Saturday, 21 December 2013

U is for Uncle Silas Payne
Sam Phillips grew up on the family farm outside Florence, Alabama. One of the workers was an old, blind, black man known as Uncle Silas Payne. He taught young Sam about music, about the power of what Sam later called ‘genuine, untutored Negro’ music. When Sam started his own record company he remembered what Uncle Silas had taught him and went looking for ‘Negroes with mud on their boots and patches in their overalls, battered instruments and unfettered techniques’. He found them and recorded them. Then he found Elvis and taught him what Uncle Silas had taught him. As has often been said, Uncle Silas is the secret hero of the whole story.

Tomorrow Elvis runs the voodoo down

Friday, 20 December 2013

Xmas 2013: a soundtrack

Here is the tracklisting for you if you downloaded my Xmas 2013 Dropbox folder. If you didn't get that hook-up and want it, let me know, either via direct email or a comment on this page.

As to details, well, I may or may not write some sleevenotes and do a proper CD cover. But I do know that tomorrow I will post the next section of the Elvis A-Z and that on Christmas Day there will be a gift for you all.

1 Silver Bells Bing Crosby (1950)

2 Christmas at the Airport Nick Lowe (2013)

3 Up On The Housetop
Pomplamoose (2010)

4 Frosty The Snowman Fiona Apple (2008)

5 Christmas Day With Me Laura Vane & the Vipertones (2009)

6 Merry Merry Christmas
Alton Ellis & The Lipsticks (1972)

7 White Christmas Elvis Presley (1957)

8 I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
John Prine (1994)

9 Christmas In Prison Emmy the Great featuring Lightspeed Champion (2006)

10 Grateful For Christmas Hayes Carll (2011)

11 Call Collect On Christmas Del McCoury (2005)

12 I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day Nick Lowe (2013)

13 I Wrote To Santa Claus Huey Smith Piano & Clowns (1962)

14 Christmas Blues Canned Heat (1968)

15 Rocket Ship Santa
The BellRays feat. Lisa Kekaula, Tony Fate and Bob Vennum (2005)

16 A Five Pound Box Of Money Pearl Bailey (1959)

17 Baby It's Cold Outside Ella Fitzgerald And Louis Jordan (1949)

18 Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) The Raveonettes (2008)

19 Cold White Christmas Casiotone For The Painfully Alone (2006)

20 Christmas Dirge
Nellie McKay (2007)

21 Christmas Rhapsody
Pledge Drive (2003)

22 How Will You Spend Christmas? Rev AW Nix (1930)

Next up 
Uncle Silas Payne, the man who invented rock and roll?
T is for Trapani, Sicily, and Tesco, Stroud Green Road, London N4
When Elvis died,
I was staying at a fly-blown hotel in Trapani, Sicily. I saw the headline on an Italian newspaper. At the time, I was living in north London, on the southern reaches of Crouch End, and did my shopping at the Tesco supermarket in Stroud Green Road. Now read this e-mail which I found at the now defunct website, It was posted on Thursday, 13 February 1997 at 19:30:58 (EST), by Clare Mac 

‘I saw Elvis this morning at Tesco on Stroud Green Road in London N4. He was buying some low-fat cottage cheese with pineapple. He was wearing a shell suit and white socks with red stripes tucked over the bottom of his trousers!! This proving the King is alive and well and living near Finsbury Park.’

Trapani, Tesco, Thursday — spooky, huh? If that's not enough for you, here is an Elvis impersonator whose surname is Trapani.

Tomorrow The man who invented rock'n'roll. Clue: it's not Elvis and it starts with a 'u'.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

S is for Scatter

Scatter was Elvis’ pet chimpanzee who lived the life of a country song in Graceland. When Elvis got bored with the chimp, the Memphis Mafia took over his care, dressing him in human clothes and introducing him to hard liquor. He became a violent alcoholic and died of cirrhosis of the liver.


Tomorrow Trapani, Sicily and the Tesco's in Stroud Green Rd

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

R is for Rock ’n’ Roll

Of course. One day, someone complimented Sam Phillips on his talents as a record producer. ‘Producing?’ said Sam. ‘I don’t know anything about producing records. But if you want to make some Rock ’n’ Roll music, I can reach down and pull it out of your asshole.’


Tomorrow S is for Elvis' favourite pet

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Q is for Questions


Two questions posed to Elvis at one of his last press conferences.

Q What about the rumour that you once shot your mother?

A Well, I believe that one takes the cake. That’s the funniest one I ever heard.

Q Do you smoke marijuana to help work yourself into a frenzy?

A (giggle, mumble)


Tomorrow . . . R is for Rock ’n’ Roll

Monday, 16 December 2013

P is for publishing

I checked how many Elvis books are available from Amazon. Nearly 7,000 — though, obviously, some will be various editions of the same book. The British Library holds more than 400 Elvis books. Among them, naturally, are reference books — invaluably helpful I’ve found them, too. There are also well-known biographies and memoirs by former lovers, bodyguards, his nurse and a fellow soldier. There are personal narratives — Elvis Is Dead And I Don’t Feel Too Good Myself. 

There are recipe books (for peanut butter fans only.) There is fiction such as Zip Six: A Novel. Under ‘conspiracy theories‘ there is Top Secret: The Untold Story Of Elvis Presley’s Secret FBI Files and several others. 

There are a surprising number of academic texts such as The Inner Elvis: A Psychological Biography Of Elvis Aaron Presley Vol 1 and Elvis (American Structural Readers: Stage 1). 

Others are even more specialised, to say the least — The Day Elvis Met Nixon, say, or Elvis Presley Calls His Mother After The Ed Sullivan Show or Did Elvis Sing In Your Hometown?

Some must be a joke but, on the other hand, just might not be — The Gospel Of Elvis: Containing The Testament And Apocrypha Including All The Greater Themes Of The King has to come in that category, as does Elvis For President: Committee To Elect The King and, I guess, Alien Pregnant By Elvis. Others are just plain baffling — Elvis In Aspic, for instance.

Tomorrow Elvis answers a couple of questions

Sunday, 15 December 2013

O is for ‘OK, I won’t’

Elvis’ final words. His last girlfriend, Ginger Alden, former Miss Traffic Safety and Miss Mid-South, had told him not to fall asleep reading in the toilet. ‘OK, I won’t,’ he replied.

His last read was either The Scientific Search For The Face Of Jesus by Frank Adams or The Shroud Of Turin by Ian Wilson. 

His last meal, according to Albert Goldman, was hamburgers and French fries at dawn the previous day, prepared by his cook Mary Jenkins. Despite her urgings, Elvis wouldn’t touch his food on the day of his death. 

Other sources say a different cook, Pauline Nicholson, served him ice cream and cookies at 4am — just the day after he’d had a cavity filled, by the way.
Tomorrow Not Presley but . . . oh, dear, publishing