Friday Five: Songs About Elvis

Ken Morton, Jr. | July 16th, 2010

Thirty-three years is a long time to be gone and still be called “The King.” But that’s the case for one Elvis Presley. Few icons have left such an indelible mark on the American culture and none have left a greater mark in album sales.

During his active recording career, Elvis sold an amazing 57+ million albums in the U.S. according to the The Recording Industry Association of America. Since his death? He’s sold an additional 70 million. Worldwide, the total number is over a billion. That’s a whole lot of zeros.

Few artists live on like that–either commercially or in the collective consciousness. Specific to country music, he has left a lasting impression on his friends, his peers and generations of artists after him. Hundreds of country artists have written songs about him or name-dropped Presley into their penned tunes. And that brings us to today’s Friday Five. Here are five country songs celebrating the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis the Pelvis, The Hillbilly Cat…Mr. Elvis Presley.

  • Red Dirt Girl5. “Boy from Tupelo” – Emmylou Harris

    This little great performance by the fellow Country Music Hall Of Famer is backed by a great trio of Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin & Buddy Miller. Harris compares Elvis to the buffalo and five and dime–as well as to her own broken relationship. All are gone forever.

  • Old Dogs4. “Elvis Has Left the Building” – Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed, Mel Tillis and Bobby Bare

    Four greats of country music come together and share this whimsical little tale of every guy’s worst nightmare–your woman more passionate about her music (and in this case, The King) than her man. Chocolate, we could understand. But no man in his rightful mind can let a little Elvis come between them and a little loving. Great lyrics in this song include, “I’m All Shook Up, and Mama, that ain’t right with me.”

  • 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Mer3. “From Graceland to the Promised Land” – Merle Haggard

    Just a few short weeks after Elvis passed away, friend Merle Haggard penned a touching tribute to The King that would go all the way up to number four on the charts. It had a great set of lyrics to send him on his way up to heaven: “It’s a long way from Memphis to that mansion in the sky/ But he kept his faith in Jesus all along/ It’s a long way from Graceland across Jordan to the Promised Land/ But Jesus finally came to lead him home.”

  • When Fallen Angels Fly2. “I Try to Think About Elvis” – Patty Loveless

    Any excuse to write about and post a song by Patty Loveless is good by me, but this particular one hits the mark. Patty’s in love and all she can think about these days is the man of her dreams. So she rattles off a list of all the things she tries to think about as to not be daydreaming about her guy. Top of the list? Elvis. Who else did you think it would be?

  • George Jones - 16 Biggest Hits1. “The King Is Gone (So Are You)” – George Jones

    Only The Possum could pull off mixing together lyrics of a bottle of Jim Beam that looked like Elvis and a Fred Flintstones cup and make it feel so right. “Yabba Dabba Doo, the King is gone and so are you.” This isn’t the type of song you’ll find Fred or Wilma singing Pebbles to sleep with.

  1. Stormy
    July 16, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Bap Kennedy has a beautiful ballad called Gladys and Vernon Elvis’ parents and a more up tempo song about Elvis called Becareful What You Wish For on his Lonely Street album.

  2. Shannon
    July 16, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Although it just references Elvis … I enjoy Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” too

  3. Thomas
    July 16, 2010 at 8:27 am

    …novelty meets misery in great style. lovely no. 1 pick and so is the rest.

  4. Benny
    July 16, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I love Elvis, good stuff! Conway Twitty’s “Who Did They Think He Was” would fit well, although only the first verse is about the King (then again, only the first lines in the Loveless number are about him).. the Merle song is also great of course, have a love/hate feeling about “The King Is Gone”..

  5. Howard
    July 16, 2010 at 9:28 am

    I’ve always thought ‘Elvis Presley Blues’ by Gillian Welch was an amazing song.

    Then breaking from country, ‘Calling Elvis, John and Jesus’ by The Makers is great.

  6. Stormy
    July 16, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Shane Nicholson, who is at least country by marriage also has a wonderful song called God and Elvis.

  7. numberonecountryfan
    July 16, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Confederate Railroad had a top 20 hit in 1994 called Elvis And Andy.

  8. Bob
    July 16, 2010 at 10:36 am

    From Trisha Yearwood’s HHPL cd, “Nothing ‘Bout Memphis”, a Jessi Alexander and Tommy Lee James song, has the lines “All he sees is that muddy Mississippi and the ghost of Elvis, But he don’t know nothing ’bout Memphis”.

  9. Dave D.
    July 16, 2010 at 10:45 am

    That’s a solid top five. My only gripe is that the sound is out of synch with the video for Patty.

  10. Michael
    July 16, 2010 at 10:50 am

    As you said Ken, there are really countless songs about the King. A couple of my favorites that haven’t been mentioned yet are by Wynonna (Just Like New, Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis) and Faith Hill (Bringing Out the Elvis).

  11. Hard Times
    July 16, 2010 at 11:12 am

    This is more a reference to Elvis than a song about him, but I love this line in Jamie O’Neal’s “Trying to Find Atlantis”:

    “And there was Elvis, not the real one
    When he told me goodbye, he called me hun.”

  12. Mike M.
    July 16, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Drive By Truckers- “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac”

  13. Lewis
    July 16, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    I’m very shocked that Ronnie McDowell’s The King Is Gone wasn’t on the list.

  14. Michael
    July 16, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    OK, so what do you think? You’re Elvis or something? Whatever.

  15. TimeO
    July 16, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    I once burned myself an entire CD of songs about Elvis. I’m hard pressed to remember them all now, but among the ones that come to mind: “Tupelo Mississippi Flash,” Jerry Reed; “Hound Dog Man” by Roy Orbison (Glen Campbell has a version too); “Elvis Presley Blues” by Gillian Welch; “Elvis and America,” by U2; “Tennessee Plates” and “Riding with the King,” John Hiatt; “Channeling the King,” Bill Lloyd; “Elvis is Everywhere” by Mojo Nixon; “Tennessee Road” by Gary P. Nunn; and “Breathe for Me Presley” by Charlie Burton (OK, admittedly this last one’s pretty obscure — Charlie Burton was a popular roots rocker from Lincoln, Nebraska)

  16. Jeff
    July 16, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Any excuse to right about and post a song…

    right = write?

  17. Jack Williams
    July 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Some favorites of mine not yet mentioned:

    The King’s Call – Phil Lynott (of Thin Lizzy fame)
    From Galway to Graceland – Richard Thompson
    Tennessee Plates – John Hiatt

  18. luckyoldsun
    July 16, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    What about “Black Velvet” by Robin Lee or Allanah Myles?
    And “Graceland” by Paul Simon–and later, Willie?

  19. Rick
    July 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Here I go again! Since we’re talking about Elvis I just wanted to share this MySpace blog post by Donna Beasley who was featured recently at CM’s “Country California” blog. Donna posted this entry in June a month or so after her pilgrimage to Graceland. In its own quirky way its kind of profound:

    “Blog Title: Graceland, After-Thoughts
    Current mood: Nostalgic

    Sorry for the lateness of the post. There have been floods and CDs to contend with. And these issues needed a little time. After some rumination, here’s what I took away from my pilgrimage to Graceland, April 27, 2010.

    1. Elvis lived a long time ago, not yesterday, as the videos have a way of making you believe. Watch “That’s the Way It Is” filmed in 1970. You would swear you could drive over to rehearsals at MGM Studio and crash in on the Sweet Inspirations and the Imperials working out bgv’s for “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” It’s easier to believe that the concert takes place in some sort of parallel universe where women wear really strange hair rather than the fact it was more than 40 years ago. A reviewer on Amazon commented, “It’s so fresh and alive you’ll almost forget it wasn’t recently filmed.” Thank you.

    So, that’s the little Elvis bubble I’d been living in for about a year. Happily melding 1970/2010. Elvis and I look good. We’re thin. We’re happy. We’re young. We’re bff. And then I saw the limo…THE limo…the one from “Elvis On Tour” filmed in 1972. He climbs in, entourage in tow, looks out the window sadly and sings “It’s a rainy night in Georgia.” Man, that limo is OLD. And tiny, compared to the monstrosities high school grads are renting for prom night these days. That tiny limo became “Christine,” from Stephen King lore. It turned the key, started itself up, and plowed right into my little 1970/2010 bubble.

    2. Once, when living in Pensacola, I ran into boxing champ Roy Jones, Jr., and his entourage, at the all-night Kroger about 1:00am. By that point in his career, he had won the title of World Champion in 3 weight divisions. And there he was in the Kroger. The second thing I realized after visiting Graceland is that I’m never going to run into Elvis in the all-night Kroger. And I’m never going to see him in concert.

    3. Elvis is dead. And as crazy as it makes me sound, I am so very sad about that. I am sad because, for me, Elvis did not die 23 years ago. For me, he died April 27, 2010. So, forgive the lateness of the post. I have been in mourning.”

    Seems some folks are still having trouble grappling with the reality, and especially finality, of the King’s demise…

  20. Ben Foster
    July 16, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    When I saw the title of this post, the song “I Try to Think About Elvis” instantly popped into my head. It’s one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite singers, and it really gives you a good chuckle. The music video is a hoot!

  21. Occasional Hope
    July 16, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    There’s a reference in the chorus of Diamond Rio’s ‘Sawmill Road’ with Elvis as emblematic of a lost past, when “we knew Jesus was the answer, and Elvis was the King”.

  22. Noeller
    July 16, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Love the Confederate Railroad reference, in the comments, and the casual Shania throw-in! Timmins represent!! :)

  23. Steve Harvey
    July 17, 2010 at 5:53 am

    There is no cooler song than John Hiatt’s ‘Riding With The King’.

  24. Josefina Argüello
    July 17, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    I looooove Elvis. My favorite song is Mexico

    "Mexico, Mexico
    They've got muchas, mucha-chas, amigos
    …Latin features,never saw
    such adorable creatures
    …Love to dig, ooh…the nights here"

    I think “I Try to Think About Elvis” is the best.

  25. Michelle
    July 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    “Elvis, Marilyn, and James Dean” by The Bellamy Brothers

  26. Michelle
    July 17, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Oh, and “Bigger Than The Beatles” by Joe Diffie mentions him.

  27. Thomas
    July 18, 2010 at 3:08 am

    …perhaps not primarily, but still…

  28. Peter
    July 19, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    “Cryer’s Paradise” by singer/songwriter Ron Hynes is pure genius

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