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Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:07 am

It's surprising how often Elvis slapped the back of his guitar to provide an additional percussive rhythm on his recordings; to the point of it becoming an integral part of his distinctive early sound.

More often than not, he'd use this innovation [that might be unique to Elvis] on some of his most famous and best-selling singles [three of them - probably not just by chance - on Otis Blackwell-penned tracks]. Indeed, on "All Shook Up" it's the the only instrumentation that can actually be heard in places.

Sadly, he'd abandon using this little trademark when he got out of the army; and in doing so, perhaps lost some creative edge in the studio, where even his actual rhythm guitar playing became less and less.

For better or for worse, it certainly signalled the end of an era.



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(Note: guitar-slaps were also used on the earlier April/May 1957 Jailhouse Rock soundtrack versions.)


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(Note: Elvis overdubbed his guitar-slaps [and piano for that matter] onto "Wear My Ring Around Your Neck" and did likewise [according to Peter Guralnick] on "All Shook Up.")




Classic Wertheimer study - Don't Be Cruel - July 2, 1956.jpg
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Last edited by elvisalisellers on Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:23 am

The slapping sound on "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine" was created by a Bongo player that was listed as "unknown" on "The Sun Sessions LP" in '76. IIRC he has since been identified.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:30 am

promiseland wrote:The slapping sound on "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine" was created by a Bongo player that was listed as "unknown" on "The Sun Sessions LP" in '76. IIRC he has since been identified.


I've read this as well, but Elvis could also be going all percussive on us here.

When Springsteen drummer Max Weinberg interviewed DJ Fontana about his classic work with Elvis, he was fascinated by the "change" in Fontana's snare sound between "Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel." Like many, he had no idea about Presley's "back of the guitar" percussion on the latter, until Fontana told him.

Nice topic, and I agree his abandonment of the device was symbolic of his disengagement from the music as well.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:01 am

Fantastic topic, elvisalisellers. Thanks a lot !

I've always been intrigued by these recordings, too. And I would have said there were more than ten songs, but I can't remember any other that's not in your list.

I've never believed that bongo thing on "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine". I mean, it's bizarre. How many Sun recordings, by any artist, feature bongoes ?

I also think it's Elvis slapping his guitar. Anybody can hear the sound of his (played) acoustic guitar there ? I can't ! This same evidence was used years ago to reinforce the theory that Elvis was playing piano on "Tryin' To Get To You".

Apart from the Wertheimer photos from July 2, 1956, we can also see Elvis slapping his guitar in the studio in 1957, during the sessions for "Loving You", and also "Jailhouse Rock" - see Davide's photo threads.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:19 am

Hes doing it on Big Boss Man.. right?

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 5:00 am

Mister Moon wrote:Fantastic topic, elvisalisellers. Thanks a lot !

I've always been intrigued by these recordings, too. And I would have said there were more than ten songs, but I can't remember any other that's not in your list.

I've never believed that bongo thing on "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine". I mean, it's bizarre. How many Sun recordings, by any artist, feature bongoes ?

I also think it's Elvis slapping his guitar. Anybody can hear the sound of his (played) acoustic guitar there ? I can't ! This same evidence was used years ago to reinforce the theory that Elvis was playing piano on "Tryin' To Get To You".

Apart from the Wertheimer photos from July 2, 1956, we can also see Elvis slapping his guitar in the studio in 1957, during the sessions for "Loving You", and also "Jailhouse Rock" - see Davide's photo threads.


The Sun cut may be both Elvis and Buddy, slapping away. The images from 1957 are of Elvis cutting "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" and "Treat Me Nice."

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:03 am

I've long thought of the genesis of the style, and have read much of the percussive style of the Mississippi Hill Country Blues.

Perhaps a look into his musical roots.

http://www.cracked.com/funny-8061-hill-country-blues/

It's something to explore, in any case.

Thanks for addressing this!

::rocks

rjm

Sent From My Phabulous Galaxy Note II Phablet Using Tapatalk 4

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 10:37 am

Fairchild1171 wrote:Sometimes called "Sock Rhythm" Johnny Cash got a unique sound by putting a piece of paper, usually a dollar bill under the strings on the fretboard. I have heard that on the SUN cut, a guy was beating on an old suitcase or maybe a guitar ccase.

As heard on "I Walk The Line".

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:33 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:Fantastic topic, elvisalisellers. Thanks a lot !

I've always been intrigued by these recordings, too. And I would have said there were more than ten songs, but I can't remember any other that's not in your list.

I've never believed that bongo thing on "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine". I mean, it's bizarre. How many Sun recordings, by any artist, feature bongoes ?

I also think it's Elvis slapping his guitar. Anybody can hear the sound of his (played) acoustic guitar there ? I can't ! This same evidence was used years ago to reinforce the theory that Elvis was playing piano on "Tryin' To Get To You".

Apart from the Wertheimer photos from July 2, 1956, we can also see Elvis slapping his guitar in the studio in 1957, during the sessions for "Loving You", and also "Jailhouse Rock" - see Davide's photo threads.


The Sun cut may be both Elvis and Buddy, slapping away. The images from 1957 are of Elvis cutting "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" and "Treat Me Nice."

The 50's Masters box has Buddy Harman credited for Bongo player.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:42 am

promiseland wrote:The 50's Masters box has Buddy Harman credited for Bongo player.


I don't have the 50's box at hand, but it's always been said it was Buddy Blake Cunningham, who did Sun 208, the record immediately preceding Elvis' debut on the label, as well as a later single on the subsidiary Phillips International label.

I would like to know where this info came from in the first place. Was it an interview with Scotty or Sam ? Cunningham himself ?

I don't think any paperwork from those sessions survives... And Sam's paperwork for sessions wasn't always accurate, as any Sun expert will tell you.
Last edited by Mister Moon on Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:48 am

Thanks Elvisalisellers,great topic

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:57 pm

promiseland wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:The Sun cut may be both Elvis and Buddy, slapping away. The images from 1957 are of Elvis cutting "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" and "Treat Me Nice."


The 50's Masters box has Buddy Harman credited for Bongo player.


In the 1992 booklet made for the CD box and the LP box, there is no "Bongos" credit at all for September 1954's "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine." And it's the same case in Ernst's Elvis Presley: A Life In Music, published in 1998. These examples may make one believe that any such percussive sounds must have come from Elvis.

"Bongos" does appear in a complete musician listing on this page about the 50s box:

Bongos – Buddy Harman, Gordon Stoker
http://www.discogs.com/Elvis-The-King-Of-Rock-N-Roll-The-Complete-50s-Masters/release/2017422

But this is because Stoker taps some bongos on January 1958's "Crawfish" and Harman is credited with playing them at the June 1958 session, both of which are noted in the CD and LP booklets from 1992.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:36 am

The back slapping sound is on YOUR TIME HASN'T COME YET BABY, I don't know if it is Elvis slapping the back of a guitar, but I imagine it probably is.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:59 am

elvisalisellers wrote: (Note: Elvis overdubbed his guitar-slaps [and piano for that matter] onto "Wear My Ring Around Your Neck" and did likewise [according to Peter Guralnick] on "All Shook Up.")


I must have read this, as I have read the Guralnick books, but I had forgotten it. How amazing that those wonderful slaps on 'All shook up' were overdubbed.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:49 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
promiseland wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:The Sun cut may be both Elvis and Buddy, slapping away. The images from 1957 are of Elvis cutting "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" and "Treat Me Nice."


The 50's Masters box has Buddy Harman credited for Bongo player.


In the 1992 booklet made for the CD box and the LP box, there is no "Bongos" credit at all for September 1954's "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine." And it's the same case in Ernst's Elvis Presley: A Life In Music, published in 1998. These examples may make one believe that any such percussive sounds must have come from Elvis.

"Bongos" does appear in a complete musician listing on this page about the 50s box:

Bongos – Buddy Harman, Gordon Stoker
http://www.discogs.com/Elvis-The-King-Of-Rock-N-Roll-The-Complete-50s-Masters/release/2017422

But this is because Stoker taps some bongos on January 1958's "Crawfish" and Harman is credited with playing them at the June 1958 session, both of which are noted in the CD and LP booklets from 1992.

I recall reading somewhere it was a guy slapping an empty record box or something on the IDCITSDS recording... :?

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:43 pm

luckyjackson1 wrote: (...) slapping an empty record box (...)


This is off topic, but slapping an empty cardboard box is what Crickets drummer Jerry Allison did on Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and Buddy Knox's "Party Doll", as explained, and shown, by himself in this marvelous documentary about Lubbock's pride and joy :

(starting at 20:23, Allison shows his drumming technique)
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This documentary, first aired in 1985 as a BBC "Arena" special, was produced by Paul McCartney, and it featured him talking and playing Holly songs, as well as introducing what is probably the first ever public audition of The Beatles' 1958 recording of Holly's "That'll Be The Day", a kind of "My Happiness" equivalent among Beatles fans, later officially released in the "Anthology" series.

Another highlight is the presence of the legendary Sonny Curtis, one of Holly's closest friends and collaborators, and a superb writer and musician himself, who shows us how Holly's immortal solo in "Peggy Sue" should be played on a guitar.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Wed Aug 21, 2013 12:54 am

Thanks for all your comments.

Just picking up on a few points:

I firmly believe it's Elvis providing the closely-miked percussive sound on "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine."
For one [as "Mister Moon" alluded to] I don't hear him playing acoustic guitar here; plus, if you listen to the breakdown [take 2] the "slapping" stops in tandem with Elvis' singing, i.e., there's no overlap, which you might expect to hear if someone else was playing.
(Note: when referring to "All Shook Up" in his 50's Masters booklet notes, Guralnick writes: "... in true Sun fashion, he overdubbed himself slapping the back of his guitar.")

Re. "Big Boss Man": I don't hear any Elvis guitar-slaps on this: Buddy Harman might be the man responsible for the rhythmic, percussive "thuds" that you hear.

"Your Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby" is an interesting one:
From what I understand, it's Elvis who actually plays acoustic guitar here: so if he did provide the "slaps" then they were obviously overdubbed.
If ever any outtakes happen to surface, I'm sure we will have a better idea on just what his contribution was to this recording.
(Note: on the alternate movie version "slaps" cannot be heard, which would indicate them either being mixed out [from the 4-track tapes] or indeed not recorded in the first place.)

Finally, just when I thought there were no other recordings with the magical guitar-slaps, I believe I have found one other...

Yes, quite surprisingly, "Flaming Star" appears to have the "slapping" in evidence.
It's pretty faint; but if you check out the right channel on each bridge/chorus, you can quite clearly hear it.
And with the drums panned to the left, it's a strong possibility that it's Elvis doing the work again.

Fascinating, huh?


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Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:01 am

Don't forget that the guitar-slapping effect is all over the sound of two sit-down shows from June of 1968. DJ hits the back of a guitar case with a drumstick and Alan Fortas actually hits the back of a guitar.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:16 am

elvisalisellers wrote:Thanks for all your comments.

Just picking up on a few points:

I firmly believe it's Elvis providing the closely-miked percussive sound on "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine."
For one [as "Mister Moon" alluded to] I don't hear him playing acoustic guitar here; plus, if you listen to the breakdown [take 2] the "slapping" stops in tandem with Elvis' singing, i.e., there's no overlap, which you might expect to hear if someone else was playing.
(Note: when referring to "All Shook Up" in his 50's Masters booklet notes, Guralnick writes: "... in true Sun fashion, he overdubbed himself slapping the back of his guitar.")

Re. "Big Boss Man": I don't hear any Elvis guitar-slaps on this: Buddy Harman might be the man responsible for the rhythmic, percussive "thuds" that you hear.

"Your Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby" is an interesting one:
From what I understand, it's Elvis who actually plays acoustic guitar here: so if he did provide the "slaps" then they were obviously overdubbed.
If ever any outtakes happen to surface, I'm sure we will have a better idea on just what his contribution was to this recording.
(Note: on the alternate movie version "slaps" cannot be heard, which would indicate them either being mixed out [from the 4-track tapes] or indeed not recorded in the first place.)

Finally, just when I thought there were no other recordings with the magical guitar-slaps, I believe I have found one other...

Yes, quite surprisingly, "Flaming Star" appears to have the "slapping" in evidence.
It's pretty faint; but if you check out the right channel on each bridge/chorus, you can quite clearly hear it.
And with the drums panned to the left, it's a strong possibility that it's Elvis doing the work again.

Fascinating, huh?


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Oh, yeah! I hear it clearly; it's in my right ear! On the bridge.

Fascinating. He didn't need to do it; he wanted to do it. And then he stopped. Hmmmm.

rjm

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:56 am

Mike C wrote:Don't forget that the guitar-slapping effect is all over the sound of two sit-down shows from June of 1968. DJ hits the back of a guitar case with a drumstick and Alan Fortas actually hits the back of a guitar.

Call me funny, but Alan Fortas' area of expertise was off my radar for this particular topic.

I really dig the way Elvis instinctively turns his guitar upside down during the '68 Road Medley ["Guitar Man"] sequence, though.


Guitar Man - '68 Special.JPG
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Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Wed Aug 21, 2013 8:16 am

I think the slapping sound on BIG BOSS MAN was actually a tic tac bass that Elvis used a lot in the sixties. It is on LITTLE SISTER among others.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:09 am

Fantastic observation work, elvisalisellers!

I just wondered why the finger snap on the beginning of "Flaming Star" hadn't been "repaired" on the 2007 Anesini remasters... :wink:

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:14 am

LonnieBeale wrote:I think the slapping sound on BIG BOSS MAN was actually a tic tac bass that Elvis used a lot in the sixties. It is on LITTLE SISTER among others.


Yup, and almost certainly played by the great Harold Bradley, who basically invented the "tic-tac" style of muting those bass notes.

Danelectro introduced the six-string bass in 1956, and it really was a brand new instrument : really a guitar with a 30" scale, tuned an octave below standard guitar.

The guy who probably made the most money playing one, but the least fame because he was largely an anonymous studio musician, was Harold Bradley. He invented what's called "tic tac bass".

In Nashville, bass drums weren't mic'd until probably the early 70's, and double basses were the standard long after the Fender bass had taken over in different kinds of music.

Bradley (and his studio owner/producer brother) found that the typical midrange click they got from having a Dano VI doubling the double bass part, played with a thin pick through a guitar amp, filled a frequency void between double bass and the bass drum, and fortified the rhythm section more on radio at the time than mic'ing a bass drum. (car radio speakers at the time handled the honk of a Dano better than the boom of a bass drum)

Typical Nashville tic-tac bass goes from very subtle (listen to classic country, and more records than you realise have that distinct click, once you start listening for it), to "what is that cool clicking bass thing?!?" ----> Faron Young's "Hello Walls", Elvis "Little Sister", or Roy Orbison's "Working for the man", where it's almost a lead instrument.

http://gretschpages.com/forum/other-guitars/dano-baritone-to-6-string-bass/36653/page1/

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:56 pm

elvisalisellers wrote: (...) if you listen to the breakdown [take 2] the "slapping" stops in tandem with Elvis' singing, i.e., there's no overlap, which you might expect to hear if someone else was playing.
(Note: when referring to "All Shook Up" in his 50's Masters booklet notes, Guralnick writes: "... in true Sun fashion, he overdubbed himself slapping the back of his guitar.")


Nice observation about "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine", elvisalisellers.

Thanks.

Re: Moments Of Cool - The Guitar-Slap Recordings

Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:54 pm

Here's another photographic example !

G.I. BLUES SLAP.jpg
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