Influences on The Band
Copyright © 2000 Peter Viney
The fact that both Elvis and The Band did Mystery Train gave Greil Marcus the crucial link for his seminal book. The reformed Band also later did Milk Cow Boogie. Neither are Elvis originals, of course (what was?), but both tracks date from the 1955 Sun sessions. Levon has said on his drum tuition video that the first version of Milk Cow Boogie he knew was the Robert Johnson one. However the one that obviously inspired Levon’s version is Elvis. Given his early interest (from age seven) in the King Biscuit Show, he had probably heard the Junior Parker Mystery Train long before the Elvis version. But it’s the Elvis version that he quotes and uses a clip from in the Authorized Video Biography.
Then in 1996 the video Elvis 56 was released, narrated by Levon Helm, which confirms his interest and allegiance. The following tracks are more "coincidental recordings" than signs of direct influence. The most recent connection is All the King’s Men where The Band and Keith Richards are joined by Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana for Deuce and a Quarter.
Mystery Train (S.Phillips / H.. Parker Jnr)
Originally by Junior Parker.
Elvis version: single August 1955 and on The Sun Sessions, The Complete 50s Masters
Band version: Moondog Matinee. Also on collectors’ tapes from Tokyo in 1994. Robbie Robertson rewrote the lyrics for their version. Danko reverted to the original on his recent versions.
Danko solo version: Bring It On Home Vol. 1 plus concerts from the 80s and 90s.
- Milk Cow Blues (Traditional or K. Arnold)
Originally recorded as Milk Cow Blues Boogie in the 1930’s by Kokomo Arnold, and adapted by Robert Johnson as Milk Cow Calf’s Blues, then versions by Johnnie Lee Willis, 1941; Moon Mullican, 1946; Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, 1946.
Elvis version: single January 1955 The Sun Sessions, The Complete 50s Masters.
Band version: The Reunion Concert and The Band Japan Tour videos, collectors’ tapes of 1990s shows,
Levon Helm solo: Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars On Drums and Drumming video.
Levon Helm & The Crowmatix version: Souvenir (1997)
- The Promised Land (Chuck Berry)
Elvis version: single (UK #9, December 1974) and on LP Promised Land (UK #21, US #47, February 1975)
The Band’s version on Moondog Matinee was released in 1973. Elvis had a 1974 hit with his version, as did Johnny Allen with his Zydeco version the same year. Did The Band remind them of a great song?
- Memphis, Tennessee (Chuck Berry)
This is another shared, and purely coincidental Berry cover.
Elvis cut it twice, in 1963 and 1964. The second time included Grady Martin, Harold Bradley etc. (Elvis For Everyone, 1965,The Essential 60s Masters ). Elvis’s version suffered from the over-careful diction of his Hollywood period and a distinct lack of raunch.
The Band did it with Tiny Tim for You Are What You Eat .
- C.C. Rider (Trad. Arr. Elvis Presley)
Elvis opens On Stage-February 1970 with this traditional song, which has been "arranged by" just about everyone who’s recorded it (album UK #2, US #13) It was done by everyone from Ray Charles through Chuck Willis, LaVerne Baker, Peggy Lee, Duke Ellington, The Animals, Mississippi John Hurt, Jimmy Witherspoon.
The Band featured this on stage from the mid-80s, but probably would have seen Willis, Charles and Baker as their influences.
- Mean Woman Blues (Claude Demetrius)
Elvis original: on US album Lovin’ You (US #1 July 1957)
Band version: Collectors’ tape - Watkins Glen soundcheck 1973
Also recorded by Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis.
- Blue Moon of Kentucky (Bill Monroe)
Elvis version: B-side of That’s All Right recorded in July 1954 from Elvis’ first Sun session, later on A Date With Elvis album in 1959.
Levon Helm version: soundtrack album to The Coalminer’s Daughter.
- A Fool Such As I (Leiber-Stoller)
Elvis original: Single (US #1, UK #1, April 1959).
Dylan and The Hawks play this on one of The Genuine Basement Tapes Vol 1. (Dylan later cut it again during the New Morning sessions, and it appeared on the Dylan album)
- I Forgot To Remember To Forget (Sam Kesler-Charlie Feathers)
Elvis original: The Sun Sessions 1955.
Bob Dylan & The Hawks version: The Genuine Basement Tapes Vol 5.
- My Baby Left Me (Arthur Crudup)
This appears on Danko-Butterfield collectors’ tapes.
- Rip it Up (Blackwell-Marasco)
Elvis original: Rock & Roll No. 2 album
Instant Band (including Hudson, Weider, Ciarlante) performed this on a fundraiser 28 October 1990.
- That’s All Right Mama (Crudup) ?
Elvis’ first Sun single, July 1954. Originally Arthur "Big Boy Crudup" 1947,
Ronnie Hawkins has recorded That’s All Right Mama several times since The Hawks departed, so it may have been on their joint play list. Levon Helm & The Crowmatix do a different song called That’s Alright.
- Hi-Heel Sneakers (Higginbotham)
Tommy Tucker’s hit was covered live by Levon & The Hawks.
Elvis did it much later. It was the 1968 B-side of Guitar Man.
- I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan)
Elvis’s own version of I Shall Be Released finally appeared on
Walk A Mile in My Shoes: The Complete 70s Masters in 1995. Unfortunately it’s a fragment.
- Down in The Alley (Solomon Burke)
Elvis version on Spinout soundtrack, 1966.
Ronnie Hawkins had a comeback hit with the same Solomon Burke song in 1970, a version much admired by John Lennon. Nothing to do with the Band. None of them feature, but Ronnie Hawkins, a long time admirer of Elvis, showed Elvis the way home on this take. He was aided by Duane Allman and terrific piano from Scott Cushnie, who was in The Hawks at the same time as Levon ...
OK, tenuous link, but a great track.
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