Harmonica_header

le train

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

-5 +5 -4 +4 -4

-4 +5 -5 -5 +6 -5 +5 -4

-5 +5 -4 +4 -4

-4 +5 -5 -5 +5 -5 +5 -4

(repeat)

Lyrics


Last Train To Clarksville (chromatic)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

LAST TRAIN TO CLARKSVILLE
By: Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
The Monkees
Key: Ab

-5* -6 -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
Take the last train to Clarks-ville,
-5* -6 -6* -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
And I’ll meet you at the sta-tion.
-5* -6 -6* -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
You can be there by four thir-ty,
-5* 4* 4 4* 4 -3* 3* -3*
‘Cause I’ve made your res-er-va-tion.
3* -2* -2 3* -3* 4 4*
Don’t be slow, oh, no, no, no!
4* -5* 6 -6
Oh, no, no, no!

-5* -6 -6* -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
‘Cause I’m leav-ing in the morn-ing
-5* -6 -6* -6* -6* -6 -5*
And I must see you a-gain
-5* -6 -6* -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
We’ll have one more night to-geth-er
-5* 4* 4 4* 4 -3* 3*
‘Til the morn-ing brings my train.
-3* 3* -2* -2 3* -3* 4 4*
And I must go, oh, no, no, no!
4* -5* 6 -6
Oh, no, no, no!
5 5* -5* -6 -5* 4* 4 4* 4 -3* 3*
And I don’t know if I’m ev-er com-ing home.

-5* -6 -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
Take the last train to Clarks-ville.
-5* -6 -6* -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
I’ll be wait-ing at the sta-tion.
-5* -6 -6* -6* -6* -6 -6 -5* -5* 4*
We’ll have time for cof-fee flav-ored kiss-es
4 4* 4 -3* 3* -3* 3* -2*
And a bit of con-ver-sa-tion.
3* -3* 4 4*
Oh, no, no, no!
4* -5* 6 -6
Oh, no, no, no!

-5* -6 -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
Take the last train to Clarks-ville,
-5*-6 -6* -6* -6* -6 -5*
Now I must hang up the phone.
-5* -6 -6* -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
I can’t hear you in this nois-y
-5* 4* 4 4* 4 -3* 3*
Rail-road sta-tion all a-lone.
-3* 3* -2* -2 3* -3* 4 4*
I’m feel-ing low. Oh, no, no, no!
4* -5* 6 -6
Oh, no, no, no!
5 5* -5* -6 -5* 4* 4 4* 4 -3* 3*
And I don’t know if I’m ev-er com-ing home.

-5* -6 -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
Take the last train to Clarks-ville
-5* -6 -6* -6* -6 -6 -5*
Take the last train to Clarks-ville

[repeat and fade]

Lyrics


j’entends siffler le train

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

6 6 -7 -7 -6 6 -7

J’ai- pen-sé qu’il va-lait- mieux

-6 6 -6 -7 -6 6 5

Nous qui-tter sans un a- dieu

5 6 -6 -7 -6 6 5 -4 -4 5 6

Je n’au-rais pas eu le coeur de te re-voir

6 -6 -7 -7 -6 6 -7

Mais j’en-tends si- ffler le train

-6 6 -6 -7 -6 6 5

Mais j’en-tends si-ffler le train

5 6 -6 -7 -6 6 5 -4 -4 5 6 ≈

Que c’est triste un train qui si-ffle dans le soir

Je pouvais t’imaginer ,

Toute seule,abandonnée

Sur le quai dans la cohue des au-revoirs

Et j’entends siffler le train (x2 )

Que c’est triste un train qui siffle dans le soir

J’ai failli courir vers toi

J’ai failli crier vers toi

C’est à peine si j’ai pu me retenir

Que c’est loin où tu t’en vas (x2 )

Auras-tu jamais le temps de revenir.

J’ai pensé qu’il valait mieux

Nous quitter sans un adieu

Mais je sens que maintenant tout est fini

Et j’entends siffler le train (x2 )

J’entendrai siffler ce train toute ma vie…

Lyrics


Goin to Catch A Train to Memphis SOLO Chromatic

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

2,3,4,4,-3,4,3,-2b,-2,-2b,2,3,4,4,6,5,4,4,4,-3,4,-3,3,-2b,-2,-2b,2,2,-
2,3,3,3,-2,-2,-2,2,3,4,3,2

Lyrics


Goin to Catch A Train to Memphis SOLO

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

2,-2b -3hsb,-3hsb,-3fsb,-3hsb,-2b,2,2,-2,-3b,-3b,
5,4,-3b,-3b,-3b,-3fsb,-3b,-3fsb, -2b, 2, 2,
-2hsb,-2hsb,-2hsb, -2hsb,-2fsb,-2fsb,2,-2,-3fsb,
-2b,2

Lyrics


Basic train riff

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

This is a basic riff. Start out slow and and work your way up to
speed.

-23 23 -12 23 -23 23 -12 23…..

Just have fun and improvise.

Here is the Whistle

-34 -34b
Just have fun.

Lyrics


Back Back Train (in G)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

6 6 (5) (5)b-4 (5)(5)b 6 6 (5)b4 (5) (5)b
4 (5) (5)b 6 6(5)b 4(5)4
-4 (5) (5)b 66 (5)b-

Lyrics


Back Back Train (Harmonica Solo)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

3 = blow hole 3. –3 = bend hole 3. You don’t necessarily have to
bend,
the required notes, just play really strained if you know what i
mean.
(–4) = make wha wha sound with bend 4.

3, –3, 4, (–4, –4), 4, 3, –3, 4, 4
3, –3, 4, (–4, –4), 4, –3, 3, 3
3, –3, 4, (–4, –4), 4
3, –3, 4, (–4, –4), 4
3, –3, 4, (–4, –4), 4, 3, (4…)

Lyrics


Trills, Rolls and Trains

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

What’s a trill?

Trills, Rolls and TrainsIt’s when you alternate (move back and forth) rapidly between two adjacent holes. Trills can be achieved by puckering or tongue blocking. I find puckering best for control, but remember seeing an interview with James Cotton in which he cites Little Walter’s tone when playing tongue-blocked trills as totally ground breaking.

Technically trills can be achieved between two adjacent holes anywhere on the harp; across draw or blow reeds respectively – but not really between a draw and a blow note. Most often trills are played across draw holes 3-4 or 4-5; this produces that signature effect on the harp everyone loves.

It can and is used elsewhere though. On one version of ‘Walter’s Boogie’, Walter Horton extends down to a trill across blow holes 1-2. On other blues tracks players trill across blow holes 8-9 at the top end of the harp – sometimes moving into a blow bend across both holes and back to a straight blow.

The ability to bend into, and during, trills is something else you’ll need to master, as it lends an extra dimension to the finished effect. It’s something you’ll hear used on no end of harp tracks. Visit our Glissando and Portamento page for further information.

Whichever technique you adopt, the lateral movement is very slight. You are passing the air-flow back and forth across a bridge dividing two adjacent holes to create a trill or ‘quivering’ sound. The finished effect is a classic harp sound that appears in countless films and on numerous recordings. When you’ve refined it, it will become a central piece of your toolkit. Treasure it and don’t over use it!

Standard trills
The lateral movement necessary to achieve a trill is often referred to as a roll. This normally comes from moving your harp and hand grip laterally as you play using puckering or tongue blocking technique. Perhaps this should be called a ham roll.

Head rolls
A trill can also be achieved by rolling or shaking your head from side to side while puckering or tongue blocking. This is a head roll. It looks great on stage or in front of a mirror, but doesn’t promote accurate playing in my opinion. And it’ll give you a headache if used too vigorously!

Tongue Roll
Finally you can try a tongue roll – sometimes referred to as a U block. It is an unusual technique and something I am new to, but it is a valid technique nonetheless. Place the end of your tongue just under the bottom cover plate or just below the mouthpiece of your harp, with the target hole above. Push your tongue slightly forward and relax the sides so they are pushed in, and supported, by the inside of your cheeks. Now draw (or blow) your target hole. You should produce a clean note and feel air cooling the surface of your tongue.

Pull from the back of your throat and move your tongue laterally to transfer control into the adjacent target hole. At the moment I find I move my jaw and tongue when it comes to the trill. Perhaps with practice it will get easier. Mick Kinsella has tongue roll tracks in his excellent beginner’s blues module – Blues Harp From ScratchTrills, Rolls and Trains (ISBN 0-7119-4706-6). Sadly however, he doesn’t really explain how it works. I hope the above helps.

How to do it – the Harp Surgery way
First hold the harp as you would normally, but in one hand only. Your mouth should be right round the harp – no numbers showing – and the knuckle of your index finger should be nudging right into your philtrum. Dig into the harp and take control!

Now let the harp do the work. By this I mean avoiding head rolls at this stage – you can experiment with them later. Instead, try to develop muscle memory in your forearms and wrists while controlling the harp from an accurate, even and balanced sideways movement of your hand grip. Work the bridge between the two target holes.

Start your trill from, and end on, the lower note preferably. It sounds better musically as it lends itself to resolution. Weight each note evenly, keeping your delivery symmetrical. Listen to yourself and decide whether you are emphasising one side or the other. If you are, slow down and regain your balance. Control and balance are everything. Ensure you give both sides of the trill equal measure. Snatch it one way or the other and you have an ‘asymmetrical’ twitch rather than a balanced trill.

At all cost avoid the ‘toothbrush’ trill. This involves holding one end of the harp and shuttling or jerking it rapidly in front of your lips – like you’re brushing your teeth. My inebriated aunt can do this and it’s just not pleasant. Yes she still has her own teeth. Did Lee Brilleaux really do that? Well at Harp Surgery we don’t care – he always declared he wasn’t a harp player anyway; but look what he (and the Feelgoods) did for kicking the arse back into British and world music… I digress.

Now start your trill evenly and slowly. Pick up the tempo but keep control. Take it to top speed and then slow right down again, emulating the decay of a bouncing basketball. Doesn’t it feel far more complete? And no need to reach for the Colgate!

When to do it
9 Below Zero’s take of Rocket 88 shows it can be used as much or as little as you like – across the right chords. Alternatively it’s just an effect and quickly becomes boring or predictable. Better to judge it musically and play over the right chords or at the optimum point of a phrase. Mick Kinsella’s Southern Jive takes you round the chords beautifully, with optimum use of trills. Incidentally, he takes you around the chords on all his tunes – with and without bends. I really recommend his Blues Harp From ScratchTrills, Rolls and Trains book for beginners as it promotes best musical practice and avoids nasty comfort zones (one or two typos in the tab Mick, but hey…).

Further reading

Using Your Head (Or Your Hands)

Lyrics


Cole Porter

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) was an American composer and songwriter. Many of his songs became standards noted for their witty, urbane lyrics, and many of his scores found success on Broadway and in film.

Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, Porter defied his grandfather’s wishes and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn to musical theatre. After a slow start, he began to achieve success in the 1920s, and by the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage. Unlike many successful Broadway composers, Porter wrote the lyrics as well as the music for his songs. After a serious horseback riding accident in 1937, Porter was left disabled and in constant pain, but he continued to work. His shows of the early 1940s did not contain the lasting hits of his best work of the 1920s and 1930s, but in 1948 he made a triumphant comeback with his most successful musical, Kiss Me, Kate. It won the first Tony Award for Best Musical.

Porter’s other musicals include Fifty Million Frenchmen, DuBarry Was a Lady, Anything Goes, Can-Can and Silk Stockings. His numerous hit songs include “Night and Day”, “Begin the Beguine”, “I Get a Kick Out of You”, “Well, Did You Evah!”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “You’re the Top”. He also composed scores for films from the 1930s to the 1950s, including Born to Dance (1936), which featured the song “You’d Be So Easy to Love”; Rosalie (1937), which featured “In the Still of the Night”; High Society (1956), which included “True Love”; and Les Girls (1957).

[toc]

Life and career

Early years

Porter was born in Peru, Indiana, the only surviving child of a wealthy family. His father, Samuel Fenwick Porter, was a druggist by trade. His mother, Kate, was the indulged daughter of James Omar “J. O.” Cole, “the richest man in Indiana”, a coal and timber speculator who dominated the family.   J. O. Cole built the couple a house on his Peru-area property, known as Westleigh Farms. After high school, Porter returned to his childhood home only for occasional visits.

Porter’s strong-willed mother doted on him and began his musical training at an early age. He learned the violin at age six, the piano at eight, and wrote his first operetta (with help from his mother) at ten. She falsified his recorded birth year, changing it from 1891 to 1893 to make him appear more precocious. His father, a shy and unassertive man, played a lesser role in Porter’s upbringing, although as an amateur poet, he may have influenced his son’s gifts for rhyme and meter. Porter’s father was also a talented singer and pianist, but the father-son relationship was not close.

J. O. Cole wanted his grandson to become a lawyer, and with that in mind, sent him to Worcester Academy in Massachusetts in 1905. Porter brought an upright piano with him to school and found that music, and his ability to entertain, made it easy for him to make friends. Porter did well in school and rarely came home to visit. He became class valedictorian and was rewarded by his grandfather with a tour of France, Switzerland and Germany. Entering Yale College in 1909, Porter majored in English, minored in music, and also studied French. He was a member of Scroll and Key and Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and contributed to campus humor magazine The Yale Record. He was an early member of the Whiffenpoofs a cappella singing group and participated in several other music clubs; in his senior year, he was elected president of the Yale Glee Club and was its principal soloist.

Porter wrote 300 songs while at Yale,[ including student songs such as the football fight songs “Bulldog”  and “Bingo Eli Yale” (aka “Bingo, That’s The Lingo!”) that are still played at Yale. During college, Porter became acquainted with New York City’s vibrant nightlife, taking the train there for dinner, theater, and nights on the town with his classmates, before returning to New Haven, Connecticut, early in the morning. He also wrote musical comedy scores for his fraternity, the Yale Dramatic Association, and as a student at Harvard – Cora (1911), And the Villain Still Pursued Her (1912), The Pot of Gold (1912), The Kaleidoscope (1913) and Paranoia (1914) – which helped prepare him for a career as a Broadway and Hollywood composer and lyricist. After graduating from Yale, Porter enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1913. He soon felt that he was not destined to be a lawyer, and, at the suggestion of the dean of the law school, switched to Harvard’s music department, where he studied harmony and counterpoint with Pietro Yon. His mother did not object to this move, but it was kept secret from J. O. Cole.

In 1915, Porter’s first song on Broadway, “Esmeralda”, appeared in the revue Hands Up. The quick success was immediately followed by failure: his first Broadway production, in 1916, See America First, a “patriotic comic opera” modeled on Gilbert and Sullivan, with a book by T. Lawrason Riggs, was a flop, closing after two weeks. Porter spent the next year in New York City before going overseas during World War I.

Paris and marriage

In 1917, when the United States entered World War I, Porter moved to Paris to work with the Duryea Relief organization. Some writers have been skeptical about Porter’s claim to have served in the French Foreign Legion, but the Legion lists Porter as one of its soldiers and displays his portrait at its museum in Aubagne. By some accounts, he served in North Africa and was transferred to the French Officers School at Fontainebleau, teaching gunnery to American soldiers. An obituary notice in The New York Times stated that, while in the Legion, “he had a specially constructed portable piano made for him so that he could carry it on his back and entertain the troops in their bivouacs.” Another account, given by Porter, is that he joined the recruiting department of the American Aviation Headquarters, but, according to his biographer Stephen Citron, there is no record of his joining this or any other branch of the forces.

Porter maintained a luxury apartment in Paris, where he entertained lavishly. His parties were extravagant and scandalous, with “much gay and bisexual activity, Italian nobility, cross-dressing, international musicians and a large surplus of recreational drugs”. In 1918, he met Linda Lee Thomas, a rich, Louisville, Kentucky-born divorcée eight years his senior. She was beautiful and well-connected socially; the couple shared mutual interests, including a love of travel, and she became Porter’s confidante and companion. The couple married the following year. She was in no doubt about Porter’s homosexuality, but it was mutually advantageous for them to marry. For Linda, it offered continued social status and a partner who was the antithesis of her abusive first husband. For Porter, it brought a respectable heterosexual front in an era when homosexuality was not publicly acknowledged. They were, moreover, genuinely devoted to each other and remained married from December 19, 1919, until her death in 1954. Linda remained protective of her social position and, believing that classical music might be a more prestigious outlet than Broadway for her husband’s talents, tried to use her connections to find him suitable teachers, including Igor Stravinsky, but was unsuccessful. Finally, Porter enrolled at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, where he studied orchestration and counterpoint with Vincent d’Indy. Meanwhile, Porter’s first big hit was the song “Old-Fashioned Garden” from the revue Hitchy-Koo in 1919. In 1920, he contributed the music of several songs to the musical A Night Out.

Marriage did not diminish Porter’s taste for extravagant luxury. The Porter home on the rue Monsieur near Les Invalides was a palatial house with platinum wallpaper and chairs upholstered in zebra skin. In 1923, Porter came into an inheritance from his grandfather, and the Porters began living in rented palaces in Venice. He once hired the entire Ballets Russes to entertain his guests, and for a party at Ca’ Rezzonico, which he rented for $4,000 a month ($60,000 in current value), he hired 50 gondoliers to act as footmen and had a troupe of tightrope walkers perform in a blaze of lights. In the midst of this extravagant lifestyle, Porter continued to write songs with his wife’s encouragement.

Porter received few commissions for songs in the years immediately after his marriage. He had the occasional number interpolated into other writers’ revues in Britain and the U.S. For a C. B. Cochran show in 1921, he had two successes with the comedy numbers “The Blue Boy Blues” and “Olga, Come Back to the Volga”. In 1923, in collaboration with Gerald Murphy, he composed a short ballet, originally titled Landed and then Within the Quota, satirically depicting the adventures of an immigrant to America who becomes a film star. The work, written for the Ballets suédois, lasts about 16 minutes. It was orchestrated by Charles Koechlin and shared the same opening night as Milhaud’s La création du monde. Porter’s work was one of the earliest symphonic jazz-based compositions, predating George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue by four months, and was well received by both French and American reviewers after its premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in October 1923.

After a successful New York performance the following month, the Ballets suédois toured the work in the U.S., performing it 69 times. A year later the company disbanded, and the score was lost until it was reconstructed from Porter’s and Koechlin’s manuscripts between 1966 and 1990, with help from Milhaud and others. Porter had less success with his work on The Greenwich Village Follies (1924). He wrote most of the original score, but his songs were gradually dropped during the Broadway run, and by the time of the post-Broadway tour in 1925, all his numbers had been deleted. Frustrated by the public response to most of his work, Porter nearly gave up songwriting as a career, although he continued to compose songs for friends and perform at private parties.

Broadway and West End success

At the age of 36, Porter reintroduced himself to Broadway in 1928 with the musical Paris, his first hit. It was commissioned by E. Ray Goetz at the instigation of Goetz’s wife and the show’s star, Irène Bordoni. She had wanted Rodgers and Hart to write the songs, but they were unavailable, and Porter’s agent persuaded Goetz to hire Porter instead. In August 1928, Porter’s work on the show was interrupted by the death of his father. He hurried back to Indiana to comfort his mother before returning to work. The songs for the show included “Let’s Misbehave” and one of his best-known list songs, “Let’s Do It”, which was introduced by Bordoni and Arthur Margetson. The show opened on Broadway on October 8, 1928. The Porters did not attend the first night because Porter was in Paris supervising another show for which he had been commissioned, La Revue, at a nightclub. This was also a success, and, in Citron’s phrase, Porter was finally “accepted into the upper echelon of Broadway songwriters”. Cochran now wanted more from Porter than isolated extra songs; he planned a West End extravaganza similar to Ziegfeld’s shows, with a Porter score and a large international cast led by Jessie Matthews, Sonnie Hale and Tilly Losch. The revue, Wake Up and Dream, ran for 263 performances in London, after which Cochran transferred it to New York in 1929. On Broadway, business was badly affected by the 1929 Wall Street crash, and the production ran for only 136 performances. From Porter’s point of view, it was nonetheless a success, as his song “What Is This Thing Called Love?” became immensely popular.

Porter’s new fame brought him offers from Hollywood, but because his score for Paramount’s The Battle of Paris was undistinguished, and its star, Gertrude Lawrence, was miscast, the film was not a success. Citron expresses the view that Porter was not interested in cinema and “noticeably wrote down for the movies.” Still on a Gallic theme, Porter’s last Broadway show of the 1920s was Fifty Million Frenchmen (1929), for which he wrote 28 numbers, including “You Do Something to Me”, “You’ve Got That Thing” and “The Tale of the Oyster”. The show received mixed notices. One critic wrote, “the lyrics alone are enough to drive anyone but P. G. Wodehouse into retirement”, but others dismissed the songs as “pleasant” and “not an outstanding hit song in the show”. As it was a lavish and expensive production, nothing less than full houses would suffice, and after only three weeks, the producers announced that they would close it. Irving Berlin, who admired and championed Porter, took out a paid press advertisement calling the show “The best musical comedy I’ve heard in years. … One of the best collections of song numbers I have ever listened to”. This saved the show, which ran for 254 performances, considered a successful run at the time.

1930s

Ray Goetz, producer of Paris and Fifty Million Frenchmen, the success of which had kept him solvent when other producers were bankrupted by the post-crash slump in Broadway business, invited Porter to write a musical show about the other city that he knew and loved: New York. Goetz offered the team with whom Porter had last worked: Herbert Fields writing the book and Porter’s old friend Monty Woolley directing. The New Yorkers (1930) acquired instant notoriety for including a song about a streetwalker, “Love for Sale”. Originally performed by Kathryn Crawford in a street setting, critical disapproval led Goetz to reassign the number to Elisabeth Welch in a nightclub scene. The lyric was considered too explicit for radio at the time, though it was recorded and aired as an instrumental and rapidly became a standard. Porter often referred to it as his favorite of his songs. The New Yorkers also included the hit “I Happen to Like New York”.

Next came Fred Astaire’s last stage show, Gay Divorce (1932). It featured a hit that became Porter’s best-known song, “Night and Day”. Despite mixed press (some critics were reluctant to accept Astaire without his previous partner, his sister Adele), the show ran for a profitable 248 performances, and the rights to the film, retitled The Gay Divorcee, were sold to RKO Pictures.[n 10] Porter followed this with a West End show for Gertrude Lawrence, Nymph Errant (1933), presented by Cochran at the Adelphi Theatre, where it ran for 154 performances. Among the hit songs Porter composed for the show were “Experiment” and “The Physician” for Lawrence, and “Solomon” for Elisabeth Welch.

In 1934, producer Vinton Freedley came up with a new approach to producing musicals. Instead of commissioning book, music and lyrics and then casting the show, Freedley sought to create an ideal musical with stars and writers all engaged from the outset. The stars he wanted were Ethel Merman, William Gaxton and comedian Victor Moore. He planned a story about a shipwreck and a desert island, and for the book he turned to P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton. For the songs, he decided on Porter. By telling each of these that he had already signed the others, Freedley gathered his ideal team together.[n 11] A drastic last-minute rewrite was necessitated by a major shipping accident that dominated the news and made Bolton and Wodehouse’s book seem tasteless. Nevertheless, the show, Anything Goes, was an immediate hit. Porter wrote what many consider his greatest score of this period. The New Yorker magazine’s review said, “Mr. Porter is in class by himself”, and Porter subsequently called it one of his two perfect shows, along with the later Kiss Me, Kate. Its songs include “I Get a Kick Out of You”, “All Through the Night”, “You’re the Top” (one of his best-known list songs), and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow”, as well as the title number. The show ran for 420 performances in New York (a particularly long run in the 1930s) and 261 in London. Porter, despite his lessons in orchestration from d’Indy, did not orchestrate his musicals. Anything Goes was orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett and Hans Spialek. Now at the height of his success, Porter was able to enjoy the opening night of his musicals; he made grand entrances and sat in front, apparently relishing the show as much as any audience member. Russel Crouse commented “Cole’s opening-night behaviour is as indecent as that of a bridegroom who has a good time at his own wedding.”

Anything Goes was the first of five Porter shows featuring Merman. He loved her loud, brassy voice and wrote many numbers that displayed her strengths. Jubilee (1935), written with Moss Hart while on a cruise around the world, was not a major hit, running for only 169 performances, but it featured two songs that have since become standards, “Begin the Beguine” and “Just One of Those Things”. Red, Hot and Blue (1936), featuring Merman, Jimmy Durante and Bob Hope, ran for 183 performances and introduced “It’s De-Lovely”, “Down in the Depths (on the Ninetieth Floor)”, and “Ridin’ High”. The relative failure of these shows convinced Porter that his songs did not appeal to a broad enough audience. In an interview, he said “Sophisticated allusions are good for about six weeks … more fun, but only for myself and about eighteen other people, all of whom are first-nighters anyway. Polished, urbane and adult playwriting in the musical field is strictly a creative luxury.”

Porter also wrote for Hollywood in the mid-1930s. His scores include those for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films Born to Dance (1936), with James Stewart, featuring “You’d Be So Easy to Love” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, and Rosalie (1937), featuring “In the Still of the Night”. He wrote the score of the short film Paree, Paree, in 1935, using some of the songs from Fifty Million Frenchmen. Porter also composed the cowboy song “Don’t Fence Me In” for Adios, Argentina, an unproduced movie, in 1934, but it did not become a hit until Roy Rogers sang it in the 1944 film Hollywood Canteen. Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, and other artists also popularized it in the 1940s. The Porters moved to Hollywood in December 1935, but Porter’s wife did not like the movie environment, and Porter’s homosexual peccadillos, formerly very discreet, became less so; she retreated to their Paris house. When his film assignment on Rosalie was finished in 1937, Porter hastened to Paris to make peace with Linda, but she remained cool. After a walking tour of Europe with his friends, Porter returned to New York in October 1937 without her. They were soon reunited by an accident Porter suffered.

On October 24, 1937, Porter was riding with Countess Edith di Zoppola and Duke Fulco di Verdura at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, New York, when his horse rolled on him and crushed his legs, leaving him substantially crippled and in constant pain for the rest of his life. Though doctors told Porter’s wife and mother that his right leg would have to be amputated, and possibly the left one as well, he refused to have the procedure. Linda rushed from Paris to be with him, and supported him in his refusal of amputation. He remained in the hospital for seven months before being allowed to go home to his apartment at the Waldorf Towers. He resumed work as soon as he could, finding it took his mind off his perpetual pain.

Porter’s first show after his accident was not a success. You Never Know (1938), starring Clifton Webb, Lupe Vélez and Libby Holman, ran for only 78 performances. The score included the songs “From Alpha to Omega” and “At Long Last Love”.[78] He returned to success with Leave It to Me! (1938); the show introduced Mary Martin, singing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, and other numbers included “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love” and “From Now On”. Porter’s last show of the 1930s was DuBarry Was a Lady (1939), a particularly risqué show starring Merman and Bert Lahr. After a pre-Broadway tour, during which it ran into trouble with Boston censors, it achieved 408 performances, beginning at the 46th Street Theatre. The score included “But in the Morning, No” (which was banned from the airwaves), “Do I Love You?”, “Well, Did You Evah!”, “Katie Went to Haiti” and another of Porter’s up-tempo list songs, “Friendship”. At the end of 1939, Porter contributed six songs to the film Broadway Melody of 1940 for Fred Astaire, George Murphy and Eleanor Powell.

Meanwhile, as political unrest increased in Europe, Porter’s wife closed their Paris house in 1939, and the next year bought a country home in the Berkshire mountains, near Williamstown, Massachusetts, which she decorated with elegant furnishings from their Paris home. Porter spent time in Hollywood, New York and Williamstown.

1940s and postwar

Panama Hattie (1940) was Porter’s longest-running hit so far, running in New York for 501 performances despite the absence of any enduring Porter songs. It starred Merman, Arthur Treacher and Betty Hutton. Let’s Face It! (1941), starring Danny Kaye, had an even better run, with 547 performances in New York.[87] This, too, lacked any numbers that became standards, and Porter always counted it among his lesser efforts.[88] Something for the Boys (1943), starring Merman, ran for 422 performances, and Mexican Hayride (1944), starring Bobby Clark, with June Havoc, ran for 481 performances. These shows, too, are short of Porter standards. The critics did not pull their punches, complaining about the lack of hit tunes and the generally low standard of the scores. After two flops, Seven Lively Arts (1944) (which featured the standard “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”) and Around the World (1946), many thought that Porter’s best period was over.

Between Broadway musicals, Porter continued to write for Hollywood. His film scores of this period were You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) with Astaire and Rita Hayworth, Something to Shout About (1943) with Don Ameche, Janet Blair and William Gaxton, and Mississippi Belle (1943–44), which was abandoned before filming began. He also cooperated in the making of the film Night and Day (1946), a largely fictional biography of Porter, with Cary Grant implausibly cast in the lead. The critics scoffed, but the film was a huge success, chiefly because of the wealth of vintage Porter numbers in it. The biopic’s success contrasted starkly with the failure of Vincente Minnelli’s film The Pirate (1948), with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, in which five new Porter songs received little attention.

From this low spot, Porter made a conspicuous comeback in 1948 with Kiss Me, Kate. It was by far his most successful show, running for 1,077 performances in New York and 400 in London. The production won the Tony Award for Best Musical (the first Tony awarded in that category), and Porter won for best composer and lyricist. The score includes “Another Op’nin’, Another Show”, “Wunderbar”, “So In Love”, “We Open in Venice”, “Tom, Dick or Harry”, “I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua”, “Too Darn Hot”, “Always True to You (in My Fashion)”, and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”.

Porter began the 1950s with Out of This World (1950), which had some good numbers but too much camp and vulgarity, and was not greatly successful. His next show, Can-Can (1952), featuring “C’est Magnifique” and “It’s All Right with Me”, was another hit, running for 892 performances. Porter’s last original Broadway production, Silk Stockings (1955), featuring “All of You”, was also successful, with a run of 477 performances. Porter wrote two more film scores and music for a television special before ending his Hollywood career. The film High Society (1956), starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly, included Porter’s last major hit song “True Love”. It was adapted as a stage musical of the same name. Porter also wrote numbers for the film Les Girls (1957), which starred Gene Kelly. His final score was for the CBS television special Aladdin (1958).

Last years

Porter’s mother died in 1952, and his wife died of emphysema in 1954. By 1958, Porter’s injuries caused a series of ulcers on his right leg. After 34 operations, it had to be amputated and replaced with an artificial limb. His friend Noël Coward visited him in the hospital and wrote in his diary, “The lines of ceaseless pain have been wiped from his face…I am convinced that his whole life will cheer up and that his work will profit accordingly.” In fact, Porter never wrote another song after the amputation and spent the remaining six years of his life in relative seclusion, seeing only intimate friends. He continued to live in the Waldorf Towers in New York in his memorabilia-filled apartment. On weekends, he often visited an estate in the Berkshires, and he stayed in California during the summers.

Porter died of kidney failure on October 15, 1964, in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 73. He is interred in Mount Hope Cemetery in his native Peru, Indiana, between his wife and father.

Tributes and legacy

Many artists have recorded Porter songs, and dozens have released entire albums of his songs. In 1956, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald released Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook. In 1972, she released another collection, Ella Loves Cole. Among the many album collections of Porter songs are the following: Oscar Peterson Plays the Cole Porter Songbook (1959); Anita O’Day Swings Cole Porter with Billy May (1959); All Through the Night: Julie London Sings the Choicest of Cole Porter (1965); Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Cole Porter (1982); and Anything Goes: Stephane Grappelli & Yo-Yo Ma Play (Mostly) Cole Porter (1989). In 1990 Dionne Warwick released Dionne Sings Cole Porter. In that same year, Red Hot + Blue was released as a benefit CD for AIDS research and featured 20 Cole Porter songs recorded by artists such as U2 and Annie Lennox.

Additional recording collections include Frank Sinatra Sings the Select Cole Porter (1996) and John Barrowman Swings Cole Porter (2004); Barrowman played “Jack” in the 2004 film De-Lovely. Other singers who have paid tribute to Porter include the Swedish pop music group Gyllene Tider, which recorded a song called “Flickan i en Cole Porter-sång” (“That Girl from the Cole Porter Song”) in 1982. He is referenced in the merengue song “The Call of the Wild” by David Byrne on his 1989 album Rei Momo. He also is mentioned in the song “Tonite It Shows” by Mercury Rev on their 1998 album Deserter’s Songs.

In 1965, Judy Garland performed a medley of Porter’s songs at the 37th Academy Awards shortly after Porter’s death. In 1980, Porter’s music was used for the score of Happy New Year, based on the Philip Barry play Holiday. The cast of The Carol Burnett Show paid a tribute to Porter in a humorous sketch in their CBS television series. You’re the Top: The Cole Porter Story, a video of archival material and interviews, and Red, Hot and Blue, a video of artists performing Porter’s music, were released in 1990 to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Porter’s birth. In contrast to the highly embellished 1946 screen biography Night and Day, Porter’s life was chronicled more realistically in De-Lovely, a 2004 Irwin Winkler film starring Kevin Kline as Porter and Ashley Judd as Linda. The soundtrack to De-Lovely includes Porter songs sung by Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall and Natalie Cole, among others. Porter also appears as a character in Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris.

Many events commemorated the centenary of Porter’s birth, including the halftime show of the 1991 Orange Bowl. Joel Grey and a large cast of singers, dancers and marching bands, performed a tribute to Porter in Miami, Florida during the 57th King Orange Jamboree parade, whose theme was “Anything Goes”. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performed a program of Cole Porter music at the Circle Theatre in Indianapolis, which also featured clips of Porter’s Hollywood films. “A Gala Birthday Concert” was held at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, with more than 40 entertainers and friends paying tribute to Porter’s long career in theater and film. In addition, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp honoring Porter’s birth. The Indiana University Opera performed Porter’s musical, Jubilee, in Bloomington, Indiana.

In May 2007, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was dedicated to Cole Porter. In December 2010, his portrait was added to the Hoosier Heritage Gallery in the office of the Governor of Indiana. Numerous symphony orchestras have paid tribute to Porter in the years since his death including Seattle Symphony Orchestra, with Marvin Hamlisch as conductor and the Boston Pops, both in 2011. In 2012, Marvin Hamlisch, Michael Feinstein, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra honored Porter with a concert that included his familiar classics. The Cole Porter Festival is held every year in June in his hometown of Peru, Indiana, to foster music and art appreciation. Costumed singers in the cabaret-style Cole Porter Room at the Indiana Historical Society’s Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in Indianapolis take requests from visitors and perform Porter’s hit songs. After Porter’s death, his 1908 Steinway grand piano, which he had used when composing since the mid-1930s, was displayed and played in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel until 2017. As of late 2018, it was being rebuilt, after which it will reside, temporarily, at the New-York Historical Society. Porter is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame  and Great American Songbook Hall of Fame, which recognized his “musically complex [songs] with witty, urbane lyrics”. In 2014, Porter was honored with a plaque on the Legacy Walk in Chicago, which celebrates LGBT achievers.

Lyrics


Louis Armstrong

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

Louis Daniel Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971), nicknamed “Satchmo“, “Satch“, and “Pops“, was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist, and actor who was among the most influential figures in jazz. His career spanned five decades, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and different eras in the history of jazz. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

Armstrong was born and raised in New Orleans. Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an inventive trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. Around 1922, he followed his mentor, Joe “King” Oliver, to Chicago to play in the Creole Jazz Band. In Chicago, he spent time with other popular jazz musicians, reconnecting with his friend Bix Beiderbecke and spending time with Hoagy Carmichael and Lil Hardin. He earned a reputation at “cutting contests”, and relocated to New York in order to join Fletcher Henderson’s band.

With his instantly recognizable rich, gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer and skillful improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song. He was also skilled at scat singing. Armstrong is renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice as well as his trumpet playing. By the end of Armstrong’s career in the 1960s, his influence had spread to popular music in general. Armstrong was one of the first popular African-American entertainers to “cross over” to wide popularity with white (and international) audiences. He rarely publicly politicized his race, to the dismay of fellow African Americans, but took a well-publicized stand for desegregation in the Little Rock crisis. He was able to access the upper echelons of American society at a time when this was difficult for black men.

Armstrong appeared in films such as High Society (1956) alongside Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra, and Hello, Dolly! (1969) starring Barbra Streisand. He received many accolades including three Grammy Award nominations and a win for his vocal performance of Hello, Dolly! in 1964.

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Early life

Armstrong often stated that he was born on July 4, 1900. Although he died in 1971, it was not until the mid-1980s that his true birth date, August 4, 1901, was discovered by Tad Jones by researching baptismal records. At least three other biographies treat the July 4 birth date as a myth.

Armstrong was born in New Orleans to Mary Albert and William Armstrong. Albert was from Boutte, Louisiana, and gave birth at home when she was about sixteen. William Armstrong abandoned the family shortly after. About two years later, he had a daughter, Beatrice “Mama Lucy” Armstrong, who was raised by Albert.

Louis Armstrong was raised by his grandmother until the age of five when he was returned to his mother. He spent his youth in poverty in a rough neighborhood known as The Battlefield. At six he attended the Fisk School for Boys, a school that accepted black children in the racially segregated system of New Orleans. He did odd jobs for the Karnoffskys, a family of Lithuanian Jews. While selling coal in Storyville, he heard spasm bands, groups that played music out of household objects. He heard the early sounds of jazz from bands that played in brothels and dance halls such as Pete Lala’s, where King Oliver performed.

The Karnoffskys  took him in and treated him like family. Knowing he lived without a father, they fed and nurtured him. In his memoir Louis Armstrong + the Jewish Family in New Orleans, La., the Year of 1907, he described his discovery that this family was also subject to discrimination by “other white folks” who felt that they were better than Jews: “I was only seven years old but I could easily see the ungodly treatment that the white folks were handing the poor Jewish family whom I worked for.” He wore a Star of David pendant for the rest of his life and wrote about what he learned from them: “how to live—real life and determination.” His first musical performance may have been at the side of the Karnoffsky’s junk wagon. To distinguish them from other hawkers, he tried playing a tin horn to attract customers. Morris Karnoffsky gave Armstrong an advance toward the purchase of a cornet from a pawn shop.

When Armstrong was eleven, he dropped out of school. His mother moved into a one-room house on Perdido Street with him, Lucy, and her common-law husband, Tom Lee, next door to her brother Ike and his two sons. Armstrong joined a quartet of boys who sang in the streets for money. He also got into trouble. Cornetist Bunk Johnson said he taught the eleven-year-old to play by ear at Dago Tony’s honky tonk. (In his later years Armstrong credited King Oliver.) He said about his youth, “Every time I close my eyes blowing that trumpet of mine—I look right in the heart of good old New Orleans … It has given me something to live for.”

Borrowing his stepfather’s gun without permission, he fired a blank into the air and was arrested on December 31, 1912. He spent the night at New Orleans Juvenile Court, then was sentenced the next day to detention at the Colored Waif’s Home. Life at the home was spartan. Mattresses were absent; meals were often little more than bread and molasses. Captain Joseph Jones ran the home like a military camp and used corporal punishment.

Armstrong developed his cornet skills by playing in the band. Peter Davis, who frequently appeared at the home at the request of Captain Jones, became Armstrong’s first teacher and chose him as bandleader. With this band, the thirteen year-old Armstrong attracted the attention of Kid Ory.

On June 14, 1914, Armstrong was released into the custody of his father and his new stepmother, Gertrude. He lived in this household with two stepbrothers for several months. After Gertrude gave birth to a daughter, Armstrong’s father never welcomed him, so he returned to his mother, Mary Albert. In her small home, he had to share a bed with his mother and sister. His mother still lived in The Battlefield, leaving him open to old temptations, but he sought work as a musician. He found a job at a dance hall owned by Henry Ponce, who had connections to organized crime. He met the six-foot tall drummer Black Benny, who became his guide and bodyguard. Around the age of fifteen, he pimped for a prostitute named Nootsy, but that relationship failed after she stabbed Armstrong in the shoulder and his mother nearly choked her to death.

Career

Riverboat education

Armstrong played in brass bands and riverboats in New Orleans, first on an excursion boat in September 1918. He traveled with the band of Fate Marable, which toured on the steamboat Sidney with the Streckfus Steamers line up and down the Mississippi River. Marable was proud of his musical knowledge, and he insisted that Armstrong and other musicians in his band learn sight reading. Armstrong described his time with Marable as “going to the University”, since it gave him a wider experience working with written arrangements. He did return to New Orleans periodically.  In 1919, Oliver decided to go north and resigned his position in Kid Ory’s band; Armstrong replaced him. He also became second trumpet for the Tuxedo Brass Band.

Chicago and recording for Gennett

Throughout his riverboat experience, Armstrong’s musicianship began to mature and expand. At twenty, he could read music. He became one of the first jazz musicians to be featured on extended trumpet solos, injecting his own personality and style. He started singing in his performances. In 1922, he moved to Chicago at the invitation of King Oliver. With Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band he could make enough money to quit his day jobs. Although race relations were poor, Chicago was booming. The city had jobs for blacks making good wages at factories with some left over for entertainment.

Oliver’s band was among the most influential jazz bands in Chicago in the early 1920s. Armstrong lived luxuriously in his own apartment with his first private bath. Excited as he was to be in Chicago, he began his career-long pastime of writing letters to friends in New Orleans. Armstrong could blow two hundred high Cs in a row. As his reputation grew, he was challenged to cutting contests by other musicians.

His first studio recordings were with Oliver for Gennett Records on April 5–6, 1923. They endured several hours on the train to remote Richmond, Indiana, and the band was paid little. The quality of the performances was affected by lack of rehearsal, crude recording equipment, bad acoustics, and a cramped studio. In addition, Richmond was associated with the Ku Klux Klan.

Lil Hardin Armstrong urged him to seek more prominent billing and develop his style apart from the influence of Oliver. She encouraged him to play classical music in church concerts to broaden his skills. She prodded him into wearing more stylish attire to offset his girth. Her influence eventually undermined Armstrong’s relationship with his mentor, especially concerning his salary and additional money that Oliver held back from Armstrong and other band members. Armstrong’s mother, May Ann Albert, came to visit him in Chicago during the summer of 1923 after being told that Armstrong was “out of work, out of money, hungry, and sick”; Hardin located and decorated an apartment for her to live in while she stayed.

In the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra

Armstrong and Oliver parted amicably in 1924. Shortly afterward, Armstrong received an invitation to go to New York City to play with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, the top African-American band of the time. He switched to the trumpet to blend in better with the other musicians in his section. His influence on Henderson’s tenor sax soloist, Coleman Hawkins, can be judged by listening to the records made by the band during this period.

Armstrong adapted to the tightly controlled style of Henderson, playing trumpet and experimenting with the trombone. The other members were affected by Armstrong’s emotional style. His act included singing and telling tales of New Orleans characters, especially preachers. The Henderson Orchestra played in prominent venues for patrons only, including the Roseland Ballroom, with arrangements by Don Redman. Duke Ellington’s orchestra went to Roseland to catch Armstrong’s performances.

During this time, Armstrong recorded with Clarence Williams (a friend from New Orleans), the Williams Blue Five, Sidney Bechet, and blues singers Alberta Hunter, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith.

The Hot Five

In 1925, Armstrong returned to Chicago largely at the insistence of Lil, who wanted to expand his career and his income. In publicity, much to his chagrin, she billed him as “the World’s Greatest Trumpet Player”. For a time he was a member of the Lil Hardin Armstrong Band and working for his wife. He formed Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five and recorded the hits “Potato Head Blues” and “Muggles”. The word “muggles” was a slang term for marijuana, something he used often during his life.

The Hot Five included Kid Ory (trombone), Johnny Dodds (clarinet), Johnny St. Cyr (banjo), Lil Armstrong on piano, and usually no drummer. Over a twelve-month period starting in November 1925, this quintet produced twenty-four records.  Armstrong’s band leading style was easygoing, as St. Cyr noted, “One felt so relaxed working with him, and he was very broad-minded … always did his best to feature each individual.”[45] Among the most notable of the Hot Five and Seven records were “Cornet Chop Suey”, “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”, “Hotter Than that” and “Potato Head Blues,” all featuring highly creative solos by Armstrong. According to Thomas Brothers, recordings, such as “Struttin’ with Some Barbeque,” were so superb, “planned with density and variety, bluesyness, and showiness,” that they were probably showcased at the Sunset Café. His recordings soon after with pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines (most famously their 1928 “Weather Bird” duet) and Armstrong’s trumpet introduction to and solo in “West End Blues” remain some of the most famous and influential improvisations in jazz history. Armstrong was now free to develop his personal style as he wished, which included a heavy dose of effervescent jive, such as “Whip That Thing, Miss Lil” and “Mr. Johnny Dodds, Aw, Do That Clarinet, Boy!”

Armstrong also played with Erskine Tate’s Little Symphony, which played mostly at the Vendome Theatre. They furnished music for silent movies and live shows, including jazz versions of classical music, such as “Madame Butterfly”, which gave Armstrong experience with longer forms of music and with hosting before a large audience. He began to scat sing (improvised vocal jazz using nonsensical words) and was among the first to record it, on the Hot Five recording “Heebie Jeebies” in 1926. The recording was so popular that the group became the most famous jazz band in the United States, even though they had not performed live to any great extent. Young musicians across the country, black or white, were turned on by Armstrong’s new type of jazz.

After separating from Lil, Armstrong started to play at the Sunset Café for Al Capone’s associate Joe Glaser in the Carroll Dickerson Orchestra, with Earl Hines on piano, which was renamed Louis Armstrong and his Stompers, though Hines was the music director and Glaser managed the orchestra. Hines and Armstrong became fast friends and successful collaborators. It was at the Sunset Café that Armstrong accompanied singer Adelaide Hall. It was during Hall’s tenure at the venue that she experimented, developed and expanded her use and art of Scat singing with Armstrong’s guidance and encouragement.

In the first half of 1927, Armstrong assembled his Hot Seven group, which added drummer Al “Baby” Dodds and tuba player, Pete Briggs, while preserving most of his original Hot Five lineup. John Thomas replaced Kid Ory on trombone. Later that year he organized a series of new Hot Five sessions which resulted in nine more records. In the last half of 1928, he started recording with a new group: Zutty Singleton (drums), Earl Hines (piano), Jimmy Strong (clarinet), Fred Robinson (trombone), and Mancy Carr (banjo).

Emerging as a vocalist

Armstrong returned to New York in 1929, where he played in the pit orchestra for the musical Hot Chocolates, an all-black revue written by Andy Razaf and pianist Fats Waller. He also made a cameo appearance as a vocalist, regularly stealing the show with his rendition of “Ain’t Misbehavin’”. His version of the song became his biggest selling record to date.

Armstrong started to work at Connie’s Inn in Harlem, chief rival to the Cotton Club, a venue for elaborately staged floor shows, and a front for gangster Dutch Schultz. Armstrong also had considerable success with vocal recordings, including versions of famous songs composed by his old friend Hoagy Carmichael. His 1930s recordings took full advantage of the new RCA ribbon microphone, introduced in 1931, which imparted a characteristic warmth to vocals and immediately became an intrinsic part of the ‘crooning’ sound of artists like Bing Crosby. Armstrong’s famous interpretation of Carmichael’s “Stardust” became one of the most successful versions of this song ever recorded, showcasing Armstrong’s unique vocal sound and style and his innovative approach to singing songs that had already become standards.

Armstrong’s radical re-working of Sidney Arodin and Carmichael’s “Lazy River” (recorded in 1931) encapsulated many features of his groundbreaking approach to melody and phrasing. The song begins with a brief trumpet solo, then the main melody is introduced by sobbing horns, memorably punctuated by Armstrong’s growling interjections at the end of each bar: “Yeah! …”Uh-huh”…”Sure”…”Way down, way down.” In the first verse, he ignores the notated melody entirely and sings as if playing a trumpet solo, pitching most of the first line on a single note and using strongly syncopated phrasing. In the second stanza he breaks into an almost fully improvised melody, which then evolves into a classic passage of Armstrong “scat singing”.

As with his trumpet playing, Armstrong’s vocal innovations served as a foundation stone for the art of jazz vocal interpretation. The uniquely gravelly coloration of his voice became a musical archetype that was much imitated and endlessly impersonated. His scat singing style was enriched by his matchless experience as a trumpet soloist. His resonant, velvety lower-register tone and bubbling cadences on sides such as “Lazy River” exerted a huge influence on younger white singers such as Bing Crosby.

Working during hard times

The Great Depression of the early 1930s was especially hard on the jazz scene. The Cotton Club closed in 1936 after a long downward spiral, and many musicians stopped playing altogether as club dates evaporated. Bix Beiderbecke died and Fletcher Henderson’s band broke up. King Oliver made a few records but otherwise struggled. Sidney Bechet became a tailor, later moving to Paris and Kid Ory returned to New Orleans and raised chickens.

Armstrong moved to Los Angeles in 1930 to seek new opportunities. He played at the New Cotton Club in Los Angeles with Lionel Hampton on drums. The band drew the Hollywood crowd, which could still afford a lavish night life, while radio broadcasts from the club connected with younger audiences at home. Bing Crosby and many other celebrities were regulars at the club. In 1931, Armstrong appeared in his first movie, Ex-Flame and was also convicted of marijuana possession but received a suspended sentence. He returned to Chicago in late 1931 and played in bands more in the Guy Lombardo vein and he recorded more standards. When the mob insisted that he get out of town,[  Armstrong visited New Orleans, had a hero’s welcome, and saw old friends. He sponsored a local baseball team known as Armstrong’s Secret Nine and had a cigar named after him. But soon he was on the road again. After a tour across the country shadowed by the mob, he fled to Europe.

After returning to the United States, he undertook several exhausting tours. His agent Johnny Collins’s erratic behavior and his own spending ways left Armstrong short of cash. Breach of contract violations plagued him. He hired Joe Glaser as his new manager, a tough mob-connected wheeler-dealer, who began to straighten out his legal mess, his mob troubles, and his debts. Armstrong also began to experience problems with his fingers and lips, which were aggravated by his unorthodox playing style. As a result, he branched out, developing his vocal style and making his first theatrical appearances. He appeared in movies again, including Crosby’s 1936 hit Pennies from Heaven. In 1937, Armstrong substituted for Rudy Vallee on the CBS radio network and became the first African American to host a sponsored, national broadcast.

The Harlem Renaissance

During the 1920s, Louis Armstrong brought a huge impact during the Harlem Renaissance within the Jazz world. The music he created was an incredible part of his life during the Harlem Renaissance. His impact touched many, including a well-known man during that time named Langston Hughes. The admiration he had for Armstrong and acknowledging him as one of the most recognized musicians during the era. Within Hughes writings, he created many books which held the central idea of jazz and recognition to Armstrong as one of the most important person to be part of the new found love of their culture. The sound of jazz, along with many other musicians such as Armstrong, helped shape Hughes as a writer. Just as the musicians, Hughes wrote his words with jazz.

Armstrong changed the jazz during the Harlem Renaissance. Being known as “the world’s greatest trumpet player” during this time he continued his legacy and decided to continue a focus on his own vocal career. The popularity he gained brought together many black and white audiences to watch him perform.

Reviving jazz with the All Stars

After spending many years on the road, Armstrong settled permanently in Queens, New York in 1943 in contentment with his fourth wife, Lucille. Although subject to the vicissitudes of Tin Pan Alley and the gangster-ridden music business, as well as anti-black prejudice, he continued to develop his playing. He recorded Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair” for Okeh Records.

During the next 30 years, Armstrong played more than 300 performances a year. Bookings for big bands tapered off during the 1940s due to changes in public tastes: ballrooms closed, and there was competition from television and from other types of music becoming more popular than big band music. It became impossible under such circumstances to finance a 16-piece touring band.

During the 1940s, a widespread revival of interest in the traditional jazz of the 1920s made it possible for Armstrong to consider a return to the small-group musical style of his youth. Armstrong was featured as a guest artist with Lionel Hampton’s band at the famed second Cavalcade of Jazz concert held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles which was produced by Leon Hefflin Sr. on October 12, 1946. Following a highly successful small-group jazz concert at New York Town Hall on May 17, 1947, featuring Armstrong with trombonist/singer Jack Teagarden, Armstrong’s manager, Joe Glaser dissolved the Armstrong big band on August 13, 1947, and established a six-piece traditional jazz group featuring Armstrong with (initially) Teagarden, Earl Hines and other top swing and Dixieland musicians, most of whom were previously leaders of big bands. The new group was announced at the opening of Billy Berg’s Supper Club.

This group was called Louis Armstrong and His All Stars and included at various times Earl “Fatha” Hines, Barney Bigard, Edmond Hall, Jack Teagarden, Trummy Young, Arvell Shaw, Billy Kyle, Marty Napoleon, Big Sid “Buddy” Catlett, Cozy Cole, Tyree Glenn, Barrett Deems, Mort Herbert, Joe Darensbourg, Eddie Shu, Joe Muranyi and percussionist Danny Barcelona. During this period, Armstrong made many recordings and appeared in over thirty films. He was the first jazz musician to appear on the cover of Time magazine, on February 21, 1949. Louis Armstrong and his All Stars were featured at the ninth Cavalcade of Jazz concert also at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles produced by Leon Hefflin Sr. held on June 7, 1953 along with Shorty Rogers, Roy Brown, Don Tosti and His Mexican Jazzmen, Earl Bostic, and Nat “King” Cole.

A jazz ambassador

By the 1950s, Armstrong was a widely beloved American icon and cultural ambassador who commanded an international fanbase. However, a growing generation gap became apparent between him and the young jazz musicians who emerged in the postwar era such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Sonny Rollins. The postwar generation regarded their music as abstract art and considered Armstrong’s vaudevillian style, half-musician and half-stage entertainer, outmoded and Uncle Tomism, “… he seemed a link to minstrelsy that we were ashamed of.” He called bebop “Chinese music”. While touring Australia, 1954, he was asked if he could play bebop. “Bebop?” he husked. “I just play music. Guys who invent terms like that are walking the streets with their instruments under their arms.”

February 28, 1948, Suzy Delair sang the French song C’est si bon at the Hotel Negresco during the first Nice Jazz Festival. Louis Armstrong was present and loved the song. June 26, 1950, he recorded the American version of the song (English lyrics by Jerry Seelen) in New York City with Sy Oliver and his Orchestra. When it was released, the disc was a worldwide success and the song was then performed by the greatest international singers.

In the 1960s, he toured Ghana and Nigeria.

After finishing his contract with Decca Records, he became a freelance artist and recorded for other labels.[71][72] He continued an intense international touring schedule, but in 1959 he suffered a heart attack in Italy and had to rest.

In 1964, after over two years without setting foot in a studio, he recorded his biggest-selling record, “Hello, Dolly!”, a song by Jerry Herman, originally sung by Carol Channing. Armstrong’s version remained on the Hot 100 for 22 weeks, longer than any other record produced that year, and went to No. 1 making him, at 62 years, 9 months and 5 days, the oldest person ever to accomplish that feat. In the process, he dislodged the Beatles from the No. 1 position they had occupied for 14 consecutive weeks with three different songs.
External audio
audio icon Louis Daniel Armstrong talks with Studs Terkel on WFMT; 1962/6/24, 33:43, Studs Terkel Radio Archive

Armstrong kept touring well into his 60s, even visiting part of the communist bloc in 1965. He also toured Africa, Europe, and Asia under the sponsorship of the US State Department with great success, earning the nickname “Ambassador Satch” and inspiring Dave Brubeck to compose his jazz musical The Real Ambassadors. By 1968, he was approaching 70 and his health began to give out. He suffered heart and kidney ailments that forced him to stop touring. He did not perform publicly at all in 1969 and spent most of the year recuperating at home. Meanwhile, his longtime manager Joe Glaser died. By the summer of 1970, his doctors pronounced him fit enough to resume live performances. He embarked on another world tour, but a heart attack forced him to take a break for two months.

Personal life

Pronunciation of name

The Louis Armstrong House Museum website states:

Judging from home recorded tapes now in our Museum Collections, Louis pronounced his own name as “Lewis”. On his 1964 record “Hello, Dolly”, he sings, “This is Lewis, Dolly” but in 1933 he made a record called “Laughin’ Louie”. Many broadcast announcers, fans, and acquaintances called him “Louie” and in a videotaped interview from 1983 Lucille Armstrong calls her late husband “Louie” as well. Musicians and close friends usually called him “Pops”.

In a memoir written for Robert Goffin between 1943 and 1944, Armstrong states, “All white folks call me Louie,” perhaps suggesting that he himself did not or, on the other hand, that no whites addressed him by one of his nicknames such as Pops. That said, Armstrong was registered as “Lewie” for the 1920 U.S. Census. On various live records he’s called “Louie” on stage, such as on the 1952 “Can Anyone Explain?” from the live album In Scandinavia vol.1. The same applies to his 1952 studio recording of the song “Chloe”, where the choir in the background sings “Louie … Louie”, with Armstrong responding “What was that? Somebody called my name?” “Lewie” is the French pronunciation of “Louis” and is commonly used in Louisiana. In 1970, Louis and Lucille appeared on The Mike Douglas Show to demonstrate the preparation red beans and rice, a dish so enjoyed by Armstrong that he signed correspondence “Red Beans and Ricely Yours”. In the video with Armstrong standing at her side, Lucille prepares his favorite red beans recipe and refers to “Louie” several times.

Family

Armstrong was performing at the Brick House in Gretna, Louisiana, when he met Daisy Parker, a local prostitute. He started the affair as a client. He returned to Gretna on several occasions to visit her. He found the courage to look for her home to see her away from work. It was on this occasion that he found out that she had a common-law husband. Not long after this fiasco, Parker traveled to Armstrong’s home on Perdido Street.  They checked into Kid Green’s hotel that evening. On the next day, March 19, 1919, Armstrong and Parker married at City Hall. They adopted a three-year-old boy, Clarence, whose mother, Armstrong’s cousin Flora, had died soon after giving birth. Clarence Armstrong was mentally disabled as the result of a head injury at an early age, and Armstrong spent the rest of his life taking care of him. His marriage to Parker ended when they separated in 1923.

On February 4, 1924, he married Lil Hardin Armstrong, King Oliver’s pianist. She had divorced her first husband a few years earlier. His second wife helped him develop his career, but they separated in 1931 and divorced in 1938. Armstrong then married Alpha Smith.  His relationship with Alpha, however, began while he was playing at the Vendome during the 1920s and continued long after. His marriage to his third wife lasted four years, and they divorced in 1942. Louis then married Lucille Wilson in October 1942, a singer at the Cotton Club, to whom he was married until his death in 1971.

Armstrong’s marriages never produced any offspring. However, in December 2012, 57-year-old Sharon Preston-Folta claimed to be his daughter from a 1950s affair between Armstrong and Lucille “Sweets” Preston, a dancer at the Cotton Club. In a 1955 letter to his manager, Joe Glaser, Armstrong affirmed his belief that Preston’s newborn baby was his daughter, and ordered Glaser to pay a monthly allowance of $400 (US$4,772 in 2019 dollars ) to mother and child.

Personality

Armstrong was noted for his colorful and charismatic personality. His autobiography vexed some biographers and historians, as he had a habit of telling tales, particularly of his early childhood when he was less scrutinized, and his embellishments of his history often lack consistency.

In addition to being an entertainer, Armstrong was a leading personality of the day. He was beloved by an American public that gave even the greatest African American performers little access beyond their public celebrity, and he was able to live a private life of access and privilege afforded to few other African Americans during that era.

He generally remained politically neutral, which at times alienated him from members of the black community who looked to him to use his prominence with white America to become more of an outspoken figure during the civil rights movement. However, he did criticize President Eisenhower for not acting forcefully enough on civil rights.

Lip problems

The trumpet is a notoriously hard instrument on the lips, and Armstrong suffered from lip damage over much of his life due to his aggressive style of playing and preference for narrow mouthpieces that would stay in place easier, but which tended to dig into the soft flesh of his inner lip. During his 1930s European tour, he suffered an ulceration so severe that he had to stop playing entirely for a year. Eventually he took to using salves and creams on his lips and also cutting off scar tissue with a razor blade. By the 1950s, he was an official spokesman for Ansatz-Creme Lip Salve.

During a backstage meeting with trombonist Marshall Brown in 1959, Armstrong received the suggestion that he should go to a doctor and receive proper treatment for his lips instead of relying on home remedies, but he did not get around to doing it until the final years of his life, by which point his health was failing and doctors considered surgery too risky.

Nicknames

The nicknames “Satchmo” and “Satch” are short for “Satchelmouth”. The nickname has many possible origins. The most common tale that biographers tell is the story of Armstrong as a young boy in New Orleans dancing for pennies. He scooped the coins off the street and stuck them into his mouth to prevent bigger children from stealing them. Someone dubbed him “satchel mouth” for his mouth acting as a satchel. Another tale is that because of his large mouth, he was nicknamed “satchel mouth” which was shortened to “Satchmo”.

Early on he was also known as “Dipper”, short for “Dippermouth”, a reference to the piece Dippermouth Blues and something of a riff on his unusual embouchure.

The nickname “Pops” came from Armstrong’s own tendency to forget people’s names and simply call them “Pops” instead. The nickname was turned on Armstrong himself. It was used as the title of a 2010 biography of Armstrong by Terry Teachout.

After a competition at the Savoy, he was crowned and nicknamed “King Menelik,” after the Emperor of Ethiopia, for slaying “ofay jazz demons.”

Race

Armstrong was largely accepted into white society, both on stage and off, a rarity for a black person at the time. Some musicians criticized Armstrong for playing in front of segregated audiences, and for not taking a strong enough stand in the American civil rights movement.  When he did speak out, it made national news, including his criticism of President Eisenhower, calling him “two-faced” and “gutless” because of his inaction during the conflict over school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. As a protest, Armstrong canceled a planned tour of the Soviet Union on behalf of the State Department saying: “The way they’re treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell” and that he could not represent his government abroad when it was in conflict with its own people. The FBI kept a file on Armstrong for his outspokenness about integration.

Religion

When asked about his religion, Armstrong answered that he was raised a Baptist, always wore a Star of David, and was friends with the pope. He wore the Star of David in honor of the Karnoffsky family, who took him in as a child and lent him money to buy his first cornet. He was baptized a Catholic in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in New Orleans, and he met Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI.

Personal habits

Armstrong was concerned with his health. He used laxatives to control his weight, a practice he advocated both to acquaintances and in the diet plans he published under the title Lose Weight the Satchmo Way. Armstrong’s laxative of preference in his younger days was Pluto Water, but when he discovered the herbal remedy Swiss Kriss, he became an enthusiastic convert, extolling its virtues to anyone who would listen and passing out packets to everyone he encountered, including members of the British Royal Family. (Armstrong also appeared in humorous, albeit risqué, cards that he had printed to send out to friends; the cards bore a picture of him sitting on a toilet—as viewed through a keyhole—with the slogan “Satch says, ‘Leave it all behind ya!’”) The cards have sometimes been incorrectly described as ads for Swiss Kriss. In a live recording of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Velma Middleton, he changes the lyric from “Put another record on while I pour” to “Take some Swiss Kriss while I pour.” His laxative use began as a child when his mother would collect dandelions and peppergrass around the railroad tracks to give to her children for their health.

Armstrong was a heavy marijuana smoker for much of his life and spent nine days in jail in 1930 after being arrested for drug possession outside a club. He described marijuana as “a thousand times better than whiskey”.

The concern with his health and weight was balanced by his love of food, reflected in such songs as “Cheesecake”, “Cornet Chop Suey”,  though “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” was written about a fine-looking companion, not about food. He kept a strong connection throughout his life to the cooking of New Orleans, always signing his letters, “Red beans and ricely yours …”

A fan of Major League Baseball, he founded a team in New Orleans that was known as Raggedy Nine and transformed the team into his Armstrong’s “Secret Nine Baseball”.

Writings

Armstrong’s gregariousness extended to writing. On the road, he wrote constantly, sharing favorite themes of his life with correspondents around the world. He avidly typed or wrote on whatever stationery was at hand, recording instant takes on music, sex, food, childhood memories, his heavy “medicinal” marijuana use—and even his bowel movements, which he gleefully described.

Social organizations

Louis Armstrong was not, as is often claimed, a Freemason. Although he is usually listed as being a member of Montgomery Lodge No. 18 (Prince Hall) in New York, no such lodge has ever existed. However, Armstrong stated in his autobiography that he was a member of the Knights of Pythias, which although real is not a Masonic group.

Music

Horn playing and early jazz

In his early years, Armstrong was best known for his virtuosity with the cornet and trumpet. Along with his “clarinet-like figurations and high notes in his cornet solos”, he was also known for his “intense rhythmic ‘swing’, a complex conception involving … accented upbeats, upbeat to downbeat slurring, and complementary relations among rhythmic patterns.”  The most lauded recordings on which Armstrong plays trumpet include the Hot Five and Hot Seven sessions, as well as those of the Red Onion Jazz Babies. Armstrong’s improvisations, while unconventionally sophisticated for that era, were also subtle and highly melodic. The solo that Armstrong plays during the song “Potato Head Blues” has long been considered his best solo of that series.

Prior to Armstrong, most collective ensemble playing in jazz, along with its occasional solos, simply varied the melodies of the songs. Armstrong was virtually the first to create significant variations based on the chord harmonies of the songs instead of merely on the melodies. This opened a rich field for creation and improvisation, and significantly changed the music into a soloist’s art form.

Often, Armstrong re-composed pop-tunes he played, simply with variations that made them more compelling to jazz listeners of the era. At the same time, however, his oeuvre includes many original melodies, creative leaps, and relaxed or driving rhythms. Armstrong’s playing technique, honed by constant practice, extended the range, tone and capabilities of the trumpet. In his records, Armstrong almost single-handedly created the role of the jazz soloist, taking what had been essentially a collective folk music and turning it into an art form with tremendous possibilities for individual expression.

Armstrong was one of the first artists to use recordings of his performances to improve himself. Armstrong was an avid audiophile. He had a large collection of recordings, including reel-to-reel tapes, which he took on the road with him in a trunk during his later career. He enjoyed listening to his own recordings, and comparing his performances musically. In the den of his home, he had the latest audio equipment and would sometimes rehearse and record along with his older recordings or the radio.

Vocal popularity

As his music progressed and popularity grew, his singing also became very important. Armstrong was not the first to record scat singing, but he was masterful at it and helped popularize it with the first recording on which he scatted, “Heebie Jeebies”. At a recording session for Okeh Records, when the sheet music supposedly fell on the floor and the music began before he could pick up the pages, Armstrong simply started singing nonsense syllables while Okeh president E.A. Fearn, who was at the session, kept telling him to continue. Armstrong did, thinking the track would be discarded, but that was the version that was pressed to disc, sold, and became an unexpected hit. Although the story was thought to be apocryphal, Armstrong himself confirmed it in at least one interview as well as in his memoirs. On a later recording, Armstrong also sang out “I done forgot the words” in the middle of recording “I’m A Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas”.

Such records were hits and scat singing became a major part of his performances. Long before this, however, Armstrong was playing around with his vocals, shortening and lengthening phrases, interjecting improvisations, using his voice as creatively as his trumpet. Armstrong once told Cab Calloway that his scat style was derived “from the Jews rockin”, an Orthodox Jewish style of chanting during prayer.

Composing

Armstrong was a gifted composer who wrote more than fifty songs, some of which have become jazz standards (e.g. “Gully Low Blues”, “Potato Head Blues” and “Swing That Music”).

Colleagues and followers

During his long career he played and sang with some of the most important instrumentalists and vocalists of the time; among them were Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Earl Hines, Jimmie Rodgers, Bessie Smith and perhaps most famously Ella Fitzgerald. His influence upon Crosby is particularly important with regard to the subsequent development of popular music: Crosby admired and copied Armstrong, as is evident on many of his early recordings, notably “Just One More Chance” (1931). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz describes Crosby’s debt to Armstrong in precise detail, although it does not acknowledge Armstrong by name:

Crosby … was important in introducing into the mainstream of popular singing an Afro-American concept of song as a lyrical extension of speech … His techniques—easing the weight of the breath on the vocal cords, passing into a head voice at a low register, using forward production to aid distinct enunciation, singing on consonants (a practice of black singers), and making discreet use of appoggiaturas, mordents, and slurs to emphasize the text—were emulated by nearly all later popular singers.

Armstrong recorded two albums with Ella Fitzgerald: Ella and Louis, and Ella and Louis Again for Verve Records, with the sessions featuring the backing musicianship of the Oscar Peterson Trio and drummers Buddy Rich (on the first album), and Louie Bellson (on the second). Norman Granz then had the vision for Ella and Louis to record Porgy and Bess.

His recordings for Columbia Records, Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy (1954) and Satch Plays Fats (all Fats Waller tunes) (1955) were both being considered masterpieces, as well as moderately well selling. In 1961 the All Stars participated in two albums—The Great Summit and The Great Reunion (now together as a single disc) with Duke Ellington. The albums feature many of Ellington’s most famous compositions (as well as two exclusive cuts) with Duke sitting in on piano. His participation in Dave Brubeck’s high-concept jazz musical The Real Ambassadors (1963) was critically acclaimed, and features “Summer Song”, one of Armstrong’s most popular vocal efforts.

In 1964, his recording of the song “Hello Dolly” went to number one. An album of the same title was quickly created around the song, and also shot to number one (knocking The Beatles off the top of the chart). The album sold very well for the rest of the year, quickly going “Gold” (500,000). His performance of “Hello Dolly” won for best male pop vocal performance at the 1964 Grammy Awards.

Hits and later career

Armstrong had nineteen “Top Ten” records including “Stardust”, “What a Wonderful World”, “When The Saints Go Marching In”, “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, “You Rascal You”, and “Stompin’ at the Savoy”. “We Have All the Time in the World” was featured on the soundtrack of the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and enjoyed renewed popularity in the UK in 1994 when it featured on a Guinness advertisement. It reached number 3 in the charts on being re-released.

In 1964, Armstrong knocked The Beatles off the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Hello, Dolly!”, which gave the 63-year-old performer a U.S. record as the oldest artist to have a number one song. His 1964 song “Bout Time” was later featured in the film Bewitched.

Armstrong performed in Italy at the 1968 Sanremo Music Festival where he sang “Mi Va di Cantare” alongside his friend, the Eritrean-born Italian singer Lara Saint Paul. In February 1968, he also appeared with Lara Saint Paul on the Italian RAI television channel where he performed “Grassa e Bella”, a track he sang in Italian for the Italian market and C.D.I. label.

In 1968, Armstrong scored one last popular hit in the United Kingdom with “What a Wonderful World”, which topped the British charts for a month. Armstrong appeared on the October 28, 1970, Johnny Cash Show, where he sang Nat King Cole’s hit “Ramblin’ Rose” and joined Cash to re-create his performance backing Jimmie Rodgers on “Blue Yodel No. 9”.

Stylistic range

Armstrong enjoyed many types of music, from blues to the arrangements of Guy Lombardo, to Latin American folksongs, to classical symphonies and opera. He incorporated influences from all these sources into his performances, sometimes to the bewilderment of fans who wanted him to stay in convenient narrow categories. Armstrong was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence. Some of his solos from the 1950s, such as the hard rocking version of “St. Louis Blues” from the WC Handy album, show that the influence went in both directions.

Film, television, and radio

Armstrong appeared in more than a dozen Hollywood films, usually playing a bandleader or musician. His most familiar role was as the bandleader cum narrator in the 1956 musical High Society starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Celeste Holm. He appears throughout the film, also sings the title song as well as performs a duet with Crosby, “Now You Has Jazz”.[121] In 1947, he played himself in the movie New Orleans opposite Billie Holiday, which chronicled the demise of the Storyville district and the ensuing exodus of musicians from New Orleans to Chicago. In the 1959 film The Five Pennies he played himself, sang, and played several classic numbers. With Danny Kaye he performed a duet of “When the Saints Go Marching In” during which Kaye impersonated Armstrong. He had a part in the film alongside James Stewart in The Glenn Miller Story.

Armstrong was the first African American to host a nationally broadcast radio show in the 1930s. In 1969, he had a cameo role in Gene Kelly’s film version of Hello, Dolly! as the bandleader Louis. He sang the title song with actress Barbra Streisand. His solo recording of “Hello, Dolly!” is one of his most recognizable performances. He was heard on such radio programs as The Story of Swing (1937) and This Is Jazz (1947), and he also made television appearances, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, including appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, a self-described Armstrong admirer, asserted that a 1952 Louis Armstrong concert at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris played a significant role in inspiring him to create the fictional creatures called Cronopios that are the subject of a number of Cortázar’s short stories. Cortázar once called Armstrong himself “Grandísimo Cronopio” (The Great Cronopio).

There is a pivotal scene in Stardust Memories (1980) in which Woody Allen is overwhelmed by a recording of Armstrong’s “Stardust” and experiences a nostalgic epiphany.

Death

Against his doctor’s advice, Armstrong played a two-week engagement in March 1971 at the Waldorf-Astoria’s Empire Room. At the end of it, he was hospitalized for a heart attack. He was released from the hospital in May, and quickly resumed practicing his trumpet playing. Still hoping to get back on the road, Armstrong died of a heart attack in his sleep on July 6, 1971, a month before his 70th birthday. He was residing in Corona, Queens, New York City, at the time of his death. He was interred in Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, in Queens, New York City. His honorary pallbearers included Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Earl Wilson, Alan King, Johnny Carson and David Frost. Peggy Lee sang The Lord’s Prayer at the services while Al Hibbler sang “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” and Fred Robbins, a long-time friend, gave the eulogy.

Awards and honors

Grammy Awards

Armstrong was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972 by the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.

Grammy Award
Year Category Title Genre Label Result
1964 Male Vocal Performance Hello, Dolly!” Pop Kapp Winner

Grammy Hall of Fame

Recordings of Armstrong were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least 25 years old, and that have “qualitative or historical significance”.

 

Grammy Hall of Fame
Year recorded Title Genre Label Year inducted Notes
1925 St. Louis Blues Jazz (Single) Columbia 1993 Bessie Smith with Louis Armstrong, cornet
1926 “Heebie Jeebies” Jazz (Single) OKeh 1999
1928 “West End Blues” Jazz (Single) OKeh 1974
1928 “Weather Bird” Jazz (Single) OKeh 2008 with Earl Hines
1929 “St. Louis Blues” Jazz (Single) OKeh 2008 with Red Allen
1930 “Blue Yodel No. 9
(Standing on the Corner)”
Country (Single) Victor 2007 Jimmie Rodgers (featuring Louis Armstrong)
1932 All of Me Jazz (Single) Columbia 2005
1938 When the Saints Go Marching In Blues (Single) Decca 2016
1955 Mack the Knife Jazz (Single) Columbia 1997
1958 Porgy and Bess Jazz (Album) Verve 2001 with Ella Fitzgerald
1964 Hello, Dolly! Pop (Single) Kapp 2001
1967 What a Wonderful World Jazz (Single) ABC 1999

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed Armstrong’s West End Blues on the list of 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll

 

Year recorded Title Label Group
1928 West End Blues Okeh Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five

Inductions and honors

In 1995, the U.S. Post Office issued a Louis Armstrong 32 cents commemorative postage stamp.

Year inducted Title Results Notes
1952 Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame
1960 Hollywood Walk of Fame Star at 7601 Hollywood Blvd.
1978 Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame
2004 Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame
at Jazz at Lincoln Center
1990 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Early influence
2007 Louisiana Music Hall of Fame
2007 Gennett Records Walk of Fame, Richmond, Indiana
2007 Long Island Music Hall of Fame

Film honors

In 1999 Armstrong was nominated for inclusion in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years … 100 Stars.

Legacy

The influence of Armstrong on the development of jazz is virtually immeasurable. His irrepressible personality both as a performer and as a public figure was so strong that to some it sometimes overshadowed his contributions as a musician and singer.

As a virtuoso trumpet player, Armstrong had a unique tone and an extraordinary talent for melodic improvisation. Through his playing, the trumpet emerged as a solo instrument in jazz and is used widely today. Additionally, jazz itself was transformed from a collectively improvised folk music to a soloist’s serious art form largely through his influence. He was a masterful accompanist and ensemble player in addition to his extraordinary skills as a soloist. With his innovations, he raised the bar musically for all who came after him.

Though Armstrong is widely recognized as a pioneer of scat singing, Ethel Waters precedes his scatting on record in the 1930s according to Gary Giddins and others. Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra are just two singers who were greatly indebted to him. Holiday said that she always wanted Bessie Smith’s ‘big’ sound and Armstrong’s feeling in her singing. Even special musicians like Duke Ellington have praised Armstrong through strong testimonials. Duke Ellington, DownBeat magazine in 1971, said, “If anybody was a master, it was Louis Armstrong. He was and will continue to be the embodiment of jazz.” In 1950, Bing Crosby, the most successful vocalist of the first half of the 20th century, said, “He is the beginning and the end of music in America.”

In the summer of 2001, in commemoration of the centennial of Armstrong’s birth, New Orleans’s main airport was renamed Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

In 2002, the Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings (1925–1928) were preserved in the United States National Recording Registry, a registry of recordings selected yearly by the National Recording Preservation Board for preservation in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

The US Open tennis tournament’s former main stadium was named Louis Armstrong Stadium in honor of Armstrong who had lived a few blocks from the site.

Congo Square was a common gathering place for African-Americans in New Orleans for dancing and performing music. The park where Congo Square is located was later renamed Louis Armstrong Park. Dedicated in April 1980, the park includes a 12-foot statue of Armstrong, trumpet in hand.

The house where Armstrong lived for almost 28 years was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977 and is now a museum. The Louis Armstrong House Museum, at 34-56 107th Street between 34th and 37th avenues in Corona, Queens, presents concerts and educational programs, operates as a historic house museum and makes materials in its archives of writings, books, recordings and memorabilia available to the public for research. The museum is operated by the Queens College, City University of New York, following the dictates of Lucille Armstrong’s will. The museum opened to the public on October 15, 2003. A new visitors center is planned.

Armstrong appeared at many New York area venues, including several extended engagements at Freedomland U.S.A. in The Bronx. His performances there are featured in the book, Freedomland U.S.A.: The Definitive History (Theme Park Press, 2019).

According to literary critic Harold Bloom, “The two great American contributions to the world’s art, in the end, are Walt Whitman and, after him, Armstrong and jazz … If I had to choose between the two, ultimately, I wouldn’t. I would say that the genius of this nation at its best is indeed Walt Whitman and Louis Armstrong.”

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Louis Armstrong among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.

 

Lyrics


Elvis Presley

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977), also known simply as Elvis, was an American singer, musician and actor. He is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century and is often referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll” or simply “the King”. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines during a transformative era in race relations, led him to great success—and initial controversy.

Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, with his family when he was 13 years old. His music career began there in 1954, recording at Sun Records with producer Sam Phillips, who wanted to bring the sound of African-American music to a wider audience. Presley, on rhythm acoustic guitar, and accompanied by lead guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, was a pioneer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues. In 1955, drummer D. J. Fontana joined to complete the lineup of Presley’s classic quartet and RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who would manage him for more than two decades. Presley’s first RCA single, “Heartbreak Hotel”, was released in January 1956 and became a number-one hit in the United States. With a series of successful network television appearances and chart-topping records, he became the leading figure of the newly popular sound of rock and roll.

In November 1956, Presley made his film debut in Love Me Tender. Drafted into military service in 1958, Presley relaunched his recording career two years later with some of his most commercially successful work. He held few concerts, however, and guided by Parker, proceeded to devote much of the 1960s to making Hollywood films and soundtrack albums, most of them critically derided. In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in the acclaimed television comeback special Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of highly profitable tours. In 1973, Presley gave the first concert by a solo artist to be broadcast around the world, Aloha from Hawaii. Years of prescription drug abuse severely compromised his health, and he died suddenly in 1977 at his Graceland estate at the age of 42.

With his rise from poverty to significant fame, Presley’s success seemed to epitomize the American Dream. He is the best-selling solo music artist of all time, and was commercially successful in many genres, including pop, country, R&B, adult contemporary, and gospel. He won three Grammy Awards, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame. Presley holds several records; the most RIAA certified gold and platinum albums, the most albums charted on the Billboard 200, and the most number-one albums by a solo artist on the UK Albums Chart and the most number-one singles by any act on the UK Singles Chart. In 2018, Presley was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Life and career

1935–1953: Early years

Childhood in Tupelo

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi to Vernon Elvis (April 10, 1916 – June 26, 1979) and Gladys Love (née Smith; April 25, 1912 – August 14, 1958) Presley in a two-room shotgun house that his father built for the occasion. Elvis’s identical twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, was delivered 35 minutes before him, stillborn. Presley became close to both parents and formed an especially close bond with his mother. The family attended an Assembly of God church, where he found his initial musical inspiration.

Presley’s father, Vernon, was of German[8] or Scottish origin.[9] Through his mother, Presley was Scots-Irish, with some French Norman.[10] His mother, Gladys, and the rest of the family, apparently believed that her great-great-grandmother, Morning Dove White, was Cherokee; this was confirmed by Elvis’s granddaughter Riley Keough in 2017. Elaine Dundy, in her biography, supports the belief – although one genealogy researcher has contested it on multiple grounds. Gladys was regarded by relatives and friends as the dominant member of the small family.

Vernon moved from one odd job to the next, evincing little ambition. The family often relied on help from neighbors and government food assistance. In 1938, they lost their home after Vernon was found guilty of altering a check written by his landowner and sometime-employer. He was jailed for eight months, while Gladys and Elvis moved in with relatives.

In September 1941, Presley entered first grade at East Tupelo Consolidated, where his teachers regarded him as “average”. He was encouraged to enter a singing contest after impressing his schoolteacher with a rendition of Red Foley’s country song “Old Shep” during morning prayers. The contest, held at the Mississippi–Alabama Fair and Dairy Show on October 3, 1945, was his first public performance. The ten-year-old Presley was dressed as a cowboy; he stood on a chair to reach the microphone and sang “Old Shep”. He recalled placing fifth. A few months later, Presley received his first guitar for his birthday; he had hoped for something else—by different accounts, either a bicycle or a rifle. Over the following year, he received basic guitar lessons from two of his uncles and the new pastor at the family’s church. Presley recalled, “I took the guitar, and I watched people, and I learned to play a little bit. But I would never sing in public. I was very shy about it.”

In September 1946, Presley entered a new school, Milam, for sixth grade; he was regarded as a loner. The following year, he began bringing his guitar to school on a daily basis. He played and sang during lunchtime, and was often teased as a “trashy” kid who played hillbilly music. By then, the family was living in a largely black neighborhood. Presley was a devotee of Mississippi Slim’s show on the Tupelo radio station WELO. He was described as “crazy about music” by Slim’s younger brother, who was one of Presley’s classmates and often took him into the station. Slim supplemented Presley’s guitar instruction by demonstrating chord techniques. When his protégé was twelve years old, Slim scheduled him for two on-air performances. Presley was overcome by stage fright the first time, but succeeded in performing the following week.
Teenage life in Memphis

In November 1948, the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. After residing for nearly a year in rooming houses, they were granted a two-bedroom apartment in the public housing complex known as the Lauderdale Courts. Enrolled at L. C. Humes High School, Presley received only a C in music in eighth grade. When his music teacher told him that he had no aptitude for singing, he brought in his guitar the next day and sang a recent hit, “Keep Them Cold Icy Fingers Off Me”, to prove otherwise. A classmate later recalled that the teacher “agreed that Elvis was right when he said that she didn’t appreciate his kind of singing”. He was usually too shy to perform openly, and was occasionally bullied by classmates who viewed him as a “mama’s boy”. In 1950, he began practicing guitar regularly under the tutelage of Lee Denson, a neighbor two and a half years his senior. They and three other boys—including two future rockabilly pioneers, brothers Dorsey and Johnny Burnette—formed a loose musical collective that played frequently around the Courts. That September, he began working as an usher at Loew’s State Theater. Other jobs followed: Precision Tool, Loew’s again, and MARL Metal Products.

During his junior year, Presley began to stand out more among his classmates, largely because of his appearance: he grew his sideburns and styled his hair with rose oil and Vaseline. In his free time, he would head down to Beale Street, the heart of Memphis’s thriving blues scene, and gaze longingly at the wild, flashy clothes in the windows of Lansky Brothers. By his senior year, he was wearing those clothes. Overcoming his reticence about performing outside the Lauderdale Courts, he competed in Humes’ Annual “Minstrel” show in April 1953. Singing and playing guitar, he opened with “Till I Waltz Again with You”, a recent hit for Teresa Brewer. Presley recalled that the performance did much for his reputation: “I wasn’t popular in school … I failed music—only thing I ever failed. And then they entered me in this talent show … when I came onstage I heard people kind of rumbling and whispering and so forth, ’cause nobody knew I even sang. It was amazing how popular I became in school after that.”

Presley, who received no formal music training and could not read music, studied and played by ear. He also frequented record stores that provided jukeboxes and listening booths to customers. He knew all of Hank Snow’s songs, and he loved records by other country singers such as Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Ted Daffan, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmie Davis, and Bob Wills.[38] The Southern gospel singer Jake Hess, one of his favorite performers, was a significant influence on his ballad-singing style. He was a regular audience member at the monthly All-Night Singings downtown, where many of the white gospel groups that performed reflected the influence of African-American spiritual music. He adored the music of black gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe.[38] Like some of his peers, he may have attended blues venues—of necessity, in the segregated South, only on nights designated for exclusively white audiences. He certainly listened to the regional radio stations, such as WDIA-AM, that played “race records”: spirituals, blues, and the modern, backbeat-heavy sound of rhythm and blues. Many of his future recordings were inspired by local African-American musicians such as Arthur Crudup and Rufus Thomas. B.B. King recalled that he had known Presley before he was popular when they both used to frequent Beale Street. By the time he graduated from high school in June 1953, Presley had already singled out music as his future.

1953–1956: First recordings

Sam Phillips and Sun Records

In August 1953, Presley checked into the offices of Sun Records. He aimed to pay for a few minutes of studio time to record a two-sided acetate disc: “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”. He later claimed that he intended the record as a birthday gift for his mother, or that he was merely interested in what he “sounded like”, although there was a much cheaper, amateur record-making service at a nearby general store. Biographer Peter Guralnick argued that he chose Sun in the hope of being discovered. Asked by receptionist Marion Keisker what kind of singer he was, Presley responded, “I sing all kinds.” When she pressed him on who he sounded like, he repeatedly answered, “I don’t sound like nobody.” After he recorded, Sun boss Sam Phillips asked Keisker to note down the young man’s name, which she did along with her own commentary: “Good ballad singer. Hold.”

In January 1954, Presley cut a second acetate at Sun Records—”I’ll Never Stand in Your Way” and “It Wouldn’t Be the Same Without You”—but again nothing came of it. Not long after, he failed an audition for a local vocal quartet, the Songfellows. He explained to his father, “They told me I couldn’t sing.” Songfellow Jim Hamill later claimed that he was turned down because he did not demonstrate an ear for harmony at the time. In April, Presley began working for the Crown Electric company as a truck driver.[ His friend Ronnie Smith, after playing a few local gigs with him, suggested he contact Eddie Bond, leader of Smith’s professional band, which had an opening for a vocalist. Bond rejected him after a tryout, advising Presley to stick to truck driving “because you’re never going to make it as a singer”.

Phillips, meanwhile, was always on the lookout for someone who could bring to a broader audience the sound of the black musicians on whom Sun focused. As Keisker reported, “Over and over I remember Sam saying, ‘If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.’” In June, he acquired a demo recording by Jimmy Sweeney of a ballad, “Without You”, that he thought might suit the teenage singer. Presley came by the studio but was unable to do it justice. Despite this, Phillips asked Presley to sing as many numbers as he knew. He was sufficiently affected by what he heard to invite two local musicians, guitarist Winfield “Scotty” Moore and upright bass player Bill Black, to work something up with Presley for a recording session.

The session held the evening of July 5, proved entirely unfruitful until late in the night. As they were about to abort and go home, Presley took his guitar and launched into a 1946 blues number, Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right”. Moore recalled, “All of a sudden, Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass, and he started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them. Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open … he stuck his head out and said, ‘What are you doing?’ And we said, ‘We don’t know.’ ‘Well, back up,’ he said, ‘try to find a place to start, and do it again.’” Phillips quickly began taping; this was the sound he had been looking for. Three days later, popular Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips played “That’s All Right” on his Red, Hot, and Blue show. Listeners began phoning in, eager to find out who the singer was. The interest was such that Phillips played the record repeatedly during the remaining two hours of his show. Interviewing Presley on-air, Phillips asked him what high school he attended to clarify his color for the many callers who had assumed that he was black. During the next few days, the trio recorded a bluegrass number, Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, again in a distinctive style and employing a jury rigged echo effect that Sam Phillips dubbed “slapback”. A single was pressed with “That’s All Right” on the A-side and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on the reverse.

 

Early live performances and RCA Victor contract

The trio played publicly for the first time on July 17 at the Bon Air club—Presley still sporting his child-size guitar. At the end of the month, they appeared at the Overton Park Shell, with Slim Whitman headlining. A combination of his strong response to rhythm and nervousness at playing before a large crowd led Presley to shake his legs as he performed: his wide-cut pants emphasized his movements, causing young women in the audience to start screaming.[63] Moore recalled, “During the instrumental parts, he would back off from the mike and be playing and shaking, and the crowd would just go wild”. Black, a natural showman, whooped and rode his bass, hitting double licks that Presley would later remember as “really a wild sound, like a jungle drum or something”. Soon after, Moore and Black left their old band, the Starlite Wranglers, to play with Presley regularly, and DJ/promoter Bob Neal became the trio’s manager. From August through October, they played frequently at the Eagle’s Nest club and returned to Sun Studio for more recording sessions, and Presley quickly grew more confident on stage. According to Moore, “His movement was a natural thing, but he was also very conscious of what got a reaction. He’d do something one time and then he would expand on it real quick.” Presley made what would be his only appearance on Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry stage on October 2; after a polite audience response, Opry manager Jim Denny told Phillips that his singer was “not bad” but did not suit the program.

Louisiana Hayride, radio commercial, and first television performances

In November 1954, Presley performed on Louisiana Hayride—the Opry’s chief, and more adventurous, rival. The Shreveport-based show was broadcast to 198 radio stations in 28 states. Presley had another attack of nerves during the first set, which drew a muted reaction. A more composed and energetic second set inspired an enthusiastic response. House drummer D. J. Fontana brought a new element, complementing Presley’s movements with accented beats that he had mastered playing in strip clubs. Soon after the show, the Hayride engaged Presley for a year’s worth of Saturday-night appearances. Trading in his old guitar for $8 (and seeing it promptly dispatched to the garbage), he purchased a Martin instrument for $175, and his trio began playing in new locales, including Houston, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas.

Many fledgling performers, like Minnie Pearl, Johnny Horton, and Johnny Cash, sang the praises of Louisiana Hayride sponsor, The Southern Maid Donut Flour Company (Texas), including Elvis Presley, who developed a lifelong love of doughnuts. Presley made his singular product endorsement commercial for the doughnut company, which was never released, recording a radio jingle, “in exchange for a box of hot glazed doughnuts.”

Elvis made his first television appearance on the KSLA-TV television broadcast of Louisiana Hayride. Soon after, he failed an audition for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts on the CBS television network. By early 1955, Presley’s regular Hayride appearances, constant touring, and well-received record releases had made him a regional star, from Tennessee to West Texas. In January, Neal signed a formal management contract with Presley and brought him to the attention of Colonel Tom Parker, whom he considered the best promoter in the music business. Parker—who claimed to be from West Virginia (he was actually Dutch)—had acquired an honorary colonel’s commission from country singer turned Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis. Having successfully managed top country star Eddy Arnold, Parker was working with the new number-one country singer, Hank Snow. Parker booked Presley on Snow’s February tour. When the tour reached Odessa, Texas, a 19-year-old Roy Orbison saw Presley for the first time: “His energy was incredible, his instinct was just amazing. … I just didn’t know what to make of it. There was just no reference point in the culture to compare it.” By August, Sun had released ten sides credited to “Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill”; on the latest recordings, the trio were joined by a drummer. Some of the songs, like “That’s All Right”, were in what one Memphis journalist described as the “R&B idiom of negro field jazz”; others, like “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, were “more in the country field”, “but there was a curious blending of the two different musics in both”. This blend of styles made it difficult for Presley’s music to find radio airplay. According to Neal, many country-music disc jockeys would not play it because he sounded too much like a black artist and none of the rhythm-and-blues stations would touch him because “he sounded too much like a hillbilly.” The blend came to be known as rockabilly. At the time, Presley was variously billed as “The King of Western Bop”, “The Hillbilly Cat”, and “The Memphis Flash”.

Presley renewed Neal’s management contract in August 1955, simultaneously appointing Parker as his special adviser. The group maintained an extensive touring schedule throughout the second half of the year. Neal recalled, “It was almost frightening, the reaction that came to Elvis from the teenaged boys. So many of them, through some sort of jealousy, would practically hate him. There were occasions in some towns in Texas when we’d have to be sure to have a police guard because somebody’d always try to take a crack at him. They’d get a gang and try to waylay him or something.” The trio became a quartet when Hayride drummer Fontana joined as a full member. In mid-October, they played a few shows in support of Bill Haley, whose “Rock Around the Clock” track had been a number-one hit the previous year. Haley observed that Presley had a natural feel for rhythm, and advised him to sing fewer ballads.

At the Country Disc Jockey Convention in early November, Presley was voted the year’s most promising male artist. Several record companies had by now shown interest in signing him. After three major labels made offers of up to $25,000, Parker and Phillips struck a deal with RCA Victor on November 21 to acquire Presley’s Sun contract for an unprecedented $40,000. Presley, at 20, was still a minor, so his father signed the contract.[86] Parker arranged with the owners of Hill & Range Publishing, Jean and Julian Aberbach, to create two entities, Elvis Presley Music and Gladys Music, to handle all the new material recorded by Presley. Songwriters were obliged to forgo one-third of their customary royalties in exchange for having him perform their compositions. By December, RCA had begun to heavily promote its new singer, and before month’s end had reissued many of his Sun recordings.

1956–1958: Commercial breakout and controversy

First national TV appearances and debut album

On January 10, 1956, Presley made his first recordings for RCA in Nashville. Extending Presley’s by-now customary backup of Moore, Black, Fontana, and Hayride pianist Floyd Cramer—who had been performing at live club dates with Presley—RCA enlisted guitarist Chet Atkins and three background singers, including Gordon Stoker of the popular Jordanaires quartet, to fill in the sound.[94] The session produced the moody, unusual “Heartbreak Hotel”, released as a single on January 27. Parker finally brought Presley to national television, booking him on CBS’s Stage Show for six appearances over two months. The program, produced in New York, was hosted on alternate weeks by big band leaders and brothers Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. After his first appearance, on January 28, Presley stayed in town to record at RCA’s New York studio. The sessions yielded eight songs, including a cover of Carl Perkins’ rockabilly anthem “Blue Suede Shoes”. In February, Presley’s “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”, a Sun recording initially released the previous August, reached the top of the Billboard country chart. Neal’s contract was terminated, and, on March 2, Parker became Presley’s manager.

RCA released Presley’s self-titled debut album on March 23. Joined by five previously unreleased Sun recordings, its seven recently recorded tracks were of a broad variety. There were two country songs and a bouncy pop tune. The others would centrally define the evolving sound of rock and roll: “Blue Suede Shoes”—”an improvement over Perkins’ in almost every way”, according to critic Robert Hilburn—and three R&B numbers that had been part of Presley’s stage repertoire for some time, covers of Little Richard, Ray Charles, and The Drifters. As described by Hilburn, these “were the most revealing of all. Unlike many white artists … who watered down the gritty edges of the original R&B versions of songs in the ’50s, Presley reshaped them. He not only injected the tunes with his own vocal character but also made guitar, not piano, the lead instrument in all three cases.” It became the first rock and roll album to top the Billboard chart, a position it held for 10 weeks. While Presley was not an innovative guitarist like Moore or contemporary African-American rockers Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, cultural historian Gilbert B. Rodman argued that the album’s cover image, “of Elvis having the time of his life on stage with a guitar in his hands played a crucial role in positioning the guitar … as the instrument that best captured the style and spirit of this new music.

Milton Berle Show and “Hound Dog”

On April 3, Presley made the first of two appearances on NBC’s Milton Berle Show. His performance, on the deck of the USS Hancock in San Diego, California, prompted cheers and screams from an audience of sailors and their dates. A few days later, a flight taking Presley and his band to Nashville for a recording session left all three badly shaken when an engine died and the plane almost went down over Arkansas. Twelve weeks after its original release, “Heartbreak Hotel” became Presley’s first number-one pop hit. In late April, Presley began a two-week residency at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The shows were poorly received by the conservative, middle-aged hotel guests—”like a jug of corn liquor at a champagne party”, wrote a critic for Newsweek. Amid his Vegas tenure, Presley, who had serious acting ambitions, signed a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures. He began a tour of the Midwest in mid-May, taking in 15 cities in as many days. He had attended several shows by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys in Vegas and was struck by their cover of “Hound Dog”, a hit in 1953 for blues singer Big Mama Thornton by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It became the new closing number of his act. After a show in La Crosse, Wisconsin, an urgent message on the letterhead of the local Catholic diocese’s newspaper was sent to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. It warned that “Presley is a definite danger to the security of the United States. … [His] actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth. … After the show, more than 1,000 teenagers tried to gang into Presley’s room at the auditorium. … Indications of the harm Presley did just in La Crosse were the two high school girls … whose abdomen and thigh had Presley’s autograph.”

The second Milton Berle Show appearance came on June 5 at NBC’s Hollywood studio, amid another hectic tour. Berle persuaded Presley to leave his guitar backstage, advising, “Let ’em see you, son.” During the performance, Presley abruptly halted an uptempo rendition of “Hound Dog” with a wave of his arm and launched into a slow, grinding version accentuated with energetic, exaggerated body movements. Presley’s gyrations created a storm of controversy. Television critics were outraged: Jack Gould of The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability. … His phrasing, if it can be called that, consists of the stereotyped variations that go with a beginner’s aria in a bathtub. … His one specialty is an accented movement of the body … primarily identified with the repertoire of the blond bombshells of the burlesque runway.” Ben Gross of the New York Daily News opined that popular music “has reached its lowest depths in the ‘grunt and groin’ antics of one Elvis Presley. … Elvis, who rotates his pelvis … gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos”. Ed Sullivan, whose own variety show was the nation’s most popular, declared him “unfit for family viewing”. To Presley’s displeasure, he soon found himself being referred to as “Elvis the Pelvis”, which he called “one of the most childish expressions I ever heard, comin’ from an adult.”

Steve Allen Show and first Sullivan appearance

The Berle shows drew such high ratings that Presley was booked for a July 1 appearance on NBC’s Steve Allen Show in New York. Allen, no fan of rock and roll, introduced a “new Elvis” in a white bow tie and black tails. Presley sang “Hound Dog” for less than a minute to a basset hound wearing a top hat and bow tie. As described by television historian Jake Austen, “Allen thought Presley was talentless and absurd … [he] set things up so that Presley would show his contrition”. Allen later wrote that he found Presley’s “strange, gangly, country-boy charisma, his hard-to-define cuteness, and his charming eccentricity intriguing” and simply worked him into the customary “comedy fabric” of his program.[113] Just before the final rehearsal for the show, Presley told a reporter, “I’m holding down on this show. I don’t want to do anything to make people dislike me. I think TV is important so I’m going to go along, but I won’t be able to give the kind of show I do in a personal appearance.” Presley would refer back to the Allen show as the most ridiculous performance of his career. Later that night, he appeared on Hy Gardner Calling, a popular local TV show. Pressed on whether he had learned anything from the criticism to which he was being subjected, Presley responded, “No, I haven’t, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong. … I don’t see how any type of music would have any bad influence on people when it’s only music. … I mean, how would rock ‘n’ roll music make anyone rebel against their parents?”

The next day, Presley recorded “Hound Dog”, along with “Any Way You Want Me” and “Don’t Be Cruel”. The Jordanaires sang harmony, as they had on The Steve Allen Show; they would work with Presley through the 1960s. A few days later, Presley made an outdoor concert appearance in Memphis, at which he announced, “You know, those people in New York are not gonna change me none. I’m gonna show you what the real Elvis is like tonight.”[116] In August, a judge in Jacksonville, Florida, ordered Presley to tame his act. Throughout the following performance, he largely kept still, except for wiggling his little finger suggestively in mockery of the order.[117] The single pairing “Don’t Be Cruel” with “Hound Dog” ruled the top of the charts for 11 weeks—a mark that would not be surpassed for 36 years. Recording sessions for Presley’s second album took place in Hollywood during the first week of September. Leiber and Stoller, the writers of “Hound Dog”, contributed “Love Me”.

Allen’s show with Presley had, for the first time, beaten CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show in the ratings. Sullivan, despite his June pronouncement, booked Presley for three appearances for an unprecedented $50,000. The first, on September 9, 1956, was seen by approximately 60 million viewers—a record 82.6 percent of the television audience. Actor Charles Laughton hosted the show, filling in while Sullivan was recovering from a car accident. Presley appeared in two segments that night from CBS Television City in Los Angeles. According to Elvis legend, Presley was shot only from the waist up. Watching clips of the Allen and Berle shows with his producer, Sullivan had opined that Presley “got some kind of device hanging down below the crotch of his pants—so when he moves his legs back and forth you can see the outline of his cock. … I think it’s a Coke bottle. … We just can’t have this on a Sunday night. This is a family show!” Sullivan publicly told TV Guide, “As for his gyrations, the whole thing can be controlled with camera shots.” In fact, Presley was shown head-to-toe in the first and second shows. Though the camerawork was relatively discreet during his debut, with leg-concealing closeups when he danced, the studio audience reacted in customary style: screaming.[ Presley’s performance of his forthcoming single, the ballad “Love Me Tender”, prompted a record-shattering million advance orders. More than any other single event, it was this first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show that made Presley a national celebrity of barely precedented proportions.

Accompanying Presley’s rise to fame, a cultural shift was taking place that he both helped inspire and came to symbolize. Igniting the “biggest pop craze since Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra … Presley brought rock’n’roll into the mainstream of popular culture”, writes historian Marty Jezer. “As Presley set the artistic pace, other artists followed. … Presley, more than anyone else, gave the young a belief in themselves as a distinct and somehow unified generation—the first in America ever to feel the power of an integrated youth culture.”

Crazed crowds and film debut

The audience response at Presley’s live shows became increasingly fevered. Moore recalled, “He’d start out, ‘You ain’t nothin’ but a Hound Dog,’ and they’d just go to pieces. They’d always react the same way. There’d be a riot every time.” At the two concerts he performed in September at the Mississippi–Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, 50 National Guardsmen were added to the police security to ensure that the crowd would not cause a ruckus. Elvis, Presley’s second album, was released in October and quickly rose to number one on the billboard. The album includes “Old Shep”, which he sang at the talent show in 1945, and which now marked the first time he played piano on an RCA session. According to Guralnick, one can hear “in the halting chords and the somewhat stumbling rhythm both the unmistakable emotion and the equally unmistakable valuing of emotion over technique.” Assessing the musical and cultural impact of Presley’s recordings from “That’s All Right” through Elvis, rock critic Dave Marsh wrote that “these records, more than any others, contain the seeds of what rock & roll was, has been and most likely what it may foreseeably become.”

Presley returned to the Sullivan show at its main studio in New York, hosted this time by its namesake, on October 28. After the performance, crowds in Nashville and St. Louis burned him in effigy. His first motion picture, Love Me Tender, was released on November 21. Though he was not top-billed, the film’s original title—The Reno Brothers—was changed to capitalize on his latest number-one record: “Love Me Tender” had hit the top of the charts earlier that month. To further take advantage of Presley’s popularity, four musical numbers were added to what was originally a straight acting role. The film was panned by the critics but did very well at the box office. Presley would receive top billing on every subsequent film he made.

On December 4, Presley dropped into Sun Records where Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were recording and had an impromptu jam session, along with Johnny Cash. Though Phillips no longer had the right to release any Presley material, he made sure that the session was captured on tape. The results, none officially released for 25 years, became known as the “Million Dollar Quartet” recordings. The year ended with a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal reporting that Presley merchandise had brought in $22 million on top of his record sales, and Billboard’s declaration that he had placed more songs in the top 100 than any other artist since records were first charted.[134] In his first full year at RCA, one of the music industry’s largest companies, Presley had accounted for over 50 percent of the label’s singles sales.

Leiber and Stoller collaboration and draft notice

Presley made his third and final Ed Sullivan Show appearance on January 6, 1957—on this occasion indeed shot only down to the waist. Some commentators have claimed that Parker orchestrated an appearance of censorship to generate publicity. In any event, as critic Greil Marcus describes, Presley “did not tie himself down. Leaving behind the bland clothes he had worn on the first two shows, he stepped out in the outlandish costume of a pasha, if not a harem girl. From the make-up over his eyes, the hair falling in his face, the overwhelmingly sexual cast of his mouth, he was playing Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik, with all stops out.” To close, displaying his range and defying Sullivan’s wishes, Presley sang a gentle black spiritual, “Peace in the Valley”. At the end of the show, Sullivan declared Presley “a real decent, fine boy”.[136] Two days later, the Memphis draft board announced that Presley would be classified 1-A and would probably be drafted sometime that year.

Each of the three Presley singles released in the first half of 1957 went to number one: “Too Much”, “All Shook Up”, and “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”. Already an international star, he was attracting fans even where his music was not officially released. Under the headline “Presley Records a Craze in Soviet”, The New York Times reported that pressings of his music on discarded X-ray plates were commanding high prices in Leningrad. Between film shoots and recording sessions, Presley also found time to purchase an 18-room mansion eight miles (13 km) south of downtown Memphis for himself and his parents: Graceland. Loving You—the soundtrack to his second film, released in July—was Presley’s third straight number-one album. The title track was written by Leiber and Stoller, who were then retained to write four of the six songs recorded at the sessions for Jailhouse Rock, Presley’s next film. The songwriting team effectively produced the Jailhouse sessions and developed a close working relationship with Presley, who came to regard them as his “good-luck charm”. “He was fast,” said Leiber. “Any demo you gave him he knew by heart in ten minutes.” The title track was yet another number-one hit, as was the Jailhouse Rock EP.

Presley undertook three brief tours during the year, continuing to generate a crazed audience response. A Detroit newspaper suggested that “the trouble with going to see Elvis Presley is that you’re liable to get killed.” Villanova students pelted him with eggs in Philadelphia,[143] and in Vancouver the crowd rioted after the end of the show, destroying the stage. Frank Sinatra, who had inspired the swooning of teenage girls in the 1940s, condemned the new musical phenomenon. In a magazine article, he decried rock and roll as “brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious. … It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people. It smells phoney and false. It is sung, played and written, for the most part, by cretinous goons. … This rancid-smelling aphrodisiac I deplore.” Asked for a response, Presley said, “I admire the man. He has a right to say what he wants to say. He is a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn’t have said it. … This is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago.”

Leiber and Stoller were again in the studio for the recording of Elvis’ Christmas Album. Toward the end of the session, they wrote a song on the spot at Presley’s request: “Santa Claus Is Back in Town”, an innuendo-laden blues. The holiday release stretched Presley’s string of number-one albums to four and would become the best-selling Christmas album ever in the United States, with eventual sales of over 20 million worldwide. After the session, Moore and Black—drawing only modest weekly salaries, sharing in none of Presley’s massive financial success—resigned. Though they were brought back on a per diem basis a few weeks later, it was clear that they had not been part of Presley’s inner circle for some time. On December 20, Presley received his draft notice. He was granted a deferment to finish the forthcoming King Creole, in which $350,000 had already been invested by Paramount and producer Hal Wallis. A couple of weeks into the new year, “Don’t”, another Leiber and Stoller tune, became Presley’s tenth number-one seller. It had been only 21 months since “Heartbreak Hotel” had brought him to the top for the first time. Recording sessions for the King Creole soundtrack were held in Hollywood in mid-January 1958. Leiber and Stoller provided three songs and were again on hand, but it would be the last time they and Presley worked closely together. As Stoller recalled, Presley’s manager and entourage sought to wall him off: “He was removed. … They kept him separate.” A brief soundtrack session on February 11 marked another ending—it was the final occasion on which Black was to perform with Presley. He died in 1965.

1958–1960: Military service and mother’s death

On March 24, 1958, Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army as a private at Fort Chaffee, near Fort Smith, Arkansas. His arrival was a major media event. Hundreds of people descended on Presley as he stepped from the bus; photographers then accompanied him into the fort. Presley announced that he was looking forward to his military stint, saying that he did not want to be treated any differently from anyone else: “The Army can do anything it wants with me.”

Presley commenced basic training at Fort Hood, Texas. During a two-week leave in early June, he recorded five songs in Nashville. In early August, his mother was diagnosed with hepatitis, and her condition rapidly worsened. Presley was granted emergency leave to visit her and arrived in Memphis on August 12. Two days later, she died of heart failure at the age of 46. Presley was devastated and never the same; their relationship had remained extremely close—even into his adulthood, they would use baby talk with each other and Presley would address her with pet names.

After training, Presley joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany, on October 1.[161] While on maneuvers, Presley was introduced to amphetamines by a sergeant. He became “practically evangelical about their benefits”, not only for energy but for “strength” and weight loss as well, and many of his friends in the outfit joined him in indulging. The Army also introduced Presley to karate, which he studied seriously, training with Jürgen Seydel. It became a lifelong interest, which he later included in his live performances. Fellow soldiers have attested to Presley’s wish to be seen as an able, ordinary soldier, despite his fame, and to his generosity. He donated his Army pay to charity, purchased TV sets for the base, and bought an extra set of fatigues for everyone in his outfit.

While in Friedberg, Presley met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu. They would eventually marry after a seven-and-a-half-year courtship. In her autobiography, Priscilla said that Presley was concerned that his 24-month spell as a GI would ruin his career. In Special Services, he would have been able to give musical performances and remain in touch with the public, but Parker had convinced him that to gain popular respect, he should serve his country as a regular soldier. Media reports echoed Presley’s concerns about his career, but RCA producer Steve Sholes and Freddy Bienstock of Hill and Range had carefully prepared for his two-year hiatus. Armed with a substantial amount of unreleased material, they kept up a regular stream of successful releases. Between his induction and discharge, Presley had ten top 40 hits, including “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck”, the best-selling “Hard Headed Woman”, and “One Night” in 1958, and “(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I” and the number-one “A Big Hunk o’ Love” in 1959. RCA also generated four albums compiling old material during this period, most successfully Elvis’ Golden Records (1958), which hit number three on the LP chart.

1960–1968: Focus on films

Elvis Is Back

Presley returned to the United States on March 2, 1960, and was honorably discharged three days later with the rank of sergeant. The train that carried him from New Jersey to Tennessee was mobbed all the way, and Presley was called upon to appear at scheduled stops to please his fans. On the night of March 20, he entered RCA’s Nashville studio to cut tracks for a new album along with a single, “Stuck on You”, which was rushed into release and swiftly became a number-one hit. Another Nashville session two weeks later yielded a pair of his best-selling singles, the ballads “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, along with the rest of Elvis Is Back! The album features several songs described by Greil Marcus as full of Chicago blues “menace, driven by Presley’s own super-miked acoustic guitar, brilliant playing by Scotty Moore, and demonic sax work from Boots Randolph. Elvis’ singing wasn’t sexy, it was pornographic.” As a whole, the record “conjured up the vision of a performer who could be all things”, according to music historian John Robertson: “a flirtatious teenage idol with a heart of gold; a tempestuous, dangerous lover; a gutbucket blues singer; a sophisticated nightclub entertainer;  raucous rocker”. Released only days after recording was complete, it reached number two on the album chart.

Presley returned to television on May 12 as a guest on The Frank Sinatra Timex Special—ironic for both stars, given Sinatra’s earlier excoriation of rock and roll. Also known as Welcome Home Elvis, the show had been taped in late March, the only time all year Presley performed in front of an audience. Parker secured an unheard-of $125,000 fee for eight minutes of singing. The broadcast drew an enormous viewership.

G.I. Blues, the soundtrack to Presley’s first film since his return, was a number-one album in October. His first LP of sacred material, His Hand in Mine, followed two months later. It reached number 13 on the U.S. pop chart and number 3 in the UK, remarkable figures for a gospel album. In February 1961, Presley performed two shows for a benefit event in Memphis, on behalf of 24 local charities. During a luncheon preceding the event, RCA presented him with a plaque certifying worldwide sales of over 75 million records.[181] A 12-hour Nashville session in mid-March yielded nearly all of Presley’s next studio album, Something for Everybody. As described by John Robertson, it exemplifies the Nashville sound, the restrained, cosmopolitan style that would define country music in the 1960s. Presaging much of what was to come from Presley himself over the next half-decade, the album is largely “a pleasant, unthreatening pastiche of the music that had once been Elvis’ birthright”. It would be his sixt

h number-one LP. Another benefit concert, raising money for a Pearl Harbor memorial, was staged on March 25, in Hawaii. It was to be Presley’s last public performance for seven years.

Lost in Hollywood

Parker had by now pushed Presley into a heavy film making schedule, focused on formulaic, modestly budgeted musical comedies. Presley, at first, insisted on pursuing higher roles, but when two films in a more dramatic vein—Flaming Star (1960) and Wild in the Country (1961)—were less commercially successful, he reverted to the formula. Among the 27 films he made during the 1960s, there were a few further exceptions. His films were almost universally panned; critic Andrew Caine dismissed them as a “pantheon of bad taste”. Nonetheless, they were virtually all profitable. Hal Wallis, who produced nine of them, declared, “A Presley picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood.”[

Of Presley’s films in the 1960s, 15 were accompanied by soundtrack albums and another 5 by soundtrack EPs. The films’ rapid production and release schedules—he frequently starred in three a year—affected his music. According to Jerry Leiber, the soundtrack formula was already evident before Presley left for the Army: “three ballads, one medium-tempo [number], one up-tempo, and one break blues boogie”. As the decade wore on, the quality of the soundtrack songs grew “progressively worse”.[189] Julie Parrish, who appeared in Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966), says that he disliked many of the songs chosen for his films. The Jordanaires’ Gordon Stoker describes how Presley would retreat from the studio microphone: “The material was so bad that he felt like he couldn’t sing it.” Most of the film albums featured a song or two from respected writers such as the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. But by and large, according to biographer Jerry Hopkins, the numbers seemed to be “written on order by men who never really understood Elvis or rock and roll”. Regardless of the songs’ quality, it has been argued that Presley generally sang them well, with commitment. Critic Dave Marsh heard the opposite: “Presley isn’t trying, probably the wisest course in the face of material like ‘No Room to Rumba in a Sports Car’ and ‘Rock-A-Hula Baby’.”

In the first half of the decade, three of Presley’s soundtrack albums were ranked number one on the pop charts, and a few of his most popular songs came from his films, such as “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (1961) and “Return to Sender” (1962). (“Viva Las Vegas”, the title track to the 1964 film, was a minor hit as a B-side, and became truly popular only later.) But, as with artistic merit, the commercial returns steadily diminished. During a five-year span—1964 through 1968—Presley had only one top-ten hit: “Crying in the Chapel” (1965), a gospel number recorded back in 1960. As for non-film albums, between the June 1962 release of Pot Luck and the November 1968 release of the soundtrack to the television special that signaled his comeback, only one LP of new material by Presley was issued: the gospel album How Great Thou Art (1967). It won him his first Grammy Award, for Best Sacred Performance. As Marsh described, Presley was “arguably the greatest white gospel singer of his time [and] really the last rock & roll artist to make gospel as vital a component of his musical personality as his secular songs”.

Shortly before Christmas 1966, more than seven years since they first met, Presley proposed to Priscilla Beaulieu. They were married on May 1, 1967, in a brief ceremony in their suite at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. The flow of formulaic films and assembly-line soundtracks rolled on. It was not until October 1967, when the Clambake soundtrack LP registered record low sales for a new Presley album, that RCA executives recognized a problem. “By then, of course, the damage had been done”, as historians Connie Kirchberg and Marc Hendrickx put it. “Elvis was viewed as a joke by serious music lovers and a has-been to all but his most loyal fans.

1968–1973: Comeback

Elvis: the ’68 Comeback Special

Presley’s only child, Lisa Marie, was born on February 1, 1968, during a period when he had grown deeply unhappy with his career. Of the eight Presley singles released between January 1967 and May 1968, only two charted in the top 40, and none higher than number 28. His forthcoming soundtrack album, Speedway, would rank at number 82 on the Billboard chart. Parker had already shifted his plans to television, where Presley had not appeared since the Sinatra Timex show in 1960. He maneuvered a deal with NBC that committed the network to both finance a theatrical feature and broadcast a Christmas special.

Recorded in late June in Burbank, California, the special, simply called Elvis, aired on December 3, 1968. Later known as the ’68 Comeback Special, the show featured lavishly staged studio productions as well as songs performed with a band in front of a small audience—Presley’s first live performances since 1961. The live segments saw Presley dressed in tight black leather, singing and playing guitar in an uninhibited style reminiscent of his early rock and roll days. Director and co-producer Steve Binder had worked hard to produce a show that was far from the hour of Christmas songs Parker had originally planned. The show, NBC’s highest-rated that season, captured 42 percent of the total viewing audience. Jon Landau of Eye magazine remarked, “There is something magical about watching a man who has lost himself find his way back home. He sang with the kind of power people no longer expect of rock ‘n’ roll singers. He moved his body with a lack of pretension and effort that must have made Jim Morrison green with envy.” Dave Marsh calls the performance one of “emotional grandeur and historical resonance”.

By January 1969, the single “If I Can Dream”, written for the special, reached number 12. The soundtrack album rose into the top ten. According to friend Jerry Schilling, the special reminded Presley of what “he had not been able to do for years, being able to choose the people; being able to choose what songs and not being told what had to be on the soundtrack. … He was out of prison, man.” Binder said of Presley’s reaction, “I played Elvis the 60-minute show, and he told me in the screening room, ‘Steve, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I give you my word I will never sing a song I don’t believe in.’”

From Elvis in Memphis and the International

Buoyed by the experience of the Comeback Special, Presley engaged in a prolific series of recording sessions at American Sound Studio, which led to the acclaimed From Elvis in Memphis. Released in June 1969, it was his first secular, non-soundtrack album from a dedicated period in the studio in eight years. As described by Dave Marsh, it is “a masterpiece in which Presley immediately catches up with pop music trends that had seemed to pass him by during the movie years. He sings country songs, soul songs and rockers with real conviction, a stunning achievement.” The album featured the hit single “In the Ghetto”, issued in April, which reached number three on the pop chart—Presley’s first non-gospel top ten hit since “Bossa Nova Baby” in 1963. Further hit singles were culled from the American Sound sessions: “Suspicious Minds”, “Don’t Cry Daddy”, and “Kentucky Rain”.[208]

Presley was keen to resume regular live performing. Following the success of the Comeback Special, offers came in from around the world. The London Palladium offered Parker $28,000 for a one-week engagement. He responded, “That’s fine for me, now how much can you get for Elvis?” In May, the brand new International Hotel in Las Vegas, boasting the largest showroom in the city, announced that it had booked Presley. He was scheduled to perform 57 shows over four weeks beginning July 31. Moore, Fontana, and the Jordanaires declined to participate, afraid of losing the lucrative session work they had in Nashville. Presley assembled new, top-notch accompaniment, led by guitarist James Burton and including two gospel groups, The Imperials and Sweet Inspirations. Costume designer Bill Belew, responsible for the intense leather styling of the Comeback Special, created a new stage look for Presley, inspired by Presley’s passion for karate. Nonetheless, he was nervous: his only previous Las Vegas engagement, in 1956, had been dismal. Parker, who intended to make Presley’s return the show business event of the year, oversaw a major promotional push. For his part, hotel owner Kirk Kerkorian arranged to send his own plane to New York to fly in rock journalists for the debut performance.[

Presley took to the stage without introduction. The audience of 2,200, including many celebrities, gave him a standing ovation before he sang a note and another after his performance. A third followed his encore, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (a song that would be his closing number for much of the 1970s).[ At a press conference after the show, when a journalist referred to him as “The King”, Presley gestured toward Fats Domino, who was taking in the scene. “No,” Presley said, “that’s the real king of rock and roll.” The next day, Parker’s negotiations with the hotel resulted in a five-year contract for Presley to play each February and August, at an annual salary of $1 million. Newsweek commented, “There are several unbelievable things about Elvis, but the most incredible is his staying power in a world where meteoric careers fade like shooting stars.” Rolling Stone called Presley “supernatural, his own resurrection.” In November, Presley’s final non-concert film, Change of Habit, opened. The double album From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis came out the same month; the first LP consisted of live performances from the International, the second of more cuts from the American Sound sessions. “Suspicious Minds” reached the top of the charts—Presley’s first U.S. pop number-one in over seven years, and his last.

Cassandra Peterson, later television’s Elvira, met Presley during this period in Las Vegas, where she was working as a showgirl. She recalled of their encounter, “He was so anti-drug when I met him. I mentioned to him that I smoked marijuana, and he was just appalled. He said, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’” Presley was not only deeply opposed to recreational drugs, he also rarely drank. Several of his family members had been alcoholics, a fate he intended to avoid.

Back on tour and meeting Nixon

Presley returned to the International early in 1970 for the first of the year’s two-month-long engagements, performing two shows a night. Recordings from these shows were issued on the album On Stage. In late February, Presley performed six attendance-record–breaking shows at the Houston Astrodome. In April, the single “The Wonder of You” was issued—a number one hit in the UK, it topped the U.S. adult contemporary chart, as well. MGM filmed rehearsal and concert footage at the International during August for the documentary Elvis: That’s the Way It Is. Presley was performing in a jumpsuit, which would become a trademark of his live act. During this engagement, he was threatened with murder unless $50,000 was paid. Presley had been the target of many threats since the 1950s, often without his knowledge. The FBI took the threat seriously and security was stepped up for the next two shows. Presley went onstage with a Derringer in his right boot and a .45 pistol in his waistband, but the concerts succeeded without any incidents.

The album, That’s the Way It Is, produced to accompany the documentary and featuring both studio and live recordings, marked a stylistic shift. As music historian John Robertson noted, “The authority of Presley’s singing helped disguise the fact that the album stepped decisively away from the American-roots inspiration of the Memphis sessions towards a more middle-of-the-road sound. With country put on the back burner, and soul and R&B left in Memphis, what was left was very classy, very clean white pop—perfect for the Las Vegas crowd, but a definite retrograde step for Elvis.” After the end of his International engagement on September 7, Presley embarked on a week-long concert tour, largely of the South, his first since 1958. Another week-long tour, of the West Coast, followed in November.

On December 21, 1970, Presley engineered a meeting with President Richard Nixon at the White House, where he expressed his patriotism and explained how he believed he could reach out to the hippies to help combat the drug culture he and the president abhorred. He asked Nixon for a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, to add to similar items he had begun collecting and to signify official sanction of his patriotic efforts. Nixon, who apparently found the encounter awkward, expressed a belief that Presley could send a positive message to young people and that it was, therefore, important that he “retain his credibility”. Presley told Nixon that The Beatles, whose songs he regularly performed in concert during the era, exemplified what he saw as a trend of anti-Americanism. Presley and his friends previously had a four-hour get-together with The Beatles at his home in Bel Air, California in August 1965. On hearing reports of the meeting, Paul McCartney later said that he “felt a bit betrayed. … The great joke was that we were taking [illegal] drugs, and look what happened to him”, a reference to Presley’s early death, linked to prescription drug abuse.

The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce named Presley one of its annual Ten Most Outstanding Young Men of the Nation on January 16, 1971. Not long after, the City of Memphis named the stretch of Highway 51 South on which Graceland is located “Elvis Presley Boulevard”. The same year, Presley became the first rock and roll singer to be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award (then known as the Bing Crosby Award) by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Grammy Award organization. Three new, non-film Presley studio albums were released in 1971, as many as had come out over the previous eight years. Best received by critics was Elvis Country, a concept record that focused on genre standards. The biggest seller was Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas, “the truest statement of all”, according to Greil Marcus. “In the midst of ten painfully genteel Christmas songs, every one sung with appalling sincerity and humility, one could find Elvis tom-catting his way through six blazing minutes of ‘Merry Christmas Baby,’ a raunchy old Charles Brown blues. … If [Presley’s] sin was his lifelessness, it was his sinfulness that brought him to life”.

Marriage breakdown and Aloha from Hawaii

MGM again filmed Presley in April 1972, this time for Elvis on Tour, which went on to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Documentary Film that year. His gospel album He Touched Me, released that month, would earn him his second competitive Grammy Award, for Best Inspirational Performance. A 14-date tour commenced with an unprecedented four consecutive sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The evening concert on July 10 was recorded and issued in an LP form a week later. Elvis: As Recorded at Madison Square Garden became one of Presley’s biggest-selling albums. After the tour, the single “Burning Love” was released—Presley’s last top ten hit on the U.S. pop chart. “The most exciting single Elvis has made since ‘All Shook Up’,” wrote rock critic Robert Christgau. “Who else could make ‘It’s coming closer, the flames are now licking my body’ sound like an assignation with James Brown’s backup band?”
High-collared white jumpsuit resplendent with red, blue, and gold eagle motif in sequins
Presley came up with his outfit’s eagle motif, as “something that would say ‘America’ to the world”.

Presley and his wife, meanwhile, had become increasingly distant, barely cohabiting. In 1971, an affair he had with Joyce Bova resulted—unbeknownst to him—in her pregnancy and an abortion. He often raised the possibility of her moving into Graceland, saying that he was likely to leave Priscilla. The Presleys separated on February 23, 1972, after Priscilla disclosed her relationship with Mike Stone, a karate instructor Presley had recommended to her. Priscilla related that when she told him, Presley “grabbed … and forcefully made love to” her, declaring, “This is how a real man makes love to his woman.” She later stated in an interview that she regretted her choice of words in describing the incident, and said it had been an overstatement. Five months later, Presley’s new girlfriend, Linda Thompson, a songwriter and one-time Memphis beauty queen, moved in with him. Presley and his wife filed for divorce on August 18. According to Joe Moscheo of the Imperials, the failure of Presley’s marriage “was a blow from which he never recovered.” At a rare press conference that June, a reporter had asked Presley whether he was satisfied with his image. Presley replied, “Well, the image is one thing and the human being another … it’s very hard to live up to an image.”

In January 1973, Presley performed two benefit concerts for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund in connection with a groundbreaking TV special, Aloha from Hawaii, which would be the first concert by a solo artist to be aired globally. The first show served as a practice run and backup should technical problems affect the live broadcast two days later. On January 14, Aloha from Hawaii aired live via satellite to prime-time audiences in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as to U.S. servicemen based across Southeast Asia. In Japan, where it capped a nationwide Elvis Presley Week, it smashed viewing records. The next night, it was simulcast to 28 European countries, and in April an extended version finally aired in the U.S., where it won a 57 percent share of the TV audience.[248] Over time, Parker’s claim that it was seen by one billion or more people would be broadly accepted, but that figure appeared to have been sheer invention. Presley’s stage costume became the most recognized example of the elaborate concert garb with which his latter-day persona became closely associated. As described by Bobbie Ann Mason, “At the end of the show, when he spreads out his American Eagle cape, with the full stretched wings of the eagle studded on the back, he becomes a god figure.”[254] The accompanying double album, released in February, went to number one and eventually sold over 5 million copies in the United States. It proved to be Presley’s last U.S. number-one pop album during his lifetime.

At a midnight show the same month, four men rushed onto the stage in an apparent attack. Security men came to Presley’s defense, and he ejected one invader from the stage himself. Following the show, he became obsessed with the idea that the men had been sent by Mike Stone to kill him. Though they were shown to have been only overexuberant fans, he raged, “There’s too much pain in me … Stone [must] die.” His outbursts continued with such intensity that a physician was unable to calm him, despite administering large doses of medication. After another two full days of raging, Red West, his friend and bodyguard, felt compelled to get a price for a contract killing and was relieved when Presley decided, “Aw hell, let’s just leave it for now. Maybe it’s a bit heavy.”

1973–1977: Health deterioration and death

Medical crises and last studio sessions

Presley’s divorce was finalized on October 9, 1973. By then, his health was in major and serious decline. Twice during the year, he overdosed on barbiturates, spending three days in a coma in his hotel suite after the first incident. Towards the end of 1973, he was hospitalized, semi-comatose from the effects of a pethidine addiction. According to his primary care physician, Dr. George C. Nichopoulos, Presley “felt that by getting drugs from a doctor, he wasn’t the common everyday junkie getting something off the street”. Since his comeback, he had staged more live shows with each passing year, and 1973 saw 168 concerts, his busiest schedule ever. Despite his failing health, in 1974, he undertook another intensive touring schedule.

Presley’s condition declined precipitously in September. Keyboardist Tony Brown remembered Presley’s arrival at a University of Maryland concert: “He fell out of the limousine, to his knees. People jumped to help, and he pushed them away like, ‘Don’t help me.’ He walked on stage and held onto the mic for the first thirty minutes like it was a post. Everybody’s looking at each other like, ‘Is the tour gonna happen’?” Guitarist John Wilkinson recalled, “He was all gut. He was slurring. He was so fucked up. … It was obvious he was drugged. It was obvious there was something terribly wrong with his body. It was so bad the words to the songs were barely intelligible. … I remember crying. He could barely get through the introductions.” Wilkinson recounted that a few nights later in Detroit, “I watched him in his dressing room, just draped over a chair, unable to move. So often I thought, ‘Boss, why don’t you just cancel this tour and take a year off …?’ I mentioned something once in a guarded moment. He patted me on the back and said, ‘It’ll be all right. Don’t you worry about it.’” Presley continued to play to sellout crowds. Cultural critic Marjorie Garber wrote that he was now widely seen as a garish pop crooner: “In effect, he had become Liberace. Even his fans were now middle-aged matrons and blue-haired grandmothers.”

On July 13, 1976, Vernon Presley—who had become deeply involved in his son’s financial affairs—fired “Memphis Mafia” bodyguards Red West (Presley’s friend since the 1950s), Sonny West, and David Hebler, citing the need to “cut back on expenses”. Presley was in Palm Springs at the time, and some suggested that he was too cowardly to face the three himself. Another associate of Presley’s, John O’Grady, argued that the bodyguards were dropped because their rough treatment of fans had prompted too many lawsuits.[268] However, Presley’s stepbrother, David Stanley, claimed that the bodyguards were fired because they were becoming more outspoken about Presley’s drug dependency.

RCA, which had enjoyed a steady stream of product from Presley for over a decade, grew anxious as his interest in spending time in the studio waned. After a December 1973 session that produced 18 songs, enough for almost two albums, he did not enter the studio in 1974. Parker sold RCA yet another concert record, Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis. Recorded on March 20, it included a version of “How Great Thou Art” that would win Presley his third and final competitive Grammy Award. (All three of his competitive Grammy wins—out of 14 total nominations—were for gospel recordings.) Presley returned to the studio in Hollywood in March 1975, but Parker’s attempts to arrange another session toward the end of the year were unsuccessful. In 1976, RCA sent a mobile studio to Graceland that made possible two full-scale recording sessions at Presley’s home. Even in that comfortable context, the recording process became a struggle for him.

Despite concerns from his label and manager, between July 1973 and October 1976 Presley recorded virtually the entire contents of six albums. Though he was no longer a major presence on the pop charts, five of those albums entered the top five of the country chart, and three went to number one: Promised Land (1975), From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee (1976), and Moody Blue (1977).[278] Similarly, his singles in this era did not prove to be major pop hits, but Presley remained a significant force in the country and adult contemporary markets. Eight studio singles from this period released during his lifetime were top ten hits on one or both charts, four in 1974 alone. “My Boy” was a number-one adult contemporary hit in 1975, and “Moody Blue” topped the country chart and reached the second spot on the adult contemporary chart in 1976. Perhaps his most critically acclaimed recording of the era came that year, with what Greil Marcus described as his “apocalyptic attack” on the soul classic “Hurt”. “If he felt the way he sounded”, Dave Marsh wrote of Presley’s performance, “the wonder isn’t that he had only a year left to live but that he managed to survive that long.”

Final months and death

Presley and Linda Thompson split in November 1976, and he took up with a new girlfriend, Ginger Alden.[282] He proposed to Alden and gave her an engagement ring two months later, though several of his friends later claimed that he had no serious intention of marrying again. Journalist Tony Scherman wrote that by early 1977, “Presley had become a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self. Hugely overweight, his mind dulled by the pharmacopia he daily ingested, he was barely able to pull himself through his abbreviated concerts.”[284] In Alexandria, Louisiana, he was on stage for less than an hour, and “was impossible to understand”.[ On March 31, Presley failed to perform in Baton Rouge, unable to get out of his hotel bed; a total of four shows had to be canceled and rescheduled. Despite the accelerating deterioration of his health, he stuck to most touring commitments. According to Guralnick, fans “were becoming increasingly voluble about their disappointment, but it all seemed to go right past Presley, whose world was now confined almost entirely to his room and his spiritualism books.” A cousin, Billy Smith, recalled how Presley would sit in his room and chat for hours, sometimes recounting favorite Monty Python sketches and his own past escapades, but more often gripped by paranoid obsessions that reminded Smith of Howard Hughes.

“Way Down”, Presley’s last single issued during his career, was released on June 6. That month, CBS filmed two concerts for a TV special, Elvis in Concert, to be aired in October. In the first, shot in Omaha on June 19, Presley’s voice, Guralnick writes, “is almost unrecognizable, a small, childlike instrument in which he talks more than sings most of the songs, casts about uncertainly for the melody in others, and is virtually unable to articulate or project”. Two days later, in Rapid City, South Dakota, “he looked healthier, seemed to have lost a little weight, and sounded better, too”, though, by the conclusion of the performance, his face was “framed in a helmet of blue-black hair from which sweat sheets down over pale, swollen cheeks”. His final concert was held in Indianapolis at Market Square Arena, on June 26.

he book Elvis: What Happened?, co-written by the three bodyguards fired the previous year, was published on August 1. It was the first exposé to detail Presley’s years of drug misuse. He was devastated by the book and tried unsuccessfully to halt its release by offering money to the publishers. By this point, he suffered from multiple ailments: glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon, each magnified—and possibly caused—by drug abuse.

On the evening of Tuesday, August 16, 1977, Presley was scheduled to fly out of Memphis to begin another tour. That afternoon, Ginger Alden discovered him in an unresponsive state on a bathroom floor. According to her eyewitness account, “Elvis looked as if his entire body had completely frozen in a seated position while using the commode and then had fallen forward, in that fixed position, directly in front of it. … It was clear that, from the time whatever hit him to the moment he had landed on the floor, Elvis hadn’t moved.” Attempts to revive him failed, and his death was officially pronounced the next day at 3:30 p.m. at the Baptist Memorial Hospital.

President Jimmy Carter issued a statement that credited Presley with having “permanently changed the face of American popular culture”. Thousands of people gathered outside Graceland to view the open casket. One of Presley’s cousins, Billy Mann, accepted $18,000 to secretly photograph the corpse; the picture appeared on the cover of the National Enquirer’s biggest-selling issue ever. Alden struck a $105,000 deal with the Enquirer for her story, but settled for less when she broke her exclusivity agreement. Presley left her nothing in his will.

Presley’s funeral was held at Graceland on Thursday, August 18. Outside the gates, a car plowed into a group of fans, killing two women and critically injuring a third. About 80,000 people lined the processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery, where Presley was buried next to his mother. Within a few weeks, “Way Down” topped the country and UK pop charts. Following an attempt to steal Presley’s body in late August, the remains of both Presley and his mother were reburied in Graceland’s Meditation Garden on October 2.

Cause of death

While an autopsy, undertaken the same day Presley died, was still in progress, Memphis medical examiner Dr. Jerry Francisco announced that the immediate cause of death was cardiac arrest. Asked if drugs were involved, he declared that “drugs played no role in Presley’s death”.[301] In fact, “drug use was heavily implicated” in Presley’s death, writes Guralnick. The pathologists conducting the autopsy thought it possible, for instance, that he had suffered “anaphylactic shock brought on by the codeine pills he had gotten from his dentist, to which he was known to have had a mild allergy”. A pair of lab reports filed two months later strongly suggested that polypharmacy was the primary cause of death; one reported “fourteen drugs in Elvis’ system, ten in significant quantity”. In 1979, forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht conducted a review of the reports and concluded that a combination of central nervous system depressants had resulted in Presley’s accidental death.[301] Forensic historian and pathologist Michael Baden viewed the situation as complicated: “Elvis had had an enlarged heart for a long time. That, together with his drug habit, caused his death. But he was difficult to diagnose; it was a judgment call.”

The competence and ethics of two of the centrally involved medical professionals were seriously questioned. Dr. Francisco had offered a cause of death before the autopsy was complete; claimed the underlying ailment was cardiac arrhythmia, a condition that can be determined only in someone who is still alive; and denied drugs played any part in Presley’s death before the toxicology results were known. Allegations of a cover-up were widespread.[303] While a 1981 trial of Presley’s main physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos, exonerated him of criminal liability for his death, the facts were startling: “In the first eight months of 1977 alone, he had [prescribed] more than 10,000 doses of sedatives, amphetamines, and narcotics: all in Elvis’ name.” His license was suspended for three months. It was permanently revoked in the 1990s after the Tennessee Medical Board brought new charges of over-prescription.

In 1994, the Presley autopsy report was reopened. Dr. Joseph Davis, who had conducted thousands of autopsies as Miami-Dade County coroner, declared at its completion, “There is nothing in any of the data that supports a death from drugs. In fact, everything points to a sudden, violent heart attack.” More recent research has revealed that Dr. Francisco did not speak for the entire pathology team. Other staff “could say nothing with confidence until they got the results back from the laboratories, if then. That would be a matter of weeks.” One of the examiners, Dr. E. Eric Muirhead “could not believe his ears. Francisco had not only presumed to speak for the hospital’s team of pathologists, he had announced a conclusion that they had not reached. … Early on, a meticulous dissection of the body … confirmed [that] Elvis was chronically ill with diabetes, glaucoma, and constipation. As they proceeded, the doctors saw evidence that his body had been wracked over a span of years by a large and constant stream of drugs. They had also studied his hospital records, which included two admissions for drug detoxification and methadone treatments.” Writer Frank Coffey thought Elvis’s death was due to “a phenomenon called the Valsalva maneuver (essentially straining on the toilet leading to heart stoppage—plausible because Elvis suffered constipation, a common reaction to drug use)”. In similar terms, Dr. Dan Warlick, who was present at the autopsy, “believes Presley’s chronic constipation—the result of years of prescription drug abuse and high-fat, high-cholesterol gorging—brought on what’s known as Valsalva’s maneuver. Put simply, the strain of attempting to defecate compressed the singer’s abdominal aorta, shutting down his heart.”

However, in 2013, Dr. Forest Tennant, who had testified as a defense witness in Nichopoulos’ trial, described his own analysis of Presley’s available medical records. He concluded that Presley’s “drug abuse had led to falls, head trauma, and overdoses that damaged his brain”, and that his death was due in part to a toxic reaction to codeine—exacerbated by an undetected liver enzyme defect—which can cause sudden cardiac arrhythmia. DNA analysis in 2014 of a hair sample purported to be Presley’s found evidence of genetic variants that can lead to glaucoma, migraines, and obesity; a crucial variant associated with the heart-muscle disease hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was also identified.

Later developments

Between 1977 and 1981, six of Presley’s posthumously released singles were top-ten country hits.

Graceland was opened to the public in 1982. Attracting over half a million visitors annually, it became the second most-visited home in the United States, after the White House.[310] It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

Presley has been inducted into five music halls of fame: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986), the Country Music Hall of Fame (1998), the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2001), the Rockabilly Hall of Fame (2007), and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame (2012). In 1984, he received the W. C. Handy Award from the Blues Foundation and the Academy of Country Music’s first Golden Hat Award. In 1987, he received the American Music Awards’ Award of Merit.

A Junkie XL remix of Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation” (credited as “Elvis Vs JXL”) was used in a Nike advertising campaign during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. It topped the charts in over 20 countries and was included in a compilation of Presley’s number-one hits, ELV1S, which was also an international success. The album returned Presley to the Billboard summit for the first time in almost three decades.

In 2003, a remix of “Rubberneckin’”, a 1969 recording of Presley’s, topped the U.S. sales chart, as did a 50th-anniversary re-release of “That’s All Right” the following year. The latter was an outright hit in Britain, debuting at number three on the pop chart; it also made the top ten in Canada. In 2005, another three reissued singles, “Jailhouse Rock”, “One Night”/”I Got Stung”, and “It’s Now or Never”, went to number one in the United Kingdom. They were part of a campaign that saw the re-release of all 18 of Presley’s previous chart-topping UK singles. The first, “All Shook Up”, came with a collectors’ box that made it ineligible to chart again; each of the other 17 reissues hit the British top five.

In 2005, Forbes named Presley the top-earning deceased celebrity for the fifth straight year, with a gross income of $45 million. He was placed second in 2006, returned to the top spot the next two years, and ranked fourth in 2009. The following year, he was ranked second, with his highest annual income ever—$60 million—spurred by the celebration of his 75th birthday and the launch of Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis show in Las Vegas. In November 2010, Viva Elvis: The Album was released, setting his voice to newly recorded instrumental tracks. As of mid-2011, there were an estimated 15,000 licensed Presley products, and he was again the second-highest-earning deceased celebrity. Six years later, he ranked fourth with earnings of $35 million, up $8 million from 2016 due in part to the opening of a new entertainment complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, and hotel, The Guest House at Graceland.

For much of his adult life, Presley, with his rise from poverty to riches and massive fame, had seemed to epitomize the American Dream. In his final years and even more so after his death, and the revelations about its circumstances, he became a symbol of excess and gluttony. Increasing attention, for instance, was paid to his appetite for the rich, heavy Southern cooking of his upbringing, foods such as chicken-fried steak and biscuits and gravy. In particular, his love of calorie-laden fried peanut butter, banana, and (sometimes) bacon sandwiches, now known as “Elvis sandwiches”, came to stand for this aspect of his persona. But the Elvis sandwich represents more than just unhealthy overindulgence—as media and culture scholar Robert Thompson describes, the unsophisticated treat also signifies Presley’s enduring all-American appeal: “He wasn’t only the king, he was one of us.”

Since 1977, there have been numerous alleged sightings of Presley. A long-standing conspiracy theory among some fans is that he faked his death. Adherents cite alleged discrepancies in the death certificate, reports of a wax dummy in his original coffin, and accounts of Presley planning a diversion so he could retire in peace.An unusually large number of fans have domestic shrines devoted to Presley and journey to sites with which he is connected, however faintly. Every August 16, the anniversary of his death, thousands of people gather outside Graceland and celebrate his memory with a candlelight ritual. “With Elvis, it is not just his music that has survived death”, writes Ted Harrison. “He himself has been raised, like a medieval saint, to a figure of cultic status. It is as if he has been canonized by acclamation.”

Artistry

Influences

Presley’s earliest musical influence came from gospel. His mother recalled that from the age of two, at the Assembly of God church in Tupelo attended by the family, “he would slide down off my lap, run into the aisle and scramble up to the platform. There he would stand looking at the choir and trying to sing with them.” In Memphis, Presley frequently attended all-night gospel singings at the Ellis Auditorium, where groups such as the Statesmen Quartet led the music in a style that, Guralnick suggests, sowed the seeds of Presley’s future stage act:

 

The Statesmen were an electric combination … featuring some of the most thrillingly emotive singing and daringly unconventional showmanship in the entertainment world … dressed in suits that might have come out of the window of Lansky’s. … Bass singer Jim Wetherington, known universally as the Big Chief, maintained a steady bottom, ceaselessly jiggling first his left leg, then his right, with the material of the pants leg ballooning out and shimmering. “He went about as far as you could go in gospel music,” said Jake Hess. “The women would jump up, just like they do for the pop shows.” Preachers frequently objected to the lewd movements … but audiences reacted with screams and swoons.

As a teenager, Presley’s musical interests were wide-ranging, and he was deeply informed about both white and African-American musical idioms. Though he never had any formal training, he had a remarkable memory, and his musical knowledge was already considerable by the time he made his first professional recordings aged 19 in 1954. When Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller met him two years later, they were astonished at his encyclopedic understanding of the blues, and, as Stoller put it, “He certainly knew a lot more than we did about country music and gospel music.” At a press conference the following year, he proudly declared, “I know practically every religious song that’s ever been written.”

Musicianship

Presley received his first guitar when he was 11 years old. He learned to play and sing; he gained no formal musical training but had an innate natural talent and could easily pick up music. Presley played guitar, bass, and piano. While he couldn’t read or write music and had no formal lessons, he was a natural musician and played everything by ear. Presley often played an instrument on his recordings and produced his own music. Presley played rhythm acoustic guitar on most of his Sun recordings and his 1950s RCA albums. He played electric bass guitar on “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” after his bassist Bill Black had trouble with the instrument.[348] Presley played the bass line including the intro. Presley played piano on songs such as “Old Shep” and “First in Line” from his 1956 album Elvis.[349] He is credited with playing piano on later albums such as From Elvis in Memphis and Moody Blue, and on “Unchained Melody” which was one of the last songs that he recorded.[350] Presley played lead guitar on one of his successful singles called “One Night”. Presley also played guitar on one of his successful singles called “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. In the 68 Comeback Special, Elvis took over on lead electric guitar, the first time he had ever been seen with the instrument in public, playing it on songs such as “Baby What You Want Me to Do” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”. Elvis played the back of his guitar on some of his hits such as “All Shook Up”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, and “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”, providing percussion by slapping the instrument to create a beat. The album Elvis is Back! features Presley playing a lot of acoustic guitar on songs such as “I Will Be Home Again” and “Like a Baby”.

Musical styles and genres

Presley was a central figure in the development of rockabilly, according to music historians. “Rockabilly crystallized into a recognizable style in 1954 with Elvis Presley’s first release, on the Sun label”, writes Craig Morrison. Paul Friedlander describes the defining elements of rockabilly, which he similarly characterizes as “essentially … an Elvis Presley construction”: “the raw, emotive, and slurred vocal style and emphasis on rhythmic feeling [of] the blues with the string band and strummed rhythm guitar [of] country”. In “That’s All Right”, the Presley trio’s first record, Scotty Moore’s guitar solo, “a combination of Merle Travis–style country finger-picking, double-stop slides from acoustic boogie, and blues-based bent-note, single-string work, is a microcosm of this fusion.” While Katherine Charlton likewise calls Presley “rockabilly’s originator”, Carl Perkins has explicitly stated that “[Sam] Phillips, Elvis, and I didn’t create rockabilly” and, according to Michael Campbell, “Bill Haley recorded the first big rockabilly hit.” In Moore’s view, too, “It had been there for quite a while, really. Carl Perkins was doing basically the same sort of thing up around Jackson, and I know for a fact Jerry Lee Lewis had been playing that kind of music ever since he was ten years old.”

At RCA, Presley’s rock and roll sound grew distinct from rockabilly with group chorus vocals, more heavily amplified electric guitars and a tougher, more intense manner. While he was known for taking songs from various sources and giving them a rockabilly/rock and roll treatment, he also recorded songs in other genres from early in his career, from the pop standard “Blue Moon” at Sun to the country ballad “How’s the World Treating You?” on his second LP to the blues of “Santa Claus Is Back in Town”. In 1957, his first gospel record was released, the four-song EP Peace in the Valley. Certified as a million-seller, it became the top-selling gospel EP in recording history. Presley would record gospel periodically for the rest of his life.

After his return from military service in 1960, Presley continued to perform rock and roll, but the characteristic style was substantially toned down. His first post-Army single, the number-one hit “Stuck on You”, is typical of this shift. RCA publicity materials referred to its “mild rock beat”; discographer Ernst Jorgensen calls it “upbeat pop”. The number five “She’s Not You” (1962) “integrates the Jordanaires so completely, it’s practically doo-wop”. The modern blues/R&B sound captured with success on Elvis Is Back! was essentially abandoned for six years until such 1966–67 recordings as “Down in the Alley” and “Hi-Heel Sneakers”. Presley’s output during most of the 1960s emphasized pop music, often in the form of ballads such as “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, a number-one in 1960. “It’s Now or Never”, which also topped the chart that year, was a classically influenced variation of pop based on the Neapolitan “‘O sole mio” and concluding with a “full-voiced operatic cadence”. These were both dramatic numbers, but most of what Presley recorded for his many film soundtracks was in a much lighter vein.

While Presley performed several of his classic ballads for the ’68 Comeback Special, the sound of the show was dominated by aggressive rock and roll. He would record few new straight-ahead rock and roll songs thereafter; as he explained, they were “hard to find”. A significant exception was “Burning Love”, his last major hit on the pop charts. Like his work of the 1950s, Presley’s subsequent recordings reworked pop and country songs, but in markedly different permutations. His stylistic range now began to embrace a more contemporary rock sound as well as soul and funk. Much of Elvis in Memphis, as well as “Suspicious Minds”, cut at the same sessions, reflected his new rock and soul fusion. In the mid-1970s, many of his singles found a home on country radio, the field where he first became a star.

Vocal style and range

The developmental arc of Presley’s singing voice, as described by critic Dave Marsh, goes from “high and thrilled in the early days, [to] lower and perplexed in the final months.” Marsh credits Presley with the introduction of the “vocal stutter” on 1955’s “Baby Let’s Play House”. When on “Don’t Be Cruel”, Presley “slides into a ‘mmmmm’ that marks the transition between the first two verses,” he shows “how masterful his relaxed style really is.” Marsh describes the vocal performance on “Can’t Help Falling in Love” as one of “gentle insistence and delicacy of phrasing”, with the line “‘Shall I stay’ pronounced as if the words are fragile as crystal”.

Jorgensen calls the 1966 recording of “How Great Thou Art” “an extraordinary fulfillment of his vocal ambitions”, as Presley “crafted for himself an ad-hoc arrangement in which he took every part of the four-part vocal, from [the] bass intro to the soaring heights of the song’s operatic climax”, becoming “a kind of one-man quartet”. Guralnick finds “Stand By Me” from the same gospel sessions “a beautifully articulated, almost nakedly yearning performance,” but, by contrast, feels that Presley reaches beyond his powers on “Where No One Stands Alone”, resorting “to a kind of inelegant bellowing to push out a sound” that Jake Hess of the Statesmen Quartet had in his command. Hess himself thought that while others might have voices the equal of Presley’s, “he had that certain something that everyone searches for all during their lifetime.” Guralnick attempts to pinpoint that something: “The warmth of his voice, his controlled use of both vibrato technique and natural falsetto range, the subtlety and deeply felt conviction of his singing were all qualities recognizably belonging to his talent but just as recognizably not to be achieved without sustained dedication and effort.”

Marsh praises his 1968 reading of “U.S. Male”, “bearing down on the hard guy lyrics, not sending them up or overplaying them but tossing them around with that astonishingly tough yet gentle assurance that he brought to his Sun records.” The performance on “In the Ghetto” is, according to Jorgensen, “devoid of any of his characteristic vocal tricks or mannerisms”, instead relying on the exceptional “clarity and sensitivity of his voice”. Guralnick describes the song’s delivery as of “almost translucent eloquence … so quietly confident in its simplicity”. On “Suspicious Minds”, Guralnick hears essentially the same “remarkable mixture of tenderness and poise”, but supplemented with “an expressive quality somewhere between stoicism (at suspected infidelity) and anguish (over impending loss)”.

Music critic Henry Pleasants observes that “Presley has been described variously as a baritone and a tenor. An extraordinary compass … and a very wide range of vocal color have something to do with this divergence of opinion.” He identifies Presley as a high baritone, calculating his range as two octaves and a third, “from the baritone low G to the tenor high B, with an upward extension in falsetto to at least a D-flat. Presley’s best octave is in the middle, D-flat to D-flat, granting an extra full step up or down.” In Pleasants’ view, his voice was “variable and unpredictable” at the bottom, “often brilliant” at the top, with the capacity for “full-voiced high Gs and As that an opera baritone might envy”. Scholar Lindsay Waters, who figures Presley’s range as two-and-a-quarter octaves, emphasizes that “his voice had an emotional range from tender whispers to sighs down to shouts, grunts, grumbles, and sheer gruffness that could move the listener from calmness and surrender, to fear. His voice can not be measured in octaves, but in decibels; even that misses the problem of how to measure delicate whispers that are hardly audible at all.” Presley was always “able to duplicate the open, hoarse, ecstatic, screaming, shouting, wailing, reckless sound of the black rhythm-and-blues and gospel singers”, writes Pleasants, and also demonstrated a remarkable ability to assimilate many other vocal styles.

Lyrics


Blues In The Night (easy chrom, hi-lo)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

W: Johnny Mercer
M: Harold Arlen
Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald
Key: C

3 -4 4 3 -4 4
7 -8 8 7 -8 8
My Ma-ma done tol’ me,

3 -4 4 3 -4 4
7 -8 8 7 -8 8
When I was in knee pants,

3 -4 4 3 -4 4 2
7 -8 8 7 -8 8 6
My Ma-ma done tol’ me, “Son,

1 3 -2 1 3 -2
5 7 -6 5 7 -6
A wo-man-‘ll sweet talk,

1 3 -2 1 3 -2
5 7 -6 5 7 -6
And give ya the big eye

4 -3* -3 3 -3 -1* 2
8 -7* -7 7 -7 -5* 6
But when the sweet talk-in’s done,

3 4* -5 3 4* -5
7 8* -9 7 8* -9
A wo-man’s a two-face,

5 -5* -5 -5 4
9 -9* -9 -9 8
A wor-ri-some thing,

4 -3* -3 -3 3
8 -7* -7 -7 7
Who’ll leave ya t’ sing,

3 -4 4 -3 3 1
7 -8 8 -7 7 5
The blues in the night,

6 7 6 4 -3 3
10 11 10 8 -7 7
Now the rains a-fall-in

-5* 7 -5* 4 -3 3 -5* 6
-9* 11 -9* 8 -7 7 -9* 10
Hear the trains a-call-in, whoo-ee

3 -4 4 3 -4 4
7 -8 8 7 -8 8
My Ma-ma done tol’ me,

-5* 7 -5* 4 -3 3
-9* 11 -9* 8 -7 7
Hear dat lone-some whis-tle

-6 7 -6 -5* 4 3* -5* 6
-10 11 -10 -9* 8 7* -9* 10
Blow-in’ ‘cross the tres-tle, whoo-ee

3 -4 4 3 -4 4
7 -8 8 7 -8 8
My Ma-ma done tol’ me,

3 -6* 7 3 -6* 7
7 -10* 11 7 -10* 11
A-whoo-ee-duh-whoo-ee

3 -5* -5 -5* 4
7 -9* -9 -9* 8
Ol’ click-e-ty-clack’s

4 -3*-3 -3* 3
8 -7*-7 -7* 7
A ech-o-in back

3 -4 4 -3 3 1
7 -8 8 -7 7 5
The blues in the night

Lyrics


Blues In The Night (chromatic)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

W: Johnny Mercer
M: Harold Arlen
Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald
Key: Bb

-6 -7 -7* -6 -7 -7*
My ma-ma done tol’ me,
-6 -7 -7* -6 -7 -7*
when I was in knee-pants
-6 -7 -7* -6 -7 -7* -5
My ma-ma done tol’ me, “Son,
-3*-6 -5* -3* -6 -5*
a wom-an-‘ll sweet talk”
-3* -6 -5* -3* -6 -5*
And give ya the big eye,
-7* 7* 7 -6 7 5* -5
but when the sweet talk-in’s done
-6 -8 8 -6 -8 8
A wom-an’s a two-face,
-6 8* 8 8* -7* -7* 7* 7 7* -6
a wor-ri-some thing who’ll leave ya t’ sing
-6 -7* 7 -6 -3*
the blues in the night

-9 -10 -9 -7* 7 -6
Now the rain’s a-fall-in’,
8* -10 8* -7* 7 -6 8* -9
hear the train a-call-in, “Whoo-ee!”
-6 -7 -7* -6 -7 -7*
(My ma-ma done tol’ me)
8* -10 8* -7* 7 -6
Hear dat lone-some whis-tle
-9* -10 -9* 9* -7* -6* 8* -9
Blow-in’ ‘cross the tres-tle, “Whoo-ee!”
-6 -7 -7* -6 -7 -7*
(My ma-ma done tol’ me)
-6 10 -10 -6 10 -10
A-whoo-ee-duh-whoo-ee
-6 8* 8 8* -7* -7* 7* 7 7* -6
ol’ click-e-ty-clack’s a-ech-o-in’ back
-6 -7 7 -6 -3*
th’ blues in the night
-6 7 -7* 8 -7* 8
The eve-nin’ breeze-‘ll start
-7* -9* 9* -9* 9*
the trees to cry-in’
-9* -10 -7* 7* -7* 7* 9*
and the moon-‘ll hide it’s light
7* 7 7* 7 8 -7* 8 8
when you get the blues in the night

8 -7* 8 -7* -9* 9* -9* 7*
Take my word, the mock-in’-bird-‘ll
-9* -10 -7* 7* -7* 7* 9*
sing the sad-dest kind o’ song,
7* 7 7* 7 8 -7* 8 -9
he knows things are wrong, and he’s right

|~~-6-7*|7*..7*7-9*|9*…

-6 -7 -7* -6 -7 -7*
From Nat-chez to Mo-bile,
-6 -7 -7* -6 -7 -7*
from Mem-phis to St. Joe,
-6 -7 -7* -6 -7 -7* -5
wher-ev-er the four winds blow
-3* -6 -5* -3* -6 -5*
I been in some big towns
-3* -6 -5* -3* -6 -5*
An’ heard me some big talk,
-7* 7* 7 -6 7 5* -5
but there is one thing I know
-6 -8 8 -6 -8 8
A wom-an’s a two-face,
-6 8* 8 8* -7* -7* 7* 7 7* -6
a wor-ri-some thing who’ll leave ya t’ sing
-6 -7* 7 -6 -3*
the blues in the night

-6 8* 8 8* -7*
My ma-ma was right,
-7* -6-7* 7 -6 -3*
there’s blues in the night.

Lyrics


City Of New Orleans (chrom)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

By: Steve Goodman
Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nelson
Key: G

-5 -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 5 5 -4
Rid-in’ on the Cit-y Of New Or-leans
-4 -4 -4 -4 3 6 6 6 -5 -5 -5
Il-li-nois Cen-tral, Mon-day morn-in’ rail
-5 -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 5 5 -4
Fif-teen cars and fif-teen rest-less rid-ers
-4 -4 -4 3
Three con-duc-tors;
-4 -5 -5 -5 -5 -2* 3
and twen-ty-five sacks of mail

-4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4
All a-long the south-bound od-ys-sey
-4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4
the train pulls out of Kan-ka-kee
-4 -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 6 5*
And rolls a-long the hous-es, farms, and fields
-4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4
Pass-in’ towns that have no name,
-4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4
and freight yards full of old black men
-5 -5 -5 -5 -3 -4
And the grave-yards of the
4 4 4 -4 -3 3
rust-ed au-to-mo-biles

7 7 -6* -6*-6*-6*-6* 6 -5 3
Good morn-ing, A-mer-i-ca, how are you?
-3 -4 -4 -4 3 6 6 6 -5 -5
Say, don’t you know me? I’m your na-tive son
-5 5 -4 -4 -4
I’m the train they call
-4 -5 -5 -5 6 -4-3 3
the Cit-y Of New Or-leans
3 3 -6 -6 6 6 -5
I’ll be gone five hun-dred miles
-5 -5 -55 -4 3
when the day is done

Dealing card games with the old man in the Club Car
Penny a point – ain’t no one keeping score
Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumbling ‘neath the floor
And the sons of Pullman Porters, and the sons of Engineers
Ride their father’s magic carpets made of steel
And, mothers with their babes asleep rocking to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel

Good morning, America, how are you?
Say, don’t you know me? I’m your native son
I’m the train they call the City Of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Night time on the City Of New Orleans
Changing cars in Memphis Tennessee
Halfway home – we’ll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness, rolling down to the sea
But, all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream
And the steel rail still ain’t heard the news
The conductor sings his songs again – the passengers will please
refrain
This train got the disappearing railroad blues

Good night, America, how are ya?
Said, don’t you know me? I’m your native son
I’m the train they call the City Of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Lyrics


City Of New Orleans (3-harp)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

By: Steve Goodman
Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nelson
Key: G
Harps: G, D, C

Harp: G

6 6 6 6 6 6 6 -5 -5 5
Rid-in’ on the Cit-y Of New Or-leans

5 5 5 5 4 -6 -6 -6 6 6 6
Il-li-nois Cen-tral, Mon-day morn-in’ rail

6 6 6 6 6 6 6 -5 -5 5
Fif-teen cars and fif-teen rest-less rid-ers

5 5 5 4
Three con-duc-tors;

5 6 6 6 6 -3 4
and twen-ty-five sacks of mail

Harp: D

-3”-3” -3” -3” -3” -3” -3”-3”-3”
-6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6
All a-long the south-bound od-ys-sey

-3” -3” -3” -3” -3”-3” -3”-3”
-6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6
the train pulls out of Kan-ka-kee

-3” 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 -4 -3
-6 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 -8 -7
And rolls a-long the hous-es, farms, and fields

-3” -3” -3” -3” -3” -3” -3”
-6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6
Pass-in’ towns that have no name,

-3” -3” -3” -3” -3”-3” -3” -3”
-6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6
and freight yards full of old black men

4 4 4 4 3 -3”
7 7 7 7 6 -6
And the grave-yards of the

Harp: G

-2” -2”-2” 2 -1 1
-5 -5 -5 5 -4 4
rust-ed au-to-mo-biles

4 4 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3” 3 1
7 7 -7 -7 -7 -7 -7 -6 6 4
Good morn-ing, A-mer-i-ca, how are you?

-1 2 2 2 1 -3” -3” -3” 3 3
-4 5 5 5 4 -6 -6 -6 6 6
Say, don’t you know me? I’m your na-tive son

3 -2” 2 2 2
6 -5 5 5 5
I’m the train they call

2 3 3 3 -3” 2-1 1
5 6 6 6 -6 5-4 4
the Cit-y Of New Or-leans

Harp: C

3 3 -5 -5 5 5 -4
6 6 -9 -9 8 8 -8
I’ll be gone five hun-dred miles

-4 -4 -44 -3 3
-8 -8 -87 -7 6
when the day is done

Dealing card games with the old man in the Club Car
Penny a point – ain’t no one keeping score
Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumbling ‘neath the floor
And the sons of Pullman Porters, and the sons of Engineers
Ride their father’s magic carpets made of steel
And, mothers with their babes asleep rocking to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel

Good morning, America, how are you?
Say, don’t you know me? I’m your native son
I’m the train they call the City Of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Night time on the City Of New Orleans
Changing cars in Memphis Tennessee
Halfway home – we’ll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness, rolling down to the sea
But, all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream
And the steel rail still ain’t heard the news
The conductor sings his songs again – the passengers will please
refrain
This train got the disappearing railroad blues

Good night, America, how are ya?
Said, don’t you know me? I’m your native son
I’m the train they call the City Of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Lyrics


Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

By Vaughn Horton, Denver Darling
& Milton Gabler

I’m head-ed for the sta-tion
7* -7 -6 -5 5 -7 -6
with a pack on my back,
-5 5 -6 6 -6 -7
I’m tired of trans-port-a-tion
7* -7 -6 -5 5 -7 -6
in the back of a hack,
-5 5 -6 6 -6 -7
I love to hear the rhy-thm
7* 7* -6 -5 -3* 7* -6
of the click-e-ty-clack,
-5 -3* -6 6 -6 7*
And hear the lone-some whis-tle,
7* -7 -6 -5 5 -7 -6
see the smoke from the stack,
-5 5 -6 6 -6 -7
And pal a-round with dem-o-crat-ic
-7 -7* 7 6 5 -7* 7 6 5
Fel-las named Mac,
7 6 7 -7*
So take me right back to the track, Jack
-7 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6
Choo choo, choo choo ch’boog-ie
7* 7* 7* 7* 7* -6 7
Whoo whoo, whoo whoo ch’boog-ie,
-7 -7 -7 -7 -7 7 7*
Choo choo, choo choo ch’boog-ie
7* 7* 7* 7* 7* -6 7
Take me right back to the track, Jack.
8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
You reach your des-ti-na-tion
7* -7 -6 -5 5 -7 -6
but a-las and a-lack!,
-5 5 -6 6 -6 -7
You need some com-pen-sa-tion
7* -7 -6 -5 5 -7 -6
to get back in the black,
-5 5 -6 6 -6 -7
You take a morn-in’ pa-per
7* 7* -6 -5 -3* 7* -6
from the top of the stack,
-5 -3* -6 6 -6 7*
And read the sit-u-a-tions
7* -7 -6 -5 5 -7 -6
from the front to the back,
-5 5 -6 6 -6 -7
But, the on-ly job that’s o-pen
-7 -7 -7* 7 6 5 -7* 7
needs a man with a knack,
6 5 7 6 7 -7*
So put it right back in the rack, Jack.
-7 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6
Choo choo, choo choo ch’boog-ie
7* 7* 7* 7* 7* -6 7
Whoo whoo, whoo whoo ch’boog-ie,
-7 -7 -7 -7 -7 7 7*
Choo choo, choo choo ch’boog-ie
7* 7* 7* 7* 7* -6 7

So you put it right back in the track, Jack.
-7 -7 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6

I’m gon-na set-tle down
7* -7 -6 -5 5 -7
be-side the rail-road track,
-6 -5 5 -6 -6 -7
And live the life o’Ril-ey
7* -7 -6 -5 5 -7 -6
in a beat-en down shack,
-5 5 -6 6 -6 -7
So when I hear a whist-le
7* 7* -6 -5 -3* 7* -6
I can peep thru the crack,
-5 -3* -6 6 -6 7*
And watch the train a-roll-in’ when
7* -7 -6 -5 5 -7 -6 -5

it’s ball-in’ the jack,
5 -6 6 -6 -7
For I just love the rhy-thm
-7 7* 7 6 5 -7* 7
of the click-e-ty-clack,
6 5 7 6 7 -7*
So take me right back to the track, Jack.
-7 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6

Choo choo, choo choo ch’boog-ie
7* 7* 7* 7* 7* -6 7
Whoo whoo, whoo whoo ch’boog-ie,
-7 -7 -7 -7 -7 7 7*
Choo choo, choo choo ch’boog-ie
7* 7* 7* 7* 7* -6 7

Take me right back to the track, Jack.
8 8 8 8 -9 10 -10 -6

Lyrics


Dumb Things

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

1.
7 -6 7 7 7 -6 7
Welcome, stranger, to the show
7 -6 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
I’m the one who should be lying low
7 -6 7 7 7 7 7
Saw the knives out, turned my back
7 -6 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Heard the train coming, stayed out on the track
7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 -7 -7 -7 -7 -7
In the middle, in the middle, in the middle of
-7 7 -7 -6
a dream
-7-6 7 7 -7 -7 7 7 7
I~~ lost my shirt, I pawned my rings
5 5 5 5 5 b-3
I’ve done all the dumb things
2.
Caught the fever, heard the tune
Thought I loved her, hung my heart on the moon
Started howling, made no sense
Thought my friends would rush to my defence
In the middle, in the middle, in the middle of a dream
I lost my shirt, I pawned my rings
I’ve done all the dumb things
3.
And I get all your good advice
It doesn’t stop me from going through these things twice
I see the knives out, I turn my back
I hear the train coming, I stay right on that track
In the middle, in the middle, in the middle of a dream
I lost my shirt, I pawned my rings
I’ve done all the dumb things
7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
I melted wax to fix my wings
5 5 5 5 5 b-3
I’ve done all the dumb things
7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
I threw my hat into the ring
5 5 5 5 5 b-3
I’ve done all the dumb things
7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
I thought that I just had to sing
5 5 5 5 5 b-3
I’ve done all the dumb things

Lyrics


Driver 8

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

5 5 5 5 4 4 -3” 4 3

The walls are built up, stone by sto-ne

5 5 5 -5 5 4 -4 5

the fields divided one by one.

5 5 5 5 5 6 5

And the train conductor says,

-4 4 5 -4 4 -3 -4 4 5 -4 4 5

Take a break Driver 8, Driver 8 take a break

-4 4 5 5 -4 4 -3

we’ve been on this shift too long

CHORUS:

-4 -4 4 4 4 4 -4

And the train conductor says,

-4 -4 4 4 -3” 3 -4 -4 4 4 4 -4

Take a break Driver 8, Driver 8 take a break

-4 -4 4 -4 4 -3 -3 -3” -3 4 -3 3 -3”

We can reach our destination, still a ways away

-3 -3 -3 4 -3 3 -3”

(But we’re still a way’s away)

5 5 5 5 4 4 -3” 4 4 4 4 -3

I saw a treehouse on the outskirts of the farm.

4 5 5 -4 5 -5

Power lines have floaters

5 4 5 5 -4 4 -3

so the airplanes won’t get snagged.

5 5 5 5 4 4 4 5 5

Bells are ringing through the town again,

5 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 4 -3 4 -3

Children look up, all they hear is sky blue, bells ringing

[REPEAT CHORUS]

-3 4 -3 3 -3”

Still a ways away

-3 -3 -3 4 -3 3 -3”

(But we’re still a way’s away)

-4 -4 -4 4 4 4 -5

Way to shield the hated heat.

5 5 -5 5 -4 4 -4

Way to put myself to sleep.

-4 -4 -4 4 4 4 -5

Way to shield the hated heat.

5 5 -5 5 -4 4 -4 5 -4

Way to put myself, my children t’sleep.

5 5 5 5 -4 4 4 4 -3” 4 3

Piloted this song in a plane like that one.

5 5 -4 5 -5 5 -4 5 -4 4 -3

She is selling faith on the Go Tell crusade.

5 5 5 6 5 -4 4 5 5 -4 4 -3 4 -3 -3”

Locomotive 8, Southern Crescent, hear the bells ring again.

5 5 5 4 4 4 5

Th’field to weed is lookin’ thin

[REPEAT CHORUS]

-3 4 -3 3 -3”

Still a ways away

-3 -3 -3 4 -3 3 -3”

(But we’re still a way’s away)

Lyrics


Folsom Prison Blues (Chrom F)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

6 6 6 -6 7 5 5
I hear the train a comin’
6 6 6 -6 7 6
It’s rollin’ ’round the bend
6 6 6 -6 -6 7 5
And I ain’t seen the sunshine
5 5 6 6 6 -5*
Since, I don’t know when
-5* -5 5 -5 5 -5 5 (#)
I’m stuck in Folsom Prison
-5 -5 5 -5* 5 3
And time keeps draggin’ on
6 6 -5 -5 -5 3
But that train keeps a-rollin’
3 3 3 3 -2 -1* -1 1
On down to San Antone
(Repeat)
(Interlude Then Repeat)
(Interlude Up To # Then Start)
(Repeat)

When I was just a baby
My Mama told me, son
Always be a good boy
Don’t ever play with guns
But I shot a man in Reno
Just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowin’
I hang my head and cry

I bet there’s rich folks eatin’
In a fancy dining car
They’re probably drinkin’ coffee
And smokin’ big cigars
But I know I had it comin’
I know I can’t be free
But those people keep a-movin’
And that’s what tortures me

Well, if they freed me from this prison
If that railroad train was mine
I bet I’d move out over a little
Farther down the line
Far from Folsom Prison
That’s where I want to stay
And I’d let that lonesome whistle
Blow my blues away

This plays with karaoke music, same Artist, run time 2:49.

Lyrics


Green Green Grass Of Home (chromatic)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

By: Curly Putman
Merle Haggard, Porter Wagoner
Key: G

-1 -1 -1 -1 1* 2 -1
The old home town looks the same
-1 -1 2 3 2 3 -1
As I step down from the train
-1 3 -3 -4 -4 -3 -4 4 -4-3 3 -2* -3
And there to meet me is my Ma-ma and Pa-pa
3 -4 -5 -5 -5 -4 4 -4 -3 3
Down the road I look and there runs Ma-ry
3 3 -2* 3 -3 3 -2* 2
Hair of gold and lips like cher-ries
2 -1 -1 3 3 -3 -3 3 -2* 3
It’s good to touch the Green Green Grass Of Home

CHORUS
3 -4 -5 -5 -4 4 -4
Yes they`ll all come to meet me
-4-3 -3 3 -2* 3 -3 3
Arms reach-ing smil-ing sweet-ly
2 -1 -1 3 3 -3 -3 3 -2* 3
It`s good to touch the Green Green Grass Of Home

The old house is still standing
Tho` the paint is cracked and dry
And there`s that old oak tree
That I used to play on
Down the lane I walk with my sweet Mary
Hair of gold and lips like cherries
It`s good to touch the Green Green Grass Of Home
Yes they`ll all come to see me
-4 -3 3 -2* 3 -3 3 -2*
In the shade of that old oak tree
2 2 -1 3 3
As they lay me `neath
3 -3 4 3 -2* 3
the Green Green Grass Of Home

(spoken)
Then I awake and look around me
At the four grey walls that surround me
And I realize yes I was only dreaming
For there`s a guard and there`s a sad old padre
Arm in arm we`ll walk at daybreak
Again I`ll touch the Green Green Grass Of Home
REPEAT CHORUS

Lyrics


Green Green Grass of Home (Chrom G)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

3* 3* 3* 3* 3 -3* 3*
The old home town looks the same
3* 3* -3* 5* -3* 5* 3*
As I step down from the train
3* 5* -5* -6 -6 -5* -6 -6* -6 -5* 5* 5 -5*
And there to meet me is my Ma-ma and Pa-pa
5* -6 7* 7* 7* 7* -6* -6 -5* 5*
Down the road I look and there runs Ma-ry
5* 5* 5 5* -5* 5* 5 -3*
Hair of gold and lips like cher-ries
-3* 3* 3* 5* 5* -5* -5* 5* 5 5*
It’s good to touch the Green Green Grass Of Home

CHORUS
5* -6 7* 7* -6 -6* -6
Yes they`ll all come to meet me
-6-5* -5* 5* 5 5* -5* 5*
Arms reach-ing smil-ing sweet-ly
-3* 3* 3* 5* 5* -5* -5* 5* 5 5*
It`s good to touch the Green Green Grass Of Home
(Repeat 1st Verse 2X)

CHORUS ON FINAL REPEAT
5* -6 7* 7* -6 -6* -6
5*-5* -5* 5* 5 5* -5* 5* 5
-3* -3* 3* 5* 5*
5* -5* -6* 5* 5 5*

The old house is still standing
Tho` the paint is cracked and dry
And there`s that old oak tree
That I used to play on
Down the lane I walk with my sweet Mary
Hair of gold and lips like cherries
It`s good to touch the Green Green Grass Of Home
Yes they`ll all come to see me

In the shade of that old oak tree
As they lay me `neath
the Green Green Grass Of Home

This song will play with karaoke music run time 3:10.

Lyrics


Green Green Grass

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

-4 -4 -4 -4 4 5 -4
The Old home town looks the same

-4 -4 5 6 5 6 -4
as I step down from the train

-4 6 -6 -7 -7 -6 -7 7 -7 -6 6 6 -6
and there to meet me is my momma and my poppa.

6 -7 -8 -8 -8 -7 7 -7 -6 6
Down the road I look, and there runs Mary.

6 6 6 6 -6 6 -5 5
Hair of gold, and lips like cherries.

5 -4 -4 6 6 -6 -6 6 5 6
Its good to touch the green, green grass of home.

Lyrics


Green Green Grass Of Home

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

1.
4 4 4 4 -3 -4 4
The old home-town looks the same
4 4 -4 -5 -4 -5 4
As I step down from the train
4 -5 6 -6 -6 6 -6 b-7-6 -5 5 6
And there to meet me is my Ma-ma and Papa
-5 -6 7 7 7 -6 b-7 -6 6-5
Down the road I look and there runs Ma-ry
-5 -5 5 -5 6 -5 5 -4
Hair of gold and lips like cherries
-4 4 4 -5 -5 6 6 -5 5 -5
It` good to touch the Green Green Grass Of Home
CHORUS
-5 -6 7 7 -6 b-7 -6
Yes they`ll all come to meet me
-6 6 6 -5 5 -5 6 -5
Arms reaching smiling sweetly
-4 4 4 -5 -5 6 6 -5 5 -5
It`s good to touch the Green Green Grass Of Home
2.
The old house is still standing
Tho` the paint is cracked and dry
And there`s that old oak tree
That I used to play on
Down the lane I walk with my sweet Mary
Hair of gold and lips like cheries
It`s good to touch the Green Green Grass Of Home
-5 -6 7 7 -6 b-7 -6
Yes they`ll all come to see me
-6 6 -5 5 -5 6 -5 5
In the shade of that old oak tree
-4 -4 4 -5 -5 -5 6 b-7 -5 5
As they lay me `neath the Green Green Grass Of
-5~~~~~~~
Home~~~~~~~~
3.(spoken)
Then I awake and look around me
At the four grey walls that surround me
And I realize yes I was only dreaming
For there`s a guard and there`s a sad old padre
Arm in arm we`ll walk at daybreak
Again I`ll touch the Green Green Grass Of Home
To CHORUS

Lyrics


Got The Blues, Can’t Be Satisfied

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

By: Mississippi John Hurt
Key: G

G7
-5 6 -6 -5 6 -6 6 -5
Got the blues, can’t be sat-is-fied.
C7 G
6 7 7 -7* 7 -3* -4 3
Got the blues, can’t be sat-is-fied.
D7
-7 -7 -7
Keep the blues,

7 -8 7 -7 -7 7
I’ll catch that train and ride.

Yes, whisky straight
Will drive the blues away 2x
That be the case, I wants a quart today

I bought my baby a great big diamond ring. 2x
Come right back home
And caught her shaking that thing.

I said, `Babe,
What makes you do me this-a-way? 2x
Well, that I bought, now you give it away.

I took my gun and broke the barrel down 2x
I put that joker six feet in the ground.

You got the blues, and I still ain’t satisfied 2x
Well, some old day,
gonna catch the train and ride.

Lyrics


House of The Rising Sun(Melody Maker)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

2 3 -3 4 5 -4 3 3
There is a house in New Orleans,

-6 -6 -6 6 5 5
They call the Rising Sun.

-6 -6 -6 -3 4 5 -4 3 3 3 3
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy,

-3 3 3 -2 2 -2 3
And God, I kn-ow I’m one.

-6 7 -6 6 4 -4 3
My mother was a tailor,

-6 -6 6 5 5
Sewed my new blue jeans.

-6 -6 -6 6 4 -4 3 3 4
My fa-ther was a gamblin’ man,

3 3 -2 2 -2 3
Down in New Orleans.

-6 -6 -6 -6 6 4 -4 3 4
Now the onl–y thing a gambler needs,

-6 -6 -6 -6 6 5 5
Is a suitcase and a trunk,

-6 -6 -6 -6 6 4 -4
And the o-nly time he’ll be,

3 3 4 3 3 3 -2 2 -2 3
Sa-tisfied, is when he’s a-ll a drunk.

2 3 -3 4 5 -4 3 3
Oh mother tell your children,

-6 -6 -6 -6 6 5 5
Not to do what I have done.

7 -3 4 5 -4 3 3 3 3
Spend your lives in sin and misery,

3 3 3 3 -2 2 -2 3
In the house of the rising sun.

-6 -6 -6 6 4 -4 3 3 4
Well I’ve got one foot on the platform.

-6 -6 -6 6 5 5
The other foot on the train.

-6 -6 -6 6 4 -4 3 3 4
I’m go–in’ back to New Orleans,

-3 3 3 -2 2 -2 3
To wear that ball and chain

-6 -6 -6 -6 6 4 -4 3 3
Well there is a house in New Orleans,

-6 -6 -6 6 5 5
They call the Rising Sun.

-6 -6 -6 -3 4 5 -4 3 3 3 4
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy,

-3 3 3 -2 2 -2 3
And God, I know I’m one.

Lyrics


House of the Rising Sun(Complete)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

5 -6 -7 7 8 -8 -6 -6
There is a house in New Orleans,
-10 -10 -10 9 8 8
They call the Rising Sun.
-10 -10 -10 -7 7 8 -8-6 -6 -6 -6
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy,
-6 -6 -6 6 5 6 -6
And God, I know I’m one.

-10 10 -10 9 7 -8 -6
My mother was a tailor,
-10 -10 9 8 8
Sewed my new blue jeans.
-10 -10 -10 9 7 -8 -6 -6 -67
My fa-ther was a gam–bl-in’ man,
-6 -6 6 5 6 -6
Down in New Orleans.

-10 -10 -10 -10 9 7 -8 -6 -6
Now the onl–y thing a gambler needs,
-10 -10 -10 -10 9 8 8
Is a suitcase and a trunk,
-10 -10 -10 -10 9 7 -8-6
And the o-nly time he’ll be,
-6 -6 7 -6 -6 -6 6 5 6 -6
Sa-tisfied, is when he’s a-ll a drunk.

-5 -6 -7 7 8 -8 -6
Oh mother tell your children,
-6 -10 -10 -10 9 8 8
Not to do what I have done.
10 -7 7 8 -8 -6 -6-6-6
Spend your lives in sin and misery,
-6 -6 -6 -6 6 5 6 -6
In the house of the rising sun.

{Word’s} -10 -10 -10 9 7 -8 -6
Well I’ve got one foot on the platform.
-10 -10 -10 9 8 8
The other foot on the train.
-10 -10 -10 9 7 -8 -6 -6 7
I’m go–in’ back to New Orleans,
7 -6 -6 6 5 6 -6
To wear that ba-ll and chain.
-10 -10 -10 -10 9 7 -8 -6 -6
Well there is a house in New Orleans,
-10 -10 -10 9 8 8
They call the Rising Sun.
-10 -10 -10 -10 9 7 -8-6 -6 -6 7
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy,
-6 -6 -6 6 5 6 -6
And God, I kn-ow I’m one.

Lyrics


House of the Rising Sun (Yet another one)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

5 -6 -7 7 8 -8 -6 -6
There is a house in New Or-leans

-8 -8 -8 7 -6 -6
They call the Ris-ing Sun

5 -6 -7 7 8 -8 -7 -6 -6
It’s been the ruin of many a poor boy

-6 -6 -6 6 5 6 -6
And God, I know I’m one

5 -6 -6 7 7 -7 5
My mo-ther was a tai-lor

-10 -10 9 8 8
Sewed my new blue jeans

5 -6 -6 7 7 -7 5 5
My fa-ther was a gamb-lin’ man

-6 -6 6 5 6 -6
Down in New Or-leans

-10 -10 -10 -10 9 7 -8 -6 7
Now the on- ly thing a gamb-ler needs

-10 -10 -10 -10 9 8 8
Is a suit-case and a trunk

-10 -10 -10 -10 9 7 -8 -6 7
And the on- ly time he’s sa-tis-fied

7 7 7 -7 6 -7 7
Is when he’s on a drunk

5 -6 -6 7 7 -7 5
Oh mo-ther tell your chil-dren

-8 -8 -8 -8 7 -6 -6
Not to do what I have done

-8 -8 7 6 -6 5 5 5 6
Spend your lives in sin and mi-se-ry

-6 -6 -6 -6 -6 6 5 6 -6
In the House of the Ris-ing Sun

-10 9 -10 -10 9 -8 -8 8 -6
Well I’ve got one foot on the plat-form

-10 -10 -10 9 8 8
The o- ther on the train

-10 -10 -10 9 7 -8 -6 7
I’m go-in’ back to New Or-leans

-10 -10 -10 9 8 8
To wear that ball and chain

-10 -10 -10 -10 9 7 -8 -6 7
Well, there is a house in New Orleans

-10 -10 -10 9 8 8
They call the Ris-ing Sun

-10 -10 -10 9 7 -8 -6 -6 -6 7
It’s been the ruin of ma-ny a poor boy

-6 -6 -6 6 5 -7 -6
And God, I know I’m one

Lyrics


House Of The Rising Sun (interlude)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

-4 -4 5 -5 -6 6 -4 -5 -8 -8 -8 7 -6 6 -6

There is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun.

-8 -8 -8 -6 7 7 -6 6 -4 -4 5 -5 -4 -4 -4 -4b -5 -4

And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy and God, I know I’m one.

-8 -8b -8 -6 7 -6 6 -4 -4b -5 -4 -4 -4 -4b -5 -4 (-4 -4b -4)

My mother was a tailor, she sewed my new blue jeans.
My father was a gamblin’ man down in New Orleans

-8 -8b -8 -6 7 -6 6 -4 -4b -5 -4 -4 -4 -4b -5 -4 (-4 -4b -4)

Now the only thing a gambler needs is a suitcase and a trunk
And the only time that he’s satisfied, is when he’s down and drunk.

-8 -8b -8 -6 7 -6 6 -4 -4b -5 -4 -4 -4 -4b -5 -4 (-4 -4b -4)

Oh mothers tell, tell your children not to do what I have done.
Spend your lives in sin and misery, in the house of the rising sun.

-8 -8b -8 -6 7 -6 6 -4 -4b -5 -4 -4 -4 -4b -5 -4 (-4 -4b -4)

I’ve got one foot on the platform. The oth’r foot on the train.
I’m goin’ now to New Orleans, to wear that ball and chain.

-8 -8b -8 -6 7 -6 6 -4 -4b -5 -4 -4 -4 -4b -5 -4 (-4 -4b -4)

There is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun.
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy

and God, I know I’m one.

Lyrics


House of the Rising Sun (Hakan Ehn style)

Key: Any

Genre: General

Harp Type: Diatonic

Skill: Beginner

I didn’t originally intend to post this. It was for my own reference,
a person in another forum was asking about tabs for this, so here it is.

/ and mean bend up to the note or bend down from the note. (The backward
slash I typed above wouldn’t show up when I posted the tab.) “g” means gliss.
Well, none of the backslashes show up. Just listen to the video.

G Harp
-4 -6 -1 -2” -3’ -2” -1 -1
There is a house in New Or-leans

-4 -4 -4 4 -3’ -3’
They call the Ris-ing Sun

-4 -4 -4 -4 4 -3’ -3” -1 X -2”
And it’s been the ruin of ma- ny poor boy

-1 -1 -1-1’ -1’ -1
And God I know I’m one

*************************************

-4 -4 -4 4 -3’ -2” -1
My mo-ther was a tai-lor

-4 -4 -4 4 -3”/-3’
She sewed my new blue-jeans

-(gliss from -6)-
-8 -8 -8 -8 7 /-6 /-6 -4 -5
My fa-ther was a gamb- lin’ man

-4 -4 4 -3’ (-4 -5) -4
Down in New Or- leans

*************************************

-8 -8 -8 -8 7 -6 6 -4 -5
Now the on-ly thing a gam-bler needs

-8 -8 -8 -8 7 -6 -6
Is a suit-case and a trunk

-8 -8 -8 -8 7 g-6 g-6 -4 -5
And the on-ly time he’s sa- tis-fied

(-4 -5) -4 -4 -4’ -3’(-4 -5)
Is when he’s on a drunk

****************************Low D Harp

-4 -2 -2 -3’ -2 4 -3
Oh mother go tell your chil-dren

-2 -3’ -2 4 -3 -2 -3’ 4 (-4 -5 shake)
Oh not to do what I have done

-4 (-4 -5) -2 -3 4 -3 -2 -3’ 4 -2
Oh spend your lives in sin and mi-se- ry

-1 -1 -2 -2” -1’ -2
Down in New Or-leans

*************************Solo D Harp
-2 -3” -3’ -3” -4 -3 -2
~
/-4 -5g -2 -3” 4

-2 -3” -3’ -3” -4 -3 -2
~
/-4 -3 -2 -3” 4 -4

***********************************************

-4’ -4 /-5 5 -4 4 -3’ -2

-2 -2 -2 -4’ 4 -3’ -2
~
-3 -2 -2” -2 -3’ -2
~
-1’ -1 -2” -2 -3’ 4 -3’ /-4 -5 6 -5 -4 4 -3’

***********************************************

-4 -5 6 /-6 6 -5 6 -5 4 -4

-2 -3’ -4 -2 -2 -2” -2 -4

-4’ -4 /-5 -4 -5 -4 /-5
–slide— –(7X)–
-4 -4’ -4 -4’ -4 -4’ -3’ -4’ -4 -5 -4 -5

***********************************************

9 8 -8 8 -8 -9 7 -6 6
-5 -4’ 4 -3’ -3” -2 -3’ 4 -3’
-5 /-4 -5 -2 -3// -2 -3’ -2”/-2” -1 -2”
-1 -2”/ -3’/ 4 -3’ -5 -4’ -4//
/-4 4 -3’ -2 -2”/ -3’ -2

***********************************************

/(-4 -5) /(-4 -5) /(-4 -5) /-4 /-4 /-4

~ -5 (6X. Different speeds.)
-4 -4 4 -3’ -2 -3” 4 -3” [-4 -5 -4 -3]

-4 (-3 -4) (-3’ -4’)/// (-4 -5)

56 6 6 -5 -4 -5 6 -5 -6’
~
6 -5 -4 56 -5 -4 -4’ 4 -3” -3’

-4’ -4 -5 -4’ -4 -4’ -3 -2 -3”

-3’ 4 -3’ -2 -3’ 4 -3’

-5 4 -4 4 -3 -2 -1

-4’ -3” -2 -2” -2 -2” -1/ -2 -2” -1 -2”

***********************************************

/9 /9 /9 9 -10 9 10’ /10 /10 /10

9 -10 9 /10 /10 /10 /10 /10 /10

9 /9 /9 9 -10 9 /10 /10

9 -10 9 /10 /10 /10 /9 8 -8 9

****************************G Harp

-4 -6 -1 -2” -3’ -2” -1 -1
I’ve got one foot on the plat-form

-4 -4 -4 4 -3” -3’
The o-ther on the train

-4 -4 -4 4 -3’ -3” -1 -2”
I’m go-in’ back to New Or-leans

-1’ -1 -1 -1’ -1’ -1
To wear that ball and chain

****************************************

-4 -4 -4 4 -3’ -2” -1’ -1
There is a house in New Or-leans

-4 -4 -4 4 -3” -3’
They call the Ris-ing Sun

-8 -8 -8 7 -6 -6 -4 -5
It’s been the ruin of ma-ny boy

-4 -4 4 -3’ -4
God I know I’m one

************************Low D Harp
Play softly:

Mostly half notes:

-1 -2 -3” 4 -4
(1/16th note)

-2 -3” 4 -2

-1 -2 -3” 4 -4
(1/16th note)

-2 -1 -2
(3 beats)

Repeat

Lyrics