The Jordanaires

 

Members

The group formed in 1948, with members Bill Matthews (first tenor), Bob Hubbard (second tenor/lead), Bill's brother Monty Matthews (baritone), Culley Holt (bass), and pianist Bob Money. After three years, Money was replaced by new pianist Gordon Stoker. This lineup lasted until 1952; at that time, Bob Hubbard was drafted and was replaced by Hoyt Hawkins. Later that year, Monty and Bill Matthews left. Hawkins switched to baritone, and new lead Neal Matthews, Jr. was recruited. Don Bruce came in as a new first tenor; however, he was drafted the next year. The group narrowed to a quartet, with Stoker taking over as first tenor. The lineup changed again in 1954, with Cully Holt leaving and new bass Hugh Jarrett (later a disc jockey) coming in. Jarrett remained until 1958; at that time, he was replaced by Ray Walker. This lineup, consisting of Gordon Stoker, first tenor and manager, Neal Matthews, Jr., second tenor and lead, Hoyt Hawkins, baritone, and Ray Walker, bass, would be the group's most stable lineup, lasting throughout the 1960s and 70s.

Recording sessions Sunday, September 2,
Jailhouse Rock recording sessions  1957

Gene Smith - Gordon Stoker - Elvis Presley - Hoyt Hawkins - Neal Matthews - Hugh Jarrett and Bill Black. Recording sessions at Radio Recorders LA., Sunday, September 2, 1956.

Gordon Stoker - Neal Matthews - Hoyt Hawkins on piano - DJ Fontana - Bill Black - Elvis Presley and  Hugh Jarrett at Radio Recorders in Hollywood on Friday, May 3, 1957.

Born in rural Gleason, TN in northwest Tennessee on August 3, 1924, Stoker joined the group in 1949 -- the year they joined the Grand Ole Opry. He was originally hired as a pianist, but by 1951, the Jordanaires had evolved into a vocal group, bringing fans to their feet at the Ryman Auditorium with their energetic performances of songs of the day in addition to their warm and capable versions of Gospel songs, such as “Noah.”

Noah - CMHoF.png

2013

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Gordon Stoker, leader of Country Music Hall of Fame vocal quartet The Jordanaires, died Wednesday [3-27] at his Brentwood home after a long illness.

 

Stoker, whose high tenor vocals grace thousands of significant recordings by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Loretta Lynn, Rick Nelson and many others, was 88.

 

"For more than 70 years, Gordon Stoker made enormous contributions to the Nashville music industry, beginning in 1942 as pianist for the John Daniel Quartet on radio station WSM," said John Rumble, senior historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. "Singing tenor with the Jordanaires, Stoker backed hundreds of featured artists in the recording studio, ranging from Red Foley, Don Gibson, Kenny Rogers and George Jones to Connie Francis, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme and Julie Andrews."

 

Stoker was a professional musician from the age of 15, when he joined the Daniel Quartet and came to Nashville. He joined the Air Force in 1943 and served overseas, returning to the U.S. in 1946, when he enrolled in college.

 

He came back to Nashville in 1948, studying at Peabody College. In 1949, he successfully auditioned for a year-old quartet called The Jordanaires. He initially joined as a pianist, but he soon became "first tenor," singing the highest parts in the reorganized quartet, which featured him in conjunction with Neal Matthews Jr., Hoyt Hawkins and Culley Holt. That lineup was soon in demand as a backing vocal unit for country recording sessions, adding gospel-style harmonies to recordings by Foley, Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold and others.

 

A Memphis teen and aspiring musician named Elvis Presley heard The Jordanaires singing in Memphis, and he became a fan of the group, pledging, "If I ever get a contract with a major company, I want you guys to back me up."

 

When Presley began recording for RCA in January 1956, he did in fact request The Jordanaires for his first-ever session with backing vocalists, but Chet Atkins instead hired brothers Ben and Brock Speer to sing with 31-year-old Gordon Stoker. Presley wondered aloud why The Jordanaires weren't there, and Stoker explained that Atkins hadn't hired the quartet. By June of that year, though, Presley's sessions featured the group in its entirety, and The Jordanaires became an integral part of his sound.

 

"With Gordon's soaring high tenor and leadership, the quartet changed the sound of pop records with their signature backing vocals, even if they sang only nonsense syllables," said author and Presley historian Alanna Nash. "Just as they brought spirituals to the predominately white audience, they did the same for rock and roll, vocalizing behind Elvis.

 

"What may not be so obvious is that Elvis, such a 'moral threat' when he first appeared on the national scene in 1956, may not have been so readily accepted by such powerful impresarios as Ed Sullivan had the Jordanaires not lent Presley their sound and support," Nash continued. "In a sense, they risked their reputation in the gospel world by performing with him and giving him their stamp of approval. That was Gordon's doing, all the way."

 

Soon, The Jordanaires were heard on more hit recordings than any other vocal group, and their notoriety made them one of the world's most popular vocal acts. Ray Walker joined the group in 1958, completing The Jordanaires' classic lineup of Stoker, Walker, Matthews and Hawkins: That lineup that was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. The group often appeared on television and in movies with Presley, Ferlin Husky, Zsa Zsa Gabor and others.

 

The Jordanaires may be heard on classic recordings including Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight," Husky's "Gone," Reeves' "Four Walls," Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" and Kenny Rogers' "Lucille."

 

"They were on Grammy-winning recordings in six decades," said Stoker's son Alan Stoker, a curator at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. "That started in 1959 with (Johnny Horton's) 'The Battle of New Orleans' and continued through 2007 with an album by Ray Price and Willie Nelson."

 

The Jordanaires also originated the "Nashville Number System" of musical notation, now standard in Music City recording studios. And they were instrumental in establishing Nashville offices for performers' unions.

 

Hawkins died in 1982 and was replaced by Duane West, who was replaced by Louis Nunley in 2000. Curtis Young also joined in 2000, following Matthews' death. The group's final performance was in August 2012, in Tunica, Miss. Stoker was the group's leader and owner, and The Jordanaires' franchise will not go on without him.

 

"The group is over," said Alan Stoker. "It was a wonderful run. My father lived a great life, and left us a great legacy."

The group changed again in 1982, when Hoyt Hawkins died. His replacement was Duane West, formerly of Sonny James' backup group, the Southern Gentlemen. The lineup remained constant for another two decades, with West leaving due to illness in 1999 (he died in 2002). His replacement was Louis Nunley. Neal Matthews died the next year. He was replaced by new lead Curtis Young. Hugh Jarrett died at 78 on May 31, 2008, from injuries sustained in an auto accident in March.

First tenor-manager Gordon Stoker, bassi
Col. Parker - November 21, 1955. Peabody

With Elvis Presley

One Sunday afternoon in 1955, the Jordanaires played a show in Memphis with Eddy Arnold to publicize their new syndicated TV series Eddy Arnold Time (on the program the group used the name Gordonaires). They sang "Peace In The Valley," and when the show was over, a young man, blond, quiet and courteous, with plenty of combed-back hair, came backstage to meet them. He was Elvis Presley, a practically unheard of singer just getting his start in the area. There were a few polite exchanges, then Presley said, "If I ever get a recording contract with a major company, I want you guys to back me up." He was on Sun Records at that time.

On January 10, 1956, Elvis recorded his first session for RCA with Scotty, Bill and D. J.. That day, "I Got A Woman", "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Money Honey" were recorded. True to his word, Elvis asked his new label RCA Victor if The Jordanaires could appear on the recordings. The next day Gordon Stoker was called by Chet Atkins to do a session with a new kid, named Elvis. RCA had also just signed "The Speer Family." Chet asked Gordon to sing with Ben and Brock Speer so he could use them. On that day, "I'm Counting On You" and "I Was The One" made history by being the first recording session that Elvis did with vocal background. By April 1956, "Heartbreak Hotel" was No. 1.

THE SPEER Family was among the first white gospel groups in America. Undertaking 200 concerts a year, the family inspired and encouraged numerous groups and they only disbanded last year due to the ill-health of their leader and bass vocalist, Brock Speer. However, outside the world of gospel music, Brock Speer will also be remembered as a backing vocalist on the early recordings of Elvis Presley.

Brock's father, George Thomas Speer ("GT"), was born in Alabama in 1891 and sang gospel music from an early age. He met his wife, Lena, who played pump organ, at a convention and they married in February 1920, with their first son, Brock, being born in December of the same year. They had three other children, Ben, Rosee Nell and Mary Tom. In 1921 GT and Lena formed the Speer Quartet, in Double Springs, Alabama. As the children became older, GT introduced them one by one to the group, which became the Speer Family. GT's instruction would be, "Always sing what you feel and feel what you sing."

Brock studied at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree, as he felt this would assist him in programming the family's concerts and records. From the mid-Forties "all-night singings", which often took place at midnight under a tree in a meadow, became popular and the performers had to become entertainers. This detracted from the spirituality of the gospel music and led to a slump in its popularity in 1955.

In January 1956 both the Speer Family and Elvis Presley were signed, quite independently, to RCA Records in Nashville. Presley was keen to supplement the sparse sound that he had had on his Sun Records in Memphis and he wanted to use a vocal group, the Jordanaires. On the other hand, Chet Atkins, who organised the sessions, wanted to give the Speer Family additional money, but not all of them wanted to sing on secular records. A compromise was reached - Gordon Stoker from the Jordanaires with Brock and Ben from the Speer Family. Gordon Stoker recalls, "I knew Brock and Ben and liked them, but I said to Chet, `Brock is a bass, Ben is a lead and I'm a first tenor, so who's gonna sing baritone?' Chet said, `Don't worry, it won't make any difference.' "

 

The first RCA sessions took place in Nashville and the trio attended the second day of recording on 11 January 1956. Many Elvis books state that the trio sang on "Heartbreak Hotel", but there was no other voice but Elvis' on that track. However, they can be heard on the record's B-side, "I Was the One", and the album track "I'm Counting on You".

 

On the road, Elvis worked with the Jordanaires, but Gordon, Brock and Ben were recalled to the RCA studios in April 1956 where just one song was recorded, an emotional ballad called "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You", which went on to top the US charts. Despite its success, Presley used the Jordanaires on subsequent records.

Chet Atkins, session guitarist and recording artist for RCA - Steven Henry Sholes, from messenger boy to RCA Victor's vice president for New York - Elvis Presley - Gordon Stoker - Ben and Brock Speer.

After having done several more recording sessions in New York with Scotty, Bill and D. J., Elvis flew to Nashville on April 14, 1956, to record "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You". Gordon was called again, to sing a vocal trio with Ben and Brock. After the session, Elvis took Gordon aside and told him (not knowing, at the time, why all the Jordanaires were not there) that he had wanted "The Jordanaires." This time, Stoker saw to it ─ and Elvis used the Jordanaires on nearly every one of his recording sessions for the next 14 years. At a time when no backing musicians, producers, or engineers received a name recognition on any records, Elvis insisted that he have "with the Jordanaires" on the label of his records. The reflected glory was enough to earn the Jordanaires "Group of the Year" awards well into the Beatles era. They also appeared in Elvis' movies, and on many of his landmark television appearances.

April 14, 1956. McGavock recording studi
April 14, 1956. McGavock recording studi

A Major Part of Presleymania

The Jordanaires began singing backup on recording sessions for Elton Britt, Red Foley, Jimmy Wakely, and Hank Snow as early as 1954. One of television’s early talent shows helped spread their appeal even further. “We had won the Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scout Show by singing a black spiritual like ‘Dig a Little Deeper [in] God’s Love,’” remembered Stoker, “Black spirituals are what Elvis loved and we would sing those on the Grand Ole Opry.” “This is what attracted Elvis to the Jordanaires sound,” Stoker continued. “He’d hear us sing those spirituals on Saturday night. Well, we were working with Eddy Arnold and we went to the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis to do a show. Elvis came back behind the stage to meet us, not to meet Eddy. He said that he’d been hearing us sing on the Grand Ole Opry and he said, ‘Man, let’s sing some of those spirituals.’ so, we got to singing with him in the room. That’s when he said, If I ever get [a] major recording contract, I want you guys to work with me.’ He was on the Sun label at that time. We didn’t think anything about it, we had been told that by a lot of people. It didn’t mean anything at all. But, when RCA signed him in December of 1955 he asked for us.”

 

At Presley’s request, the Jordanaires received billing on all his releases, a sign of respect that he didn’t accord band members Scotty Moore, Bill Black, or D.J. Fontana. But the publicity windfall didn’t create a rash of hit records for the quartet. “We had one or two numbers on Capitol that got into the top ten,” recalled Stoker. “’Sugaree’ got in the top ten on some stations and some numbers that got in the top 50 during the ’50s. We really wanted Capitol Records to push us. Lee Gillette, who was an official at Capitol Records said, ‘Gordon, let me tell you one thing. You guys are masters in the studio at doing background on recording sessions. If you were to get one or two hit records you’ll just fall by the wayside.’ At the time he said it, we didn’t want to hear it, but now we think back and he was so right.”

The Jordanaires Hoyt Hawkins, Gordon Stoker
The Jordanaires belt out their rendition

The Jordanaires’ impact on Presley’s recordings should not be underestimated. Their smooth yet effervescent backgrounds made Elvis’ raw-boned rockabilly palatable to pop radio programmers. Further, major smashes such as “Don’t Be Cruel,” “I Was the One,” “Teddy Bear,” “Too Much,” and “Don’t” exhibited the type of group interplay usually found in doo-wop—something Presley could not have achieved at Sun Records.

 

On tour, The King’s delirious, screaming fans made it difficult for the group to hear the singer. As a result, Presley had the Jordanaires stand very close to him on stage. “We could also tell by the movement of his head or the movement of his body where he was in the song,” explained Stoker. “But, we would be as close to him as we could possibly be. He even wanted it that way in the studio. He always wanted us standing right behind him on those TV shows we did with him. Many times he’d step back on my toes. (Laughs.) But you couldn’t hear anything because of the screaming and hollering.”

Empire Stadium, Vancouver B.C., August 3

Musical influence

The Jordanaires have been one of country music's premier backup vocal groups, working with artists such as Patsy Cline, Johnny Horton, Ferlin Husky, Tammy Wynette, Kenny Rogers, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Dolly Parton, Red Foley, Jim Reeves, Willie Nelson, and George Jones. They also served as backup vocalists for pop music artists such as Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, Connie Francis and Julie Andrews. They are best known across the world as the backup vocalists for a number of Elvis Presley's hit singles, with whom they performed for more than fifteen years and backed up on well over 100 different songs (singles and album cuts, on television and in a number of films). In addition to singing backup for other musicians, the group toured extensively around the world plus they recorded a number of music albums on their own, They continue to record: "On The Jericho Road", A Friend We Have in Jesus and others.

Loving You scene still - Got A Lot O' Li
King Creole set with The Jordanaires. PP

Special Guests

The Jordainaires have been appreciated by a whole new generation and performed with many modern recording artists as well as recent sessions with Country music legends.

Appear on multiple tracks of Johnny Cash's 1978 album I Would Like To See You Again. They sang the harmonies on Ringo Starr's second album, Beaucoups of Blues. The Jordanaires also provided vocal support for Ricky Nelson on "Poor Little Fool," "Lonesome Town," "It's Late," and other hit recordings. The Jordanaires appear on the second album by The Grascals, on the song "Did You Forget God Today?" Sung with The Tractors (of Steve Ripley)

In 1996. they lent their vocal talents to the Ween album, 12 Golden Country Greats.

In 1997, they sang Who'll Be The One If Not Me for the off-Broadway musical Violet.

In 2007, they recorded "Save Your Dreams" by Americana artist Shark (Wild Colonials)

In 2006 & 2007 they are featured on Park Lane Drive Records. Friends of Henry Golis Wish You A Merry Christmas with The Jordanaires & Henry Golis Presents Good Music With Friends featuring The Jordanaires.

 

Awards

Grammy Award in the category of Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Album.

Special awards from RCA for contributions Elvis Presley's Recordings

Nashville Music Association Masters Award

National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences award for having sung on more, top-ten recordings than any other group.

Members of world famous Grand Ole Opry for 13 years.

Recognized for eight years, by readers of England's Record Mirror and New Musical Express magazines as one of the world's top ten vocal groups.

inducted, in 1998, into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

inducted, in 1999, into the NACMAI Hall Of Fame (North America Country Music Associations International).

inducted, in 2000, into the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame.

inducted, in 2001, into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

inducted, in 2004, into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

inducted,in 2007 into the Southern Legends Entertainment & Performing Arts Hall of Fame

inducted in 2007 into the "Christian Music Hall Of Fame"

Gordon Stoker - inducted in 2006 into the "SOUTHERN GOSPEL PIANO ROLL OF HONOR" (Gordon Stoker died at 88 at his Brentwood, Tennessee, home on March 27, 2013)

Estimate of recordings sales, with the Jordanaires' Background Vocals, is 2.6 Billion!! (2001)

In 1955, the quartet became acquainted with a local artist who at a show in Memphis who told them if he ever got a recording contract with a major company, he wanted them to back him up. Signed to Sun Records at the time, Elvis Presley made good on his offer, as the singer inked a deal with RCA Victor not soon after. From 1956 - 1970, the Jordanaires were the background group on the majority of Presley’s records and also appeared on the soundtracks of many of his films in the 1960s.

 

In addition to Presley, Stoker and the Jordanaires appeared on classic records such as Cline’s “Crazy,” Reeves’ “Four Walls,” and Loretts Lynn’s “Coal Miners’ Daughter”. The group continued to be highly sought-after into the new millenium, with recent performances on albums by The Grascals and Kristin Chenoweth.

January 6, 1957 rehearsals (11).JPG
The Jordanaires' group dynamic changed o
RCA July 2, 1956, (2).JPG
RCA July 2, 1956, (1).jpg

During an extended Feb. 4, 2011 call-in session to “The GK Show”, Walker talked at length about his 12 years in the recording studio with Elvis, including a rambunctious front row center session at RCA Studio B in Nashville when the “Alabama Wild Man” himself, singer-songwriter-guitarist Jerry Reed, unexpectedly showed up to add some patented gut-string guitar licks to “Guitar Man” and “Big Boss Man,” both rockin’, country blues numbers that planted the seeds for Elvis’ artistic comeback the following year.

Klein, possessing a genuine knack for conducting informal interviews with Elvis’ close confidants and musicians, initiated the proceedings. Yours truly decided to email four questions in to segment producer Jim Sykes which Walker graciously answered. Collected below in slightly edited form are the highlights from that interview.

 

George Klein: What was unique about singing with Elvis?

 

Ray Walker: The Jordanaires have sung with around 3,000 artists. There were two or three that had the same temperament or ability in the studio. Of course, everyone’s personality is to each their own, but Elvis Presley, Rick Nelson, Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page, and Connie Francis knew exactly what their limits were. They wouldn’t let anybody push ’em past those limits. They knew the tempos, how to feel about it, and Elvis was the same way.

I think the most revealing thing about Elvis was that he didn’t feel that special. He didn’t act special. As far as thinking he was somebody hot, he never thought that. Never did. I mean, he dressed up for his fans and enjoyed doing that - I think he was a clown. He enjoyed looking the way the fans expected to see him and wanted to see him. Elvis realized that was part of his life.

But when he was on his own, he had on jeans, a cowboy hat -just regular clothes. When he went out, he made sure that if anybody saw him, they saw him at his best. That was part of his life, and a tribute to his honesty and love for his fans.

 

Klein: Did Elvis criticize a musician if he made a mistake?

 

Walker: Now, Elvis would criticize somebody if they criticized the musicians. If somebody had no more sense than to put somebody down, Elvis didn’t like that at all. Elvis didn’t put anybody down, and he would normally laugh if somebody made a mistake. Elvis said one time that his whole career was mistakes [laughs].

 

Klein: How did Elvis warm up for a session?

 

Walker: Later on he did gospel songs. Basically Elvis would just sing, but he mainly stood there and studied the song. Then he would do his warm-up during the tracking process.

 

Jeremy Roberts: Did you prefer recording in Nashville or Hollywood with Elvis?

 

Walker: We liked recording in Nashville, and Elvis liked Nashville. It was certainly special to go to Hollywood and work at Radio Recorders. Nevertheless, it was homey when we were here in Nashville.

 

Jeremy Roberts: How did you become a member of the Jordanaires?

 

Walker: Well, original bass singer Hugh Jarrett decided to devote more time to his burgeoning radio career, so he gave notice of his resignation in late spring 1958. The Jordanaires’ first session with Rick Nelson was on April 28, 1958, at Master Recorders in Los Angeles.

I took a break from teaching school - I was also an assistant principal and a coach -and went to Hollywood as the Jordanaires’ choice to be introduced to Capitol Records.

We also worked with Tommy Sands and did four Jordanaires’ singles during the day plus a 10 p.m. session with Rick later that night. Ozzie, Harriet, and David were also there. “Poor Little Fool” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way” were on this session.

 

We went back to Nashville, and I resumed teaching until May 31. I joined the group officially on June 1, 1958. Gordon had called me the first week of May and asked if I could go with them to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand television series that week.

 

I told him no. He replied, “What if I told you that if you can’t come on this trip we’ll have to take our next choice?” I said, “If I broke this contract to go with you, I would break another contract with you to go with someone else, and I don’t break contracts.”

 

Gordon thought about it for a second and asked me, “Okay, so when can you come down and start observing the Grand Ole Opry?” “When is it?” “Saturday nights.” “I’ll be there this Saturday night” [laughs].

 

I then went to the Opry to watch for about three weeks and joined them on June 1. On June 10, i did my first Elvis session at RCA’s Studio B in Nashville

 

[Author’s Note: This proved to be Elvis’ final session of the 1950’s, scheduled shortly before his departure to Germany to serve in the military. The session proved especially fruitful, yielding the huge hits “I Need Your Love Tonight,” “A Big Hunk O’ Love,” “A Fool Such As I” and “I Got Stung”].

 

Jeremy Roberts: Were you guys aware that Elvis had met Priscilla in Germany in Sept. 1959?

 

Walker: When we did the G.I. Blues soundtrack [April 1960], Elvis had said to us, “You know, I’ve just seen the prettiest girl in the world, and I’m gonna marry her.” That was really special, and he was obviously referring to Priscilla.

A year later we did Blue Hawaii and Elvis dedicated “Can’t Help Falling in Love” to her (Walker softly sings the opening bar, “Wise Men Say”)

 

[Author’s Note: The soundtrack LP ultimately spent 20 weeks at No1 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, becoming Elvis’ best-selling album during his lifetime].

 

Jeremy Roberts: What do you remember about the first time Jerry Reed played lead guitar with Elvis on Sept. 10, 1967 at RCA Studio B in Nashville?

 

Walker: Jerry Reed was really something. Elvis got ready to do “Guitar Man” and asked, “Do you think Jerry Reed would play on this?” And they said, “Yeah, we’re sure he would”

 

[Author’s Note: Elvis stumbled upon Reed’s original single version of “Guitar Man” two months earlier on Top 40 AM radio while driving around L.A. and apparently digged what he heard. The songwriter’s composition registered at a paltry No53 C&W. However, Reed’s next 45, the lightheartedacoustic talking blues tribute to Elvis entitled “Tupelo Mississippi Flash,” ignited his path to stardom, peaking at No15 C&W]. Elvis swiftly replied, “Could you find him for me?” So they started looking for Jerry. Turns out he was out fishing on the Cumberland River.

 

[Author’s Note: The Guitar Man’s eldest daughter, Seidina Reed, was seven years old when the memorable incident occurred. Exactly 10 years later, she would sing a duet with her father on the rollicking Top 20 Country hit “You Know What” and in 2015 unveiled her magnificent Todasy Is Mine: A Tribute to My Father, Jerry Reed album.]

 

After reading this story, Seidina reached out on Facebook with her memories of that fateful September afternoon, published here for the first time: “I remember when they came to get Daddy for the Elvis session. I had just caught the biggest carp Daddy had ever seen on the tiniest green pole you’ve ever seen. I was so young it looked like some huge creature from the deep to me. We were freaking out over the fish when somebody came running down the dock hollerin’ for Dad. I’ll never forget that.”

 

Jerry came in and looked so flustered -just like a little boy. Of course, he looked like a little boy anyway [laughs]. Jerry met Elvis, and Elvis was in awe of him and shook his hand and told him how much he appreciated his playing and talent.

Jerry was kind of a funny guy -he had a real sense of humor. But he was extremely nervous, and we’d never seen him that nervous. Jerry sat down, and Elvis said, “Just do those licks for me like you did on your original version.”

 

Jerry sat close to the door that went into the control room, and he started the intro. Well, he flubbed it. So, he looked up at Elvis, then he started playing again, and he made a mistake. Then he looked up at Elvis one more time, and he started playing again and made another mistake [laughs].

 

Jerry finally looked up at Elvis and said, “God, you’re handsome!” Jerry was so flustered that he couldn’t play his own song, and it tickled Elvis to death that he was that nervous, because Elvis was nervous that he was there, too.

 

[Author’s Note: When “Guitar Man” debuted on the Hot 100 in Feb. 1968, the RCA Victor single barely created a ripple, stalling at No43. While Elvis was returning to his rock and roll roots on this and subsequent singles like “Big Boss Man” and “U.S. Male” ─ both featuring Reed ─ it would take his triumphant ’68 Comeback Special later that year before he became a dominant chart presence again.

 

Felton Jarvis, Elvis’ record producer beginning with the Grammy-winning May 1966 How Great Thou Art album sessions and continuing until his death, eventually decided to reimagine the first Elvis remix album in 1980. The consummate singer’s vocals were left intact, but new backing tracks were re-recorded with Nashville session musicians who actually played with Elvis, including Reed, who created a new, electrifying solo on “Guitar Man.” This contemporary, decidedly electric version jumped all the way to No1 in March 1981, deservedly becoming Elvis’ final No1 country single. Unfortunately, Jarvis never lived to see his significant accomplishment, as he succumbed to complications from a massive stroke the previous January. He was only 46 years old].

 

Jeremy Roberts November 29, 2016 for Medium.

Elvis Milton Berle dress rehearsal. With

Classic lineup

  • Hoyt Hawkins – baritone and lead vocals, piano, organ, percussion (1949-1980; died 1980)

  • Neal Matthews Jr. — second tenor and lead vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, double bass, bass guitar (1949–2000; died 2000)

  • Gordon Stoker – tenor vocals, piano, organ, percussion (1951-2013; died 2013)

  • Ray Walker – bass vocals (1958-2013)

  • March 27, 2013, "THE JORDANAIRES" as a group, officially, came to an end. Ray, occasionally, performs with country crooner Ronnie McDowell, and others, in programs dedicated to the memory of Elvis Presley. 

Other members

  • Bill Matthews – vocals (1948-1949)

  • Monty Matthews – vocals (1948-1949)

  • Bob Hubbard – vocals (1948-1949)

  • Culley Holt – bass vocals (1949-1954)

  • Bob Money – piano (1949-1951)

  • Don Bruce – first tenor vocals (1949-1950)

  • Hugh Jarrett – bass vocals (1954-1958)

  • Duane West – baritone vocals (1980-1999)

  • Louis Nunley – baritone vocals (1999-2013)

  • Curtis Young – lead vocals (2000-2013)

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