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All photos © Ger Rijff
Diggin' in the Indy Vaults
By GER RIJFF
After our incredible success in locating tons of rare Elvis tapes in New York in November
of last year a second trip to the States had been in the planning for months. Finally the
date was set by Ernst Jorgensen (BMG Denmark) and Roger Semon (BMG UK) for June 24th, when
the three of us would meet up in Indianapolis to prepare strategy on how to dig through
tens of thousands of tapes in the Indianaoplis RCA/ BMG tape vault.
It hadn't struck me until the taxi that drove us from the Indy airport to The Mariott
Hotel passed by the Market Square Arena that it was only two days away from the 26th -
the day Elvis performed his final concert there back in 1977. I happen to be one of the
lucky ones who'd witnessed that final show 13 years ago and, believe me, it didn't leave
me unmoved seeing the sights of the Arena again.
In the hotel that evening we reminisced about the great times we'd had in the New York
vault and wondered if tomorrow would bring the same excitement and surprising results
experienced there eight months before.
A taxi drove us up to 6650 East 30th Street where the BMG factory is situated on a
highway some 20 minutes outside Indy centre. The factory is enormous in size with
hundreds of employees shipping BMG products to all corners of the U.S.
Wendell Davis, the vault keeper, walked us through many hallways until we finally faced
the huge electronically-secured doors that gave entrance to the vault.
Wherever we looked it was tapes, tapes and more tapes - all stored on seemingly endless
iron shelves. There wasn't a cigarette butt or chewing gum wrapper on the floor -
everything looked so neat and in place. It was scarey. This was quite a different scene
to the Big Apple vault...
Our search for tapes started on the first floor amongst the `miscellaneous' files -
hundreds of tapes that are waiting to be filed properly. We dug through them all, one by
one. We came across everything from Glenn Miller to Jefferson Airplane, but not one
'lost' Elvis tape. The dust gathered on the shelves now stuck nicely to our hands, face
From `miscellaneous' we went to the section of the filed two-track tapes downstairs. All
of them (thousands!) stored by year of recording. Whilst in the New York vaults Elvis has
his own section (well, more or less), in Indy our man shares the shelves with all the
other RCA recording artists. On top of that, no names of artists are mentioned on the
tapebox spines; one has to work strictly by matrix numbers. (Do I hear any volunteers?)
The first Elvis tapes pulled from the shelves contained `master' takes of various '5O's
classics such as `Jailhouse Rock' and 'Blue Suede Shoes'. At first glance maybe not so
startling, but Ernst immediately underlined the fact that these masters had probably not
been touched by RCA engineers for over 30+ years. Meaning: these are the top-notch, A1
quality tapes -many times better than their second or third generation copies used in the
preparation of the countless reissues since their date of recording!
Why, oh why, then, you might ask, didn't the engineers go for the originals all these
years? There's two possibilities:
A) They didn't care. B) They didn't know. Take your
Things finally started cooking when two boxes turned up marked 'Elvis Presley w/piano -
Germany', and two more marked 'Elvis w/guitar home recording'. Listed on the back of the
boxes, together with released material such as 'Earth Angel' and 'Mona Lisa', were
half-aiJozen yet-to-be-released songs! Among them, 'I Wanna' Be Loved By You'. Could this
be the old Marilyn Monroe oo-poo-pee-doo ditty? The reason I sound so vague is that,
unlike New York, at Indy there was nowhere for us to actually hear these tapes. Indy is
used basically as just a storage plant, so there's no facilities for listening the the
tapes stored there.
Anyway, amongst the other titles on the 'home-recorded' tapes were the Little Richard
hit 'Send Me Some Lovin",'I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen', 'There's No Tomorrow' and
'Hound Dog'. Marked on the boxes, however, is "Poor quality", so don't expect miracles.
(Surely these tapes were examined when the 'Golden Celebration' box-set was put together
anyway and if the contents were up to scratch they would've been used then.) But just to
get you all going there is a song listed as being on there that was a huge rock n roll
hit in 1957 for a fourpiece Philadelphia group. Sorry, but I can't give out any more info
at this time - you're just gonna' have to guess...
The excitement of finding these four boxes of 'home-recorded Elvis' gave us new energy to
continue digging through the hundreds of tapes still waiting to be inspected.
One box we came across claimed to contain two takes of 'Let Me' from the 'Love Me Tender'
session. Interestingly, it listed a date of September 1 3th 1956. The exact date of this
session has never been known, but it seems more than likely that this date refers to the
date 20th Century Fox handed the session tapes to RCA.
The next great find was the unreleased studio master of 'For The Good Times' from 1972,
soon followed by tons of '70s outtakes of songs such as 'Mary In The Morning', 'Way Down'
and 'Sweet Angeline' - to name but a few. But the best was yet to come.
Stored in a large box we discovered several reels containing a dozen unreleased master
recordings done at various Vegas shows back in 1969. Among them, the 'lost' songs 'This
Is The Story', 'Rubberneckin", 'Inherit The Wind', 'Funny How Time Slips Away' and a
title none of us knew he had ever performed during his '69 Vegas stint! A real find if
ever there was one.
The reason I'm not giving out all the titles found in Indy is to keep the excitement
going until their official release date. And many of the lost treasures found in both New
York and Indianapolis will see release early next year. That's a fact, not just a
On the subject of what else and how many concerts were recorded during the '70s', I'll
get back to that in a future issue.
After two days spent in the vault, both Ernst and Roger flew to Los Angeles to have talks
with Don Wardell about what we had accomplished so far and to lay-out ideas about future
Elvis projects. I flew back home to Amsterdam. And I'm sure I speak for all three of us
when I say we were tired but excited. I spoke to Ernst briefly over the telephone on the
day he arrived back in Denmark and he told me he had already found new leads in L.A. that
point to yet more unreleased material - maybe even studio-recorded titles unknown to all
The search continues. There's no stopping us now!!!
(published in TMAHM 1990)