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Best / worst musicians with Elvis?

Sat May 03, 2003 1:45 am

First of all I'd like to say that I don't want to put anybody down in a personal way. Since most of us don't know any of the musicians personally this meant to be simply about the music, not the human being.

My "award" for the worst musician with Elvis goes to Duke Bardwell. It's as simple as this. Bardwell is the only musician that worked with Elvis and never really seemed to fit into the band IMO. His dreadful playing prevents me from listening to many of Elvis' 1974 and early 1975 concerts more than I probably would with Jerry Scheff playing. I think his playing is awful and sometimes I've got the impression that he simply couldn't follow the "concept" of an Elvis show that simply existed of improvisation and watching and following Elvis. Larry Londin is another case but at least he was a cool drummer somehow. What do you think?

Some of finest musicians with Elvis IMO were the members of the so-called "Nashville A-team" in the 1960: Hank Garland, Boots Randolph, Floyd Cramer, also of course Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, The Jordanaires. Other great musicians include Hal Blaine - the most "successful" drummer in rock history that has played on 40 #1 hits and another 150 top ten hits - Billy Strange, Al Casey, almost the whole Band that played with Bob Dylan during the mid-sixties and of course "Alabama Wild Man" Jerry Reed who provided some of the best guitar picking on any of Elvis' 60ies' records.

Also, his 1970ies' TCB band was outstanding feat. names like JD Sumner And The Stamps, the wonderful and soulful Sweet Inspirations, "technicians" like Ron Tutt and great session players like Jerry Scheff and of course "guitar hero's guitar hero" James Burton.

The latter wins the award for the "best musician" who's worked with Elvis IMO. Not only is his playing outstanding (I would easily put him in a list of the 10 best guitar players of all time), he was also a great band leader who provided a range of skills that made him able to play ANYTHING Elvis wanted him to play. Most of Elvis' records of the 70ies wouldn't have the sound they have without JB on lead guitar. Putting Elvis live band together in 1969 also makes him one of the most important musician in his career next to people like Scotty Moore and Bill Black.

Sat May 03, 2003 3:33 am

Wasn't Duke in charge of the bass at the Memphis 20-3-74 concert? He isn't that bad in my opinion. Elvis didn't seem to pleased with his performance, I must admit. Although it depended on the show. Sometimes Elvis seemed disgusted by him, sometimes it doesn't seem to bother him. He is a limited but solid player in my opinion, and no great improviser.

I never liked any Shaun Nielssen solo spots or duest with Elvis however. Danny Boy, It's now or Never, Softly as I leave you. Actually, in "Softly" his voice is in the background and just bearable, but give this guy the limelight and he slimes all over the stage :lol: ... The guy has an amazing voice technically, but manages to project no feeling whatsoever... Elvis is 100% feeling however.

Now, that wasn't a nice thing to say about this guy, I will possibly get sherrilled all across my *ss :twisted: by fans of this tenor singer, but that's my opinion. I like the TCB Band and most of the other back-up singers though... Shook hands with most of 'em at two Elvis The Concert shows in Antwerp and Brussels. :)

Sat May 03, 2003 4:00 am

Call me what you will but im a sucker for Sherill's stuff, now O Sole Mio gets on my nerves after a while but im really a sucker for Softly. I think Elvis does a great job, and its a great arrangement/setup. i think its powerful hearing Elvis voice the words of the story. call me a sap! lol

Sat May 03, 2003 4:14 am

Kylan, you're no sissy because you like "Softly". The day I would think anyone's a sap for liking a particular song, I would hang my head in shame. On a positive note, I kinda like his flashy 70s suit as featured in Elvis in Concert and the CBS Tapes... :D And he seems to be a nice gentleman as well.

In fact, it was one of their better efforts and it is obviously a song Elvis cared much about. I believe it was Vernons request they should do it with just piano and voices. It's just I think Shaun's voice is melodramatic but without the punch that Elvis has, even in his most maudlin stuff. To me, that's the diffrence between a GREAT singer and a mediocre 13-in-a-dozen singer.

Sat May 03, 2003 4:50 am

For all those kind folk out there , kissing Tutt ' s arse ( aka ass ) , I would like to point out ( if you didn ' t already know ) that it was Ron who got Bardwell the gig ! Now , Tutt must of saw something in Duke ' s playing , or unless Bardwell was kissing Ronnie ' s arse , too ! All jokes aside , Bardwell ' s playing stands out like a ho on a corner ! Now , I am not here to say that Bardwell was good or bad , but Ronnie Tutt thought he was good , so that was the main thing !

Sat May 03, 2003 4:15 pm

The vocal group Voice takes the cake, I think.
A group of mediocre singers who added no value to the show.
Mr Burton is a fine musician, but technically he couldn't hold a candle to contemparary guitar players like Alvin Lee (who played Hendrix' shirt off at Woodstock) or Eric Clapton. So I think he is a bit overrated.

The best, and most important musician to me, has to be Ronnie Tutt.
Although he sometimes drums too much, the Presley-Tutt coopereration on numbers like Suspicious minds and Polk salad Annie is very enjoyable.
It looks like Tutt's drumming is literally absorbed by the performer in front of him.

Sat May 03, 2003 5:10 pm

My vote for worst musicians who worked with Elvis have to be the people who played on most of the latter day movie soundtracks. As far as James Burton vs Alvin Lee or Eric Clapton there is no competition in my opinion. Burton was THE original and in his prime could blow anyone away. He has far more experience in backing major artists than either of these two. They could not back anyone - it takes a Special Skill to do that and Burton is acknowledged as the best by most people in the business.


Brian

Sat May 03, 2003 5:50 pm

Some of the best has to be Chet Atkins and Hank Garland, the worst is easy, Charlie Hodge.

Sat May 03, 2003 6:05 pm

Brian Quinn wrote:My vote for worst musicians who worked with Elvis have to be the people who played on most of the latter day movie soundtracks. As far as James Burton vs Alvin Lee or Eric Clapton there is no competition in my opinion. Burton was THE original and in his prime could blow anyone away. He has far more experience in backing major artists than either of these two. They could not back anyone - it takes a Special Skill to do that and Burton is acknowledged as the best by most people in the business.


I absolutey agree on JB here. What's so great is to see him play simply everything, from early Rock'n'Roll like Rick Nelson or ROy Orbison, "speed rock" like Presley's 1969 concerts, ballads, country, blues, gospel, funk and all that with a precision, speed and perfection that makes you stand there agape.

I don't get how someone can be overrated when most "normal" rock listeners don't even know his name while they prefer people like Brian May, Jimmi Page or or even better Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon or George Harrison. Nothing against Bruce or George, they were fine musicians and could/can do whatever they needed with their insturments. But JB plays in another, sorry. Watch the Black And White Night video by Roy Orbison to see SPringsteen and Burton cutting heads. Looks like the god of guitar playing on the one and the school boy on the other side. And I AM a Bruce SPringsteen fan ...

I have to disagree on the "latter day" movie soundtracks somehow. What's wrong with them? They're either the same musicians that played on the early Nashville / soundtrack recordings or where otherwise very good musicians. Like I said "Harum Scarum" might be something like Elvis worst film to some of you but the soundtrack featured some of the finest musicians at the time. Hey, Elvis always had real musicians and some of the most wanted session players in the business. Not even his latter movies make an exception here.

Sat May 03, 2003 6:08 pm

I have to disagree a bit, See-See-Rider, as I was just enjoying Duke Bardwell's bass playing on some of those live shows the other day. (It may have been a Kansas City show from June of '74 on the Profile box- I'm not sure.)

I had not heard him before and was wondering why something sounded different (if not "off" in some spots). I started to appreciate the different feel to whatever show it was.

He did play too "busy" in spots but for me it added spice, as unfortunately too many of Elvis' '70s shows suffer from a sameness (sometimes I feel as bored as Elvis clearly was), so I'm glad the line-up was shuffled here and there.

Sat May 03, 2003 6:15 pm

vinylman wrote:Some of the best has to be Chet Atkins and Hank Garland, the worst is easy, Charlie Hodge.


:shock: Huh??! What makes you think that? Charlie Hodge might be one of the few musicians that had a real and direct impact on him over the greatest part of his career. I wouldn't by far call him a bad musician ... He assisted Elvis in so many ways it's simply impossible that he let a bad musician do that.

Sat May 03, 2003 6:16 pm

see-see-rider wrote:..to see him play simply everything, from early Rock'n'Roll like Rick Nelson or ROy Orbison...


On which Orbison track from the early days can we hear James Burton? I have troubles finding out on which songs he can be heard.

Sat May 03, 2003 6:19 pm

vinylman wrote:
see-see-rider wrote:..to see him play simply everything, from early Rock'n'Roll like Rick Nelson or ROy Orbison...


On which Orbison track from the early days can we hear James Burton? I have troubles finding out on which songs he can be heard.


Oh I didn't mean to say he played with Roy Orbison on his early recording sessions. I was thinking of stuff like "Ooby Dooby" from the "Big O's" live concerts. I mentioned "A Black And White Night" here. One of the finest concerts I have ever seen.

Sat May 03, 2003 6:28 pm

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:I have to disagree a bit, See-See-Rider, as I was just enjoying Duke Bardwell's bass playing on some of those live shows the other day. (It may have been a Kansas City show from June of '74 on the Profile box- I'm not sure.)


Yep, there's one concert from March 1975 on one of the "Profile" boxes that somehow even I enjoyed recently. Of course his playing was "different" but that doesn't mean it was good, does it? Londins playing was also different and refreshing somehow but it was lightyears away from Ron Tutt's worked out "arrangements" (okay, he also had a time when he wasn't playing that great but overall, I mean).

I had not heard him before and was wondering why something sounded different (if not "off" in some spots). I started to appreciate the different feel to whatever show it was.

He did play too "busy" in spots but for me it added spice ...


It's great you enjoyed that really. To each his own. I can't stand that "off" playing as you called it. In fact I'm sure he simply couldn't follow and sometimes didn't even know the songs. There's one where just recently I thought: "Wow, what's he doing here, he's totally WRONG." Also, during some parts of songs he simply quits playing at certain points when he doesn't know how to go on. Check it out. Elvis took away the "Polk Salad Annie" solo from him and gave it to James Burton to avoid him doing even worse during that important part of the song. Also, Elvis let delete the bass part from each song recorded in March 1975 for the TODAY album except for T-R-O-U-B-L-E, I know why ...

P.S. Also a fan of "Live A Little, Love A Little"? Like your avatar.

Sat May 03, 2003 11:23 pm

vinylman wrote:Some of the best has to be Chet Atkins and Hank Garland, the worst is easy, Charlie Hodge.


Yeah, despite the support that Charlie might have given Elvis during the later part of the 70s, I think pure technically speaking, Charlie is the worst (positive said: least good) musician of 'em all. Almost every bandmember has made name of himself, whether it's in a band, or as a sessionmusician....

Sun May 04, 2003 12:35 am

In my point of view the best studio band Elvis ever played with was the band at American Sound Studios in 1969.

To R.R.Police: Alvin Lee most certainly didn´t play the shirt off Hendrix at Woodstock, man, what are you talking about??! :lol:

Sun May 04, 2003 1:36 am

Won't mention any 'worst' musician, but on top of the list of my favourites are certainly : JAMES BURTON and HAL BLAINE

Sun May 04, 2003 1:37 am

Won't mention any 'worst' musician, but on top of the list of my favourites are certainly : JAMES BURTON and HAL BLAINE

Sun May 04, 2003 1:39 am

Won't mention any 'worst' musician, but on top of the list of my favourites are certainly : JAMES BURTON and HAL BLAINE

Sun May 04, 2003 1:44 am

MB280E wrote:In my point of view the best studio band Elvis ever played with was the band at American Sound Studios in 1969.

To R.R.Police: Alvin Lee most certainly didn´t play the shirt off Hendrix at Woodstock, man, what are you talking about??! :lol:


By 1969, I think, Hendrix' trademark was more his expression than his (former) peerless technique. The way Lee washes the 1/24s over the audience on "Going home" is a delight to watch (yes, I have the DVD).

And still, that is not to put disrespect towards Mr Hendrix. His rendition of the American national anthem is a display of how to make a statement without saying (or doing) a thing - but playing.
Last edited by R.R.Police on Sun May 04, 2003 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

Sun May 04, 2003 4:05 am

"See See," first, thanks for the compliment.

But most of all, don't get me wrong: I know this Duke Bardwell guy was no Jerry Sheff and was downright bad at times, and I'd forgotten the "TODAY" remix story, thanks.

Still, as I gradually listen to almost every existent recording of Elvis' '70s live shows (mainly from the internet, only), I welcome ANYTHING that's a little different, be it the one rarely performed song, a new Elvis vocal twist, or comment, or, yes, a new flavor among the musicians. It doesn't mean I think it's ideal or even praise-worthy.

After awhile, even the BAD moments break up the occasional monotony that sets in after hearing so many of these shows. If I recall right, even the horn section and / or orchestra had a new flavor on that '74 set instead of the normally-shop worn arrangements. Not superior, just different.

Sun May 04, 2003 4:57 am

imo the "worst" is indeed Duke Bardwell. Not because he is a bad musician, but because he was totally out of his league playing with Elvis. I must admit that he also had his "good" moments on stage and when I listen to the inrtro to Love Me Tender during the 1974 Kansas City concert i think its quite beautifull.

James has to be the best indeed. Only minor thing about him is that he doesnt seem to improvise his solo´s a lot.

Regards,
Stefan

Sun May 04, 2003 5:02 pm

Agree with you on Burton Stefan, I mean regarding Burton not being the most improvised guitarist. But I do certainly feel that Burton was on to something during the March/April 1975 Las Vegas engagement. Man, have you heard his solo during the introductions at the dinner show on March 21st.?? That is almost like Hendrix or Walsh!

Still have to say though that the band at American Sound Studios in January/February 1969, man, those musicians were a perfect match for Elvis at that time and with that material. I don´t think it would have sounded that good with Elvis´ 70´s band I´m afraid. Elvis and the American Sound band just had that great "communication" that you need to produce great music and I do think that Elvis got what he wanted through them.

Sincerely MB280E

Sun May 04, 2003 6:02 pm

stefan kock wrote: James has to be the best indeed. Only minor thing about him is that he doesnt seem to improvise his solo´s a lot.


Hmmh ... Sorry, I can't see that. Have you listened to e.g. different versions of What's I Say from August 1969? He's playing a different solo every time. Also, I can't remember one Intro to Johnny B. Goode that sounds like another. He changes it every time, check it out on the many concerts from May/June/July 1975. There's a version of "Cannonball Rag" that James played on what must have been a TV-show in the 1950ies. He steps in for Merle Travis who was supposed to play it but was ill that day. Look out for a mp3 like that, it's amazing how he plays and he wasn't even 18 at the time, I guess.

In "Guitar Heros", Vol. 7 of the great documentary "The History of Rock 'N' Roll" by Quincy Jones James Burton is one of the guitarists that the documentary focuses on extensively. The fact that "nobody" knows him doesn't mean he wasn't great. And playing at Woodstock doesn't mean you're great either. It's just the image of "Woodstock" that makes you think this way. He definitely isn't a frontman like Hendrix or Clapton. How can you be when you'er standing next to stars like Rick Nelson or Elvis Presley? And the psychedelic hippie music of Woodstock definitely wasn't his kind of music. But he was and is one of the most outstanding musicians in rock history. And without him by the way, neither Hendrix nor Clapton would probably have played the way they did. Don't forget that JB weas there 10 years before ...

Mon May 05, 2003 7:02 am

By instrument, my favs are:

Lead guitar: Hank Garland / James Burton

Bass guitar: Bill Black / Bob Moore

Piano: Floyd Cramer / Dudley Brooks

Drums: DJ Fontana / Bob Lanning