Tue August 16, 2011
How the Lawyers Turned "Too Much" Into Nothing At All
By Rob Grayson
Memphis, TN – Would you say this band knows nothing about playing country music? The 20th Century Fox movie moguls did, and excluded Scotty Moore, Bill Black and DJ Fontana from backing Elvis Presley on the songs for his first movie, Love Me Tender. But the Blue Moon Boys were welcomed with open arms for the September 1st, 1956 RCA recording session that fleshed out the second Elvis album, and next number one single. The Hollywood sessions were productive. Presley's second album, titled Elvis, featured songs from the writers who provided Don't Be Cruel and Hound Dog, Otis Blackwell and Leiber and Stoller. There were three country songs, three Little Richard covers, and Elvis even sang Old Shep, a song that brought him second prize at a talent show when he was a kid. An EP release of four of these songs hit the top 10, and the follow-up single, Too Much, was the first number one of 1957 for Elvis.
Once again, the listed songwriters on the new hit single were more a paper trail of where the money went than a true indication of the people who actually wrote the song. Bill Beasley had a Nashville record company called Republic. Beasley and his wife Joan Norris wrote the song Too Much. Bernard Hardison recorded the original version on Beasley's label in 1955, backed by the Louis Brooks Band. The writers were listed on the label as Norris - Weinman. Norris, of course, was Beasley's wife, and Weinman was Bernie Weinman, a financial partner with Beasley. The record stiffed, and the song was forgotten until Bill Beasley heard it on the radio, sung by Elvis. Later lawsuits indicated that some intriguing machinations had replaced Norris' name in the songwriting credits with that of Lee Rosenberg. Rosenberg was apparently Weinman's secretary, and she was the person who placed the record in the hands of Elvis as he left for the West Coast to film his first movie. According to the lawsuit, Weinman and Rosenberg filed for a copyright as the writers of Too Much in 1956, having not copyrighted it in 1955 under the actual writers names. Being flush with cash from the success of a number one single, Weinman had the better attorneys and won the lawsuit, so instead of Too Much, Beasley and Norris were left with nothing at all. Incidentally, the Rosenberg share of the publishing money was the part that went to Elvis.
As so often happens when a paradigm shift is in progress, those who don't understand what's going on fight back; maybe not so much with sticks or stones, but definitely with words. Based on his first TV appearances, Elvis was pilloried in the press for "vulgarity" and "animalism". Steve Allen poked humor at these allegations by putting Presley on TV in a tuxedo singing to a dog. Ed Sullivan had declared he would never have Elvis on his show, but relented after taking it on the ratings chin. After working with Presley in person, by the end of his third appearance, Sullivan declared Elvis to be "a real decent, fine boy." Elvis concluded his January 6th, 1957 appearance on Sullivan's Toast Of The Town with the gospel song Peace In The Valley.
Guy Mitchell's Singing The Blues had given Elvis a nine-week vacation from the number one spot. Too Much popped to the top in its place the week of February 9, 1957. Incidentally, that same week at the number two spot was Young Love by Sonny James, who spent time playing with his folks in the Loden Family, and in live bands on WMPS and WHBQ in the 1950's.