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Elvis on his 1968 NBC Comeback Special

I can’t think of person in Modern History who has had a greater influence on music and the pop culture than Elvis Presley! I was 14 when I first heard one of his records…and I haven’t been the same ever since!

As an African-American, I was laughed at in my neighborhood for liking and trying to emulate him. It angered the Black community that he allegedly said,”All “Colored” people can do for me is shine my shoes and buy my records.” I never believed that someone who loved the Blues, R+B and Gospel music as much as he did would ever say such a horrible thing. Although he never confirmed or denied the statement, when he recorded, “In the Ghetto” in 1969, that was enough to convince me where his heart was really at!

Although I never met him, I got as close to him as I could, I became friendly with some of the writers who created some of his biggest hits; Otis Blackwell, ( “Don’t Be Cruel”, ” All Shook Up”, “Return To Sender”), Doc Pomus and Morty Shuman ( “Viva Las Vegas”, “Surrender”, ” HIs Latest Flame” ) Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold ( “It’s Now Or Never”), Sid Wyche ( ” Big Hunk O’ Love” ) and Spectropopper Paul Evans ( “I Gotta’ Know”.)

When my songwriting partner at the time, Ben Raleigh (“Tell Laura I Love Her”, ” Love is a Hurtin’ Thing” ) got us a shot at writing for some his movies, “It Happened At The World’s Fair”, “Kid Galahad”, “Fun In Acapulco”, Kissin’ Cousins”…I was in Heaven! Unfortunately, none of our songs were used but I treasured the advance checks we would receive from Gladys music with Elvis’ picture on them!

I never gave up on Elvis covering one of my songs, however, and in 1977 a song I co-wrote with Deanie Hofheinz, Nancy Barry ( Jeff’s ex-wife ) and Brad Berg called “Perfect Strangers”, made it to his last recording session but was never finished due to his untimely death.

About 10 years ago, I ran into Deanie in Nashville with her husband Ron Anton, a Senior VP with BMI. She said that she was trying to get a copy of the track and hinted that there might’ve been a scratch vocal by Elvis that went along with it. I’m still waiting to hear it!

Copyright 2006 by Artie Wayne

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