Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Elvis? Im a Beatles Person - Thats Alright, Mama

Today is the anniversary of Elvis' first release on Sun Records. The "That's Alright (Mama) / Blue Moon of Kentucky" split was released in 1954 when Elvis was 19 in Memphis, TN.  While I won't deny he changed the face of rock n roll and was extremely talented, I have a friend that's always said "Theres two types of people in this world, Elvis fans and Beatles fans". So, if I have to choose, I'll take the Fab 4. They covered this song almost 10 years later in 1963...

What a lot of folks don't know is that Elvis' version was also a cover, originally recorded by late great delta blues man Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup in 1946.

Crudup, among other bluesmen at the time, had several songs redone by Elvis, Pat Boone, and many others, as society at the time didn't want whitey being "corrupted" by African American artists. An unfortunate side effect of this is these bluesmen didn't see much in the way of royalties even though their own labels like Ace Records profited from passing their music on to Sun and other labels to be redone for the white demographic. A lot of the blues artists simply stopped recording by the end of the 50's, bitter from having their profits given to cover artists and often not even receiving writing credits.

I'll take the Beatles over Elvis, but I'll take the Delta Blues over the Beatles, any day.

1 comment:

  1. I love the Beatles and Elvis as well. It's Possible! The Beatles were huge Elvis fans as well. As John Lennon put it, "Before Elvis, there was nothing. Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn't been an Elvis, there wouldn't have been a Beatles."

    There is a new effort to diminish performers like Elvis, Pat Boone and others by playing the race card. Yes there was racism during those years in the music business. However it was mainly restricted to the south. Most of the country bought and enjoyed the many superstars in the African American Community.

    Hear me out. You brought up Author Crudup who wrote “That’s Alright Mama“. He recorded it in 1946 before Rock ‘N’ Roll. It sounds nothing like Elvis’ version. It was a Blues number. Elvis was not part of a scheme to steal Black peoples music. Blues was on it’s way out at the time. What Elvis and others did was brand new. He didn’t drive Crudup for music, the times did.

    You also hear how Elvis stole “Hound Dog” from Big Mama Thornton. A song she took to #1 on the R&B chart in 1953. Hound Dog was not Big Mama Thornton’s song. It was written by Stoller and Leiber, a Jewish writing team. Elvis was the 3rd to record it after Stoller and Leiber brought to him. He made it into a rocker in 1956. Just an added note, Elvis was recording before Berry, Richard, and Brown. Here’s a quote from the great Jackie Wilson: “A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man’s music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his….”

    To be consistent you would have to say Fats Domino Stole White peoples music when he recorded “Blue Berry Hill”. It was recorded by Glenn Miller in 1940 and Gene Autry in 1941.
    Fats did not steal the song, he covered it. A common practice in music. The Beatles and the Stones covered far more African American music then Elvis and Boone combined. Most were wonderful versions.

    Fats was excepted and became a superstar in the 50s. Yes the south tried at times to suppress, as they called it, race music. However the nation as a whole excepted it. “Blueberry Hill went all the way to #2 on the billboard hot 100 chart on October 1956! It spent an amazing 21 weeks on the charts. According to Billboard Fats was the #4 best selling artist for the entire decade of the 50s.

    Other Black superstars of the 50s includes The Platters who had 4 #1 smash hits and 23 top 40 hits overall on the Hot 100. Chuck Berry had 5 top 10 Hot 100 hits during that time as did Little Richard, and James Brown had an amazing 44 top 40 Hot 100 hits. Compare that to Pat Boone who only had 38 top 40 hits in his lifetime.

    Don’t be fooled, these artists were excepted and became superstars. The south may have tried to prevent it but the nation as whole overrode their efforts.