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Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:48 am

There was a report on the net a few months back that Elvis had more R&B hits than anyone else, for a non African American, with 24 top 10 R&B hits during a period of 1956-63. But after that he never again had an R&B hit. That's hard to believe, even though true, when you consider If I Can Dream, which was influenced by Dr Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' speech, and In The Ghetto and If You Talk In Your Sleep. I have always found it strange at how he completely dropped off the R&B music scene after 1963. Does anyone with knowledge of the situation know why he never again had a single to chart on the R&B charts?

Here's a list of singles that you would think would have reached the R&B charts post 1963.

What'd I Say (1964)
Such A Night (1964)
It Hurts Me (1964)
Big Boss Man (1966)
High Heel Sneakers (1966)
Let Yourself Go (1967)
A Little Less Conversation (1968)
If I Can Dream (1968)
In The Ghetto (1968)
If You Talk In Your Sleep (1974)

P.S. Little Milton covered If You Talk In Your Sleep in 1975 and it charted. It also was taken straight from Elvis' version, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NivDiCuCUfk

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:52 am

SuspiciousMind wrote:There was a report on the net a few months back that Elvis had more R&B hits than anyone else, for a non African American, with 24 top 10 R&B hits during a period of 1956-63. But after that he never again had an R&B hit. That's hard to believe, even though true, when you consider If I Can Dream, which was influenced by Dr Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' speech, and In The Ghetto and If You Talk In Your Sleep. I have always found it strange at how he completely dropped off the R&B music scene after 1963. Does anyone with knowledge of the situation know why he never again had a single to chart on the R&B charts?

Here's a list of singles that you would think would have reached the R&B charts post 1963.

What'd I Say (1964)
Such A Night (1964)
It Hurts Me (1964)
Big Boss Man (1966)
High Heel Sneakers (1966)
Let Yourself Go (1967)
A Little Less Conversation (1968)
If I Can Dream (1968)
In The Ghetto (1968)
If You Talk In Your Sleep (1974)

P.S. Little Milton covered If You Talk In Your Sleep in 1975 and it charted. It also was taken straight from Elvis' version, too.

phpBB [video]


The answer is simple: as he sold out to Hollywood the music got worse and worse, and Elvis lost touch with the times and his artistry. The singles you list, especially the fallow cover of Ray Charles, never had a chance.

Another factor might have been management avoiding any PR with R&B markets and radio.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:55 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
SuspiciousMind wrote:There was a report on the net a few months back that Elvis had more R&B hits than anyone else, for a non African American, with 24 top 10 R&B hits during a period of 1956-63. But after that he never again had an R&B hit. That's hard to believe, even though true, when you consider If I Can Dream, which was influenced by Dr Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' speech, and In The Ghetto and If You Talk In Your Sleep. I have always found it strange at how he completely dropped off the R&B music scene after 1963. Does anyone with knowledge of the situation know why he never again had a single to chart on the R&B charts?

Here's a list of singles that you would think would have reached the R&B charts post 1963.

What'd I Say (1964)
Such A Night (1964)
It Hurts Me (1964)
Big Boss Man (1966)
High Heel Sneakers (1966)
Let Yourself Go (1967)
A Little Less Conversation (1968)
If I Can Dream (1968)
In The Ghetto (1968)
If You Talk In Your Sleep (1974)

P.S. Little Milton covered If You Talk In Your Sleep in 1975 and it charted. It also was taken straight from Elvis' version, too.

phpBB [video]


The answer is simple: as he sold out to Hollywood the music got worse and worse, and Elvis lost touch with the times and his artistry. The singles you list, especially the fallow cover of Ray Charles, never had a chance.

Another factor might have been management avoiding any PR with R&B markets and radio.


But a lot of his R&B hits came from movie soundtracks. Teddy Bear, Loving You, Jailhouse Rock, Love Me Tender, Can't Help Falling In Love, Return To Sender, Bossa Nova Baby, among others.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:02 am

The R&B chart was discontinued for a short period in late 1963 and all of 1964.

When it was brought back in 1965 the chart changed it's compiling method to no longer include rock n' roll or white oriented pop recordings.

From 1965 onwards a white singer having hits on the R&B chart was the exception not the rule.

You also have to factor in Elvis' not recording much R&B and RCA not promoting him to R&B radio.
Last edited by brian on Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:04 am

SuspiciousMind wrote:But a lot of his R&B hits came from movie soundtracks. Teddy Bear, Loving You, Jailhouse Rock, Love Me Tender, Can't Help Falling In Love, Return To Sender, Bossa Nova Baby, among others.

Note that almost all of these are top-shelf, original songs. After 1963, that was not the case.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:55 am

Some good points. Kind of shows also that the black music charts discriminated against white or non black artists at the same time that they were fighting for equal rights. RCA not promoting Elvis' music though was due to Parker not wanting to spend the extra money it would take.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:10 am

SuspiciousMind wrote:Some good points. Kind of shows also that the black music charts discriminated against white or non black artists at the same time that they were fighting for equal rights. RCA not promoting Elvis' music though was due to Parker not wanting to spend the extra money it would take.


The charts, correct me if I'm wrong, were created by Billboard, not by anyone "fighting for equal rights." It was a marketing/targeting decision. And later on, in the '70s, did effect Elvis's career quite a bit. And his career was only a footnote to what the narrowcasting did to music from the mid-'70s to the early 1980s.

I was going to post a topic asking "how did Elvis become 'strictly country'?" Which he did, in the few years just before his death. And even in the sales AFTER his death, he was relegated, on the charts and radio, quite a bit to country.

Elvis started out tearing up country music from within, and it wasn't appreciated. (That's an understatement.) And the Country Music Hall of Fame kept him "officially" out, for the longest time. (Though their exhibits were filled with Elvis, he was not inducted for many, many years after his death.) Yet, he was treated like a country singer once radio became completely narrowcasted. Before that, pop/rock AM stuff could co-exist. At least up through the early '70s. It's clear from this that the process began earlier, although other artists may have broken through during the '60s. It's unclear why some of his Comeback era singles didn't break through, when they were very soul-flavored, and were excellent.

But a little later in the '70s? That was primarily narrowcasting.

Good question. But I think looking at Elvis exclusively won't solve it. I would like to know which white performers made the R&B/Soul charts when Elvis did not.

rjm
Last edited by rjm on Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:33 am, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:28 am

SuspiciousMind wrote:Some good points. Kind of shows also that the black music charts discriminated against white or non black artists at the same time that they were fighting for equal rights. RCA not promoting Elvis' music though was due to Parker not wanting to spend the extra money it would take.

What?!?

It doesn't show that at all. What it may prove is that soulless crap was not going to light any fires on R&B radio.

Beyond that, I fail to see how a Billboard R&B record chart was "fighting for equal rights."

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:56 am

I agree that the record version from '64 of "What'd I Say?" was "soulless crap." And "If You Talk In Your Sleep" does not show him in the best voice at all (although the arrangement is fantastic!).

But the ones in between are good to superb. "If I Can Dream" is neither soulless nor "crap." And if the singer wasn't thought of as "white," I think it would have done very well indeed on the R&B charts. Same goes for some other records of the time. "Suspicious Minds" itself is very, very soulful. And that's not even considered. What about "Burning Love"? "Promised Land"? No crap there.

Radio was changing, and Billboard was totally involved in the change. It didn't help black music in any way, I think, in the longer run. Yes, in the earlier '70s, Top 40 was still very democratic, but that would all soon change. Soon everything got segmented, with the very popular youth format "Album Oriented Rock" a triumph of marketing to young, white, male teens. Some called it "Apartheid Oriented Radio." And then there was "alternative" radio. That wasn't black, either, or country.

I even gave a paper on the matter.

This process was all over the business: you had to put artists in a certain box. Elvis got put in a "country" box. He never wanted to be "strictly country," and he always said so. I think he stayed true to his musical stew, always, even if his voice was hobbled. His last record had a disco feel backed with the R&B classic by Johnny Ace, "Pledging My Love." Still, he was marketed as "country."

Something was wrong with the business at the time. That would change in the 1980s, when the color line at MTV got broken, by force. (There were exceptions, previously, but they had certain "rules" about it.)

rjm

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:08 am

SuspiciousMind wrote:Some good points. Kind of shows also that the black music charts discriminated against white or non black artists at the same time that they were fighting for equal rights. RCA not promoting Elvis' music though was due to Parker not wanting to spend the extra money it would take.


I wasn't discrimination.

Billboard changed how the chart was compiled because they felt too many non R&B songs were hitting the chart.

I agree with them if you have an R&B chart it should have mostly R&B and soul songs on it.

Most soul and R&B singers happen to be African American in the same way that most country & western singers are white.

Elvis coming out with about six R&B recordings between 1965-1977 wasn't going to start getting him played regularly on those stations again.

By the 1970s RCA wasn't promoting Elvis very much at all so they weren't about to spend a lot of money to try and get him a hit record on the R&B chart.

Very little reward for so much cost.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:09 am

Here's what was on the R&B chart for November 23, 1968, the week "If I Can Dream" was released.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:21 am

rjm wrote:But the ones in between are good to superb. "If I Can Dream" is neither soulless nor "crap." And if the singer wasn't thought of as "white," I think it would have done very well indeed on the R&B charts. Same goes for some other records of the time. "Suspicious Minds" itself is very, very soulful. And that's not even considered. What about "Burning Love"? "Promised Land"? No crap there.


Promised land and Burning love were rock and not R&B enough to make the R&B charts.

If an African American singer recorded these songs and put them out as singles they would've made the R&B charts.

Dee Dee Warwick did have a top 40 R&B hit with ''Suspicious minds'' in 1970 and Little Milton had a top 40 R&B hit with ''If you talk in your sleep'' in 1975.

High heel sneakers
Big boss man
If i can dream
Suspicious minds
In the ghetto
Clean up your own backyard
If you talk in your sleep

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:38 am

HoneyTalkNelson wrote:Here's what was on the R&B chart for November 23, 1968, the week "If I Can Dream" was released.


No. 44. Jose Feliciano. "Hi-Heel Sneakers." I guess they didn't know what to do with him! LOL!

Whoa. I forgot to look up. Right above it is "Harper Valley P.T.A." (w/"gossip"), by "Effie Smith."

That's maybe not R&B, or maybe it is. Who is "Effie Smith"?

rjm

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:04 pm

Opinions are opinions and everyone's entitled to theirs but calling Elvis' version of "What'd I Say" "crap" is over the top to say the least. Some folks just aren't open minded enough to appreciate two or more versions of a beloved song I guess.

And I don't know how many times this needs to be said, but quality and chart positions only have a passing correlation. If you don't believe this you've never heard "Half Breed," or "The Morning After" or "I'm Henry the VIII." Oh wait, that was a Brit Invasion record, it must have been gold.

The R&B chart was discontinued in 1963 because Billboard saw it as redundant. The R&B and pop charts very often featured many, many of the same titles. By 1965 it was clear that the pop and the R&B audience was separated again.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the main R&B audience was no longer listening to traditional rock n' roll, so songs like "Burning Love" were out. Jimi Hendrix, for instance, although an African-American, never made the R&B Top 40. He wasn't playing R&B, he was playing rock which by 1967 was a distinctly different animal. His audience was mostly white. Some white acts, when they had the rare song that hinted at an R&B style, had some success on the R&B charts. The Stones made #19 with "Satisfaction" and #32 with "19th Nervous Breakdown" but made the R&B chart only one more time in 1978 with "Miss You" which was in the then dominant disco style. The Rascals, who were a close to pure R&B outfit, had a mini-string of hits with the biggest being "Groovin" which hit #3. No other record hit the Top Ten though. Similarly, the Righteous Brothers, a blue eyed soul outfit had a string of five hits after the chart resumed in 1965 with the biggest being "Unchained Melody" at #6. "Soul and Inspiration" and "Ebb Tide" creeped up to #13 though.

The same year as the Stones "Satisfaction," Roy Head's "Treat Her Right" made it all the way to #2. That was the best performance of any white artist before KC.

Clapton's reggae pastiche "I Shot the Sheriff" made #33.

The biggest act of the 1970s was KC and the Sunshine Band who were the first white act since the chart changed its calculation style to score a number one. As a pure disco act, they were the dominant white artist on the chart in the 1970s with more than a dozen R&B hits including two number ones. They were probably the only serious rival to Elvis as a white artist on that chart. Hall and Oates had a smaller but still significant string of hits with their "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" hitting #1. That's pretty much the successful white artists on the R&B charts post 1965.

Post 1980 as more white artists recorded in the club or dance style some white artists had more success. Madonna for instance has had a handful of Top 40 R&B entries.

Elvis' reputation with black fans had dwindled by 1965. Tracks like "Such an Easy Question" and "I'm Yours" were traditional pop tracks that had little to do with R&B. In the old days, such a track would make the R&B Top 40 but even then it was an anomaly. In the 1950s and 1960s, the white track that made the chart was an exception and still there had to be at least some rocking or R&B element. It's a question of style more than anything. Although again there were exceptions. Also, the black community had become more polarized from the white audience in the late 1960s and the idea of Elvis as cultural thief was just beginning its national prominence at this time. Also, the shoeshine rumor only increased in strength as the decade wore on. If Elvis had played more of a role in the Civil Rights movement, perhaps it wouldn't have stuck. But Parker made a decision to avoid politics and it kind of pinged back to harm Elvis here. RCA still probably with the right promotion could have pushed "If I Can Dream," "In the Ghetto," and "Suspicious Minds" onto the R&B charts, but the moderate extra sales probably would not have made it worthwhile. It's worth noting that black artists, at least, were still listening to Elvis as both "In the Ghetto" and "Suspicious Minds" racked up a handful of soul covers within a few years with Solomon Burke doing a fine version of the latter and Dee Dee Warwick (Dionne's sister) doing a prominent "Suspicious Minds." Percy Sledge (who had previously scored with "Love Me Tender") was on "True Love Travels on a Gravel Road" in a hurry.

During the mid-1960s Elvis wasn't making the country charts either. The regional element of his sound was largely gone. He had gained the adult contemporary audience with tracks like "Love Letters," "Puppet on a String" but lost the R&B and country audience (the latter temporarily). Again, it's more a question of style. When Elvis sang with pop precision he was on the easy listening chart. When he sang with a twang, he was on the country charts. In the 1950s when rock and R&B crossed over, he made the R&B charts because R&B audiences were listening to that sound. Some later tracks could have found an R&B audience, but certainly tracks like "Don't Cry Daddy" or 'Memories" were strictly pop.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:46 pm

Nice, fact-filled post LTB. It also gave me a flashback to listening to KC and the Sunshine Band as a youngster. :)

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:55 pm

Can't give a full reply as I'm on a Kindle, but your post is very fruitful. I want to give it attention. Tomorrow.

But, I will just say one little thing. After hearing the 8-22-69 version of "What'd I Say," the 64 record does sound anemic. And there's no way now to listen with fresh ears. That happens.

rjm
P.S. -- Because, at night, e-ink prevents eyestrain. ;)

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:07 pm

I don't dislike Elvis' 1963 version of "What'd I Say" but it's not a track I put on much either. Elvis does OK with it, although is a little strained at times (perhaps needed more warm-up as it was the only thing recorded that day), but the female backing singers sound like they need to take a valium.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:15 pm

Does anyone know whether Van Morrison ever had some sort of impact in the R&B charts? To me his sound was very R&B so I wonder if he had some success?

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 4:58 pm

Elvis should have been more vocal about that 'shoe-shine' rumor. I knew several black folks who swore it was true and for that, they couldnt stand Elvis and preferred a white singer like Tom Jones (this was about 1969-70). To be silent on such a thing (and others) I think Actually hurt Elvis. He sould have been more open and dispelled this nasty rumor. I wish he would have been more like Lennon in that regard and told the Col to take a flying leap. I have lost some respect for him over the years because of that.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 5:59 pm

While Elvis' version of What'd I Say can't compete with Ray's immortal classic (to be fair, no version I'm familiar with does), I find Elvis' '64 record reasonably solid, albeit a bit on the slick side. I think they were going for a dance record in the vein of the discoteque sound that was in vogue at the time the tune was recorded (think Peppermint Twist). But yeah, Elvis' version is a bit too antiseptic.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:13 pm

likethebike wrote:Opinions are opinions and everyone's entitled to theirs but calling Elvis' version of "What'd I Say" "crap" is over the top to say the least. Some folks just aren't open minded enough to appreciate two or more versions of a beloved song I guess.

You will never, ever abandon that apologist stance. I have to tip my hat to you, on this you are a bedrock of consistency.

The song is unquestionably fantastic, but Elvis' 1963 studio recording is crap.

You want to hear a searing, but uniquely personalized cover? Try Jerry Lee Lewis' February 1961 Sun 356 single, which was a three-chart Top Forty hit in 1961 -- or his white-hot live recording, issued in 1964.

phpBB [video]


Jerry Lee Lewis, "What'd I Say" (Sun 356, February 1961)
Billboard US Pop #30 April 3, 1961, Country #27 May 8, 1961, R&B #26 May 22, 1961

Elvis knew what he was up against, but doesn't come close. That said, his live 1969 performances are pure rock 'n' roll, and and absolutely incredible.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:16 pm

I don't think Elvis' version of ''What i'd say'' is crap.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:21 pm

brian wrote:I don't think Elvis' version of ''What i'd say'' is crap.

Do you prefer to call it "poopy"?

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:53 pm

Elvis actually did dispel the shoe shine rumor in 1957 in an interview with Jet. However, it just kept rolling.

To each his own, but I've always Elvis' "What'd I Say" nice and frenzied with a great almost out of control ending. It's not Ray Charles, but it's a fine record in its own right. And as a recording artist you have to appreciate the scale of ambition as this was the biggest production and arrangement Elvis had yet used to that point.

Van Morrison never made the R&B Top 40 not even with "Domino." Of course, by 1970 Fats himself was no longer making the rankings. Chuck Berry's brief return to the pop charts did not restore him to the graces of R&B audiences either.

Re: Elvis and the R&B Charts post 1963

Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:04 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
SuspiciousMind wrote:Some good points. Kind of shows also that the black music charts discriminated against white or non black artists at the same time that they were fighting for equal rights. RCA not promoting Elvis' music though was due to Parker not wanting to spend the extra money it would take.

What?!?

It doesn't show that at all. What it may prove is that soulless crap was not going to light any fires on R&B radio.

Beyond that, I fail to see how a Billboard R&B record chart was "fighting for equal rights."


Sorry. I meant black radio stations. That's how the charts determined who and what songs were doing well was by what was being played on radio. Same as today.