May 7, 2009


Although Elvis Presley was one of the most imitated singers in the world, his own influences beyond the men who wrote songs for him, like Otis Blackwell (“Don’t Be Cruel”, “All Shook Up”), Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (“Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock”), were the demo singers who showed him how the songs were envisioned by the writers.

Malcolm Dodds, David Hill, Bill Giant, and Tony Middleton were all among Elvis’ favorite demo singers…and Tony Middleton was one of mine. Tony always added a little extra to his demonstration of a song, which Elvis appreciated and appropriated whenever he could.

I first met Tony, the former lead singer of the Willows (“Church Bells May Ring”), in the late ‘50s with my friend Sid Wyche (“Whole Lotta’ Shakin’ Goin’ On” Wyche/Williams), at one of the first demo sessions I ever went to. I was excited to meet the man who sang the demo for Sid’s song, “Big Hunk Of Love” (Wyche/Schroeder), which Elvis recorded. Although I don’t remember the name of the song on this session, I do remember Tony’s brilliant, stirring performance that seemed so effortless.

I could easily understand why Elvis was inspired by him, as well as Ben E. King who even got his adlib, “People Let Me Tell Ya’ Now” from one of  Tony’s demos

He’s appeared on Broadway as the lead in ‘Cabin in the Sky’ and was the featured singer in “Purlie” starring Melba Moore.  Tony Middleton’s music is sought after by music enthusiasts and collectors all over the world.

When I reconnected with him on Facebook I googled his name and found a video of “Paris Blues” from 1962, and you can see a little bit of what I’m talking about.

For Tony Middleton http://www.tonymiddletonmusic.com

Copyright 2009 by Artie Wayne https://artiewayne.wordpress.com/about-artie-wayne/

BACK TO ARTIE WAYNE ON THE WEB https://artiewayne.wordpress.com



  1. John Connor Says:

    In the Tony Middleton article you mention a song that Ben E. King got from Tony called ‘Let Me Tell Ya’ Now’. To my knowledge Ben has never recorded a song with this title. Are you mixing it up with another song (possibly ‘Not Now, I’ll Tell You When’) or am I missing a BEK track somewhere? thanks John Connor [UK]

    • Artie Wayne Says:

      John…I apologize for the confusion I might’ve caused. “People Let Me Tell You Now” was an adlib, not a song that Ben E. King got from Tony.

      Regards, Artie

  2. Sue Says:

    glad this happened across my daily google news on Elvis. i like to ‘study’ his music and this is a very interesting and informative article.

    now i am thoroughly enjoying the songs at tony’s website.

    paris blues, what a great song. makes me think Tom Jones knew of Tony for an influence!

    there are elvis songs where i hear another voice, i think now, he is just singing along to the demo because he liked how it was sung.

    maybe i’m wrong, but i think bobby darrin did a few of elvis’ demos , too.

    thanks for the education!

  3. Warren Schatz Says:

    Warren Schatz Really brings back the good memories at Associated. We did so many of those Elvis demos. One of my favorite stories was you coming in to studio “B” and doing 16 songs in 6 hours or something like that. I can’t even begin to know how you kept that many songs in your head. You should write something about Jerry Samuels and Stphen Schlaks, who became the number one intrumentalist in Italy for more than 15 years. he lives in Boca now and is a very interesting guy. DId you know him back then? He did Kenny Dino’s “Ya Ma Said You Cried”, and Bobby Hamilton’s “Crazy Eyes For You” and also wrote Speedway for Elvis.

  4. Hello Artie;
    Who would have known? I’ve worked with Tony Middleton and the Willows a few times at westbury music fair a while back…Also sung with him back stage along with kenny vance… the man was down to eart never did he once mention his past history…This man is humble!!! many people in this fx@k up ( thanks for the correction ) business claim to be all that…yet here is a man who is “All THAT” and yet don’t utter a word of what his achievements are in the music world,
    thanks for inlightening me.

  5. Artie,

    Thank you so much. What an amazing commentary! You made me more famous than I ever was! And I was never famous…….laugh!! Thank you….. you are so wonderful. It’s like Christmas to me.
    I love the comments you have received……they are so kind.

    Tony Middleton

  6. Paul Kostabi Says:

    I work with the willowz. Had the pleasure of meeting tony. Great guy great singer.
    Dream to have tony from the willows collaborate with Richie from the willowz.

  7. Cory Robbins Says:

    I hear that Tony sings frequently at an upper east
    side restaurant called Destino. I plan on going
    to hear him soon. Great article!

  8. Ed Salamon Says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Tony when the Willows filmed the PBS show “Red White and Rock”. He is a real singers’ singer and a great guy. We oldies fans appreciate him keeping the Willows’ music alive.

  9. HARRY Says:

    I Had the pleasure of meeting Tony in new york in aug 2010 it was fantastic the man was so nice and just great to talk to he still sings in New york every sunday at the Kitano Hotel if you go to new york please go we will also be interviewing him on our radio show on sunday 29th of august 2010
    just click this link at 8-00pm uk time on sunday
    http://www.salfordcityradio.org/ or check our website for past interviews with Joe simon Jerry Butler maxine Brown Thelma Jones And at least 50 more click this link http://www.therighttrack.org.uk/interviews.html

  10. Rossa Says:

    Great story…..comments too.!.
    Tony is quite a person an truly an humble Artist with amazing-sustaining talent…..and many friends that love him and his music. God bless you Tony for all you do to lighten the hearts of many with your music !

    Rosa DuCree

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