Friday, December 19, 2008

Santa Claus is Back In Town

It's not easy being King.

In September 1957 Elvis Presley went into a Hollywood recording studio to cut a Christmas album. After three days in the studio, he ran out of material. But still he needed one more song. So Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller (Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Smokey Joe's Cafe) went away together and quickly came back with a classic double-entendre blues number for Elvis called "Santa Claus is Back in Town."

It would become the last song of the session, and very nearly the last song ever to feature Elvis' original sidemen, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black.

As Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick tells in "Last Train to Memphis" the band had been promised they could make some extra money by cutting some instrumentals for an album with the remaining studio time. But when they were instead suddenly denied the opportunity, both men wrote a letter of resignation and quit in disgust. They had to be pretty angry in order to leave the biggest selling music act in the world.

Elvis at first wished them luck in finding new jobs, but eventually offered each a $50 raise. They each declined. A few weeks later on September 27 when Elvis played a second (and final) homecoming concert in his hometown of Tupelo, Scotty and Bill were nowhere to be seen. In their places for the first time ever, Hank Garland played guitar and Chuck Wiginton was on bass. They played well, but one week later Elvis relented and hired Scotty and Bill back on a per diem basis.

It was a rough year for Elvis. In December he got a letter from Uncle Sam informing him that he'd just been drafted. For the King of Rock and Roll, it would be a blue Christmas.

(Click to hear Elvis sing Santa Claus is Back in Town)

(Click to hear Elvis sing Blue Christmas)

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