Are You Lonesome Tonight

Are You Lonesome Tonight
14 May
Not in Hall of Fame

November 28, 1960 – January 8, 1961

Elvis Presley

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Everyone who knows Elvis Presley has their favourite “Elvis”.  For some it is straight up 50’s “Jailhouse Rock” Elvis, for me it is the rockbilly version, but for many it is “ballad rock” Elvis, and those who pick the latter, most of them point at “Are You Lonesome Tonight” as the best of a great crop of ballads.[1]

The song was originally written in 1926 and would be a Top Ten hit for a woman named Vaughn De Leath who was called the “First Lady of Radio”.  It was resurrected in 1950 when it was recorded by the Blue Barron Orchestra and was also by Al Jolson, who notably added the spoken word portion.  The song was actually a minor hit for Jaye P. Morgan in 1959, which most people (and myself prior to this anthology) know for being a wacky panellist on the Gong Show.[2]

Elvis would take his attempt at it in 1960, but after singing it he felt that he not do the song justice, and he had no expectations of being a hit.  It wasn’t that he did it half-assed, as he darkened the room to set the mood, so much so that he bumped into the microphone stand during the take.  He had to be convinced to do a second one, but it was that first take (complete with the microphone bump) that was released and went to the top of the Hot 100.

For a song that Elvis felt he couldn’t make work, the “King” delivered what many (myself included) considered to be his best ballad ever, and for some his greatest song.  His ability to convey emotion had never used better and he utilized every ounce of range he had, and a song with essentially was asking for a booty call, is perceived as a very tender ballad, possibly the best of its kind.

Elvis himself embraced it and it would become the highlight for the majority of his female fans in all of his concerts, which is incredible considering how he initially felt about his version.  Now imagining anyone trying to justice to Presley’s version seems inconceivable. 

Other Notable Songs that charted but did not go to number one in this time period: November 28, 1960 – January 8, 1961.

12/5/60: He Will Break Your Heart by Jerry Butler went to #7 but would go #1 on the R&B Chart.

12/19/60: North to Alaska by Johnny Horton hit #4 and reached #1 on the Country & Western Chart.

12/19/60: Lonely Teenager by Dion & The Belmonts climbed to #12.

12/19/60: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee went to #14.

[1] If somebody picks mid-60’s movie Elvis…well they are wrong.  If they pick bloated one year before death Elvis, I’m not judging…that might be unspoken second favorite. 

[2] Another notable judge was Jamie Farr, who was Klinger from M*A*S*H.  In my opinion, Farr had to be one of the least talented celebrities from the late 70’s/early 80’s to earn steady paychecks.

More in this category: « Stay Wonderland by Night »

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