After Boots Randolph passed away last week, I checked out several large websites devoted to Elvis and didn’t find much delving deep into the connection between Boots and Elvis. That was surprising, because there was a significant relationship between these two music legends.
There was certainly much more than just “Reconsider Baby” and “Return To Sender,” the two Elvis songs on which Boots played that were mentioned in most news reports. Between 1960 and 1967, Boots actually played on twenty Elvis recording sessions. These produced three rock albums, two gospel albums, eleven movie soundtracks, and dozens of songs for later use in albums or singles releases.
After Elvis returned from the Army, the vault of unreleased songs was empty, and it was imperative to record some good material quickly. On March 20,1960, at RCA’s Studio B in Nashville, producer Chet Atkins assembled a familiar group of musicians to play behind Elvis: Scotty Moore on guitar, DJ Fontana on drums, the Jordanaires on vocals, Floyd Cramer on piano, and Bob Moore on bass. They recorded six songs, including the hit “Stuck On You.”
On April 3, the group reassembled with three notable additions: Hank Garland on guitar, Buddy Harmon on drums, and Boots Randolph on sax. They recorded twelve songs, nine of which ended up in the album Elvis Is Back. Some critics acclaim this album as Elvis’ best (I agree), and it contained the exalted blues number “Reconsider Baby.” On it, Boots had the distinction of doing the first sax solo on an Elvis song. There is no telling how many times Boots performed “Reconsider Baby” during the last 47 years, but I have heard him do it four times, and he was great each time. If you are tempted to pull out Elvis Is Back and give it another listen, check out “Like A Baby.” It is another classic Elvis blues number, and Boots’ sax part is masterful.
In November 1960, Boots joined Elvis again at the session to record songs for the gospel album His Hand In Mind. If you have trouble imagining a sax part in a gospel song, “Milky White Way” will show you how it’s done.
March 1961 was an intense period of musical activity for Elvis — and Boots Randolph was there for all of it. First, there was another regular album to do as Elvis and the guys gathered in Nashville for the Something For Everybody sessions. A week later, the whole group traveled to Hollywood to record the Blue Hawaii soundtrack. As soon as they finished, everyone took off for Hawaii to perform in the benefit concert to raise money for the Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial Fund. This was Elvis’ last live performance for eight years, and it was the last time Elvis ever wore the famous gold lame coat.
Later in 1961, Boots played at the soundtrack recording sessions for two more movies, Follow That Dream and Kid Galahad, plus a Nashville studio session that produced the hit single “Good Luck Charm.”
Boots continued to record with Elvis in 1962. In March there were the Nashville recording sessions for the next studio album Pot Luck, and the Hollywood recording sessions for the movie Girls, Girls, Girls. Boots has an extended sax solo on the title song as well as on “Return To Sender,” the hit from the movie.
In 1963, Boots recorded with Elvis on two more movie soundtracks, Viva Las Vegas and Kissin’ Cousins. In March of that year, Boots joined Elvis for a recording session that was supposed to be for another studio album, but the songs ended up on four different movie soundtracks, two regular albums, and five 45RPM single cuts. As I mentioned in a 2/18/07 blog article, RCA finally did release all fourteen songs in 1991 on an album called The Lost Album. Later, it was released on CD titled For The Asking (The Lost Album). If you have it, check out Boots’ solo on “Witchcraft.
From 1964 to 1967, Boots continued to record with Elvis. There were two general sessions in Nashville that produced singles and album cuts. There were five more movie soundtrack sessions in Hollywood: Roustabout, Girl Happy, Spinout, Double Trouble, and Speedway. And, there was one more gospel album How Great Thou Art.
The final tally of Boots Randolph’s recorded work with Elvis comes to eleven sessions in Nashville and nine in Hollywood, plus that one live concert performance in Hawaii. Both men left a huge musical legacy. If there is music in Heaven, you know they are up there singing and playing together again.
© 2007 Philip R Arnold All Rights Reserved www.elvisblog.net