It's Not Elvis
:: Jerry Walker - American Trilogy ::
I never paid much attention to Elvis or his music until the Spring of ’96 when my friend Lovely Rita, a huge fan of the Big E, asked me to go on a spur-of-the-moment road trip to Graceland. Sounded like fun to me, so we loaded up her Hyundai with Pop-Tarts, Slim Jims, and a shoebox full of her Elvis tapes and headed down to Dixie.
We listened to nothing but The King during the 16 hour drive, and yeah, I started to get into it, but I mostly remember laughing at a lot of the ‘70’s era live stuff because there really is a ton of cheesy easy listening in there. But something funny happened between the Jamaican houseplant I smoked in the Graceland parking lot and our photo posing by Elvis’ and his momma’s backyard grave during the headphone tour: I got sucked into it all. The garishness of the gross Americana was the initial attraction, but his voice finally absorbed me and to this day I’m still eagerly buying his music. That’s what it all comes down to, man, it’s his voice. So, going to Graceland was somewhat akin to being brainwashed or indoctrinated into a cult, as I surely came out a believer. I now politely decline Scientologist entreaties to watch their orientation film when I pass by their building on Hollywood Blvd., as this experience taught me that I have an easily susceptible mind.
My Elvis fancy led me to find “Its Not Elvis (But You’ll Swear It Is)” a few months ago at Rhino. I had my fingers crossed that it would be heinous, but Jerry Walker is actually a pretty good singer. “American Trilogy” was a cheesy Elvis staple in his 70’s live shows, and it’s equally cheesy here, with Jerry going all-out and enlisting The Couriers Gospel Quartet for vocal background. There are liner notes on the back from Associate Producer Ron Brady, wherein he explains that Jerry was a huge Elvis fan who sang Elvis songs since 1960. Upon Elvis’ death, Jerry refused for “personal reasons” to sing any more Presley songs. Fortunately for us all, his friends were able to convince him to once again pick up the microphone, and they put up the money for both a tribute show in Southern California and to record this album at Ron’s studio. Ron happened to walk by while the sessions were happening, and couldn’t believe his ears. He took the tapes home to his wife and daughter for the “ultimate test” and they swore they were hearing the real Elvis Presley! Ron immediately contacted several record company contacts and Walker was signed to a Sivelle Records contract – “and the rest we feel will be history.” Indeed.