leased until 1998.

Progress

While A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion was far better than many of the faux rockers that Elvis had been recording for his movies, it was also far from being a great song. There would have been no reason for Presley to ex­pect much more from Strange and Davis based on this song.

Nor was there ap­par­ently any­thing per­sonal to lead me to think that Presley had be­come a fan of the team. Ac­cording to Davis, “I didn’t have a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Elvis. You had to go through a bar­ri­cade to get to Elvis. It was people hanging on every word, and I felt very un­com­fort­able a lot of times.”

Note: While A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion was the least ef­fec­tive song Davis gave Elvis in the ’60s, it gave him a whole new life in the 21st cen­tury. In 2002, a souped-up remix of A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion was a smash hit, top­ping charts around the world. But that’s an­other story for an­other time.

 

Elvis Nothingville blackwhite 600

This is a black and white still of the Noth­ingville scene in the final ver­sion of the NBC-TV spe­cial Elvis. It was taped in June 1968 and broad­cast in De­cember. The whole Noth­ingville se­quence lasts about ninety sec­onds, but it’s an ef­fec­tive ninety sec­onds.

Nothingville

Writers: Strange-Davis
Recorded: June 20, 1968
Re­leased: No­vember 22, 1968
Cat­alog number: Does not apply

Bill­board Hot 100: Does not apply
Cash Box Top 100: Does not apply

When Elvis began work on his spe­cial for NBC-TV in June, A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion was chosen for the orig­inal con­cept for the show. Billy Strange was also brought back on board and he brought Davis along. The pair wrote two new songs for the spe­cial, Noth­ingville and Mem­o­ries.

Noth­ingville was a short piece that fit into the orig­inal con­cept of the show, which was a “story” about a young man leaving home for the big city. Noth­ingville is where he ends up:

Nothingville—only a two-bit town where noth­ing’s real,
treat me like a country clown in Noth­ingville.
I ain’t a-gonna hang around w
hile doors keep slam­ming in my face.
People keep putting me in my place.
It’s a rat’s race at a snail’s pace—Nothingville.

Being little more than a minute in length, those are all the lyrics to the song! It acted as an intro to a longer, loosely struc­tured medley that in­cluded por­tions of Big Boss Man, Little Egypt, Trouble, and Guitar Man.

It was re­leased as part of the sound­track album ELVIS (RCA Victor LPM-4088) in Oc­tober 1968. There isn’t a lot to say about Noth­ingville ex­cept that Elvis sings it per­fectly and it’s a shame there isn’t a longer, fuller ver­sion.

Overall grade: ✮ ✮

Personal fave

No. Its brevity is why I gave it only two stars and why it would be dif­fi­cult to imagine anyone listing this snippet among their fa­vorite Elvis recording. Refer to the Progress re­port in Mem­o­ries below.

Progress

Refer to the Progress re­port in Mem­o­ries below.

 

Elvis 47 9731 Memories PS 600

Elvis 47 9731 Charro PC 600

This is the Amer­ican pic­ture sleeve for Mem­o­ries / Charro (RCA Victor 47-9731), re­leased in Feb­ruary 1969. While lots of people bought the album ad­ver­tised on the front cover, very few people paid to see the movie ad­ver­tised on the back.

Memories

Writers: Strange-Davis
Recorded: June 23, 1968
Re­leased: No­vember 22, 1968
Cat­alog number: RCA Victor 47-9731

Bill­board Hot 100: #35
Cash Box Top 100: #24

Strange and Davis also con­tributed Mem­o­ries to the NBC-TV spe­cial. Davis said that the show’s pro­ducers asked for a song about looking back over the years: “I had to write it in one night. I stayed up all night at Billy Strange’s house in Los An­geles. He had a little of­fice set up in his garage. I wrote it right there.”

It’s a lovely ballad with lyrics con­sid­er­ably more “po­etic” than was usual for an Elvis track: “Mem­o­ries, pressed be­tween the pages of my mind. Mem­o­ries, sweet­ened through the ages just like wine.

Mem­o­ries was even­tu­ally re­leased as a single in early 1969. Un­for­tu­nately, while it is a gor­geous reading of a gor­geous song, it wasn’t the strongest choice for a single. It peaked at #24 on Cash Box but only got to #35 on Bill­board.

Not being re­motely country, this record did not come close to the na­tional country Top 40 sur­veys.

In the UK, Mem­o­ries was re­leased as the b-side of If I Can Dream and so did not chart.

Un­for­tu­nately, this record has not sold enough copies to qualify for an RIAA Gold Record Award.

Overall grade: ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

Personal fave

Top 40. When Elvis sings “Of holding hands and red bou­quets and twi­light trimmed in purple haze and laughing eyes and simple ways and quiet nights and gentle days with you” it is among my fa­vorite mo­ments of anyone singing any­thing.

Progress

Both Noth­ingville and Mem­o­ries were smart songs that fit the orig­inal con­cept of the NBC-TV Spe­cial. Given that A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion was to have played a key role in that con­cept, it would seem that Elvis had taken a liking to Strange and Davis. That they had pro­vided him with three good num­bers in a few months must have counted for some­thing!

As Elvis recorded both songs at Amer­ican Sound Studio in Jan­uary 1969, it’s pos­sible that Davis had al­ready pitched In The Ghetto and Don’t Cry Daddy to Presley in mid-1968. Ac­cording to Davis: “Don’t Cry Daddy is a pretty sad song. He got to the end of it and it was just real quiet and Elvis says, ‘I’m gonna cut that someday for my daddy.’ And, by God, he did—he lived up to his word.”

It’s not dif­fi­cult to infer Presley making that state­ment some­time in 1968. Other sources claim that Elvis didn’t hear ei­ther song until shortly be­fore he recorded them.

 

Elvis Charro 1968 movie poster 600

This is the Amer­ican poster for Charro, filmed in July and Au­gust 1868 but not re­leased to the­aters until March 1969. De­spite Pres­ley’s re­turn via the NBC-TV spe­cial and its at­ten­dant hit single (If I Can Dream) and sound­track album (ELVIS), few people showed up at their local cin­emas to see this movie. Cool poster, though.

Charro

Writers: Davis-Strange
Recorded: Oc­tober 15, 1968
Re­leased: Feb­ruary 25, 1969
Cat­alog number: RCA Victor 47-9731

Bill­board Hot 100: Did not chart
Cash Box Top 100: Did not chart

Davis and Strange then sub­mitted the title tune for the next Elvis movie. Charro was a slight genre piece, fit­ting the er­satz spaghetti-western feel and look of the movie. It was used as the flip-side of Mem­o­ries, giving Strange and Davis writing credits on both sides of an Elvis single.

It’s nothing much, al­though ap­pro­priate for the movie. Elvis sings with pas­sion but sounds a bit ridicu­lous (“You’ve been halfway to hell and back again and now you laugh in the Dev­il’s face”). Un­der­stand­ably, Charro failed to chart.

 

“I’m sure that Elvis was happy for me. I think he was the kind of guy that en­joyed other peo­ple’s suc­cess, es­pe­cially if he had some­thing to do with it.”

 

While this is the theme song to a western/cowboy movie, this record did not come close to the na­tional country Top 40 sur­veys.

In the UK, this record was not re­leased on a single.

Need­less to say, this record has not sold enough copies to qualify for an RIAA Gold Record Award.

Overall grade:

Personal fave

No. It would be dif­fi­cult to imagine anyone listing this snippet among their fa­vorite Elvis recording (but the world’s a funny place).

Progress

This was the fourth song from the Strange-Davis team that Elvis recorded in seven months. That it was a dud didn’t seem to bother Presley much. While Davis and Strange had yet to pro­vide him with a mean­ingful hit, Elvis def­i­nitely liked the new guys’ songs!

 

Elvis CleanUpYourOwnBackyard PS 600x

Elvis CleanUpYourOwnBackYard PS Germany 600

These are the Amer­ican (top) and German (bottom) pic­ture sleeves for Clean Up Your Own Back­yard / The Fair Is Moving On (RCA Victor 47-9747), re­leased in June 1969. The Amer­ican sleeve pro­motes the movie The Trouble With Girls while the German sleeve makes no men­tion of it. That is be­cause by this time it wasn’t prof­itable to re­lease Elvis movies in most parts of the world.

Clean up your own backyard

Writers: Strange-Davis
Recorded: Oc­tober 23, 1968
Re­leased: June 5, 1969
Cat­alog number: RCA Victor 47-9747

Bill­board Hot 100: #35
Cash Box Top 100: #25

In Oc­tober 1968, Davis and Strange re­turned with an­other song for the next Presley movie. The sound­track for The Trouble With Girls (And How To Get Into It) was cut then with their Clean Up Your Own Back­yard being the high­light. This song has ar­guably the wit­tiest lyrics in any song that Presley ever recorded:

Arm­chair quar­ter­back’s al­ways moaning,
second-guessing people all day long.
Pushing, fooling, and hanging on in,
al­ways messing where they don’t be­long.
When you get right down to the nitty-gritty,
isn’t it a pity that in this big city
not one little-bitty man will admit
he could have been a little bitty wrong?

I could see any number of country stars taking those lines to the top of the country charts (al­though Dolly Parton al­ways comes to mind).

Clean Up Your Own Back­yard was re­leased as a single in mid-1969 as the follow-up to In The Ghetto (see below). It peaked at #25 on Cash Box but only got to #35 on Bill­board.

De­spite being a fine record and Pres­ley’s most overtly country single ever, it failed to come close to the na­tional country Top 40 sur­veys.

In the UK, this record reached #21.

In 1992, this record was cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a ‘new’ Gold Record Award for sales of 500,000 copies in the US.

Overall grade: ✮ ✮ ✮

Personal fave

No. While I loved seeing Elvis do a third song in 1969 that re­flected a bit of “so­cial consciousness”—after If I Can Dream and In The Ghetto it seemed like he was trying to start a trend in pop music—it has never been high on my list of fa­vorite Presley plat­ters.

Progress

A week after recording Charro for the movie of the same name (above), Elvis recorded this Strange-Davis number for the sound­track for The Trouble With Girls. The quality of this recording on hearing it on the radio the first few times made it sound like it was al­most on a par with the Mem­phis ses­sions of Jan­uary and Feb­ruary 1969. That is an amazing state­ment to make about an Elvis sound­track recording after 1962!

Due to sched­uling problems—first with the up­coming NBC-TV spe­cial and then the out­standing ses­sions at Amer­ican Sound Studio in Jan­uary and Feb­ruary—Clean Up Your Own Back­yard wasn’t re­leased until June 1969, al­most eight months after being recorded.

It is con­sid­ered by some fans to have been the (un­for­tu­nately) final part of the Elvis “So­cial Con­scious­ness” Trilogy of 1968-1969, with If I Can Dream and In The Ghetto being the first two.

 

Elvis DontCryDaddy PS 600

Elvis 47 9768 Rubberneckin PS 600

This is the Amer­ican pic­ture sleeve for the comma-less Don’t Cry Daddy / Rub­ber­neckin’ (RCA Victor 47-9768), re­leased in No­vember 1969. The front pro­moted the FROM MEMPHIS TO VEGAS / FROM VEGAS TO MEMPHIS album while the back pro­moted the movie Change Of Habit. The album, the single, and the movie. The first two were hits.

Don’t cry, daddy

Writer: Scott Davis
Recorded: Jan­uary 15, 1969
Re­leased: No­vember 17, 1969
Cat­alog number: RCA Victor 47-9768

Bill­board Hot 100: #6
Cash Box Top 100: #6

Mac’s Don’t Cry Daddy could have been the kind of sen­ti­mental hokum that Bobby Golds­boro took to the top of the charts with Honey in 1968. In the song, the singer is a fa­ther speaking to his two chil­dren about the death of their mommy. But Elvis’s vocal is so in­ti­mate, so emo­tional, that the lyrics about a man talking to his chil­dren about the death of their mother are moving. (The chil­dren re­spond in the re­frain: “Daddy, Daddy, please laugh again.”) 

In hind­sight, this prob­ably wasn’t the best choice as the follow-up single to Sus­pi­cious Minds in 1969. A real rocker would have been a better ca­reer choice (Heck, the flip-side, Rub­ber­neckin’, might have been the better A-side.) That didn’t stop this record from reaching #6 on both the Bill­board and Cash Box pop charts.

Being ba­si­cally a country weeper, this record climbed into the na­tional country Top 20 sur­veys, Pres­ley’s most suc­cessful outing there since 1958.

In the UK, this record reached #8.

In 1970, this record was cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award for sales of 1,000,000 copies in the US.

Overall grade: ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

Personal fave

No. De­spite Pres­ley’s un­be­liev­ably gor­geous singing—it is amongst his finest performances—country weepers have never been some­thing I want to hear more than oc­ca­sion­ally.

Progress

While Don’t Cry Daddy was recorded a week be­fore In The Ghetto, it was the latter that everyone gam­bled on as being the first single from the Amer­ican Sound ses­sions. Sus­pi­cious Minds wisely fol­lowed as the second single. Don’t Cry Daddy was held back for Christmas re­lease, a good de­ci­sion as the song’s overt sen­ti­men­tality would fit the season better.

 

Elvis 47 9741 InTheGhetto PS Coming 600

Elvis InTheGhetto PS AskFor 600

Ini­tial copies of In The Ghetto / Any Day Now (RCA Victor 47-9741) were is­sued in pic­ture sleeves fea­tured a blurb for the as-yet-unreleased album as “Coming Soon FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS LP Album.” Later copies were is­sued in pic­ture sleeves fea­tured a blurb for the newly-released album as “Ask For FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS LP Album.” While there is no way to know when each sleeve was ac­tu­ally man­u­fac­tured, col­lec­tors con­sider the “Coming Soon” sleeves to be first print­ings and the “Ask For” sleeves to be second print­ings.

In the ghetto

Writer: Scott Davis
Recorded: Jan­uary 20-21, 1969
Re­leased: April 15, 1969
Cat­alog number: RCA Victor 47-9741

Bill­board Hot 100: #3
Cash Box Top 100: #1

In Jan­uary 1969, Presley re­turned to record in his home­town of Mem­phis for the first time in four­teen years. Working with pro­ducer Chips Moman in his Amer­ican Sound Studio, Elvis knew the fu­ture of his ca­reer rested on these ses­sions. He was very careful in the songs he se­lected and one of them was an­other from Davis, In The Ghetto.

Elvis loved the song and In The Ghetto be­came the first single from the now leg­endary ’69 Mem­phis Ses­sions. It made it to #1 on Cash Box, his first chart-topper since Re­turn To Sender in the final weeks of 1962. Un­for­tu­nately, on Bill­board, it stalled at #3.

 

“I had al­ways wanted to write a song called The Vi­cious Circle. I al­ways thought it was like, the kids are born there, they grow up there, they die there.”

 

Not being re­motely country, this record did not come close to the na­tional country Top 40 sur­veys.

In the UK, this record reached #2.

In 1969, this record was cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award for sales of 1,000,000 copies in the US.

Overall grade: ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

Personal fave

Top 40. In April 1969, I was 17 years old. So I was at my peak years for being a fan of rock and pop music and a buyer of both sin­gles and al­bums. For­tu­nately, this co­in­cided nicely with Elvis en­tering what I con­sider his peak years as a ma­ture artist, 1968-1970. In The Ghetto was a daring record—a white, southern male singing sym­pa­thet­i­cally about the vi­cious circle of poverty and crime that can de­fine the life a black, northern man—and it cer­tainly struck a re­spon­sive chord with me as I was blos­soming into a prover­bial “bleeding heart lib­eral,” which I re­main fifty years later.

Aside from how fine the song was, Pres­ley’s singing is simply amazing: sym­pa­thetic and un­der­standing without any hint of the kind of overt sen­ti­men­tality that could have ru­ined the song. The only thing that keeps it from being a Top 10 among my per­sonal faves is it doesn’t have a good beat so you can’t dance to it.

“There is a vocal-only ver­sion of In The Ghetto on the SACD of 30 #1 HITS where you can hear only Elvis’ vocal from the master take. The rich­ness of his voice is in­cred­ible!” – Craig LaPine

Progress

In The Ghetto was the sev­enth and final Mac Davis song that Elvis Presley recorded. For more on the im­por­tance of this song and this recording in the ca­reer of Elvis Presley, click on over to the ar­ticle “The Im­por­tance Of ‘In The Ghetto’ ” on this blog.

 

Elvis ALittleLessConversation remix 12inch PS 600

This is the “clever” pic­ture sleeve for the elec­tron­i­cally “remixed” ver­sion of A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion (Elvis vs JXL) from 2002. It’s sup­posed to be a soccer ball (or what the world calls a foot­ball).

A little less conversation (Elvis vs JXL)

Writers: Strange-Davis
Recorded: March 7, 1968
Re­leased: May 1, 2002
Cat­alog number: RCA/BMG-07863-60575-7
This is the seven-inch single with the JXL Radio Edit Remix.
Cat­alog number: RCA/BMG-07863 60570-1
This is the twelve-inch single with the Ex­tended Remix.

Bill­board Hot 100: #50
Cash Box Top 100: Does not apply

In 2001, the orig­inal ver­sion of A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion from the Live A Little, Love A Little sound­track was used in the movie Ocean’s Eleven, bringing it to the at­ten­tion of a new gen­er­a­tion of music-lovers. Tom Holken­borg, a DJ in the Nether­lands who went by the name Junkie XL (or JXL), started scratching to it in clubs, which somehow brought it to the at­ten­tion of Nike.

The Elvis es­tate granted per­mis­sion to Junkie XL to remix an out­take of A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion from the sound­track ses­sions and use it for com­mer­cial pur­poses. For the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Nike’s ad­ver­tising cam­paign (ti­tled Se­cret Tour­na­ment), the main tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial fea­tured the remixed A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion.

Re­ac­tion to the track was over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive and a single cred­ited to Elvis vs. JXL was re­leased around the world in May 2002. It reached #1 in the UK and also topped the chart in as many as twenty coun­tries, making it Pres­ley’s biggest in­ter­na­tional hit since Way Down in 1977.

In the US, the World Cup doesn’t carry as much weight so the Nike com­mer­cials weren’t a big deal. Sub­se­quently, the remixed A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion also wasn’t a big deal, failing to even reach the na­tional Top 40 pop survey.

Overall grade: ✮ ✮

Personal fave

No. While I am glad that this hap­pened if only in that it helped Elvis reach mil­lions of young people who would have prob­ably ig­nored him for the rest of their lives, I just don’t dig the elec­tronics and their overall ef­fect on the sound and feel of the orig­inal recording.

Progress

The remixed A Little Less Con­ver­sa­tion is one of the most un­likely global hits of the 21st cen­tury. It can be ar­gued to have been a bit of a global phe­nom­enon and in­tro­duced count­less mil­lions of young people to Elvis Presley.

When it was tagged onto the ELVIS: 30 #1 HITS com­pi­la­tion in 2002, it sent sales of the compact-disc through the roof, passing 6,000,000 in the US and selling at least that many copies in the rest of the world!

Un­less some­thing else like this comes along, it is un­likely that Elvis will ever reach the top of the pop charts again.

 

MacDavis SongPainter 600

Mac Davis’s first album, SONG PAINTER, was re­leased in 1970. It in­cluded fine ver­sions of Mem­o­ries and In The Ghetto. It was both a light­weight concept-album and one of the first al­bums that could have been des­ig­nated singer-songwriter but, per­haps be­cause it’s too pop and too country, never is.

Mac Davis

Morris “Mac” Davis died Sep­tember 29, 2020, at 78. Davis be­came crit­i­cally ill fol­lowing heart surgery in Nashville, ac­cording to a tweet from his family. His man­ager con­firmed the entertainer’s death in a state­ment. Born in Lub­bock, Texas, in 1942, Davis would evolve into a country and adult-contemporary crossover star with solo hits like Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me, Stop And Smell The Roses, and One Hell Of A Woman. (Rolling Stone

In 1974, he was named En­ter­tainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music and was nom­i­nated for En­ter­tainer of the Year by the Country Music As­so­ci­a­tion. The pull-quotes in the large, grey type above are from Mac Davis, as is this one: “Every per­former who ever per­formed in rock and roll or even close to it is lying if they tell you that they weren’t in­flu­enced in some way or an­other by Elvis Presley. He turned the world around.”

Given the seven songs that Mac Davis con­tributed to the Legend of Elvis Presley, he should be given a promi­nent place along­side Steve Binder and Chips Moman for as­sisting the hap­less Elvis of the mid-’60s in be­coming the po­tent Elvis of the late ’60s.

After the Amer­ican Sound ses­sions in Jan­uary and Feb­ruary 1969, Presley was busy putting to­gether a band and re­hearsing for his debut in Las Vegas in July. He would not re­turn to a studio to record again until June 1970. By this time, Mac Davis had launched his own ca­reer as a singer and re­leased his first album, SONG PAINTER.

His days of of­fering his best new songs to Elvis were over …

 

MacDavis SongPainter photo 1000 crop

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was cropped from the front cover of Mac’s first album SONG PAINTER (Co­lumbia CS-9969), re­leased in May 1970. It was a “con­cept album” with the eleven full-length tracks in­ter­spersed with short snip­pets (less than thirty sec­onds each) of three other songs, tying the whole to­gether as a mu­sical au­to­bi­og­raphy. Orig­inal press­ings of CS-9969 fea­tured this lovely photo of Mac looking like a mid-’60s folksinger. Later press­ings fea­tured a close-up of Mac looking like a mid-’70s country singer.

 

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Nice piece, Mr. N! Al­ways liked and re­spected the “Mem­o­ries Man.” Got a kick outta the story Mac use to tell about the Colonel rub­bing the top of his curly head to bring him luck – and it worked! Didn’t re­alize he had written seven tracks for the King! Glad at least one made it to #1 (Bill­board rag mag doesn’t count anyway;).

I’m soooo tired of reading and hearing that “Sus­pi­cious Minds” was the King’s Last #1… [email protected]#$! Nice of Bill­board to just elim­i­nate the en­tire ’70s when the ’70s was the King’s Biggest Selling Decade and that’s NOT even in­cluding ’77 on! That’s a fact, Jack – take it to the bank!

Now, since ya cov­ered the “Mem­o­ries” Man” passing, how about a piece on the Biggest Selling F of the ’70s: Helen “I Am Woman” Reddy! Keep On Singing!

R.I.P., Mac and Helen …

You’re more than wel­come, Grizzly!

Tech­ni­cally, “Steam­roller Blues” was his last #1 on Record World in 1973. ;) As well as it should have been! Ditto for “Way Down”!

As for Mz. Reddy cov­ering the King… well, I beatcha to it and com­mented on it below (among other thangs). ;)

Couldn’t agree more re. “Clean Up Your Own Back Yard”: other than the title being a lil weird and long, it shoulda went a hel­luva lot higher than #25! Es­pe­cially being re­leased in be­tween two #1 hits! Great lyrics and slide guitar, along with ’68/’69 King vocals—shoulda been a Top 5 hit!

Hmmmm, doncha find it a lil sus­pi­cious (pun in­tended) that “Clean Up” and “Mem­o­ries” charted the same on both the Bill­board and Cash Box charts?!

1.

Re­gard­less of what genre was played in drug-ridden ’69, who cares – it was ELVIS!! What’s the reason for “Sugar, Sugar” goin’ #1 in ’69?? Not a bad song, but crap next to CUYOBY!!

2.

As for “Power Of My Love,” I can make a solid ar­gu­ment as the King’s greatest track Ever! Not mine, but a hel­luva lot better than ei­ther “In The Ghetto” or “Sus­pi­cious Minds.” I’d say the same for “Stranger In My Own Home Town.” That and POML were the two de­fin­i­tive King Clas­sics of the ’69 Mem­phis Ses­sions. So yes, it shoulda been a single, but not with CUYOBY as a lost flip.

3.

I’ll give ya an­other lost ’69 gem that wasn’t part of the Mem­phis Ses­sions: “Change Of Habit”! If I didn’t know any better, I woulda sworn that was the greatest R&R drummer ever on that track, RONNIE TUTT. {Back in your cage, Ronnie!)

4.

Speaking of the Super-Drummer, did ya know that after the King passed on, he played for Helen “Ruby Red Dress” Reddy? Where’s that tribute I asked ya for?? ;) Ever hear her ver­sion of “Raised On Rock”? Yes sir, Mr. N, she did it too…

And the King owned her Free And Easy album on 8-track! I hear the King dug it :) And why wouldn’t he? He knew great music and singing when he heard it! Back-to-Back with her “Angie Baby” #1 Classic!

Get on the ar­ticle, Grizzly!!

Helen Elvis.jpg

Holy shi­i­i­i­i­iiit, Big N, what the hell you smokin’? I just read your “Meeting Elvis and Yeti on Mount Rainier” and you are one smoked-up, drugged-out, ol’ hippie-dippie, mudda-fugga! But I gotta say, I LOVED IT and I bet the King does too!

Now, just wait until it’s Tom Jones’s time. (Heaven forbid!) E and Bob will be waiting for ya at the bottom of the mount.

Rock on, Grizzly!

Being raised on Elvis and Helen (and let us Not forget Tom Jones!), the Polk Salad Rocker don’t smoke that wacky weed! Now, if ya got a fresh pack of Amer­ican Spirits Lights, I’m on my way!

Raised On Elvis & Helen.jpg
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I en­joyed this ar­ticle, both as a tribute to Mac Davis and as an overview of Elvis’ record­ings of Davis’ songs. I fully agree about the im­por­tance of the Billy Strange/Mac Davis song­writing duo in Elvis’ ca­reer - a brief but crit­ical time.

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