In the Studio with Elvis Presley

Fans saw Elvis on stage and on the big screen, but fans never had the chance to see Elvis work in one of his favorite environments – in the studio.

And, really, the studio is at the heart of Elvis’ career. It was in studios in Memphis, Hollywood, Nashville and New York, where he cut songs that became No. 1 hits, songs that shook the foundation of American music, and songs that became fan favorites.

Elvis had hundreds of recording sessions in many different studios, but let’s take a look at just a few of the special ones where Elvis recorded some of his biggest hits.

ELVIS’ FIRST STUDIO – SUN STUDIO

Producers always wanted to re-create the magical sound that Elvis, Bill Black and Scotty Moore created at Sun Studio.

Producers always wanted to re-create the magical sound that Elvis, Bill Black and Scotty Moore created at Sun Studio.

The very first songs Elvis recorded at Memphis Recording Service – aka Sun Studio – were “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” in 1953.

But his recording sessions got interesting on July 5-6, 1954, when he recorded a little record you may have heard of – “That’s All Right” – as well as “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “I Love You Because.”

During Elvis’ time at Sun, he recorded many songs that would go on to become classics, like “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Mystery Train” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” (Elvis’ first No. 1 hit), all with Sam Phillips at the helm.

In the spring of 2017, the new state-of-the-art entertainment complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, will open at Graceland and will feature a permanent Sam Phillips exhibit.

HOLLYWOOD
Two of the Hollywood studios Elvis used were the Paramount Scoring Stage and Radio Recorders. Here are some insights into just a few of the sessions that took place at these studios.

The first song recorded at the Sept. 1, 1956 sessions was "Playing for Keeps."

The first song recorded at the Sept. 1, 1956 sessions was “Playing for Keeps.”

On September 1-3, 1956 Elvis recorded a slew of songs at Radio Recorders – a studio used by most of the major labels – for RCA.

On September 1, he recorded songs like “Love Me” and “How’s The World Treating You,” followed by “Long Tall Sally,” “Too Much,” “Old Shep” and “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again.” On September 3, he wrapped the session by recording “Ready Teddy,” “First in Line” and “Rip It Up.”
Elvis was very familiar with “Old Shep” – he performed that song in a talent show as a young boy growing up in Tupelo (and only won fifth place). He performed the master recording in one take, but performed another four just in case.

Sessions for RCA continued on January 12-13 1957, also at Radio Recorders.

Elvis took care of business at Radio Recorders in Hollywood on January 12 and 13, recording hits like “All Shook Up,” “Mean Woman Blues” and “Peace in the Valley.” Elvis wanted to record a gospel album, so “Peace” was recorded alongside gospel favorites like “I Believe” and “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.” Over the course of January 15-16, and from January 21-22, Elvis recorded tunes like “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” “Blueberry Hill,” and the end version of “Loving You.”

Elvis and his band recorded tracks for "Jailhouse Rock" at Radio Recorders in the spring of 1957.

Elvis and his band recorded tracks for “Jailhouse Rock” at Radio Recorders in the spring of 1957.

Elvis returned to Radio Recorders in the spring of 1957 to record tracks for “Jailhouse Rock,” including the title track, “Young and Beautiful” and “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care.”

"Hard Headed Woman" was the first song recorded for the "King Creole" sessions on January 15, 1958.

“Hard Headed Woman” was the first song recorded for the “King Creole” sessions on January 15, 1958.

Elvis recorded several tunes for the “King Creole” soundtrack on January 15-16 and 23, 1958, at Radio Recorders. He cut a slew of fan-favorites from “King Creole” on January 15, including “Hard Headed Woman,” “Trouble” and the title track. Tunes cut the next day include “As Long As I Have You” and “Don’t Ask Me Why.” Of course, Elvis had to get this work done – he’d just been drafted into the Army.

The "King Creole" sessions took place over four days in January and February of 1958.

The “King Creole” sessions took place over four days in January and February of 1958.

To capture a New Orleans sound, Paramount hired some of the best session players. This meant there were now 14 band members backing up Elvis, making this the largest group of musicians Elvis ever worked with in the studio.

NASHVILLE
“Heartbreak Hotel” was recorded in Nashville’s RCA Studios on January 10, 1956.
Just a few months later, on April 14, he returned to that studio to work on some new material. Before the Record button was pressed on this session, Elvis received a gold record for “Heartbreak Hotel.” That’s exciting, sure – but once the excitement died down, Elvis prepared to record – by taking off his jacket and shoes. That’s right – “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” was recorded here by a shoeless Elvis.

Elvis performs signature moves even when he's shoeless.

Elvis performs signature moves even when he’s shoeless.

 

It took 17 takes to record "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You."

It took 17 takes to record “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.”

Decades later, that same studio was used as a television studio.

Elvis entered RCA’s new Studio B on June 10, 1958 to work on new songs. Before Elvis left to start serving his time in the Army, RCA wanted to get as many hits out of him as possible. The late morning – early afternoon session brings us hits like “(Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such as I” and “A Big Hunk O’ Love,” along with B-sides “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” and “I Need Your Love Tonight.” “I Got Stung” was recorded from 2 a.m.-5 a.m.

When Elvis returned to Studio B in June 1970, he was accustomed to late-night recording sessions, so he and his band recorded tunes like “I’ve Lost You,” Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Just Pretend,” “Love Letters” and “Make the World Go Away” in sessions that ran from 6-9 p.m., 10 p.m.-1 a.m. and 1:30-4:30 a.m.  His 1971 sessions at Studio B – which also took place after the sun went down – included gospel songs, Christmas tunes and tracks like “My Way,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and “I’m Leavin’.”

Elvis wasn’t the only artist to create musical magic at Studio B. During Studio B’s history 20-year history, from 1957-1977, many artists such as The Everly Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison and Porter Wagoner brought their music to life in the historic building.

MEMPHIS
In 1969, Elvis and his producer Felton Jarvis were impressed by the incredible music being made at Chips Moman’s American Studios in Memphis. Just a few of the hits recorded there include “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, “The Letter” by the Box Tops, B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and Dusty Springfield’s legendary LP, “Dusty in Memphis.”

Singer Roy Hamilton was also recording at American Studio at the same time as Elvis, and the pair became great friends. Elvis quoted one of Roy's songs, "Without a Song," in his acceptance speech for his Ten Outstanding Young Men award in 1971.

Singer Roy Hamilton was also recording at American Studio at the same time as Elvis, and the pair became great friends. Elvis quoted one of Roy’s songs, “Without a Song,” in his acceptance speech for his Ten Outstanding Young Men award in 1971.

In January and February of 1969, Elvis recorded some of his most famous songs right here in Memphis, including “Suspicious Minds,” “In the Ghetto,” “Don’t Cry Daddy,” “Kentucky Rain,” “Mama Liked the Roses” and “Rubberneckin’.”

In the 1960s and 1970s, Memphis’ Stax Studios became famous as a soul studio, producing hits like Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding and “Hold On! I’m Comin’” by Sam & Dave. Elvis recorded at Memphis’ famous Stax Studios in 1973, laying down tunes like “It’s Midnight,” “Raised on Rock,” “My Boy,” “Promised Land,” “I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby” and “For Ol’ Time Sake.”

Elvis’ final recording sessions took place right at home at Graceland, in the legendary Jungle Room. The tracks recorded here – which you can hear on the new 2-disc release, “Way Down in the Jungle Room” –  included “Hurt,” “Moody Blue,” “Solitaire,” “She Thinks I’ll Still Care” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

What are some of your favorite songs recorded in these studios?

Don’t forget – you can get discounted tickets to see Memphis attractions like Sun Studio and Stax Museum of American Soul Music when you purchase your Graceland tickets, and of course, the famous Jungle Room is included in the Graceland tour. Trust us – pictures don’t do it justice. You have to experience the Jungle Room for yourself.


34 Comments

  1. Mike Davis UK

    I just love the outtakes of Elvis’ studio sessions. The fun and the humour are second to none. Also shows the quality Elvis worked to regardless of what song he was singing.
    Also interesting to see how some of those top songs were developed in the studio

  2. Joyce Parker

    I LOVE ELVIS SO MUCH, WOW, I AM OFF TO GRACELAND NEXT AUGUST FOR ELVIS WEEK 2017, CAN’T WAIT

  3. Barbara Barrett

    Thanks for a GREAT article!

  4. just to let ya know .E also recorded at fame studios in muscle shoals alabama

    • Eddie Hinton overdubbed some guitar tracks but I am unaware of a session in Muscle Shoals. I’m sitting here with Ernst Jorgensen’s book: “A Life In Music” and not once is Muscle Shoals mentioned. Studio recordings for master sessions were done in the following cities only:

      Memphis, Nashville, New York, Hollywood and there was a home session in Palm Springs.

  5. Great Imformation in how Elvis recorded his music which became ICONIC, the methods in which he used also the time frame when he recorded such iconic music that will last forever in all our minds and hearts…Thankyou.

  6. Shirley. Towerzey

    Hi, thanks for these great photos, the “Sun Recording Studios certainly brings back wonderful memories to me when I stood on the spot where Elvis sung when I came there in Auust 1980 with the UK Elvis fan club, and I’d love to go again one day. . . .

  7. Neat blog! A ‘recording studio’ including various Elvis related paraphernalia would be very interesting as part of the new Elvis complex at Graceland. To sit in there and imagine listening to him work would be a magic feeling. There’s plenty of recording of him with out takes and dialog to make it sound real. My best memory of visiting Graceland Jungle Room was listening to him on the headset as he recorded. It was like he was in the room!!!

  8. Very informative

  9. sandra austin

    LU EP and anything or news U send :)

  10. sandra austin

    Thank You, thank you very much :)

  11. Awesome Facts…

  12. Marc-A. Comtois

    Thank you.

  13. Nina E Newberry

    I was only 9 when Elvis recorded I want you, I need you , I love you. It’s been my favorite song since then. My girlfriends wanted to be with Elvis to kiss and hug him. I wanted to be in the studios and watch him record. Of course I wanted to kiss and hug him too. I’ve enjoyed IN THE STUDIOS WITH ELVIS very much. Thanks for sharing. Nina Newberry

  14. Karen preston

    Awesome

  15. Cathy scarratt

    My husband and i went Graceland 3 yrs ago, what we experienced while walking around Elvis’s home was amazing, we would do anything to experience this again, i can only dream.Thankyou for allowing the public the opportunity to experience what my husband and i did.

  16. Great article; great photos and shoeless Elvis

  17. Great read, I love all the history of Elvis and can not wait to see the tribute to Sun Records/Sun Studios. Love Sam Phillips!

  18. Marge Loesch

    Elvis was amazing and is missed!
    Love him forever!

  19. MARTIN GABRIEL JR

    WAY DOWN AND HURT

    HE SURE HAD A GOOD SET OF LUNGS
    TO SING HURT THE WAY HE DID

    ELVIS IS THE BEST OF THE BEST!

  20. EDE DANNA

    Great pictures, magnific history!!!!

  21. stephen sathis

    How’s the World Treating You? shows Elvis’s sad heart. Wonderful job. Anything that’s Part of You, is a beauty.

  22. Fantastic !
    Please continue to post these historic pics and information….

    Many thanks-ELVIS LIVES!

  23. Rita Zinn

    Thank you. Amazing

  24. Rita Zinn

    Thanks amazing

  25. anne sciannella

    A hole was created in our hearts on 8-16-1977,it still remains. Thank God we have his music!

    • Ursula Jourdan

      I still have a very vivid memory of when the announcement came over and they said that Elvis had just died. Everyone around me was in complete shock.

      • Ursula Jourdan

        I was with some friends that evening in a dance hall at a military installation in the Washington,
        D.C. area. All of a sudden the music stopped and they made the announcement about Elvis’ death. You could have heard a pin drop because everyone was in complete shock

  26. RAY CURRY

    VERY INTERESTING MUSICAL HISTORY VISITED GRACELAND AND STUDIO B AND SUN .

  27. The songs & the overall career of Elvis in the 1950’s prior to his focus on movies in the early to mid 60’s were simply very, very special. The last 30 seconds of his live black & white TV 2 minute performance singing “Hound Dog” on the Milton Berle Show forever changed American culture & the entire world of popular music.

  28. Gina Marie

    This is so great! Loving the shoe less E photos…I guess it made him feel more grounded…I can definitely relate to that! Did he do that often? Thank you for sharing! :)

  29. Great article with lots of information and rare pics

  30. ! Thank you for that Great article and never seen before photos!

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