Anything about Elvis
More than 30 Million visitors can't be wrong

"One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:01 pm

From The Houston Press (http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/2013/07/presleys_bassist_recalls_stax.php):

Elvis's Bassist Recalls Stax Sessions, One Song The King Couldn't Finish
By Bob Ruggiero Wed., Jul. 31 2013

The year 1973 was a pivotal one for the King. Elvis Presley was at a definite crossroads, both personally and professionally.

On one hand, he had returned to consistent live shows in 1969 after a lot of years making mostly insipid movies in Hollywood, to rapturous audiences. And the live record from his then-groundbreaking television event, Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite, was selling well.

On the other hand, he was in the throes of marital separation and divorce from wife Priscilla, heartbroken over time he'd lose with daughter Lisa Marie, and starting to pack on weight. And what was with all those little brown bottles?

Partly to fulfill a contract obligation to RCA, and partly because the studio was just a ten minute drive from Graceland, Elvis chose Stax Studios - where Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes, and a galaxy of soul stars laid down their biggest tracks - to record some new material.

In two separate week-long sessions in July and December, Elvis, producer Felton Jarvis, and a crack band finished 28 master recordings. They came out over several records, but did not meet with the commercial success Elvis or manager Colonel Tom Parker was hoping for.

Now, all of those masters, along with a treasure trove of outtakes and alternate versions, come together on the 3-CD compilation Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition (RCA/Legacy).

Muscle Shoals-born Norbert Putnam was the bassist for the December sessions, and spoke with Rocks Off about both the performer and private man.

"Fans really want to hear everything that was recorded -- and I mean everything from Elvis, even if it was just him joking with the band," Putnam recalls. "But he had a great sense of humor. He would entertain us for hours with stories and the karate demonstrations. It was like the last thing he wanted to do was make a record! And even when he was chastising you, there was a smile on his face. He never thought he was superior."

Among the tracks on the CD which Putnam counts as his favorites are the hard-chugging Chuck Berry cover "Promised Land," a perfectly weary take on "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues," and the sentimental "My Boy."

The last song -- about a father's fear for what marital separation would do to his child -- obviously hit home for Elvis. But Putnam says they tried another, even more painful number, that they never finished.

It was a song called "We Had it All" that Dobie Gray had previously done, about a chance, sad meeting between a divorced husband and wife, or at least ex-lovers. Presley decided on the spot he wanted to do it.

"Now Elvis was a very quick study, he could hear vocals and arrangements once or twice, grab the lyric sheet, and just kill it," Putnam says. "But on this particular night, we four, five six takes, and he wasn't getting it. I'd never seen him have problems like that before."

He says they ended up with two or three incomplete takes before a frustrated Elvis just threw the microphone on the ground and loudly proclaimed the stunned assembled [sic] "You can put that one out after I've been dead 20 years!"

"We thought at first it was a joke," affirms Putnam. "Then Jarvis said he just couldn't get through the words because he was thinking about himself."

Another futile stab at the song the next day yielded nothing usable.

It wasn't all doom and gloom, of course, as the finished tracks show. Wildly varying in genre, the songs recorded at Stax ran the gamut from rock, pop and country to ballads, gospel, R&B, and even Spanish-influenced numbers.

And Elvis performed them with a flair and passion usually missing from the movie soundtrack recordings. The new compilation will, if anything, renew appreciation for the material original record buyers may have missed nearly four decades ago.

Still, Putnam couldn't help but see a "troubled man" in front of the mike, on a variety of levels. That trouble would, unfortunately, not get better in the coming years.


To anyone who's a more knowledgeable Elvis fan than I am--all of Elvis's attempts at "We Had it All" were wiped, correct?

The same paper ran another interview with Putnam the next day. Reproduced for your pleasure ( ):

Could Elvis Have Been Saved From Himself? One Man Says Yes
By Bob Ruggiero Thu., Aug. 1 2013

When Elvis Presley came into Memphis' Stax Studios in December 1973 to cut some new material, Norbert Putnam -- the experienced Muscle Shoals-born session bassist -- could tell that something was off about the King.

"He had gained a bit of weight, I noticed. And he had gone through the divorce with Priscilla," Putnam recalls. "But he was definitely there to work. And this guy could do anything vocally. He could croon with Sinatra or scream with Little Richard."

Still, the thing that Putnam says he admired most about Presley -- then and now -- was his intelligence. especially when it came to human emotions.

All of the 28 masters that Presley and his backing musicians recorded in July and December 1973 sessions -- along with multiple outtakes and alternate cuts -- are on the new 3-CD compilation Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition (RCA/Legacy).

Putnam played on the December sessions, which yielded material higher in quality and quantity than the July one. He says that the musicians never had any sheet music to refer to, and instead would each scratch down keys, chords, and changes on legal pads while a demo recording played in the studio. Somehow, they managed to find the right groove in short order.

And while the songs dribbled out over several LPs and singles over the next few years, it didn't provide Elvis with the commercial comeback he had hoped for.

"It didn't have a lot of chart activity at the time and that's a shame," Putnam says today. "But people have clamored for this material. When I play with the TCB Band and we go to Europe and South America, they are yelling for [the Stax] material. Those records were more popular there than in the states. I think Elvis was more appreciated around the world than he was in America."

The "TCB Band" Putnam refers to is the occasional still-touring stage show in which many of Elvis' former band and revue members play live music to the accompaniment of Elvis singing the same song on filmed concert footage that plays on a huge video screen (can the Elvis hologram be far off?).

Which, of course, makes blindingly obvious the obvious - live people are playing with movies of a dead man. Elvis' drug-and-obesity induced death in 1977 at the age of 42 has been overly documented so as not to bear repeat here. But - feasibly, had he not succumbed to his own self-destruction - could Putnam & Co. have played in 2013 with a 78-year-old Elvis?

After all, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, and others are still going. And septuagenarians Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney are still fronting two- and three-hour shows. And with 1973 being a crucial year, could Putnam or any other players have saved Elvis?

"Of course, I've thought about it a lot over the years. A lot. I was shocked when he died," Putnam reflects today. "But you have to remember that we saw him in a recording environment. I've known musicians who were drunk and stoned and crazy on the road or [at their houses], but when they came into the studio, they were ready for business. They all knew that it would be the recordings that would survive us all."

However, Putnam points to one man who could have -- should have -- seen the warning signs and done something about it but didn't: Elvis's manager/Svengali, Col. Tom Parker.

"Someone should have staged an intervention, and that someone was Tom Parker. But he didn't, and I wish I knew why," Putnam says bluntly. "But I have to add that I have a lot of respect for [Bodyguard/Memphis Mafia member] Red West. He always had Elvis' back and I think he tried to do something. But no one could get through to him with all of that medication."

Ironically, Putnam says that Elvis himself looked down upon drug users and thought of them as "second-class citizens." He once even tried to get the Nixon White House to investigate the Beatles. But as long as you had a prescription for something, then you weren't a drug addict or user.

Outside of playing bass, Putnam has also had a storied career as a record producer, working with artists like Dan Fogelberg ("the greatest singer/songwriter/player combo ever"), Joan Baez ("I got that job by accident when Kris Kristofferson decided on the first day of recording he didn't want to do it"), John Hiatt and the Flying Burrito Brothers among them.

But it was his time spent working on the records of one man -- and in particular one song -- that may be his most lasting legacy. For it was Norbert Putnam twiddling dials and calling out instructions behind the glass when Jimmy Buffett recorded "Margaritaville."

"He brought me this song and when I heard it for the first time, I thought it was one of the best-written songs ever. It was a complete story in the lyric, and day in the life of Jimmy Buffett on Key West!" Putnam laughs. "He gave you the sight, the smell, and the sound of it. And the lost shaker of salt! And he built a huge business and lifestyle off of that one song. Jimmy sure hit the nail on the head, didn't he?"

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:56 am

There is no confirmation "We Had It All" was put on tape, or erased, only that it has not been found in the Presley Stax archives. What a shame, as it's a very high-quality piece of material, something in short supply at those 1973 sessions.

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Fri Aug 16, 2013 1:04 am

Thanks Doc. If they "ended up with two or three incomplete takes," it sounds like Elvis's attempts were recorded, but if they were, they would have surely been released by now. Additionally, Putnam's memories might be fuzzy after all these years. Or Sony might be holding on to the song for a future anniversary, but I tend to doubt that--Ernst doesn't seem like the type to hold out on such material. So, after all that speculation we're back to square one, and the status "We Had it All" remains a mystery.

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Fri Aug 16, 2013 1:34 am

Surprising Elvis couldn't finish this one, Its the type of song he excelled at in the 70's. Conway Twitty had a great version of it if you want to hear what it could have possibly sounded like, check his out. Good song.

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:48 am

r&b wrote:Surprising Elvis couldn't finish this one, Its the type of song he excelled at in the 70's. Conway Twitty had a great version of it if you want to hear what it could have possibly sounded like, check his out. Good song.

phpBB [video]

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Sat Aug 17, 2013 12:16 am

Some more recent articles touching on this topic...

An excerpt from The Memphis Commercial Appeal (http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2013/aug/09/new-box-set-focuses-on-elvis-presleys-sessions/?CID=happeningnow)

Even the more potent songs proved to be too loaded for Elvis to tackle at the time. [Marty] Lacker recalls bringing Elvis a gorgeous ballad by Troy Seals and Donnie Fritts called “We Had It All.”
“It’s basically a guy singing to his ex-wife. And he loved it,” says Lacker. “He worked on it, rehearsed it four or fives times, and then he came over to me and said, ‘I can’t do this. I don’t want the fans to think I’m singing this about Priscilla.’”


On a somewhat unrelated note, here's an interesting excerpt from another interview with Norbert Putnam, taken from Creative Loafing (http://clatl.com/atlanta/elvis-at-stax-a-new-shine-on-a-tarnished-crown/Content?oid=8918429):

Putnam recalls one instance when Presley opened up to him: "He sat with me during lunch, and in a quiet voice said that he wanted my opinion," Putnam says. "He said, 'I want to play in Europe, but the Colonel doesn't want me to. I've got an offer to play in a stadium for $1 million a night. Colonel says I'm not popular over there. What do you think?' I said, 'I saw your albums in the stores over there, and heard your songs on the BBC. Europe has your biggest fans.'"

Elvis replied with a laugh. "I may fire that SOB," he said. "It's time to work, I gotta go back to being Elvis."

Putnam adds, "His voice changed, and he went right back into his routine."

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Sat Aug 17, 2013 12:30 am

Hi there!! :D :D :D.

Blue River wrote:
r&b wrote:Surprising Elvis couldn't finish this one, Its the type of song he excelled at in the 70's. Conway Twitty had a great version of it if you want to hear what it could have possibly sounded like, check his out. Good song.

phpBB [video]



Nice, thank you!. But I prefer Waylon Jennings´ version :wink:. Bye for now :smt006.

http://www51.zippyshare.com/v/57477167/file.html

Image

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Sat Aug 17, 2013 2:16 am

Did they record some incomplete takes? If so, then they could possibly fly in Elvis' vocals from the various takes to make a complete recording. That would be great if those tapes surface...if there were any recordings made.

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Sat Aug 17, 2013 2:31 am

RonBaker2003 wrote:Did they record some incomplete takes? If so, then they could possibly fly in Elvis' vocals from the various takes to make a complete recording. That would be great if those tapes surface...if there were any recordings made.


As Doc noted, it's unknown if "We Had It All" was put on tape or erased. Putnam says there were incomplete takes while Lacker says Elvis just rehearsed it. But if tapes existed, they presumably would have been released by now. After all, Elvis also attempted "America" in the studio, and that didn't make it to tape.

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Sat Aug 17, 2013 11:40 am

Revelator wrote:
RonBaker2003 wrote:Did they record some incomplete takes? If so, then they could possibly fly in Elvis' vocals from the various takes to make a complete recording. That would be great if those tapes surface...if there were any recordings made.


As Doc noted, it's unknown if "We Had It All" was put on tape or erased. Putnam says there were incomplete takes while Lacker says Elvis just rehearsed it. But if tapes existed, they presumably would have been released by now. After all, Elvis also attempted "America" in the studio, and that didn't make it to tape.


"America The Beautiful" -- for better or worse -- did make it to tape, but was recorded over at Elvis' insistence. Some remaining intro and outro fragments have surfaced officially and unofficially.

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Sat Aug 17, 2013 11:50 am

If I am not mistken Mr Putnam has been very explicit about this topic during the Elvis at stax listening party and recalled a later converation with mr Briggs about an attempt to make a compleate take out of what was recorded... am I recalling it wrong?

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:39 pm

I first got the impression from Putnam that Briggs had listened to a tape of the Elvis recording (with incomplete chorus) fairly recently, but I guess it could be that he was just referring to a conversation 40 years ago.
Anyway, I agree with others on this forum that the song is great. The best version I've ever heard is a live recording by Willie Nelson and Keith Richards.
These two guys put together add so much soul to this song. Actually I'm not sure if Elvis could have matched this soulful take:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbFb5IUEKJ4

Regards,
Tom from Norway

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Sat Aug 17, 2013 2:26 pm

Another song Elvis failed to complete was the fast version of 'Ain't That Loving You Baby'.

The spliced version which was first released on the brilliant blues album 'Reconsider Baby' in 1985 should have been completed and released as a single in the late 50's and would have been a chart topper for sure.

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Sat Aug 17, 2013 2:54 pm

There are tapes missing from the Stax sessions. There are no outtakes of Raised on Rock because the session tape is missing. After hearing Putnam tell the story of "We had it all" I think that it is true that Elvis did several incomplete takes that were recorded. Putnam even claims that David Briggs has the tape!!! Ernst will look into this for sure. I would love an incomplete take of that fantastic song. I love Waylon Jennings version and I think that the song was perfect for Elvis in 1973.

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Sat Aug 17, 2013 5:43 pm

r&b wrote:Surprising Elvis couldn't finish this one, Its the type of song he excelled at in the 70's. Conway Twitty had a great version of it if you want to hear what it could have possibly sounded like, check his out. Good song.

Conway's is the best version I have ever heard.

I can hear the wind a blowin' in my mind....

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:11 pm

I found this on another message board, written by Monkboughtlunch, who has posted on this forum as well:

The interesting thing in that listening party video (see post #349) is that Putnam seems pretty sure that Presley committed several attempts at "We Had It All" to tape before aborting the effort. Jorgensen notes that 2 multitrack reels from the Dec 73 session appear to be missing. Putnam further states he believes David Briggs may have the missing studio tapes (or a copy of them). It will be interesting if an "unheard" studio Presley song surfaces. Putnam states that Briggs told him weren't any complete vocal takes on the "We Had It All" multis that could be stitched together to create a usable master since Presley didn't apparently sing the chorus.

(http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/elvis-at-stax-40th-anniversary-sony-legacy.317351/page-15)

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:38 pm

I must admit, until today, I had never heard the song, "We Had It All".

I listened to the Conway Twitty version and I enjoyed it very much.

My wife is a huge Conway fan, so I just had to check it out. I will check out Dobey's version later.

The song is nicely arranged and perfectly suited to Elvis' voice and style in 1973. I'm positive, Elvis would have nailed it.

It would have been a major leap in the right direction to get Elvis into more contemporary material, sadly, it wasn't meant to be.

Reminded me of, "Loving Arms". If Elvis could do that one, why couldn't he get into this one ?

I mean, "I've been too long in the wind, too long in the rain ... takin' any comfort that I can " .... ?

A pity.

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:50 pm

Revelator wrote:I found this on another message board, written by Monkboughtlunch, who has posted on this forum as well:

The interesting thing in that listening party video (see post #349) is that Putnam seems pretty sure that Presley committed several attempts at "We Had It All" to tape before aborting the effort. Jorgensen notes that 2 multitrack reels from the Dec 73 session appear to be missing. Putnam further states he believes David Briggs may have the missing studio tapes (or a copy of them). It will be interesting if an "unheard" studio Presley song surfaces. Putnam states that Briggs told him weren't any complete vocal takes on the "We Had It All" multis that could be stitched together to create a usable master since Presley didn't apparently sing the chorus.

(http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/elvis-at-stax-40th-anniversary-sony-legacy.317351/page-15)


Thanks for sharing - yes that is also what I recall of the listening party. Obviouselly there is something else involved otherwise this would be emrged earlier...

Re: "One Song The King Couldn't Finish"

Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:40 am

I would be perfectly okay with the verses sung by Elvis and the Stamps or Sweet Inspirations or whoever did backing vocals sang the chorus.