In 1968-69, Did The Band Help Invigorate Elvis Presley's Music?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by S. P. Honeybunch, Jun 3, 2021.

  1. Hot Ptah

    Hot Ptah Forum Resident

    Kansas City, MO
    The Band was not that well known or prominent before “The Last Waltz” film.

    They became a critic’s favorite but the average listener had never heard of them or knew one or two songs from FM radio. It is odd to think that an older musician from an earlier generation would have possibly cared about them, or even heard of them. It strikes me as impossible that Elvis’ music was influenced by them.

    Rolling Stone magazine reported at the time that George Harrison and Eric Clapton liked The Band’s
    first albums. That was more like obscure, odd bits of trivia than it was an indication that The Band was influential on other musicians.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021 at 8:01 AM
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  2. Roland Stone

    Roland Stone Offending Member

    I believe the Band were influential well beyond their chart success within their contemporaries, but not Elvis Presley.
  3. WolfSpear

    WolfSpear Music Enthusiast

    Hmm, I’m not sure if they influenced him, but he sure made the right decision in returning to his roots.
  4. Country Rocker

    Country Rocker Forum Resident

    Nonsense. 'The Band' (1969) and 'Stage Fright' (1970) were both top ten albums on Billboard. 'The Last Waltz' was much later in 1976.
    Sgt. Abbey Road likes this.
  5. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    That's not right.

    The Band played Woodstock, they toured 20K seat sports arenas with Dylan, at Watkins Glen, with 100K in attendance, in '73, the Dead opened the show, the Band came on after (the Allmans headlined, but that was the pecking order, the Band, a bigger draw than the Dead). The group was on the cover of Time magazine in 1970. Kind of the pinnacle of mainstream cultural prominence.

    The Band and Stage Fright and Rock of Ages were top ten albums. This wasn't an obscure, but influential cult group like the Velvet Underground or something. These guys were popular, prominent and near the top of the rock food chain in the early '70s.

    If you were in a youth rock band in the '70s, you played The Weight and Cripple Creek. The group's impact on rock musicians at the time is almost incalculable -- you can hear the Beatles throwing in "Take a load off Fanny" in the outro to "Hey Jude" on a contemporaneous '68 or '69 TV appearance. Both Pete Townshend and Roger Waters have talked about how Music from Big Pink reoriented their musical thinking at the time when they first heard it -- everything from it turning them away from what they wrote about, to how they made records (until The Band, recorded at Sammy Davis' pool house, big rock bands didn't set up in a living room to record a homey album), to the keyboard sounds, to the end of psychedelia. On FM rock radio in the US, "The Weight," "Cripple Creek," "The Shape I'm In," "Stage Fright," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" were staples in the '70s. These were songs everyone in a certain demographic knew. I remember sitting in at jam sessions in the late '70s with older musicians, and you know, calling Cripple Creek was almost like calling Freebird.

    The Band wasn't an AM top 40 pop group. They weren't the biggest selling FM rock act, but they idea that they weren't well-known, prominent, widely listened to or influential before the Last Waltz is just wrong. In fact, they were way more well known and influential in the early part of the '70s than in the second half of the '70s and in the '80s. The Last Waltz brought the group a burst of attention at what was basically the end of its career, but rock and pop music in the late '70s and early '80s had kind of moved on from that rootsy sound and The Band was kind of old hat, rootsy, associated with the '60s. Remember, The Last Waltz didn't hit theaters 'til '78. Attention didn't turn back to them again until a kind of alt-country and American roots rock thing started happening.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021 at 8:59 AM
  6. Arnold Grove

    Arnold Grove Senior Member


    January 12, 1970:

  7. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Yeah. I think The Band was bigger and more prominent in 1969, 70, 71, 72, 73 than from the release of The Last Waltz in '78 forward.
  8. Sear

    Sear Forum Resident

    Tarragona (Spain)
    I don't think Elvis knew or cared about The Band
  9. Sear

    Sear Forum Resident

    Tarragona (Spain)
    The Last Waltz can be seen as the end of an era, right? The end of the hippie and post hippie 70s old guard rock and the beginning of new wave, MTV, etc
  10. SmallDarkCloud

    SmallDarkCloud Forum Resident

    I’m pretty sure there was a press conference in the Vegas years, where a reporter asked Elvis about The Band. Elvis asked a friend (one of the Memphis Mafia) if he was aware of The Band before telling the reporter that he (Elvis) didn’t know them.
  11. Arnold Grove

    Arnold Grove Senior Member

    I thought it was just an extra-special Thanksgiving dinner ... ;)

    Sear likes this.
  12. Daniel Plainview

    Daniel Plainview God's Lonely Man

    I think it was The Beach Boys "Wild Honey" that showed everyone the way forward.

  13. Country Rocker

    Country Rocker Forum Resident

    I was going to say that Elvis didn't socialise with contemporary or counter-culture rock stars. But he was really good friends with John Phillips from the Mama's and the Papa's. They used to ride motorbikes together. So maybe he was a bit more 'hip' than we give him credit for.
  14. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    My guess is that a career guy like Elvis cared very much about what was big and popular in the music he had helped launch and grow and was now basically trying to get back into being competitive and creative in, and hand been left behind in terms of what was cool. And a band that was on the cover of Time magazine, and was associated with Dylan, whom he was definitely aware of, may have gotten his attention, particularly if it was something that some musicians he knew were hearing and talking about and playing. But Elvis was also surrounded by an extremely culturally conservative crew of hangers on who most definitely dampened and disparaged Elvis investigation of music of their preferred good old boy beaten path.
  15. voice with restraint

    voice with restraint Well-Known Member

    When Elvis sang the chorus of I Shall Be Released, The Band's version was the most commonly known so the chances are that's where he heard it. (It could have been from Dylan's Greatest Hits vol 2, but Elvis's rendition is closer to The Band's.)

    The back-to-the-country, back-to-the-roots movement around this time was spearheaded by The Band, and Elvis was certainly influenced by this drift, but he's more likely to have been aware of it through The Band's influence on The Beatles, The Byrds, CCR and others than by The Band themselves.
  16. PacificOceanBlue

    PacificOceanBlue Senior Member

    The Southwest
    Agreed, Elvis would not have heard Dylan's version at the time he sang that snippet of I Shall Be Released during his May 1971 session because Dylan's version from Greatest Hits Vol. 2 was not recorded until September 1971. Still, he knew it was a Bob Dylan composition, and its gospel influence certainly would have held great appeal. It is unfortunate that Jarvis didn't pick up on the opportunity to have Elvis record such a major work, but they were in the middle of trying to nail a master for It's Only Love (a song that they had a piece of, and one that was likely already earmarked for a potential single), so it is understandable why Jarvis didn't abort to focus on one of Elvis' whims. Still, it was a lost opportunity because an Elvis version of I Shall Be Released could have become a classic, and I suspect there are other producers who would have pursued it at that moment.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021 at 11:55 AM
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  17. Michael P

    Michael P Forum Resident

    Parma, Ohio
    Elvis was "country" long before The Band existed! Having a country influence does not equate with being influenced by The Band, CCR or any other late 60's group that happened to sound a bit twangy. Elvis' Sun Sessions remains the biggest country/ rock crossover work that influenced all that came later.

    Elvis' hits from this era, specifically "In The Ghetto", "Suspicious Minds" and "Kentucky Rain" do not have any country influence at all (unless the mention of "Kentucky" counts as being "country").

    If not for being connected to Dylan, The Band would have been relegated to the one-hit wonder bin of history. They were just one of many groups vying for airtime on the new FM free-form format. Outside of "The Weight" younger audiences did not hear their work at all on AM top-40 radio.
  18. analog74

    analog74 Forum Resident

    I don't see The Band being influential. However, for this period of his career, I do believe Jerry Reed made an impact. Elvis covered Guitar Man and they even brought Jerry in to play guitar. Of course, there were a lot Nashville cats on the sessions and in his band so it wasn't too difficult to arrange like Reed. Take his rendition of CC Rider. It's straight up Jerry Reed, even how he's singing.
  19. JDeanB

    JDeanB Forum Resident

    Charlotte, NC USA
    Chips Moman co-produced "I Shall Be Released" for the Box Tops, which was a chart single in 1969. Perhaps Elvis heard that version.
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  20. PacificOceanBlue

    PacificOceanBlue Senior Member

    The Southwest
    He easily could have. Still, I think it is likely that Elvis had listened to The Band during the late-1960's. Elvis was more familiar with musical trends and musical diversity than people give him credit for, especially in an era where so much of his recorded output was associated with his soundtrack work. That doesn't mean he was a devotee of The Rolling Stones, The Band, The Byrds, The Doors, etc., but he likely would have explored some of their work, and at the very least would have been familiar with some of the radio staples.
    voice with restraint likes this.
  21. PepiJean

    PepiJean Forum Resident

    Funny: to my ears the examples you gave do sound Country too. I believe they are the best crossovers since the Sun sides. After all, those 1969 sessions were accurately labeled Country Soul. You have more ewamples with AFTER LOVING YOU, I'LL HOLD YOU IN MY HEART and, best of all, Elvis' cover of GENTLE OF MY MIND.

  22. S. P. Honeybunch

    S. P. Honeybunch Presidente de Kokomo, The Door Into Mike Love Thread Starter

    California, USA
    He wouldn't have to embrace The Band's entire get up. Levon was a great singer, however, and a person from Arkansas, not too far removed from Elvis' Tennessee and Mississippi roots. Maybe Elvis liked Levon's singing, maybe he didn't. Just wondering if there were any documented quotes or information about The Band influencing Elvis. Doesn't seem like there are, as the forum is pretty well read in this regard.
  23. A tantalizing snippet. Elvis could have done and should have done a whole album of Dylan covers.
  24. Heard the food was lousy. The turkey was a little dry and the vegetables overcooked.
    S. P. Honeybunch likes this.

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