Reggie Young Interview

In 1969 Elvis recorded some of his best material in years at American. What was it like working with him?

Now that was a trip. We had been recording with quite a few artists and we had records in the top ten, so we weren't impressed. I remember thinking at the time "oh well Elvis is coming in" but he hadn't had a hit record in about eight years so it was like no big deal. But the day he showed up I'll never forget it. The back door opened and in walked Elvis and I remember we all just backed up a step. He looked great and I remember thinking "wow that is Elvis Presley" it was just incredible. He had this charisma around him that was overwhelming. He had his entourage with him and he'd put a cigarette in his mouth and there would be sever or eight lighters, click, click, click!. The first day was like that. After the first day the entourage were asked to leave and in the studio it was just the band, Chips, Felton Jarvis, his producer, and a couple of engineers from RCA to run the tape machines. I remember we would sit around and talk to Elvis about Memphis, school and different places around town. Just a bunch of guys sitting around laughing and carrying on and someone would think of a song and we'd play it and that's kinda how the sessions went. We had the material picked. I remember he brought in a bunch of songs, I say he did, his publisher did. They had most of the material, actually they said they had all off the material picked, but it was just like show tunes, really bad. We were standing around and they played a demo and Elvis turned to me and said "do you like that song," and Bobby said "man that's awful." Anyway we had a laugh about it and Felton called us over to the side and said "Hey, we got all them songs picked, so don't make any waves." Then Moman pitched Suspicious Minds and In The Ghetto to him and he loved Suspicious Minds. There was a little controversy over that. Moman told some official with RCA, who wanted all the publishing rights on those songs, "look we have a reputation for cutting hit records and if you want to do that, then let's do that, but if you don't just get out, just take everybody and leave." Well that got back to Elvis and he made everybody leave and we cut, I don't really know, thirty seven songs and they were all great, they really tried, he'd be singing and I remember Moman said something to him one time, "that he might have been a big flat on this word" and" could we do this part again." Nobody else would ever have said anything to him about it, but he really appreciated it. And as history has revealed that was his comeback album that we did and got him back to go out on the road with him but nobody was interested in doing that, I didn't want to and nobody else did either. That's when he hired the band that toured with him, you know James Burton and Ronnie Tutt, and he started touring again, thanks to that Elvis in Memphis album we did.

You worked with him again in July 1973 at Stax. By this time he seemed to have lost interest in his recording career. Did you notice a difference from the last time you worked with him?

There was a big difference. I'd moved to Nashville by then and went back to Memphis. We did this album at Stax and it was partly his road band and partly the American Band that had cut the In Memphis album with him. He didn't get in until about 3 a.m. in the morning, but I think that's normal for him. I don't think I spoke to him the whole time we were recording, he had his entourage with him and they kinda kept him covered up. It was just intimidating to even go say anything to him. It wasn't anything like at American where we were all like one on one, a handful of us sitting around and we talked and discussed music, played music and recorded music. What we did at Stax was nothing like that at all. I felt intimidated the whole time I was there, I wasn't very comfortable, it was lot more of a studio gig. It wasn't as warm, matter of fact it was about the total opposite of the way we did him at American, not that it was his fault it's just the way it was, there were so many people around him.

Bron: Johnny Cash - The Man In Black - magazine, # 34, 2003
Copyright, Elvis Today Tomorrow And Forever 2003