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"I WANT YOU, I NEED YOU, I LOVE YOU'7 Catherine Rankovic Recorded at RCA Studios, Nashville, April 14, 1956 Ho-ho-hold me close, hold me tight, make me thrill with delight, let me know Elvis Presley's original guitarist said that the name "Elvis Presley" first sounded to him "like a name out of science fiction." where I stand from the start— Presley decided to become a singer at age nine. As a teenaged fan of doo-wop and gospel, he fashioned two voices for himself, both a portentous baritone and a playful, spirited version of a country tenor's bawl. In 1953, soon after high school graduation, Presley, eighteen, auditioned for a spot in a gospel group called the SongfeUows. They told him he sang flat and had no ear for harmonies. That summer, Presley took his guitar and went alone to make his first, tentative recording, "My Happiness," a vanity record he later said he intended as a gift for his mother. In fact, he made it hoping to impress the owner of the Memphis Recording Service, Sam Phillips, who produced records under the Sun label and was not around when Presley came in. A truck driver by day, Presley loitered by night on Beale Street, meeting rhythm-and-blues and country musicians. He returned repeatedly to the Memphis Recording Service, mumbling to the receptionist that he was available if a band needed a singer. The receptionist felt sorry for him. A 1954 studio photograph shows Presley at nineteen, his face honeycombed with acne, his hair greased and roughly cut as if with garden shears. A jutting brow shadowed his eyes. He favored aggressively faddish clothing: for this photograph, a curt little bow tie and a flimsy cowboy jacket with braid-trimmed lapels and pocket flaps. He did not smile. A sneer might be—wrongly—inferred from his congenitally crooked lip line. By all accounts, he was a polite young man. 28 · The Missouri Review I want you, I need you, I love you, Presley made a second vanity recording in January 1954. PhilUps heard it. In June he finally had his receptionist phone "the kid," who sounded almost like a singer PhilUps had heard in Nashville and liked and couldn't get. Ui the studio, Presley and two local dance-band musicians , after dozens of tries, finally perked on the song "That's All Right, Mama," creating a regional hit thatput Presley and theband on the road. Memphis disk jockey Dewey PhilUps, no relation to Sam, sat down with Presley, who was already a local sensation, and terrified. "Mister PhilUps," Presley said, "I don't know nothing about being interviewed." PhilUps said, "Just don't say nothing dirty." Two years later, in 1956, the kid had confidence. The insane chances you can take when you have confidence! He could rock, bUther, yearn, swing, do a backwoods bawl and cut ice with high notes like a fiddle scraper's. with all—my—ha-ha-ha ha-ha-ha heart! Presley crafted his vocal ornaments at wiU, and for fun: his hiccups, stutters and scoops, in 1956, already had imitators. Onstage just a few days earlier, between songs, Presley had burped into the microphone. The smitten female fans screamed. He wreathed the lyric "heart" with triplet notes, which fit this song, but which also mock laughter. Presley hid laughter in the first word of the song, did it again here, and would do it a third time before the song was over. "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" was composed by Ira Kosloff and Maurice Mysels. Presley's recording, spUced from takes 14 and 17, is the sole product of this three-hour recording session. The producer had hoped to get three songs recorded, to pad out a second Presley LP. But this song was new to the musicians, who had to work out the arrangement on the spot. And Presley always Ustened intently to all playbacks and was picky about them, using up valuable time. "The Kid" or "the Boy"—he was twenty-one—couldn't read music. But he could sing anything he'd heard. Ev'ry time that you're near...


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