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Bill Black plays for Johnny Horton

Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:57 am

At 7pm on Wednesday 11th January 1956, Elvis Presley wrapped up his first RCA recording session at the RCA Studio, 1525 McGavock Street. Over two days he’d recorded five songs, including the soon-to-be-legendary “Heartbreak Hotel”. It was the first time Elvis had recorded in Nashville and, although the experience had not been entirely satisfactory, he was pleased with the results. Elvis returned to his hotel for the evening, to enjoy some female company and take a call from Buddy Killen who had captured the copyright on Elvis’ first RCA single.

Bill Black meanwhile, Presley’s gregarious bass player, picked up his instrument and strolled 5 minutes south to the Music City Recording Studio at 804 16th Avenue South to meet country star, Johnny Horton. Bill had agreed to play on what was also Johnny’s first session for RCA. Grady Martin and Harold Bradley sat in on guitars and the quartet laid down four tracks in three and a half hours:

“I’m A One Woman Man”

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“Honky Tonk Man”
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“I’m Ready If You’re Willing”
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“I Got A Hole In My Piroque”
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This was the first of only two sessions that Bill taped with Johnny Horton, the other being on 12 November 1956:

“I’m Coming Home”
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“Over Loving You”
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In this lovely interview, Elvis’ drummer, DJ Fontana, remembers playing with Bill on a Johnny Horton session (@ 24mins 37secs)

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I’m struggling to hear drums on any of these songs? Did Johnny Horton record with Elvis’ rhythm section? if so, where was Scotty while this was happening?

All suggestions gratefully received.

Sessionography from Praguefrank

Re: Bill Black plays for Johnny Horton

Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:09 am

Great post! One wonders if Presley management was pleased to read of Black's extracurricular work.


George Smith wrote:I’m struggling to hear drums on any of these songs? Did Johnny Horton record with Elvis’ rhythm section? if so, where was Scotty while this was happening?

All suggestions gratefully received.


D.J. has unfortunately been known to misremember events regarding Elvis.

If there's nothing to indicate drums on a Johnny Horton session, it is far more likely Fontana actually played with Black on a Johnny Horton "Louisiana Hayride" appearance in Shreveport, over KWKH Radio.

Re: Bill Black plays for Johnny Horton

Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:37 am

Wonderful post as usual, George! Thank you very much for that. I didn't even was aware of the fact that Bill Black played with Johnny Horton - although I already have all the songs in my collection for ages... :roll:

Nevertheless, thanks again for your wonderful topic! ::rocks

Re: Bill Black plays for Johnny Horton

Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:56 pm

Thank you for your very positive responses, gentlemen.

John, I concur with your thoughts.

But maybe, just maybe, having nothing better to do after the Elvis session, DJ accompanied Bill and sat in the studio watching his friend playing bass.

It's a cool thought, and I love knowing what was (possibly) going on just out of the main picture.

Re: Bill Black plays for Johnny Horton

Mon Feb 25, 2013 3:33 am

George Smith wrote:John, I concur with your thoughts.

But maybe, just maybe, having nothing better to do after the Elvis session, DJ accompanied Bill and sat in the studio watching his friend playing bass.


D.J. seems to imply he played drums with Johnny, which would make a Hayride appearance more likely. Looking back, we find Fontana was a regular on KWKH in the winter of 1959:


Billboard - Dec 07 1959 p53.JPG
Billboard - December 7, 1959
Note: "Carla Gates and D. J. Fontana are the newest regulars on Tillman Franks' 'Louisiana Hayride,' Shreveport."

And Horton, who began using drums no later than sessions in July 1957, had appeared on the December 5, 1959 KWKH broadcast, according to PragueFrank's page.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But it establishes they crossed paths after Elvis joined RCA.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Re: Bill Black plays for Johnny Horton

Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:48 pm

Thanks for the further work, John, it's always appreciated.

It's enough that I know Bill was there post "Heartbreak Hotel".

Re: Bill Black plays for Johnny Horton

Mon Feb 25, 2013 11:40 pm

George Smith wrote:Thanks for the further work, John, it's always appreciated.

It's enough that I know Bill was there post "Heartbreak Hotel".


They likely knew each other pre-"Heatbreak Hotel" too -- during the weekly 1955 "Hayride" appearances.

Re: Bill Black plays for Johnny Horton

Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:31 am

Great post, George. Your contributions on here are always very interesting!

Thanks for the extra info, Doc.

Re: Bill Black plays for Johnny Horton

Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:57 am

londonflash wrote:Great post, George. Your contributions on here are always very interesting!

Thanks for the extra info, Doc.

That's very kind, thank you!

Re: Bill Black plays for Johnny Horton

Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:42 pm

Nice post and info! Interesting to listen those recordings. Black's bass is easy to pick out.