Ernie's Import Lp Corner

The Hillbilly Cat Live

This is one of those LPs that has an aura of energy….and mystery!! The title itself "The Hillbilly Cat Live" evokes grand visions. I was fortunate enough to find a copy of this on E-bay about 2 years ago, a guy in Australia had it and I ended up getting it for $34 US with shipping. I was thrilled when it arrived; it had that musty-LP smell that only an LP has after sitting in a record collection undisturbed (or OK, maybe pulled out occasionally) for 30 years. I took it for a spin on the turntable…WOW!! It certainly is the Hillbilly Cat Live!!

This double LP was released in 1970 on the Spring Fever Record Club SFLP 301 label, originating in Canada. Record club release?, I think not, but who cares!! The track listing is printed on the back of the gatefold sleeve which opens up to some pretty blurry, but well intentioned photos circa 1970; and a little blurb from the producers regarding the choice of the title for the release. After some asking around, several sources confirmed that the complete August 23, 1970 Midnight Show comprises three of the four LP sides, the fourth side is rounded out with six selections from the August 24, 1970 Dinner Show. Just to make sure, I ran some comparisons with the well-known Aug 19th, 20th, and 21st shows and none of the performances on the fourth LP side are from those gigs a few days earlier. Considering that this release is probably one of the first (if not the first) Elvis bootleg LP release, I find it hard to be disappointed. According to the information in "Jailhouse Rock" by Lee Cotten and Howard DeWitt, only 200 copies of this were initially pressed. And given that I had searched for this for quite a while to find many collectors not having seen a copy in years, let's just say it isn't all that common.

Of course rarity lends itself to counterfeiting, and in 1979 someone (probably in the USA) put out the LP again. There are several easy ways to determine the original from the counterfeit. I got a second copy hoping it would be the counterfeit, but it was another original copy. I have seen the counterfeit version on e-bay, but I keep getting out bid. I have 2 originals so I'm not out to spend "bo-coup bucks" on the counterfeit. The gatefold sleeve of the original set was printed on semi-gloss stock, the counterfeit is supposedly on flat stock which makes the grainy graphics look that much more dull. The front cover photo on the counterfeit does not extend all the way to the right of the sleeve. This caused me some confusion as the second original copy in my possession, while having the "original LPs" (which I'll get to in a minute) had a slight gap between the photo and end of sleeve in the lower right corner. Having since seen photos of the counterfeit, the difference is clear. The counterfeit has at least a 1/8" (approx 7 mm for those of you in the rest of the world who don't use the "backwards" standard system as we do here in the US) gap between the photo and sleeve-end running the entire length of the sleeve. The second clue are the LPs themselves. The originals have white labels with blue text; the counterfeits have blue labels with silver text. According to "Jailhouse Rock", upon opening the gatefold cover, the photos inside the sleeve of the counterfeit show Elvis in a gray jumpsuit, but having not been able to compare myself I don't know if the photos themselves are different or if there was some shading trouble with the printing of the counterfeit.

In any case, at the time of this release, unless you had been there in August 1970, getting this LP was probably the closest you could come at the time to hearing Elvis in this form…unless you were into trading tapes. Elvis is raring to go and this is a unique performance for sure!! The sound quality of the first three sides isn't bad considering it is 1970; it is listen-able though slightly muffled. The LP pressings are not bad, slight pops through out but that is to be expected. The fourth side of the LP is actually an improvement; the fidelity and clarity are much better. I wish the entire dinner show from the 24th would see release!! If these shows were to make it to CD mastered from the original tapes, I'd buy it!! And if my ears do not deceive me, I am pretty sure the recording is live stereo.

In closing, this is one of my favorite releases in terms of historical importance, and a fun performance. Sure the artwork isn't what we've gotten to see on later releases, but it's a killer show and the title says it all…"The Hillbilly Cat Live".