BOOTLEG SERIES #17: Elvis Presley – Robinson Auditorium, Little Rock, AR, USA // 16th May 1956

Wednesday the 16th May 1956 saw the one man hurricane Elvis Presley grace the stage at the Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock, Arkansas. It wasn’t the first time that Elvis had played the venue with his band but from this particular performance we’re extremely blessed to have a great recording to listen back to, especially one with such good quality given the amount of time that has passed since the show itself.

  1. Heartbreak Hotel
  2. Long Tall Sally
  3. I Was The One
  4. Money Honey
  5. I Got A Woman
  6. Blue Suede Shoes
  7. Hound Dog

The opening song is Heartbreak Hotel which was released as a single five months earlier in January 1956 and you can instantly hear the audiences approval with the Beatles-esque high pitched screaming from all the women in the auditorium. I say Beatles-esque, Presley was the original. It’s a great performance and Presley is on top form and sings better than most singers today. From an era of no autotune or backing tracks the band sound exceptionally good and tighter than a new drum. The second song sees Presley cover Little Richard’s classic Long Tall Sally and sounds great as a result. The song has since become a rock and roll standard which has been covered by hundreds of artists including The Beatles and Eddie Cochran. The next song is I Was The One which is the b-side of Heartbreak Hotel and before the band begin Presley introduces the song in a humorous way, showing of his unique sense of humour:

“And here’s a little song we’re kind of proud of because it’s made so much mon…it’s done so well for itself. It’s called, uh, I Was The One.”

The performance itself couldn’t be any more 50’s sounding in hindsight. The doo-doo-doo-doo backing vocals sound fantastic and Presley again shows off his incredible vocal abilities.

Money Honey is the fourth song, originally written by Jesse Stone and recorded by Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters three years earlier in 1953. Released on Presley’s debut album, it’s a song that has since become another rock and roll standard, as has the next song in I Got A Woman by Ray Charles. Charles originally recorded it in 1954 and it has been covered by countless artists ever since, and Elvis sounds great singing it here. Blue Suede Shoes is one of the most recognisable songs of all time and Presley’s version at this show sounds incredible. He originally recorded it on his debut album which is arguably the definitive version of the song, even though it is a Carl Perkins number. It’s a song though that galvanised rock and roll in the 1950’s and led to an unbelievable amount of young kids being influenced by the genre who in turn themselves influenced the musical direction of the 1960’s, The Beatles being the prime example. The band during this live performance sound fantastic and the tightness hasn’t gone away since the first song. The final number is Hound Dog which is without a doubt one of the greatest songs of all time. The amount of energy contained in such a short amount of time is unreal and the live versions which Presley performed during this time period are second to none, the finest live performances you’ll ever hear from the 1950’s, especially when the tempo is slowed down and the groove gets real bad – in a good way of course.

Overall it’s a fantastic show and the bootleg itself sounds incredible considering at the time of writing this article the recording clocks in at 60 years old exactly. There are recordings that were recorded in the last 10 years that worse than this one does, even though the recording is taken from a radio broadcast from the time. That said it’s recordings like these that allow rock and roll to live on and act as a history lesson in many ways, giving listeners an incredible insight into the evolution of music. After all, without rock and roll music today would sound a whole lot different.

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