The Memphis Sound
7:35 am
Tue January 24, 2012

As Luck Would Have It

It’s easy to say Elvis Presley had a career run of good luck as he headed into the sixties. From his first Sun Records single, he created a stir, and fostered a following that would set records and inspire a new youthful direction in the whole sphere of entertainment. But any carny worth his salt can read people like a book, and Presley’s manager Col. Tom Parker was perhaps the greatest since Barnum. In the new decade, he set new course was based on making movies that made money, fulfilling the RCA Records contract, and keeping Elvis off the TV and tour bus.

Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but indeed Presley started the decade with a few number one records, then started trending toward top 10 finishes. When the sessions weren’t tied up with cranking out movie tunes, they seemed to be spent cutting records which no longer swung for the fence, but were happy with ground-rule doubles.

Following the filming of Blue Hawaii, Elvis and his crew hit Nashville in June of 1961 with the aim of nailing a single. The writing team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman scored again, supplying both sides of the new 45. “(Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame” and “Little Sister” both charted. Both songs hit the top five, but the success of one worked against the other, as the split in airplay kept either song from getting enough traction to go all the way to number one. “His Latest Flame,” by the way, had been recorded days before the Elvis session by Del Shannon, but Del released “Hats Off To Larry” as a single instead.

A July recording date focused on music for the next film, Follow That Dream. There were two October ‘61 sessions, a Hollywood booking for the coming film Kid Galahad, preceded by an RCA session in Nashville.

“Good Luck Charm” was the highlight of the October recordings. Slated to be the end of 1961 single owed to RCA, instead the label decided they wanted “Can’t Help Falling In Love” from Blue Hawaii. The Colonel bristled at the timing. “Marie” and “Little Sister” were still on the charts, and fans who bought the soundtrack album already had the song. But RCA guaranteed the royalties, and the bet paid off. The single was a million seller in the states, and the soundtrack album was Presley’s biggest seller ever. “Good Luck Charm” capped the success in the spring becoming Presley’s penultimate number one.

Ironically, it was that Elvis single about good luck which ended the lucky streak he began with “Heartbreak Hotel.” Elvis had number one songs for seven consecutive years, and this Aaron Schroeder/Wally Gold composition would put the bookend on the backend in April of ‘62. Elvis wouldn’t hit number one again until 1969.

Prior to the “Good Luck Charm“ session, another tragedy hit the Presley players. Guitarist Hank Garland was injured in a car crash, and would struggle the rest of his life to reclaim the skills that made him so unique. The resulting shift in personnel bumped Presley’s long-time band mate Scotty Moore back into the six-string driver’s seat.

Follow That Dream hit the screens just before “Good Luck Charm” hit the top, and the Colonel’s concern about having too much vinyl out at once rang true when the title track didn’t make the top 10, hitting a peak of number 15 in late spring of ‘62. “Follow That Dream” did eventually make it’s way to platinum record status.

Instead of Hollywood, this time the movie was filmed in Florida, in various locations near Ocala. Should you ask around, you’ll probably not have much trouble finding ladies of a certain age who got a stray kiss on the cheek from the film’s star. And, if you ever head down to Yankeetown, you can even find a stretch of highway named “Follow That Dream Parkway,” commemorating the time Elvis turned this small town into a big deal.