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 Post subject: The Gospel Side of Elvis
PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:56 am 
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Already many people have tried to explain the phenomenon of Elvis and it failed because its importance and influence, culturally and musically, are too complex.
One side of Elvis, which usually does not take very much attention, was his love for gospel music. The fact that Elvis loved Gospel has been indeed often mentioned, but this simple statement says very little about the whys and wherefores.
How much this music not only Elvis but also influenced his music, see one that he had, among other things, gospel groups as a backup singer he also had on his many concert tours here. If he wanted to relax, he sang Gospel songs. To get in the mood, warming himself at his Relaxed recording sessions with gospel songs, and in his Hollywood years it is in the breaks also with gospel.
Elvis was - spiritually - a seeker and this spiritual side of him had different facets. Much of the books that he read over and over again, were religious Nature and a spiritual search for answers. Elvis' books were a very important part of his life. Whether on vacation or on tour - he always had some of his books in his luggage. The Bible was always there, so to speak as his „constant companion „. But he also read books such as „Autobiography of a Yoga" and "The Prophet, books on Eastern religions and mysticism.

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one of Elvis' comments in his Bible

His fame and the enormous popularity designed his life ever more complicated and it has become increasingly difficult for him, to deal with the associated. More and more he was on the search for the meaning of life. Was he upset, stressed or worried about anything or made himself worried about something, he sought help in the spiritual. Sometimes in books, sometimes in some individuals, but it seem that he found the greatest consolation and the associated peace and contentment in the gospel music.
He sang gospel, and much of his personal record collection consisted of gospel recordings, mostly from Southern Gospel Quartets which he listened to again and again. Elvis' love of gospel music accompanied him throughout his life. In the documentary film "Elvis on Tour" he said in an interview, "We do two shows a night for five weeks. A lotta times we'll go upstairs and sing until daylight - gospel songs. We grew up with it ...it more or less puts your mind at ease. It does mine".

How it all began

The Assembly of God is an offshoot of the Pentecostal Church, and as in many ecclesial movements were the faithful people who were looking for hope, people from the working class as the Presley. The Pentecostal Church developed mainly in the 20th Century, long after the Times the resistance to music in the churches, as a music already largely was an established part of worship.
As a new church movement, the Pentecostal churches were willing to accept new music and new approaches to better perceive and learn more about the Holy Spirit, do not disapproved the popular, modern music this time.
The Pentecostal Church was not only open to female preacher but she was also a multiracial church movement. The services were drawn from the social hardships of the ghetto and of an almost fanatical religious fervor. In the gospel songs to that beat with an intensity of emotional expression down. The first known composer of gospel songs become was "Georgia Tom" Thomas A. Dorsey a former jazz pianist (07/01/1899 - 23/01/1993), which in the mid-twenties for the Chicago Pilgrim Baptist Church songs like "Precious Lord" and "Peace in the Valley" wrote. In them, he merged the traditional forms of black spiritual music with the swinging rhythm of jazz, repetitive motor activity of the Boogie Woogie and influences from the blues.

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Thomas A. Dorsey

He closes the black church music back to the contemporary music development at what considerably to the rapid spread of the gospel songs, even outside the black street churches, has contributed.
The songs were first recorded by small independent blues label, but win from the mid-forties, especially by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson a growing influence in the record business.

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Sister Rosetta Thorpe

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Mahalia Jackson

But there was also a white gospel music that originated also the mid-twenties in the southern United States, and later referred to the rockabilly style of rock 'n' roll, was not without influence. Most black artists, such as Dinah Washington, began to sing in the Church. Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter, Lloyd Price and Jackie Wilson began as Gospel artist. (Cooke and Wilson were later friends of Elvis) The musical roots of many rock 'n' roll pioneers such as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, were the services of the Pentecostal Church, which - as is often assumed - even a stylistic influence exerted on them. The largest share in this was less than the stylistic acceptance of music as a gift of the Holy Spirit. It was the openness to the idea that music is at the heart of the Christian experience and a way to publicly and emotionally express this belief.

Ready at the tender age of 3 years was Elvis , accompanied by his parents, to the services of the First Assembly of God Church in East Tupelo.
The First Assembly was not a long-established, but only a simple church and the believers met in a building of the poorer working class in East Tupelo.
The church did not differ too much from the other buildings in the area. It was a small church, which consisted of about 25 members; some of them were relatives of Elvis, both paternal and maternal.
The local pastor, Reverend Frank W. Smith, was also a cousin of Presley (from Gladys family). Vernon's cousin, Sayles Presley, who also sang in a gospel quartet, was one of the lead singers.
Rev. Smith, who played alongside guitar and piano, often made use of the church-owned Piano and played it during the service. He taught Elvis on the guitar a few Chords and guitar runs, noticing that Elvis already had a book with instructions how to play guitar.
With 9 years Elvis received Baptism (Baptism of the Holy Spirit). After 1948 his family moved to Memphis, Elvis begins to attend the Sunday school of the First Assembly of God to visit, which was located at 1084 East McLemore Street.

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First Assembly of God Church

Cecil Blackwood - the same age as Elvis - was his classmate in the Sunday school.

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Cecil Blackwood

James Blackwood remembers that he has met Elvis always at the monthly performances of the Blackwood Brothers which took place at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis.

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The Blackwood Brothers in Concert

After he had a singing test by the Songfellows and was rejected as a member of the group, the Blackwood’s encouraged him to continue to sing gospel.
When some members of the Blackwood Quartet were killed in a plane crash, left Cecil Blackwood, who was a member of the Song Fellows, the group and joined the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. And so the Songfellows asked Elvis if he would like to join the group as a substitute for Cecil Blackwood but Elvis refused.
It was a difficult decision for Elvis because he was just beginning to be successful with rock 'n ' roll.
In an article about Elvis and the Gospel Tradition, Charles Wolfe said: “The fact that Presley, while starting to change the face of American music with his new rock music, would even seriously consider an invitation to join a major gospel group suggests how much gospel music counted in his musical values at the time".

Although Elvis was more and more successful in Rock ' n' Roll, he continues to hang out with the Blackwood Brothers. He still went to their gigs, came without paying pure, although now he could muster the price of admission. On one occasion when there was no family member of the Blackwood Brothers stood outside the entrance, Elvis went out and bought a ticket. James Blackwood later wrote a letter to Elvis and gave him the entry money back. The letter is now on display at the Elvis up Close mini - museum at Graceland.

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James Blackwell

In 1955 the Black Woods were booked for gig on 4 July in DeLeon/Texas by WB Nowlin, a Texas Gospel & Country Music promoter. James Blackwood remembers some of the other gospel groups, such as the Ozark Stamps Quartet and the Stamps Quartet with Frank Stamps. There were also other country music groups booked but Blackwood cannot remember any of it - except Elvis Presley. Presley was at the time still managed by Bob Neal. The Blackwood Brothers were with her big tour bus there and although Elvis had just bought his first Cadillac, he attended the Blackwood Brothers and spent the afternoon sitting around with them in their bus. Even he was booked for the program too, together with the Blackwood Brothers and other groups, he decided to sing only gospel songs - as James Blackwood recalls.

The Blackwood Brothers were in the early 50gern the most exciting music group in Memphis. They had their monthly appearances at Ellis Auditorium, they had a daily radio show on WMPS , they were sponsored by a large flour mill - Dixie Lily Flour – they sold their records at concerts and in their own shop, and just had to RCA Records changed, where they were more successful.

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Record shop and offices of the Blackwood Brothers at 186 Jefferson Street

Elvis was fascinated by these local stars, went to their concerts and watched as they aired their radio show. Through these broadcastings he possibly came with Bob Neal in contact which worked for WMPS and became Elvis manager.
Perhaps the Blackwood Brothers were the first and largest contact of professional artists before he became a star himself.
When he went to the performances of the Blackwood Brothers, he also met other gospel artists such as JD Sumner, who was with the Sunshine Boys before he joined the Blackwood Brothers, Hovie Lester and The Statesmen, whose lead singer Jack Hess was one of Elvis' favorites.

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Jake Hess

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The Sunshine Boys ca. 1950: Eddie Wallace, J.D. Sumner, Ace Richman u. Fred Daniel

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Hovie Lester and The Statesmen

When his mother died in 1958, asked Elvis and Vernon the Blackwood Brothers to sing at her funeral. At that time, toured the Black Woods in North Carolina and chartered a plane to Memphis for the funeral. They sang some of Elvis ' favorite songs , like "Rock Of Ages ","I Am Redeemed", " Precious Lord Take My Hand ", " In The Garden" and Gladys Presley's favorite song "Precious Memories". The songs were a mix of old classic hymns and some of the best known and most popular gospel songs. None of the songs was as the primary choice for a Southern Gospel quartet known.

On 4 December 1956 was one of the most famous recording sessions of entertainment music. Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were for an exception session in Sam Phillip's Sun Studio in Memphis/ TN. There is some controversy whether it was the session by Carl Perkins or Jerry Lee Lewis.
Johnny Cash came over and then still Elvis came by too. Memphis Press Scimitar reporter, Robert Johnson, wrote the next day in the newspaper, "that quartet could sell a million". Since then the session is called "The Million Dollar Quartet" inscribed.

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“The Million Dollar Quartet”: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis, Johnny Cash

As these rising stars of rock ' n ' roll sang together, their choice was predominantly Gospel songs, a common repertoire, which they all knew. Although other Songs like current rock songs and older or newer country hits sang, they harmonized better together in the gospel songs. In the gospel songs they knew all the entire text, not just a fraction of it. The songs recorded on the day were, among others, "When God Dips His Love In My Heart", "Just A Little Talk With Jesus", "Walk That Lonesome Valley", "I Shall Not Be Moved",
"Peace In The Valley", "Down By The Riverside, "Father Along",
"Blessed Jesus Hold My Hand", "As We Travel On The Jericho Road", "I Just Can Not Make It By Myself", "Keeper Of The Key", "I Hear A Sweet Voice Calling" and "When The Saints Go Marching In."
An interesting selection, the traditional black and white Spirituals - Gospel songs of the late 19th and 20 costs century - both white and black composers contains. This was something in which Elvis had great fun.

With the increasing success it was for Elvis increasingly more and more difficult for these Events to go. He had to fall back on, call the groups and to ask if they could come to his house to sing with him.

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August 1957 in Graceland with The Sunshine Boys

These photos with the Sunshine Boys may have been just an opportunity by many of this kind.

When Elvis was discharged from the Army, he soon called after James Blackwood and asked him, whether the Blackwood Brothers would come on its free evening over at him, a little to sing with him. Blackwood said that Elvis could sing anything, no matter what they se songs also came up with.
Charles Wolfe pointed out that - although Elvis Southern Gospel Quartet loved - the gospel songs that he recorded, neither the tradition nor his presentation style (during performances) corresponded. One looks into his gospel songs, the accuracy of this statement reveals.
The gospel groups with which he sang as a backup, in their time were quite very innovative groups: The Jordanaires, The Imperials, The Sweet Inspiration and JD Sumner and The Stamps.
There is virtually no record of why Elvis sang gospel songs or why he wanted gospel groups that sang with him or specially created for him as a vocal support were. The fact that Elvis loved to sing on concert tours to relax gospel songs is well known. Maybe it was a guarantee for him that - if he has a gospel group with him - he had people with whom he could sing together. Perhaps it was also just a way for him to be in the group one of the "boys".

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Elvis and The Jordcanaires

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with The Imperials

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with The Sweet Inspiration

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with J.D. Sumner and The Stamps

It was only once successfully, Elvis joined - along with the Jordanaires - again at the Grand Ole Opry. Maybe a little malicious joy was there; that he had done it anyway, although people had told him there, he should stop singing is (this statement controversial). At the beginning of his success Elvis struggled with image problems. Maybe that's the reason why he, during his third appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, "Piece In TheValley" sang, possibly in order to mitigate his image as a rebel a little. In addition it was one of his mother's favorite songs.

"Piece In The Valley" is one of the songs that Elvis a month earlier in the famous Sun session had sung with Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. It was the kind of songs which Elvis loved. A country standard and sung by Ed Foley, it was originally performed and composed by Thomas A. Dorsey.
One question concerns his gospel background and his contact with the black gospel style. Surely there was some influence - both in the selection of his songs as well as in the way of his performance. His recording of "Run On" reflects clearly a perception of the 1940 Black performance of the song. Many reports about Elvis mention his love of singing Southern gospel quartets, but there is no single story about whether Elvis has listened to the black gospel groups on the radio or whether in his private record collection he had their shots (now we know more about it).
Both the Blackwood Brothers and the Jordanaires were aware of the Black Gospel-style conscious. Jake Hess made use of a modification of the black style, when he sang with the Statemen.
Particularly successful was Elvis with inspirational songs that were borderline between pop and gospel. "Crying In The Chapel" was a song with which he was particularly strongly identified in the 70 and he was known for songs like "American Trilogy," "If I Can Dream" and "My Way" - songs with a personal statement. This he sang with so much feeling that it one - even today - the tears drives in your eyes when you hear them. Elvis had an honesty and sincerity in his voice, as it is only very, very few singers to own. He merged the rhythm, harmonies and lyrics of sacred and inspirational songs with an extraordinary talent and feeling.

For his album "He Touched Me", he recorded several songs that were part of a new direction in the gospel music. No so-called "old chestnuts", but songs by composers such as Bill Gaither, Andrae Crouch and Ralph Carmichael.
Although he was extremely successful as a rock 'n' roll and pop singer, he was given only for his gospel recordings Grammy Awards. Although it was nominated several times in other selections, he received in 1967 for his album "How Great Thou Are" the Grammy for Best Sacred performance, 1972 Grammy for his album "He Touched Me" and 1974 Grammy Award for his live version of
"How Great Thou Are" (March 20, 74 BC concert in Memphis).

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one of the Grammy Awards of Elvis

Elvis Presley's influence on the "American popular music" was immense. His gigs of that also contained gospel songs, contributed to the gospel music found greater recognition and greater awareness. With his music he met fully the nerve of the American public and its tastes in music. In the history of American songs, there was always an appreciation for the nostalgic and inspirational songs. The acceptance of spiritual inspiration is part of American culture and distinguishes the traditional ballads of the British tradition.
Seen interpersonal, Elvis saw the comfort that gave him the gospel music. He grew up on the fact that the acceptance of religious music is a form of entertainment (entertainment) and he felt comfortable with that. Obviously, this music means to him in many ways very much and so fulfilled some of his needs.
And like Elvis said. "It more or less puts your mind at ease. It does mine."
When Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show singing "Piece In The Valley", he took the song a week later (on January 13, 1957) in the Radio Recorders studio in Hollywood. It was the same session where he recorded "All Shook Up". More Gospel recordings were "I Believe" and "Take My Hand Precious Lord" ((both on Jan 12) These spirituals are also in the album "Elvis' Christmas" included, which was released in late 1957 and made surprisingly for a controversy and was banned by many U.S. radio stations. it was felt that Elvis did not treat these sacred hymns with "enough respect".
Elvis took until his return from the Army no other gospel songs, again only in the session of 30./31.Oktober at RCA Studio B in Nashville. Five months before Elvis sang at the benefit concert for the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu / Hawaii the Gospel "Swing Down Sweet Chariot".

The last gospel album took Elvis 1971 (15th and 21st May), and until his death he had no more opportunity to work on another gospel album. In the opinion of those who worked with him, he left with his countless spontaneous singing of gospel songs backstage or in rehearsal an invaluable and wonderful heritage of his spirituality and his love for gospel music.

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"...I want you to know this. I believe in God, I believe in Him with all my heart. I believe all good things come from God...I owe everything that's happened to me to Him." ~Elvis Presley



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The biggest part of Elvis Presley was his big heart. It was full of love for everyone
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 Post subject: Re: The Gospel Side of Elvis
PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:27 pm 
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:D This is so Awesome Angel Eyes, if people after reading this Wonderful Piece and Great Photos you have posted doesn't open their Eyes to see that Gospel Music was the True Music Elvis was meant to sing, and that by Elvis singing Gospel Music when ever he needed to relax or to help Spread the Love of God to People. If he did do all he has been Accused of, and he was Really the Person so many that were around him said he was. Then to me his Gospel Music wouldn't have Moved Peoples Feelings in the way it did, or actually brought many people to the Lord Jesus has their Savior. :love: :love: :love:



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Without you I am nothing an could never be so bold. The times we've shared, the laughter and the tears. Priceless memories, treasures all. How could I ever fail? With you I don't fear that at all. Elvis Presley!
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