A few words on THE GOLDEN GATES QUARTET and ELVIS
In the course of conversations with Orlandus "Dad" Wilson, the great Golden Gate Quartet bass singer, I (tofuhut) was surprised to learn of an impromptu backstage jam session the Golden Gates had with Elvis Presley at the Casino de Paris early in 1960, and the reverberations from that encounter in Elvis's subsequent recorded repertoire. For example, "Elvis Is Back!," Elvis's first LP following his military service, includes a version of the Golden Gates' secular hit "I Will Be Home Again," recorded as a duet with Charlie Hodge.
The lead singer on the Gates' original 1945 version of "I Will Be Home Again" is Alton Bradley, Willie Johnson's post-WWII replacement. Pianist Conrad Frederick and guitarist Abe Green provide a dreamy accompaniment to this rather atypical Golden Gates' smooth ballad. In a 1982 interview with Ray Funk, Conrad Frederick said "I Will Be Home Again" was "the biggest record that the Gates had. In fact that was the only record that moved in a broader area than the spirituals."
The Golden Gate Quartet recorded their original version of this Benny Benjamin and Lou Singer song on 16 March 1945, released on both Okeh 6741 and Columbia 37832. Willie Johnson had left the group and his replacement, Alton Bradley, sang the lead.
The following excerpt from a 1995 interview with Dad Wilson is, unfortunately, somewhat disjointed. A rough transcription follows with Mr. Wilson's comments italicized and my own (tofuhut) in bold.
.."Do you remember what dates it was that Elvis visited you in Europe? Was it soon after you'd moved to Europe?"
"Yeah… It must have been in the beginning of the spring of 1960. He came on leave to Paris, from the military. He was doing his military duty in Germany. He came on leave to Paris, weekend leave. And as I understood it, he said he was walking down the street and he saw this theater and on it he saw "Golden Gate Quartet," and he saw the photos that were displayed, you know. He walked in and he asked if he could see the Golden Gate Quartet, if he could meet the Golden Gate Quartet. So they said, 'Well, no, because the show is on and it's almost finished now, so you can't see them.'
So at the time the husband of Line Renaud, Loulou Gaste, he heard the conversation. Because the people didn't understand him [Elvis] plainly, because the people didn't speak English very well. But Loulou Gaste overheard what he was saying, and so he walked over and he said 'Do you know the Golden Gate?' He said that Elvis Presley told him, said 'Well, I know them very well, because they are my professor.' He said, 'Your professor? Well, the show is going to be finished in a few minutes. If you want to, I'll take you back and you can meet…'"
"He didn't know he was talking to Elvis Presley at the time?"
"No. He said, 'You can meet my wife, because my wife is the star of the show.' … After the show finished he brought him back. First he carried him to her [Line Renaud] room you know. He was talking with her, because she spoke very good English too. He was talking with her. He had two men with him. Then he [Loulou Gaste] said, 'Oh you want to meet the Golden Gates. OK, I'll get them and bring them down.' So, we had changed clothes and everything. And he brought us down to Line's dressing room and he said 'This is a young men, he said he know you,' and so forth. So we said, 'Well, yeah. This is Elvis Presley.'"
"You hadn't met him before?"
"Oh yeah, we had met Elvis before, yeah. Oh sure, we had met him before. Because when we was with Wally Fowler and we would come here to Nashville sometimes he would come to see us, you know. Yes, we knew him. We had met him."
"But just met him casually?"
"Yeah, just casually, yeah. So, then we sat down and we started talking. And he said, 'You guys, oh man, imagine! What are you doing here?' He was trying to find out what we were doing there. So they were surprised, 'You mean the Elvis Presley?'
Loulou Gaste, he plays guitar so he had his guitar setting over in the corner. So Elvis picked up the guitar, said 'Oh, that's nice guitar,' started strumming the guitar. And then we started to reminiscing on spirituals, you know. This was about quarter past midnight. And then, we stayed in her [Line Renaud's] dressing room singing and talking and singing and talking until six o'clock in the morning. And so, we didn't see Elvis anymore then until finally, after, I think it was about '65 or something like this, this record came out with things like 'Swing Down Chariot.' "