Interview by Arjan Deelen
This interview was conducted by Arjan Deelen
On March 28th, 1998, Scotty and D.J.
performed at an Elvis convention here in Europe. That same evening, I
interviewed them both in Scotty's hotel room. Actually, it wasn't easy to find
good questions, as Scotty's THAT'S
ALRIGHT, ELVIS and Peter Guralnick's
TRAIN TO MEMPHIS describe the early years in wonderful detail. Nevertheless, the
interviews were quite interesting in many ways. Especially Scotty is very
straightforward and outspoken, and his viewpoints shed a new light on various
issues for me.
Why did you decide to do an autobiography?
I have a daughter in Memphis that knew
the guy that wrote the book. She kept after me about it, and I finally told her
that if she'd shut up, I'd do the book.
Do you think Elvis was musically
active before 'That's All Right'?
In an amateurish way, yes. He was
listening to bands, going to the Gospel all-night singings and so forth. He was
definitely singing and playing, but not professionally.
How many days are there between your
first meeting with Elvis and the recording of 'That's All Right'? According to some
it's a matter of months, while others say it all happened within a week..
It's a matter of one day, really. I met
him on Sunday, and we went in the studio Monday night. That was when 'That's All
Right' was cut. But that was an audition, it wasn't meant as a session.
You also tried 'Harbor Lights' and
that kind of stuff...
Yeah, those were just things
that...everybody would try and think of a song. We'd try and play it, and Sam
would record it. We'd listen to it and go on to something else.
In an interview you said that Elvis'
relation-ship with you was like that of an older brother.
What kind of things did you discuss?
Good God, it's been 47 years ago.. he
was full of questions about a lot of things.
I've read that he looked up to you
because you'd been in Korea and so forth, while he'd only been in and around
Yeah, I'd been in the navy four years.
He was just curious and he'd ask questions about different things. But he did
that with Bill and D.J. too. He had a mind that...he was quick to grasp .......
Eager to learn.
What kind of music did you listen to
on the car radio during those early tours?
Jazz when Elvis was with us. There was
a late night radio-show Out of New Orleans. It was around mid-night. (to D.J.:)
Was that Moonglow Martin?
D.J.: Yeah, Moonglow Martin.
(Scotty continues:) He had about three
or four hours of jazz. Played all the big bands, trio's and stuff, and you could
pick that program up almost all over. Just about anywhere in the country.
About eight years ago, ABC produced
the television-series 'Good Rockin' Tonight', about the early years on the road.
Was it reasonably accurate?
Some of it was, and some of it was
absolutely made up. The network wanted it to be a sort of 'Dukes of Hazard'.
We'd stop at a service-station to get gas, the place would get robbed and we'd
chase them. We didn't do that! (laughs)
Is it true that you, Elvis and Bill
jammed with Lowell Fulson in a club in Houston?
Yeah. I can't tell you the name of the
club, but we actually did. It was an all-black club, and we played a couple of
numbers with him.
Is that where Elvis got 'Reconsider
No, he already knew it. When I first
met him it seemed like he knew every song that'd ever been recorded. Pop,
R&B, country...you name it.
How did you come up with new songs
for studio-sessions and live-shows in those days?
Some of the stuff at Sun was just a
matter of... Sam, myself, Bill and Elvis would just think of a song and say:
"Do you know that one?". We might run it three times and see. If it
didn't feel like anything happened, we'd go on to something else. Of course,
when he went to RCA, the publishing companies would bring in stacks and stacks
Yeah, him mostly.
In December 1955 Hill & Range
published the songbook 'Elvis Presley Album of Jukebox Favorites', which
included songs like ‘That's The Stuff You Gotta Watch', 'Tennessee Saturday
Night' and 'Always late With Your Kisses'. Were any of those songs ever
performed live or in the studio?
No, they would put in filers, songs
from their own catalogue.
I have read that Elvis sang the
Platters-hit 'Only You' live in 1955/56. Was it performed on more than one
Yes, I think so.I remember doing it,
but I don't remember any dates. We did it some, but not very much.
And 'Rock Around The Clock'?
We tried that a few times, that was
really in the very early days. I don't think it ever got recorded on tape, live
They recently found Louisiana
Hayride recordings of 'Hearts Of Stone' and 'Little Mama'.
Who is "they"?
Ernst Jørgensen from RCA.
I remember 'Hearts Of Stone', but I
don't remember the other song.
It's a Clovers song, and there's
steel and piano on it.
We used the other guys on there some.
Floyd Cramer also played at the
Hayride, didn't he?
Yeah, but I don't remember him playing
anything with us at the Hayride. He played some club dates with us. There's
another guy that I do remember playing piano with us, and his name is Leon Post.
See, it was a big stage with different acts, and they all intermingled. It was
like a big family. It was like: "Hey c'mon, play with me on that song"
- you know, that kind of thing. That's how we ended up with piano and steel sometimes.
Can you remember if you, Elvis and
Bill performed on Roy Orbison's television-show on KOSA in Odessa, Texas in
We may have, I don't know. I don't
Did Elvis talk about his
We talked about every sucker that we
heard on the radio!. That was just natural.
Who did you admire from that era?
Not too many! (laughs)
How did the first session after
Elvis came out of the army go?
That was in March '60. It was an
all-night session to cut a full album. It felt just like any other: a session is
a session. We went on the train the next day to go to Miami to do the Sinatra
It's been rumored that Elvis hated
'Stuck On You'.
(DJ.:) I don't blame him!
Were you surprised by his change of
style with songs like 'It's Now Or Never'?
No, I liked those. 'Suspicion', 'It's
Now Or Never'... they were fun to do.
Did you pitch any songs to Elvis?
Just one...'Girl Next Door Went A'
Walking'. I produced the Thomas Wayne version. Thomas wrote it.
Jumping a few years ahead to the NBC
Special in '68, was it planned that Elvis would take your guitar?
No. He was watchin', he looked at the
look on my face, seeing if I was agitated by his playing or not!
Did you get any directions from the
It was a jam session, that's all we
did. The director said: "There's the stage. Don't worry about the cameras,
just do what you want to do".
So the songs were not selected by
No, it was just whatever came into
Elvis' mind, whatever he felt like doing.
How would you rate Elvis as a guitarist?
Fair. He had a good sense of timing and
rhythm. He didn't know a whole lotta chords, but those he knew, he really could
use 'em. And he'd play a little bass, a little drums...He had rhythm in his
voice, he just had a natural thing about that. He could hear a song, and he knew
what he could do with that song. And nobody else could do it. They're still
imitating him today but they just can't do it. They just don't have whatever it
is that Elvis had.
Do you keep up with new releases?
No, in fact I'm kind of hacked off by
all these what they call "alternate takes". They're not alternate
takes, they're outtakes - throwaway stuff that was supposed to hit the garbage
can. All that does is show us working on a song, mistakes and all, 'till we
finally reach the point: "That's a master".
You're not too happy with it being
No, I'm not. In fact, we got the Union
after them now 'cause they're saying it's part of the session, and the Union is
saying: "No, it's new material you're putting out".
Fans are looking at it from a
different angle. They simply enjoy hearing Elvis singing a song with a different
phrasing, or in a different arrangement.
Oh sure, the fans will eat it up, but
that's not the point. You think Rembrandt would enjoy all his throwaway drawings
being out on the market? He went for the master, and when he found it, that was
it. It's an invasion of privacy as far as I'm concerned. Not only Elvis', but
all of us, everybody working with him. But I can see the fans' point. And
anything that they haven't heard him do is gonna make money for the record
company But I don't think Elvis would appreciate it if he was here. If he was
here, he'd do something about it. The only reason they're getting away with it,
is that he's not here!
This interview by Arjan Deelen was found online at ELVIS Information Network.
It is reprinted here with his permission. Thanks Arjen!