Best of Elvis Presley: 1957 - 1960
Best Elvis Song? Eleven of Elvis Presley‘s number one hit singles and his story from 1957-1960: Too Much, All Shook Up, (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear, Treat Me Nice, Jailhouse Rock, Don’t, Hard Headed Woman, A Big Hunk o’ Love, Stuck on You, G.I. Blues, It’s Now or Never, Are You Lonesome Tonight.
As 1957 began, Elvis made his final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, closing with Peace in the Valley, a gospel/spiritual song. The song Too Much (1957) was written by Bernard Weinman and Lee Rosenberg in 1954; Elvis had recorded it in September 1956 while filming Love Me Tender in Hollywood, California. When Too Much was released in January 1957, baby boomers and their parents made it Presley’s 6th #1 hit single. Below, Elvis Presley singing Too Much in 1957.
Elvis recorded All Shook Up (1957) written by Otis Blackwell and Elvis Presley in Hollywood in January 1957. When it was released in March, it shot up the charts to #1 and stayed there for 8 weeks. All Shook Up was Billboard’s number one song for 1957. Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and other artists have since recorded All Shook Up. Below, Elvis Presley singing All Shook Up in a live concert performance in 1957.
22-year-old Elvis Presley dyed his hair black a la Tony Curtis and Rudolph Valentino, his movie idols, to begin filming his role as Deke Rivers in his second movie, Loving You (1957) in January 1957. Loving You was Presley’s first as the star, opposite newcomer actress Dolores Hart and actress Lizabeth Scott (a Lauren Bacall sound-and look-alike). Loving You was also the first movie and first onscreen kiss for both Elvis Presley and Dolores Hart; Hart said in her autobiography Ear of the Heart, that first her ears turned red, then Presley turned red.
Producer Hal Wallis had discovered sultry film-noir actress Lizabeth Scott in the early 1940’s and produced her first movie You Came Along (1945); they reportedly had a decade-long love affair (Wallis was married) but had broken up. Scott suffered from stage fright and had virtually retired from acting in order to focus on a singing career, but agreed to appear in the musical Loving You. Casting her in the movie may have been an (unsuccessful) attempt by Wallis to re-establish their romantic relationship; reportedly Lizabeth Scott was smitten by Elvis.
The soundtrack of Loving You was a #1 album and included the song (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear, written by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe. Elvis Presley sang and played acoustic guitar on the recording, which was released in June 1957. (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear was a #1 hit for seven weeks. Since then, numerous artists have sung including Tanya Tucker in her 1994 Elvis tribute album. Below, Elvis Presley singing his 8th #1 hit single, (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear, in the 1957 movie Loving You.
In early 1957, Elvis had bought a large mansion in Memphis, Tennessee for his parents called Graceland. Around the same time, he began dating dancer and singer Anita Wood, whom he met in Memphis. He would often invite Anita to visit him on his movie sets and their relationship would last until 1962, although it wasn’t exclusive (at least on Elvis’ part). According to Anita Wood, she gave up a movie in California and a contract with Paramount Pictures when Elvis asked her to come home to Memphis when he was lonely. During their romance, Wood and Presley talked of marriage and planned to call a daughter if they had one, Alisa Marie (Anita’s middle name is Marie). Anita’s daughter Jonnita Brewer Barrett wrote her mother’s memoir Once Upon A Time: Elvis and Anita (2012).
For much of the rest of 1957, Presley recorded songs and worked on movies; Colonel Tom Parker wanted a stockpile to release in the event of Presley being drafted. When Elvis Presley did manage 3 short tours in 1957, riots broke out at his concerts.
In April 1957 Presley went to Hollywood to begin recording songs written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for his third movie, an original screenplay written by blacklisted writer Nedrick Young. Elvis wasn’t enthusiastic about the initial choreography for the title track scene; choreographer Alex Romero asked Elvis to dance to the music and used his moves to choreograph the final dance sequence. In May, filming began on the dance scene set to Jailhouse Rock (1957) – and in a bizarre twist, one of Elvis’s dental caps loosened and got stuck in his lung. He spent the night in hospital after the cap was removed, and returned to filming the next day.
In September 1957 Treat Me Nice (a #18 hit single) was recorded by Elvis Presley as the “B” side of Jailhouse Rock, and included in the soundtrack for the movie. The single Jailhouse Rock/Treat Me Nice was released a few weeks later before the movie opened. Below, Elvis Presley sings Treat Me Nice in a scene from Jailhouse Rock in 1957.
Songwriter Mike Stoller played Presley’s pianist in Jailhouse Rock, and former blues singer and future Disney movie star Dean Jones played a disc jockey. Filming of Jailhouse Rock wrapped up on June 17, 1957; two weeks later, actress Judy Tyler, who had played a music promoter and Elvis Presley’s love interest in Jailhouse Rock, was killed in a car accident that also killed her husband. Elvis did not want to watch the finished movie for this reason, and didn’t attend the movie premiere in of Jailhouse Rock in October 1957. Although the movie got mixed reviews, Jailhouse Rock reached #3 at the box office and was the 14th highest grossing movie in 1957, with baby boomers flocking to see it and gross sales close to The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Once again an Elvis Presley song held the #1 spot on the charts for 7 weeks. Rolling Stone magazine has ranked Jailhouse Rock in the top 100 best songs of all time, and on of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame‘s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Elvis Presley’s dance sequence is the most memorable scene of his movie career and laid a foundation for the music videos of future generations.
Santa Claus is Back in Town was one of the last songs written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for Elvis Presley, and was included on his Elvis Christmas Album (1957), the best-selling Christmas album of all time. Before filming began on his next movie King Creole, Elvis lost 15 pounds at the demand of director Michael Curtiz.
On December 20th, 1957 Elvis received his draft notice; it was deferred for 60 days so he could complete filming King Creole (1958), produced by Hal Wallis. Based on the novel A Stone for Danny Fisher (1952) by Harold Robbins, the screenplay adaptation of the title character was written for James Dean; when Dean died, the movies was shelved in in 1955.
Elvis played the character of high school student/troubled youth/singer Danny Fisher. Actress Carolyn Jones (she later played Morticia Addams in The Addams Family) played one of his love interests, and Dolores Hart appeared in her second Elvis Presley movie as another. Veteran film stars Walter Matthau and Vic Morrow played thugs in King Creole.
Filming of King Creole began on location in New Orleans in mid-January 1958 and was completed by mid-March, despite numerous delays due to crowds of Elvis Presley fans. When King Creole was released in July 1958 it was a #5 box office hit and Elvis’s acting was (mostly) praised by critics.
Don’t (1958) by songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, had been recorded by Elvis Presley in September 1957. When it was released in mid-January 1958, Don’t became Elvis’s 11th #1 hit single. Below, audio recording of Elvis Presley singing Don’t set to vintage photo montage.
With filming on King Creole completed, Private Elvis Presley was inducted into the U.S. Army in Arkansas on March 24, 1958, and began basic training in Fort Hood, Texas. Thanks to Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s career would continue to thrive with movies and records being released throughout his active service over the next 2 years. Wear My Ring Around Your Neck (1958) written by Bert Carroll and Russell Moody, was released in April 1958 and was a #2 hit for Elvis Presley. Country singer Ricky Van Shelton’s single of Wear My Ring Around Your Neck for the movie Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), was #26 Country chart hit.
Elvis had recorded Hard Headed Woman (1958) written by Claude Demetrius, in January 1958 for the soundtrack of King Creole; when the single Hard Headed Woman was released in June 1958, it went to #1 on the music charts for two weeks as his 11th #1 single. Below Elvis Presley sings Hard Headed Woman in the movie King Creole, in a music/dance sequence from the movie.
Gladys Presley was diagnosed with hepatitis in August 1958 and she died of a heart attack, just 2 days after Elvis had arrived home on emergency leave to see her; he was devastated by her death. According to Elvis’ girlfriend Anita Wood, Elvis began taking prescription tranquilizers so that he could sleep after his mother’s death.
After completing basic training, 23-year-old Elvis was sent to Friedberg, Germany in the fall of 1958 to join the 3rd Armored Division of the U.S. Army. Elvis and his father Vernon were given permission to live off the army base, first in a hotel and then in a nearby house after parties raised the ire of other hotel residents. Colonel Tom Parker kept releasing songs Elvis had recorded before leaving for basic training and during his leaves, as well as stories to the press so Presley wouldn’t be forgotten. Elvis kept in touch with girlfriend Anita Wood by phone, but according to Wood Colonel Parker prevented her from visiting Elvis in Germany. Movie producer Hal Wallis visited Elvis in August 1959 to go over the script and shoot some scenery for a planned movie upon his discharge; the U.S. Army supplied tanks and vehicles for the filming. Despite this, Elvis was homesick and worried about his career.
While in the army in Germany, Elvis Presley was introduced to four things that would have a significant influence on his life:
- He became close friends with performer and soldier Charlie Hodge, whom he’d first met in 1955 when Elvis came to watch Hodge’s gospel quartet, The Pathfinders. Charlie showed Elvis how to improve his breathing and Elvis added an octave to his vocal range. When Elvis returned from Germany, Charlie became part of the “Memphis Mafia” – living at Graceland for 17 years with Elvis, his family and friends. Charlie was an assistant and sometime stage manager for Elvis, occasionally singing harmony with him.
- His father Vernon Presley met Dee Stanley, who was married to Sergeant Bill Stanley and had three young sons. After her divorce from Bill was finalized, Dee Stanley married Vernon Presley in 1960 . Elvis acquired 3 new young stepbrothers whom he liked; and a stepmother who he didn’t.
- 24-year-old Elvis met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu during a party at his house in Germany in September 1959. Elvis and Priscilla spent a lot of time together in Germany and kept in touch by phone when he left.
- While on maneuvers, he was introduced to amphetamines, which he felt gave him energy, strength, and weight loss benefits.
During a 2-week leave in June 1958, Elvis Presley recorded 5 songs, including (Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I (1959) originally written by Bill Trader in 1952, and A Big Hunk o’ Love (1959) by songwriters Aaron Schroeder and Sid Wyche. Elvis Presley’s recording of (Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I was a #2 hit after it’s March 1959 release; when A Big Hunk o’ Love was released in June 1959, it became a #1 hit single for Presley. Below, an older Elvis Presley sings A Big Hunk O’ Love in his 1973 Hawaiian concert.
Elvis Presley was promoted to sergeant in January 1960 and on March 2, 1960, left Germany to return to the States. Priscilla Beaulieu accompanied him to the airport to say goodbye. On his return to the U.S. on March 3, 1960, was met at the airport by Nancy Sinatra, Colonel Parker, and RCA reps.
He was discharged from service a few days later. Just a few weeks later he was back in the RCA recording studio in Nashville to record songs for a new album and the single, Stuck on You (1960). Stuck on You was written by songwriters J. Leslie McFarland And Aaron Schroeder and was his 13th #1 hit single. Below, Elvis Presley singing Stuck on You. Presley taped The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis (1960) on March 26 and the show aired in May 1960—ironic for both stars, given Frank Sinatra‘s earlier denouncement of rock and roll. the only Below, Elvis Presley sings Stuck on You during The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis show in 1960, the only time all year he performed in front of an audience..
In April 1960 Elvis began filming G.I. Blues with co-star Juliet Prowse, who was selected after screen tests that included Dolores Hart and Ursula Andress. Prowse and Presley dated at the same time she was dating Frank Sinatra. The soundtrack to G.I. Blues was a number one album in October of that year, prior to the movie’s release in November. Elvis Presley’s acting and singing were critically well received, and G.I. Blues made it to #2 at the box office and was the 14th biggest box office movie in 1960.
Elvis and the soundtrack were nominated for two Grammy Awards -Best Sound Track Album Or Recording Of Original Cast From A Motion Picture Or Television, and Best Vocal Performance Album, Male. The Government of Mexico banned Elvis Presley movies after a riot broke out when G.I Blues played at a movie theater there. Below, Elvis Presley performing G.I. Blues in the 1960 movie.
While in Germany, Elvis had heard singer Tony Martin’s song There’s No Tomorrow (1949), based on the music to the Italian song O Sole Mio by Eduardo di Capua, composed in 1898. When Presley’s music publisher visited him in Germany he suggested that new lyrics be created for the tune for him to record. Back in the U.S., Presley’s publisher tapped songwriters Wally Gold and Aaron Schroeder, who came up with the lyrics to It’s Now or Never (1960) set to the tune of Eduardo di Capua’s O Sole Mio. It’s Now or Never became Elvis Presley’s second-best top selling hit single after it’s July 1960 release, spending five weeks at #1 in the US and 8 in the UK. In 2005 when Elvis would have been a sepatuagenarian senior citizen, It’s Now or Never was reissued in the UK (and other countries) and once again went to #1…by that time, the music to O Sole Mio was well over the century mark, at 107 years old.
Below, Elvis Presley singing It’s Now or Never in concert towards the end of his career in the 1970’s.
Girlfriend Anita Wood visited Elvis on set in California during his movies and discovered a letter to Elvis and a picture of herself from Priscilla Presley; Elvis denied a romance and said Priscilla was just a young girl. Elvis Presley had recorded songs for his next movie, Flaming Star (1960) in August and October of that year, and the movie was released on December 20th 1960, reaching #2 at the box office for the year. Because Elvis wanted to be taken more seriously as an actor, only two songs made it into the final cut of Flaming Star; once again his performance was critically well received.
Presley’s co-stars in Flaming Star include Steve Forrest, John McIntire, Barbara Eden as his love interest, and 1920’s and ’30’s film star Dolores del Rio as his mother.
Colonel Tom Parker’s wife Marie Mott’s favorite song was the ballad Are You Lonesome Tonight? (1926), which had been recorded by several artists since it was first written by Roy Turk and Lou Handman. Elvis Presley recorded the song in April 1960 at Parker’s suggestion, and it was released in November 1960 and held the #1 spot for 5 weeks. It became a staple of his concert performances; after Presley’s recording of Are You Lonesome Tonight? came out, it was also covered by other baby boomer favorites such as Frank Sinatra, The Lettermen, Pat Boone, Doris Day, and Donny Osmond. Below, Elvis Presley sings Are You Lonesome Tonight? in his 1968 Comeback Special.
In November and December of 1960 Elvis filmed a new movie in Hollywood and on location in California’s Napa Valley; line-ups formed to see Elvis during filming of Wild in the Country (1961). His female co-stars were Millie Perkins, 18-year-old Tuesday Weld, and Hope Lange (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir). Presley and Weld began dating but Elvis broke it off when Colonel Parker warned him that Weld’s public image (she’d had numerous affairs with older men) would tarnish his own. As 1960 ended, Elvis was once again on top of the world, happy to be back home in Memphis, recording songs and making movies.
More Elvis Presley: