Daily Archives: November 6, 2005


As promised some weeks ago, earlier Elvisblog articles are now archived by month.  Please see the list in the left column.  This should have happened sooner, but a problem with the placement of the “MyBlogSite” banner had to get fixed first.  Man, it took a bunch of e-mails to finally get some action on that.


Also, there are two new additions to the archives of my articles in Elvis International, the Magazine.  Both are from the 28th Anniversary Issue published last summer.  The first, “DJ Fontana Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” deals with the injustice of DJ not being in the Hall six years after the Sidemen category was created.  The other, “Where Do Elvis’ Hits Rank In The Top 100 Songs Of All Time?” analyzes the shabby treatment of Elvis music in rankings by VH1 and Billboard magazine.  Sounds like I was on some kind of quest to right the wrongs in Elvisworld, doesn’t it?  Well, both articles are still good reading.  Please note, when you click on Archives – Articles from Elvis International Magazine, a list of all 21 of them will drop down.


If you’ve got some time on your hands and would like to visit some odd Elvis-connected websites, here’s a few I’ve discovered while surfing the net:


“When Nixon Met Elvis,” from The National Archives, of all places. www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/when_nixon_met_elvis/index.html   There are lots of good pictures and an interesting description of the historic 1970 event.


“Elvis Presley In Scotland”  www.rockmine.music.co.uk/elvi.html  Rare pictures of Elvis stopping over at Prestwick Airport in Scotland for two hours on March 3, 1960 (on his way home after Army service)


“The Pumpkin Gutter”  www.pumpkingutter.com   I hope this site continues on even though Halloween has passed, because this artist has incredible talent.  Elvis is just one of dozens of subjects he has carved on pumpkins.


“Elvis Presley & Karate”  www.elviskarate.com   This is the website of Kang Rhee, the man who taught Elvis karate.  Lots of good pictures of The King and Kang.


“Elvis Lives In a Flash”   http://albinoblacksheep.com/flash/elvis.php   This is an alternate video for “A Little Less Conversation,” and it’s worth watching once or twice. 


The last regular article for Elvisblog in 2005 will be posted on Sunday December 11.  The following Sunday, I will post a special Christmas treat.  It is a previously unpublished short story of Elvis fiction titled “ELVIS CLAUS – Santa’s Favorite Brother Gets A Present.”  Be sure to check in during the Christmas holidays and read this one.  Then print it out, send it to all your Elvis buddies, and tell them to visit Elvisblog in 2006.


©  2005   Philip R Arnold


From:  28th Anniversary Issue, August 2005


by Phil Arnold


If you were on the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee, which of these drummers would you pick for the relatively new “Sidemen” category?


DJ Fontana:                  The beat behind the King.  Elvis’ original drummer, who performed and recorded with him from 1955 to 1968.

Benny Benjamin:           Motown’s first drummer and the most beloved musician in Hitsville.

Hal Blaine:                    May well be the most prolific drummer in rock and roll history.

Earl Palmer:                  Probably the greatest session drummer of all time.


Pretty hard choice isn’t it?  Well, the selection committee has already enshrined three of these drummers, and it is time for them to add one more – DJ Fontana.


There can be no arguing with the merits of Benjamin, Blaine, and Palmer.  The capsule summaries above come right from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame web-site.  Benny Benjamin recorded with all the Motown greats like the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Supremes, Gladys Knight, Martha and the Vandellas, and Marvin Gaye.  Hal Blaine was a first-call session drummer in Los Angeles, recording with the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, the Mamas and Papas, the Byrds, Johnny Rivers, the Association, Sonny & Cher, the Grass Roots, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, and Herb Alpert.  Earl Palmer started in New Orleans and recorded with Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, and Little Richard.  Then he moved to Los Angeles and backed Ritchie Valens, Ray Charles, Duane Eddy, The Monkees, Neil Young, and Elvis Costello.


Looking at these resumes, you will note all three men were outstanding session musicians, but none was ever a sideman to one rock star for an extended period of time.  DJ Fontana, on the other hand, was a sideman in the truest sense.  He performed with Elvis on hundreds of live shows and played drums on 460 RCA Elvis cuts.  Plus, he did other session work in Nashville for over 30 years, recording with a veritable who’s who of singers.


The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame created the Sidemen category in 2000, and got it right when they picked Scotty Moore among the first five inductees.  But, in a move that defies logic, DJ was omitted, and two other drummers, Blaine and Palmer, were selected.  Scotty and DJ should have gone in together.


In 2001 the Hall enshrined the other Elvis guitar player of note, James Burton, of TCB band fame.  No drummer went into the Hall that year.  Another slight to DJ.


In 2002, only one musician, Chet Atkins, was added to the Sidemen list.  Why not DJ?  Who knows, but it surely wasn’t his lack of credentials.


In 2003, the Hall added a third drummer, Benny Benjamin.  This is when the fans of DJ Fontana started to really get upset with the selection process.  Rumblings of ”let’s get DJ into the Hall of Fame” were heard at Elvis Week and other gatherings, and on Internet chat groups.  Hundreds of letters and petitions went to the Hall extolling the praises of DJ and cheerleading for his inclusion.


As reported in Elvis International magazine a year ago, four of the world’s most famous rock drummers formally approached the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Sidemen Nominating Committee about DJ Fontana’s qualifications.  Ringo Starr of the Beatles, Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, Levon Helm of the Band, and Max Weinberg of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band had it right.


In spite of this intervention by all-star drummers with Hall of Fame credentials, the selection committee ignored DJ again in 2004.  Incredibly, they did it again in 2005. The most frustrating thing is that they selected no one to the Sidemen category in either year.  If there were no other notable musicians worthy of induction, how could they ignore DJ with such great qualifications.


Maybe we need more people championing his cause.  How about a lot more?  This writer thinks the time has come for the citizens of Elvis World to let the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame know we are fed up.  We cannot e-mail them, because they do not publish an e-mail address.  But they do have snail mail.  Please take a few minutes to write a letter to:


            The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation

            1290 Avenue of the Americas

            New York, NY  10104


There’s no need to remind them what stupid jerks they are.  Instead, you might want to add substance to your plea by emphasizing DJ’s qualifications.  To review, they are:


  • Elvis’ original drummer.
  • Performed and recorded with Elvis from 1955 to 1968.
  • Played drums on 460 Elvis recordings.
  • Top session musician in Nashville for 30 years.
  • Supported by Hall of Fame Drummers Ringo Starr of the Beatles and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones.
  • Fellow Elvis sideman Scotty Moore already inducted into the Hall of Fame.

It’s time to stop the injustice to DJ Fontana.  Please send a letter and help get DJ into the Hall of Fame.


©  2005   Philip R Arnold


Contributing Editor, Phil Arnold can be reached at philarnold@charter.net


From:  28th Anniversary Issue, Summer 2005


by Phil Arnold


Suppose you got to help create a list of the Top 500 Rock & Roll songs of all time.  Bet you’d have lots and lots of Elvis hits in there.  I know I would.


Well, the folks at Rolling Stone Magazine would not.  Elvis had a few high spots in their survey, but his overall total seemed low.  In all fairness, we do have to thank Rolling Stone for presenting the list in their December 9, 2004 issue.  It was a wonderful thing for this old rock fan and many others to read and think and reminisce about.


This not the first time Elvis fans have been disappointed at The King’s representation on a major list of top songs.  Three years ago, VH1 presented their Top 100 rock songs of all time (complete with music video clip on each one).  Elvis got some recognition, but not what you’d expect.  Let’s take a look at what these very credible music enterprises had to say about Elvis’ songs, and where they reside in the galaxy of the greatest.




Rolling Stone – 0                               VH1 – 0


That was tough to take.  Not one Elvis song in either Top 10.  Of course, the competition was very tough, with the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, John Lennon and others taking a position in the top 10.  Both polls had great songs selected on their lists, although they had some significant differences.  I’d have trouble disagreeing with any of the choices.  There just wasn’t any Elvis in there!




Rolling Stone – 1                               VH1 – 1


They each pick one… but not the same one.  VH1 rates “Jailhouse Rock” as #18, while Rolling Stone has “Hound Dog” at #19.  These classic old songs both deserve that recognition, or better.  But, there are other equally good Elvis songs that should have been there, too.




Rolling Stone – 2                               VH1 – 2


Come on!  Only 2 Elvis songs in the Top 50 of all time.  That’s just wrong.  All VH1 could add was “Hound Dog” at # 31.  Rolling Stone added “Heartbreak Hotel” at # 45.  Out of the Top 50 rock songs, they found only three Elvis recordings between them:  “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”  Sorry, they are all Top 20 material, at least. 




Rolling Stone – 5                               VH1 – 4


Rolling Stone gets on board with “Jailhouse Rock” at #67 and adds two new titles:  “Mystery Train” at # 77 and “Suspicious Minds” at # 91.  It’s easy to agree with these picks.  We can be pleased Rolling Stone’s Top 100 recognized both a song from Elvis’ early work at Sun Records and also a staple of his later jumpsuit years.  “All Shook Up” is mentioned for the first time at #68 on the VH1 poll, and they gave a belated nod to “Heartbreak Hotel” at #71.   Between the two polls, there were just six different Elvis songs selected in the top 100.  That’s not enough.




Rolling Stone –11


Next up was another Sun disc, “That’s All Right (Mama),” at # 112.  That’s a good pick, but this was followed by the poll’s second-biggest mistake: “Don’t Be Cruel” at only # 197.  I can’t believe it.  There can’t be too many members of the selection committee who were around in 1956, and had that song in their 45 collection.  If they had, “Don’t Be Cruel” would be Top 20, maybe Top 10.


Rolling Stone rated “All Shook Up” at # 352.  Give me a break.  “All Shook Up at # 352???  The song stayed # 1 on the charts for twelve straight weeks.  How could they possibly make a mistake this big?  At least VH1 had it at # 68. 


The first Elvis ballad to appear was “I Can’t Help falling In Love” at # 394.  Next came “Blue Suede Shoes” at # 423.  Carl Perkins’ version came in at # 95, making “Blue Suede Shoes” the only song to be in the Top 500 by two different artists.  Frankly, I think a good argument could be made for Perkins’ version being in the Top 20.


The last Elvis song to make the Rolling Stone list was “Love Me Tender” at # 437.


My initial anger at the lack of respect given to Elvis songs in these polls has now been tempered by a new realization.  It wasn’t the songs that made Elvis special.  It was Elvis.  His looks, his clothing, his voice, his stage persona.  He was the total package and probably would have succeeded even if he had recorded lesser material.


In spite of this handy justification, it’s still fun to think where we would put Elvis recordings in the Top 500 rock & roll songs of all time.  “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” would squeeze into the Top 10 somewhere.  “Heartbreak Hotel,” “All Shook Up” and “Don’t Be Cruel” belong in the Top 20.  “That’s All Right,” “Mystery train,” and “Suspicious Minds” would be in the Top 50.  “Love Me Tender” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love” would be joined by another ballad, “Loving You,” in the Top 100.  Certainly the next 400 places would include “Teddy Bear,” Blue Suede Shoes,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” and “Burning Love.”


Adding it up, our revised list would have two Elvis songs in the top 10, five in the top 20, eight in the top 50, eleven in the top 100, and eighteen in the top 500.  Now that’s more like it.


If it was up to this writer, the Top 500 would also include three personal favorites.  “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care,” featured the movie Jailhouse Rock, is arguably the best song Elvis recorded that was never released as a single.  “Reconsider Baby” from the album Elvis Is Back is considered by many to be Elvis’ best blues recording.  And “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” is simply the best rock & roll Christmas song ever.


There were six songs selected to the Top 10 in both polls:  “Like a Rolling Stone”/Bob Dylan, “Satisfaction”/ The Rolling Stones, “Respect”/Aretha Franklin, “Imagine”/John Lennon, “Good Vibrations”/Beach Boys, and “Hey Jude”/Beatles.  The polls were done years apart by different all-star juries, which gives credence to the outstanding quality of these songs.  The biggest Top 10 discrepancies were “What’d I Say”/Ray Charles (# 10 Rolling Stone, # 41 VH1), and “Hotel California”/Eagles (# 6 VH1, # 49 Rolling Stone)


The selection committee for the Rolling Stone Top 500 seemed to be especially fond of 60’s music, choosing 202 hits from this decade.  The 70’s were next with 144 selections.  The 50’s were only the third best decade with a puny 71 picks.  That’s not enough.  It’s painfully obvious that not many of the judges were around and listening to music in that decade.  They missed dozens of outstanding songs on their list.


In yet another tribute to the genius of Sam Phillips, Sun Records provided five of the Top 100 songs.  The honored songs were: “I Walk The Line”/Johnny Cash, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”/Jerry Lee Lewis, “Mystery Train”/Elvis Presley, “Blue Suede Shoes”/Carl Perkins, and “Great Balls Of Fire”/Jerry Lee Lewis.  And “That’s All Right” was close behind at # 112.


Chuck Berry challenged Elvis with the second most 50’s songs on the list.  Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Little Richard and Bo Diddley followed, but Fats Domino was way under represented (eight Top 10 hits, only two songs on the list)


Every song on Rolling Stone’s list received a critique narrative, which enabled the magazine to fill forty-one pages of the issue.  It was also interspersed with fifty-six full-page advertisements and numerous partial pages, so it was a good marketing move.


Here’s some of what they had to say about the Elvis songs. 


Hound Dog:  “With snarling vocal authority, precision rockabilly jump and slashing lead guitar by Scotty Moore, Presley transformed the song’s blues changes and put-down rhyme into a declaration of independence… “  (For my money, everything Elvis recorded in the 50’s was a declaration of independence.)


Heartbreak Hotel:  “… what Sun Records founder Sam Phillips called a ‘morbid mess’ went on to become Presley’s first Number One hit and million selling single, thanks in part to Scotty Moore’s steely guitar and a thumping bass from Bill Black.”  (Would it have hurt to give some kudos to DJ Fontana, too?)


Jailhouse Rock:  “The King… sang it as straight rock & roll, overlooking the jokes in the lyrics and then introducing Scotty Moore’s guitar solo with a cry so intense the take almost collapses.”  (I’ve gone back and listened to that part of the song again several times, and I still don’t know what that writer was talking about.)


Suspicious Minds:  “Recorded between four and seven in the morning, during the landmark Memphis session that helped return The King to his throne, ‘Suspicious Minds’ is Presley’s masterpiece.”  (But only # 91 on their list.)


That’s All right:  “Recorded in a shockingly fast, lusty new style, the single was the place where race and hillbilly music collided and became rock & roll.  … and the world changed.”  (When the magazine sang the praises of their top pick, ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ they said, “no other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time.”  (Baloney!  “That’s All Right” did all that and more.  It changed the world, remember?)


Don’t Be Cruel:  “… his take on this blues song, “Don’t Be Cruel,” backed with “Hound Dog,’ became a double-sided hit on the pop, R&B and country charts.”  (But that was only good enough for # 197 on your list.)


All Shook Up:  “Presley fell in love with the tune the first time he heard it.  The song went on to sell 2 million copies.”  (Not enough to get it higher than # 352.  Their biggest slight to an Elvis song.)


I Can’t Help falling In Love:  “… this was no vacation for Presley.  It took him twenty-nine takes to nail his exquisitely gentle vocals.”  (Rolling Stone accompanied this narrative with a nice picture of Elvis.)


Blue Suede Shoes:  “Perkins’ single got to Number Two, but Presley’s peaked at Number Twenty.”  (Carl’s version was better, but Elvis did a major improvement when he re-recorded the song for the movie, “GI Blues.”)


Love Me Tender:  “It represented a brand-new sound for The King.  He sang in his softest voice, accompanied by his own acoustic guitar.


Rolling Stone magazine had no trouble referring to Elvis as “The King” in most of their song critiques.  We wish they had treated his songs with more respect in their list; but let’s face it, the key to Elvis’ success was Elvis himself, not just his recordings.


©  2005   Philip R Arnold


Contributing Editor Phil Arnold is a big Elvis fan and can be reached at philarnold@charter.net