The 7 Real Kings

The 7 Real Kings of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Elvis Presley is often called the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but we disagree but we would call him easily the greatest “teen idol” of all time, handily beating Fabian, Annette and even Bobby Darin. Had he remained on the Sun label, he would have easily had a place in our Pantheon. If he had not joined the army and had his hair shorn off, we could still argue that even though RCA’s producer Steve Sholes and his hand-picked senior citizen session musicians set about to tame and sanitize Mr. Presley from just about the moment he set foot in the RCA studios, a large amount of his pre-induction recordings were almost good enough to induct him into our own list of the 7 Real Kings of rock ‘n’ roll if he hadn’t sold out so quickly, so thoroughly and so embarrassingly. The man who returned from Germany in 1960, was, quite simply, somebody else, a victim of brainwashing, legal drugs, or two of my favorite outsider explanations, that he was replaced by a former Hitler Youth doppelganger or was a graduate of the CIA’s MK-Ultra program. Even as a child, I knew that “It’s Now or Never” was Enrico Caruso’s “O Sole Mio,” but Elvis himself didn’t know the Caruso version, just Mario Lanza’s “There’s No Tomorrow,” the first English lyrics to that old Italian folk song. “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” came from a late 40s Al Jolson Decca 78, and Jolie learned it from Henry Burr’s 1927 Victor 78–not exactly “rock ‘n’ roll, especially if you know who Henry Burr was. Not that everything Elvis did after returning from the army was complete garbage, but compared to his early work, very little of it comes close to the high standards he set for himself early on. “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” is a great record, but it’s not rock ‘n’ roll and Nat “King” Cole could have done it just as well and if not better.

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