‘Raised on Elvis — Volume 5:’ Revisiting Terry Mike Jeffrey’s tribute to an icon
Terry Mike Jeffrey is an accomplished musician and devoted admirer of Elvis Presley hailing from Paducah, Kentucky. Jeffrey does not sport a bejeweled jumpsuit or parody Presley’s mannerisms, instead focusing on the generous superstar’s greatest legacy — the music. Influenced to varying degrees by the Beatles, Prince, and assorted Motown acts, Jeffrey is also a songwriter and performer in his own right.
Audiences may recognize Jeffrey from his wide-ranging concerts with Presley’s original band members, including D.J. Fontana, the Jordanaires, the Sweet Inspirations, and the TCB Band. A rare artist endorsed by Graceland, Jeffrey faithfully delivers inspired shows during the annual Elvis Birthday [January 8, 1935] and Elvis Week [August 16, 1977] festivities held in Memphis, sometimes with just his acoustic guitar and piano.
Jeffrey has released a series of seven Raised on Elvis albums since 2000, often unearthing Presley jewels maligned to subpar soundtrack albums. Perhaps his best is Raised on Elvis, Volume 5, unleashed in August 2007 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Presley’s demise.
Half studio and half live, all of the 18 songs remain true to Presley’s spirit and stylistic approach with the original arrangements mimicked closely. Jeffrey handles all the lead and rhythm guitar parts as well as the majority of the piano arrangements. The singer chose a loose concept — all studio cuts were originally recorded by Presley during a six-year period between 1957 and 1963.
Members of the Jordanaires make guest appearances on a handful of the studio cuts, with other Presley acquaintances and friends appearing on the live selections that round out the disc. Presley’s use of the Jordanaires on his records was revolutionary. It is almost impossible to think of another major artist who mixed his background vocalists so front and center on major recordings, a testament to the Jordanaires’ vocal power and Presley’s humble character.
“Good Luck Charm”, the opening cut, finds original Jordanaires Gordon Stoker and Ray Walker on first tenor and bass, respectively. Stoker sings a duet on the track that echoes his brilliant work on the original Presley version, and Walker’s “uh-huh’s” sound virtually the same almost 50 years later.
Featuring bass, drums, keyboards, and guitar, “Good Luck Charm” sets the standard for the rest of the album. This song became Presley’s penultimate number one until “Suspicious Minds” appeared seven years later and revitalized his career.
Track two, “All Shook Up,” was another monster Presley hit. Stoker easily replicates his smooth duet alongside Jeffrey. The oft-covered “All Shook Up” is such a classic that it is very difficult to improve, and the version here breaks no new ground. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” has a similar fate, although it is fantastic hearing the since deceased Stoker sing on vinyl one more time.
“Gently” was initially distributed on Something for Everybody in June 1961. As the title implies, the song is a soothing ballad that many casual Presley fans may have not heard. With Jeffrey’s numerous, overdubbed acoustic guitars and a bassist anchoring the cut, background vocals are provided by the singer’s son, Adam. Surprisingly, the song sounds like the Jordanaires are present.
“I Gotta Know” features Stoker and Walker duetting with Jeffrey. First released as the B-side of “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “I Gotta Know” reached No. 20 Pop, actually going Top 5 in the UK. Jeffrey’s version is fun, playful, and extremely catching, with the Jordanaires giving the song that extra “oomph.” The lyrics are a bit dated, though.
“Flaming Star” is the only song spotlighting the full Jordanaires’ lineup of second tenor Curtis Young and the late Louis Nunley on baritone. It is also the group’s last appearance on the album. The title track to Presley’s fine but underrated western drama, the song made it to No. 14 on the pop charts in 1960. Be sure to check out the vintage backing track.
Jeffrey commandeers the next five performances without any guest appearances and are deep cuts in Presley’s mighty arsenal. “Long Lonely Highway” [Kissin’ Cousins soundtrack, 1964; B-side to “I’m Yours”] is a frenetic pop rocker written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman that deserved to be an A-side.
“Tender Feeling”, perhaps the best song from Kissin’ Cousins, is a simple, albeit beautiful ballad. Jeffrey is particularly effective on the gentle numbers as evidenced here. His acoustic guitar work is also an improvement over the original.
Contrasting the moods between melancholy and upbeat, “I Got Lucky” [Kid Galahad soundtrack, 1962] demonstrates the safe period in pop just before Beatlemania exploded in the early ’60s. While a cute number, the polished musical arrangement can’t help but remind one of Frankie Avalon or Bobby Rydell.
“For the Millionth and the Last Time” remained under lock and key for nearly four years before RCA Victor Records belatedly released it on Elvis for Everyone, a hodge-podge collection signifying Presley’s 10th anniversary as a recording artist. Dean Martin would have been a perfect contender if the song had been submitted to him. The accordion adds to the song’s exotic feel, too. You have to admit — Jeffrey is unequivocally a dedicated Presley music connoisseur.
Beginning with “Little Egypt” [Roustabout soundtrack, 1964], the rest of the album consists of live material mostly cut in October 2004 at Sam’s Town in Las Vegas. Written by Leiber and Stoller and originally a mini-hit for the Coasters, “Little Egypt” is basically a novelty number, but it likely goes over well in a live setting.
“They Remind Me Too Much of You” [B-side of “One Broken Heart for Sale”, a No. 53 pop hit in its own right] was a bright spot on the otherwise lackluster It Happened at the World’s Fair soundtrack. Written by one of Presley’s favorite songwriters, Don Robertson, the forlorn piano work on this new version is a highlight.
The legendary D.J. Fontana replicates his classic rock-pile drum work on “Jailhouse Rock,” although he’s augmented by another drummer. One of Presley’s greatest songs, Jeffrey adds a nice touch with the stripper, barrelhouse ending.
“Reconsider Baby” appeared on Presley’s first album after his two-year stint in the Army, the critically acclaimed Elvis Is Back! Jeffrey really gets to stretch outside his comfort zone with his laidback but ultimately defiant vocal.
Among the upper echelon of 20th century saxophone players, Boots Randolph’s instrumental passage is a critical component to “Reconsider Baby.” His near-demonic, definitely bluesy solo is a joy to behold, proving that Randolph was just as agile onstage as when he recorded the original version 45 years earlier.
The final three live recordings — “I Will Be Home Again”, “His Hand in Mine”, and “Help Me” — are a showcase for Charlie Hodge, Jeffrey’s mentor. Hodge became good friends with Presley after his induction into the Army in 1958, remaining by the singer’s side for 19 years.
In an exclusive interview, Jeffrey readily admits that “Charlie was a very important musical figure in Elvis’s life and career, as well as one of his best friends. He was instrumental in many ways musically with Elvis. Not only did Charlie play acoustic guitar and sing harmony with Elvis, but he also worked closely with him on song selection for every concert, he set up rehearsals between Elvis and the band, background singers, sound crew, etc.”
“The importance of Charlie’s role was a very strong influence on me in that it taught me at a young age that in this business you have to have organizational skills to make everything happen the way it should to make things run smoothly. Charlie was, in many ways, Elvis’s anchor, his right-hand man. Elvis could lean on Charlie and Charlie was always there for him.”
“I Will Be Home Again” is yet another highlight from Elvis Is Back! It was the first song where Hodge sang harmony with Presley. Decades later, Hodge sounds remarkably like the original record. It’s a shame Presley never performed this close-harmony song at one of his concerts.
“His Hand in Mine”, the title cut of Presley’s first gospel album, and “Help Me” [No. 6 C&W; B-side of “If You Talk in Your Sleep”] form a mini gospel suite. The reverence found within Presley’s “His Hand in Mine,” yet again never performed in a live venue by the rock ’n’ roller, is seamlessly interpreted by Jeffrey.
Larry Gatlin’s “Help Me” was the penultimate gospel song recorded by Presley in a recording studio. Fortunately, Presley recognized the pathos and cry for redemption in the song, and it became a regular part of his setlist. Jeffrey and Hodge’s goose-bump inducing crescendo is a fitting conclusion to the live portion.
Fortuitously, there is one more track straight out of left field. “Come What May”, originally recorded by Presley during the 1966 sessions for the Grammy-winning How Great Thou Art, is debuted in a vintage, low-fi home recording from Jeffrey when he was only 12 years old.
Demoed onto a tape recorder just a few scant months after Presley’s version appeared as the B-side of “Love Letters,” Jeffrey’s voice and acoustic guitar demonstrate his considerable talent was already blossoming at an early age — a true Elvis fan. To learn more, visit the suave acoustic guitar slinger’s official website [TerryMike.com] or fan page on Facebook [Terry Mike Jeffrey Fans].
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