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"Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:37 am

Few would argue against Love Me as being one of Elvis' indelible all-time great recordings.

Everything about the now legendary September '56 master is nigh-on perfect.
It's a take (slated no. 9) where we find Elvis and his ever dependable closely-knit band on absolute top form; with an artist who could justifiably lay claim to sounding as great as he ever did on record; injecting the song with a controlled yet pleading pathos that even the songwriters [Leiber and Stoller] could not have envisaged.
(N.B. Jerry and Mike later went on to say that it was one of their favourite Elvis recordings).

And although never released as a regular single; Love Me still managed to climb all the way to number 2 on Billboard's Top 100 [a "chart first" for a non-single] when included as part of the EP "Elvis Vol. 1" (RCA Victor, EPA-992) - only prevented from reaching the top spot by Guy Mitchell's Singing The Blues.

Originally recorded in a version by the duo "Willy & Ruth" in 1954 [and numerous other unremarkable covers]; former high school sweetheart, Barbara Hearn, told author, Trevor Simpson, that a rendition by the Billy Williams Quartet [one side of a 1954 single - The Honeydripper / Love Me] was a regular spinner at his Audubon Drive home in Memphis. This months before Elvis decided to actually record his own signature recording.

And just one listen to the Williams Quartet version proves Barbara's memory correct as the clear inspiration for Elvis' cut.

In a really cool ensemble piece, one can quite clearly recognise the very familiar intonation and somewhat eerie vocal styling and phrasing of lead singer Billy Williams.
(Note: Williams, in a varied if somewhat undistinguished career, went on to achieve a huge solo success with the smash 1957 hit I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter).

What's also evident when listening, is that somewhere along the way, Elvis decided to drop an additional verse - "Every night I pray to the stars that shine, above me" from the master.
It's not beyond the realms of possibility that an earlier take could well feature the long lost verse. We can but hope that something special turns up eventually.

It's utterly ironic now - and a total injustice to the magnificence of Elvis' 1956 recording - that the song is somewhat overlooked. This due to the unoriginality and incessant nature of latter-day performances [save for the notable June '68 renderings], when the song became nothing short of a disposable parody of what it once was.

That said, we should never forget the immense artistry of what occurred on Saturday, September 1, 1956.

To my mind, along with a little Rodgers and Hart tune he cut at 706 Union, the finest ballad of his entire career.


phpBB [video]


Love Me - Billy Williams Quartet (Coral 9-61264)
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:10 am

Very nice.

The more I listened to it the more it grew on me. :)

Thank you for posting this clip.

::rocks

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:40 am

Very nice post, and a very good observation from Barbara Hearn.

But we cannot ascribe the full influence of "Love Me" to just the Billy Williams Quartet single. For one thing, "Love Me" was cut by several others after the 1954 Willie and Ruth debut recording, renditions that Elvis surely heard along the way, including those by Georgia Gibbs, Jimmie Rodgers Snow and Billy Eckstine. As a matter of fact, Eckstine and Williams released their covers at the same time, as evidenced by this Billboard review page:


Billboard - Oct 16 1954 p34.JPG
Billboard - October 16, 1954


541016_Love Me_Eckstine_MGM 11855.JPG
Billy Eckstine, "Love Me" (MGM 11855, October 1954)
Note: this was the B-side to the hit "One Sweet Kiss"


And the Jimmy Rodgers Snow ultra-sincere 1955 RCA single B-side was one Elvis heard many times, as they toured together in the beginning of 1955. It's very likely Elvis tried the song out at Sun, too.


Billboard - Jan 29 1955 p48.jpg
Billboard - January 29, 1955


550129_Love Me_Snow_RCA 5986.jpg
Jimmie Rodgers Snow and his Tennessee Playboys, "Love Me" (RCA 20/47-5986, January 1955)
Listen to it --> HERE

One wonders what Snow felt when he saw Elvis sing "Love Me" on the Ed Sullivan program a year later. Or what he thought when he heard both "Love Me" and "How Do You Think I Feel?" on Elvis' second RCA LP that same month.


phpBB [video]


Jimmie Rodgers Snow and his Tennessee Playboys, "How Do You Think I Feel?" (RCA 20/47-5900, November 1954)


Anyway, since I cannot find the Eckstine recording, it's probably fair to say that, in early 1955, Elvis discovered the concert power of "Love Me" watching Jimmy make the girls yell, and when he was considering songs for the September 1956 sessions at Radio Recorders, he studied the quartet arrangement released by Billy Williams as a guide.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:07 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Very nice post, and a very good observation from Barbara Hearn.

But we cannot ascribe the full influence of "Love Me" to just the Billy Williams Quartet single. For one thing, "Love Me" was cut by several others after the 1954 Willie and Ruth debut recording, renditions that Elvis surely heard along the way, including those by Georgia Gibbs, Jimmie Rodgers Snow and Billy Eckstine. As a matter of fact, Eckstine and Williams released their covers at the same time, as evidenced by this Billboard review page:


Billboard - Oct 16 1954 p34.JPG
Billboard - October 16, 1954


541016_Love Me_Eckstine_MGM 11855.JPG
Billy Eckstine, "Love Me" (MGM 11855, October 1954)
Note: this was the B-side to the hit "One Sweet Kiss"


And the Jimmy Rodgers Snow ultra-sincere 1955 RCA single B-side was one Elvis heard many times, as they toured together in the beginning of 1955. It's very likely Elvis tried the song out at Sun, too.


Billboard - Jan 29 1955 p48.jpg
Billboard - January 29, 1955


550129_Love Me_Snow_RCA 5986.jpg
Jimmie Rodgers Snow and his Tennessee Playboys, "Love Me" (RCA 20/47-5986, January 1955)
Listen to it --> HERE

One wonders what Snow felt when he saw Elvis sing "Love Me" on the Ed Sullivan program a year later. Or what he thought when he heard both "Love Me" and "How Do You Think I Feel?" on Elvis' second RCA LP that same month.


phpBB [video]


Jimmie Rodgers Snow and his Tennessee Playboys, "How Do You Think I Feel?" (RCA 20/47-5900, November 1954)


Anyway, since I cannot find the Eckstine recording, it's probably fair to say that, in early 1955, Elvis discovered the concert power of "Love Me" watching Jimmy make the girls yell, and when he was considering songs for the September 1956 sessions at Radio Recorders, he studied the quartet arrangement released by Billy Williams as a guide.


The Eckstine versions is a kind of weird mix between big band and rhythm n blues, perhaps an arrangement we might more associate with Johnny Ray than Eckstine's normally ultra-smooth renditions. It has very little in common with Elvis's version. If you haven't heard it, it can be downloaded for 99 cents from amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Me/dp/B000VRPFGG/ref=sr_1_22?ie=UTF8&qid=1351648951&sr=8-22&keywords=billy+eckstine+love+me

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:39 pm

The song was recorded in 1954 by:

00-03-54 - Willie & Ruth (Spark 105) = original version.
00-05-54 - Georgia Gibbs (Mercury 70743);
00-07-54 - The Four Escorts (RCA 20-5886);
00-08-54 - Billy Williams Qt with Sy Oliver Orchestra (Coral 61264);
00-09-54 - 5 DeMarco Sisters (Decca 29299);
01-10-54 - Jimmy Rodgers Snow (RCA 20-5986);
00-10-54 - Connie Russell (Capitol 2933).


colonel snow

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:26 pm

colonel snow wrote:The song was recorded in 1954 by:

00-03-54 - Willie & Ruth (Spark 105) = original version.
00-05-54 - Georgia Gibbs (Mercury 70743);
00-07-54 - The Four Escorts (RCA 20-5886);
00-08-54 - Billy Williams Qt with Sy Oliver Orchestra (Coral 61264);
00-09-54 - 5 DeMarco Sisters (Decca 29299);
01-10-54 - Jimmy Rodgers Snow (RCA 20-5986);
00-10-54 - Connie Russell (Capitol 2933).


colonel snow

And perhaps Elvis at Sun.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:30 pm

poormadpeter wrote:The Eckstine versions is a kind of weird mix between big band and rhythm n blues, perhaps an arrangement we might more associate with Johnny Ray than Eckstine's normally ultra-smooth renditions. It has very little in common with Elvis's version. If you haven't heard it, it can be downloaded for 99 cents from amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Me/dp/B000VRPFGG


Although the page offers just an excerpt, I hear in Billy's vocal a bit of what Elvis put into his 1956 RCA recording.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:07 pm

Thanks for the discourse everyone. Nice topic. I was listening to this song a few weeks ago and was struck anew about the very quiet accompaniment on this track. A subtle piano, a gentle drum and bass, and the Jordanaires doing their thing. It's really all Elvis that delivers this masterpiece. It's not a cappella, but the most striking aspect of this great recording is Elvis' awesome vocal.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:26 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:The Eckstine versions is a kind of weird mix between big band and rhythm n blues, perhaps an arrangement we might more associate with Johnny Ray than Eckstine's normally ultra-smooth renditions. It has very little in common with Elvis's version. If you haven't heard it, it can be downloaded for 99 cents from amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Me/dp/B000VRPFGG


Although the page offers just an excerpt, I hear in Billy's vocal a bit of what Elvis put into his 1956 RCA recording.


Why don't you spend a dollar and just buy the whole thing?!

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:53 pm

poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Although the page offers just an excerpt, I hear in Billy's vocal a bit of what Elvis put into his 1956 RCA recording.


Why don't you spend a dollar and just buy the whole thing?!

Haven't I given enough to this topic already?

Why don't you, for once, man up -- you posted the link after all.

After you have the file, please share it with us. Can't wait to hear it!

::rocks

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:41 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
colonel snow wrote:The song was recorded in 1954 by:

00-03-54 - Willie & Ruth (Spark 105) = original version.
00-05-54 - Georgia Gibbs (Mercury 70743);
00-07-54 - The Four Escorts (RCA 20-5886);
00-08-54 - Billy Williams Qt with Sy Oliver Orchestra (Coral 61264);
00-09-54 - 5 DeMarco Sisters (Decca 29299);
01-10-54 - Jimmy Rodgers Snow (RCA 20-5986);
00-10-54 - Connie Russell (Capitol 2933).


colonel snow

And perhaps Elvis at Sun.


This comes from out of nowhere. I have not heard even a rumor among the dozens of songs, that Elvis tried this
at Sun. What makes you think this?

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:52 pm

Thanks for everybody's input so far.

Out of all the versions I've heard, I'm still certain it's the Williams Quartet version Elvis is pulling from.
The real clincher is how Williams coolly phrases "your heart" (especially at 2:08) which is a facsimile of what Elvis did.

That said, it's still curious as to what prompted Elvis to drop the missing verse [the only version to do this].
Because in doing so, he actually repeats the same verse 3 times over [there's a little variation on the final verse].

Perhaps the long lost session tapes will hold the answers.


Thanks to "drjohncarpenter" for the Billboard scans.

I've transcribed their review of the Williams single as the comments are right on the money:

"The Williams' foursome turns in a performance here, a little out of their usual style.
Here the boys come on with a good rhythm and bluesy reading of a fine hunk of material
which is getting plenty of disk attention. Their best in a long time and should get a share of the action."

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:56 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Although the page offers just an excerpt, I hear in Billy's vocal a bit of what Elvis put into his 1956 RCA recording.


Why don't you spend a dollar and just buy the whole thing?!

Haven't I given enough to this topic already?

Why don't you, for once, man up -- you posted the link after all.

After you have the file, please share it with us. Can't wait to hear it!

::rocks


Err, you're the one who couldn't find it, not me. I've had the song for some time, but I find it rather hypocritical for someone who objects so much to illegal downloads to want someone to post a copy of a legal download so that they dont have to pay 99 cents themselves.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:31 am

colonel snow wrote:The song was recorded in 1954 by:

00-03-54 - Willie & Ruth (Spark 105) = original version.
00-05-54 - Georgia Gibbs (Mercury 70743);
00-07-54 - The Four Escorts (RCA 20-5886);
00-08-54 - Billy Williams Qt with Sy Oliver Orchestra (Coral 61264);
00-09-54 - 5 DeMarco Sisters (Decca 29299);
01-10-54 - Jimmy Rodgers Snow (RCA 20-5986);
00-10-54 - Connie Russell (Capitol 2933).


Also by Kay Brown (Crown 127). Review in the September 18, 1954 Billboard: "Gal sings out on a bluesy ballad in the mettallic-voiced Kay Starr tradition." (rating: 70) Georgia Gibbs nicked the arrangement the following month (reviewed October 23), but I prefer Brown's vocal. Finally, the Woodside Sisters cut it back in August 1954 (X 0049). I've only heard a snippet of it; it's getting a digital issue mid-November.

Listening to Billy Eckstine's version, I find his phrasing a lot looser and jazzier than Elvis'. It's closer than, say, Jimmie Rodgers Snow or the DeMarco Sisters, but my money's on a combination of Willie & Ruth and Billy Williams as Elvis' primary models.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:32 am

elvisalisellers wrote:Thanks for everybody's input so far.

Out of all the versions I've heard, I'm still certain it's the Williams Quartet version Elvis is pulling from.

And I still maintain that Elvis became attached to "Love Me" after seeing Hayride pal Jimmie Rodgers Snow going over very well while doing it in his plaintive fashion, night after night when they toured together in the winter of 1955, probably gave the Leiber and Stoller song a try at 706 Union Avenue when they were searching for songs to record, and ultimately took the arrangement of the Billy Williams Quartet into the studio with him in 1956.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:40 am

PStoller wrote:
colonel snow wrote:The song was recorded in 1954 by:

00-03-54 - Willie & Ruth (Spark 105) = original version.
00-05-54 - Georgia Gibbs (Mercury 70743);
00-07-54 - The Four Escorts (RCA 20-5886);
00-08-54 - Billy Williams Qt with Sy Oliver Orchestra (Coral 61264);
00-09-54 - 5 DeMarco Sisters (Decca 29299);
01-10-54 - Jimmy Rodgers Snow (RCA 20-5986);
00-10-54 - Connie Russell (Capitol 2933).


Also by Kay Brown (Crown 127). Review in the September 18, 1954 Billboard: "Gal sings out on a bluesy ballad in the mettallic-voiced Kay Starr tradition." (rating: 70) Georgia Gibbs nicked the arrangement the following month (reviewed October 23), but I prefer Brown's vocal. Finally, the Woodside Sisters cut it back in August 1954 (X 0049). I've only heard a snippet of it; it's getting a digital issue mid-November.

Listening to Billy Eckstine's version, I find his phrasing a lot looser and jazzier than Elvis'. It's closer than, say, Jimmie Rodgers Snow or the DeMarco Sisters, but my money's on a combination of Willie & Ruth and Billy Williams as Elvis' primary models.

Thank you for your contribution, Sir!

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:48 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
elvisalisellers wrote:Thanks for everybody's input so far.

Out of all the versions I've heard, I'm still certain it's the Williams Quartet version Elvis is pulling from.

And I still maintain that Elvis became attached to "Love Me" after seeing Hayride pal Jimmie Rodgers Snow going over very well while doing it in his plaintive fashion, night after night when they toured together in the winter of 1955...

Quite possibly.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:49 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:And I still maintain that Elvis became attached to "Love Me" after seeing Hayride pal Jimmie Rodgers Snow going over very well while doing it in his plaintive fashion, night after night when they toured together in the winter of 1955, probably gave the Leiber and Stoller song a try at 706 Union Avenue when they were searching for songs to record, and ultimately took the arrangement of the Billy Williams Quartet into the studio with him in 1956.


Much of this may be true. Still, it's a fact that Hill & Range asked Leiber & Stoller to submit songs for Elvis after the success of "Hound Dog," and they chose "Love Me" for Elvis. They would not have known if or how Elvis was already familiar with the song; indeed, I'm quite sure they assumed he'd never heard of it. I wonder if Elvis was surprised to get a submission to which he'd already been listening—and had possibly even been considering—for at least a year, if not two.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:59 am

PStoller wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:And I still maintain that Elvis became attached to "Love Me" after seeing Hayride pal Jimmie Rodgers Snow going over very well while doing it in his plaintive fashion, night after night when they toured together in the winter of 1955, probably gave the Leiber and Stoller song a try at 706 Union Avenue when they were searching for songs to record, and ultimately took the arrangement of the Billy Williams Quartet into the studio with him in 1956.


Much of this may be true. Still, it's a fact that Hill & Range asked Leiber & Stoller to submit songs for Elvis after the success of "Hound Dog," and they chose "Love Me" for Elvis. They would not have known if or how Elvis was already familiar with the song; indeed, I'm quite sure they assumed he'd never heard of it. I wonder if Elvis was surprised to get a submission to which he'd already been listening—and had possibly even been considering—for at least a year, if not two.

Thanks.

The interesting thing is how Elvis was soon to turn their heads around when they met at Radio Recorders on April 30, 1957. They discovered the singer knew R&B better than they did!

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 2:08 am

PStoller wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:And I still maintain that Elvis became attached to "Love Me" after seeing Hayride pal Jimmie Rodgers Snow going over very well while doing it in his plaintive fashion, night after night when they toured together in the winter of 1955, probably gave the Leiber and Stoller song a try at 706 Union Avenue when they were searching for songs to record, and ultimately took the arrangement of the Billy Williams Quartet into the studio with him in 1956.


Much of this may be true. Still, it's a fact that Hill & Range asked Leiber & Stoller to submit songs for Elvis after the success of "Hound Dog," and they chose "Love Me" for Elvis. They would not have known if or how Elvis was already familiar with the song; indeed, I'm quite sure they assumed he'd never heard of it. I wonder if Elvis was surprised to get a submission to which he'd already been listening—and had possibly even been considering—for at least a year, if not two.

Yes, I noted that strange coincidence [when preparing this topic] in Peter Guranick's "50's Masters" booklet notes [see quote below].

Curiously, though; in a letter Sholes sent to Parker [dated August 24, 1956], Love Me is not part of the list of songs Sholes selected that "might make good material for the album."

For this session [Sept. '56] Sholes had expressly solicited two new songs, one by Leiber and Stoller to follow up on the success of "Hound Dog," the other by Otis Blackwell. Leiber and Stoller didn't take their assignment all that seriously - they merely provided an old song that they characterized at one time as "a spoof almost of country and western style...what Homer and Jethro might have done to a legitimate lyric" - but Elvis took it very seriously...

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 2:38 am

In his own recording, Presley does all the voices heard in this rather dull recording, but better. Now, I can see where some of his arrangement came from, the backing vocals especially, but there's just no touching what he did on 1 September 1956. He goes higher, without being over the top, similar in fact to what happened when he recorded about a year earlier, "Trying to get to you", the hit by Eagles. It was his superior voice that carried them over the originals. not anything else.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:07 am

Jaime1234 wrote:In his own recording, Presley does all the voices heard in this rather dull recording...

Not by any stretch of the imagination could one seriously call the Williams Quartet version dull.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 7:09 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
colonel snow wrote:The song was recorded in 1954 by:

00-03-54 - Willie & Ruth (Spark 105) = original version.
00-05-54 - Georgia Gibbs (Mercury 70743);
00-07-54 - The Four Escorts (RCA 20-5886);
00-08-54 - Billy Williams Qt with Sy Oliver Orchestra (Coral 61264);
00-09-54 - 5 DeMarco Sisters (Decca 29299);
01-10-54 - Jimmy Rodgers Snow (RCA 20-5986);
00-10-54 - Connie Russell (Capitol 2933).


colonel snow

And perhaps Elvis at Sun.


That's an interesting comment.

I didn't see anything in A Boy From Tupelo that speculated on "Love Me" being attempted by Elvis during any of his sessions at Sun.

In reading the book the first time through--and I want to read it again this winter--I felt that Ernst and his team made an editorial decision not to engage in speculation about what might have happened during any of Elvis' Sun sessions. In the absence of primary data sources (i.e., actual tapes/acetates or the long-rumored session notebook that Sam kept in those days), Ernst made the right decision. Perhaps something will emerge in the future that will allow Ernst and the fans of Elvis' Sun career to learn more about what happened at 706 Union.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 7:45 am

elvisalisellers wrote:
Jaime1234 wrote:In his own recording, Presley does all the voices heard in this rather dull recording...

Not by any stretch of the imagination could one seriously call the Williams Quartet version dull.

I totally agree -- the Williams single is terrific.

Re: "Love Me" - Obscure 1954 Billy Williams influence

Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:24 pm

It may be terrific, a nice listen, something one wishes to hear, at least once, but it's still dull and especially unimportant. It did not raise anyone's eyebrows, create any kind of reaction, push the envelop, as they say, when it was first released, even in its restricted mileu, nor it does today other than bringing one's attention to the fact it was a record Elvis must have heard, and made a hugely succesful cover of, with a totally different arrangement.

Moreover, try and listen to Williams' performance back-to-back to that of "I need you so", by Ivory Joe Hunter and you'll see my meaning. If you and were back in 1955 and, after moving the radio dial, realized the two songs were being played simultaneously, which one would you settle for? No contest, I'd go with Ivory's. Come to think of it, if with a fast forward, I, myself, was back in 1957, and the two originals, as well as the two Elvis versions of these two songs were being played, simultaneaously, I would go for Presley's "I need you so", no contest....