We remember 1967 as a year which brought us “Lucy In The Sky (With Diamonds)” as well as “Judy In Disguise With Glasses.” But it was also the year Elvis Presley’s recording career began to wake from a deep slumber.
To get a perspective on Presley’s music in 1967, you have to go back to sessions in 1966 and 1961. His music career was still being driven by his movie commitments, and still being hamstrung by his management’s insistence on exclusively cutting songs owned by their publishing company.
Presley’s first single of ‘67 paired a couple of songs recorded in spring and summer of ‘66. “Fools Fall In Love” was a cover of a 1957 Drifters song, and was recorded in a May ‘66 session. Elvis came to Nashville with a cold on June 10th, 1966, and didn’t attend the opening night of the next studio date. So Red West took Presley’s place at the mike, recording the guide vocals as the musicians put down the tracks for “Indescribably Blue.” Elvis overdubbed his take on the song on the 12th. This would be his biggest single of 1967, peaking at number 33.
During his active recording career, Elvis was nominated for 18 Grammy Awards. Despite his dominance in pop sales and chart toppers, his first win was in the category of Best Sacred Performance for his gospel album, How Great Thou Art. Recorded in 1966, the LP was released in March of ’67.
Two Presley movies were released in less than two weeks, Easy Come Easy Go for Paramount on March 22nd, and Double Trouble for MGM on April 5th. Easy Come Easy Go didn’t leave much of a lasting musical impact. Six songs from the film were released on what would be Presley’s final EP of new material. Double Trouble would rate a full soundtrack album release, and provide the A-side of Presley’s next single, “Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On).”
The other side of that single was a song Elvis co-wrote with Red West, “That’s Someone You Never Forget.” Released in May of ‘67, the song was recorded in June ‘61, and had already been included in the 1962 lineup of the Pot Luck album.
Presley’s August, 1967 single took two more 1961 recordings, “There’s Always Me,” which charted in the middle 50’s. “Judy” was the B-side. Both had been previously released on the 1961 album Something For Everybody.
1968 would be known as the comeback year for Elvis, but the seeds for that turnaround were sown in the frustration of 1967. Two songs by two Reeds, Jimmy and Jerry, would serve as the wake up call which would spark enthusiasm from the slumbering giant.
Elvis heard Jerry Reed’s “Guitar Man” on the radio, and decided to buck his management’s ban on outside material and include it in his next studio date, rescheduled from August in LA to September in Nashville. None of the studio guitarists could come close to Jerry’s licks, so everything was put on hold until Reed could be tracked down and summoned to the session. They found him out fishing, and he came in straight from the bank, unshaven but ready to rock.
The energy Jerry brought to the session carried over to the recording of what would become the final Elvis single of 1967. “Big Boss Man” was a Jimmy Reed blues song, and the new sound from the old tune would place Elvis back in the top 40 to end the year. It would also be released on the soundtrack of Presley’s third movie of the year, Clambake.