Did Elvis play bass?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by CaribooBass, Dec 1, 2021.

  1. CaribooBass


    Nov 30, 2017
    My Mom was 15 years old when she went to a concert and loved it. She enjoyed everything but denies being one of the girls they caught on film screaming like crazy.
    Since then every Elvis related event that was on T.V we all watched and yes listened to all the records.
    As a result I have enjoyed everything Mr Presley and the TCB band has done. So it has surprised me to learn that Elvis played bass on some of his early recordings. I have seen him with a black and white P-Bass at Graceland in pictures but did he actually record with it at all?
    Please let me know thanks.
    Greg75 likes this.
  2. jd56hawk

    jd56hawk Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    The recording sessions took place in late April and early May 1957 at the Radio Recorders studio in Hollywood. Bill Black somewhat reluctantly played electric bass for the first time on ‘Jailhouse Rock’, but on the second session, Black found playing the bass part for ‘(You’re So Square) Baby I don’t Care’ too challenging, and he threw the instrument down in frustration and walked out of the studio.
    Most artists would have said ‘You pick that bass up and play it, buster, that’s your job’, but not Elvis. You know what he did? Elvis thought it was funny. He picked it up and played it himself. He just picked up that bass, put his foot up on a chair, and played that song all the way through”.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2021
  3. Tanner5382


    Sep 26, 2010
    Georgia, USA

    This is Elvis on bass.
  4. jd56hawk

    jd56hawk Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
  5. CaribooBass


    Nov 30, 2017
    I was 14 and in California when Elvis went to be with the Lord. I remember there was a lot of upset people and I was one of them. Then there was a lot gossip going on about his Dr and the ones around him. To me it went from caring about Elvis and his family to national enquirer debris.
    He was a gifted man who shared those gifts with us and should of been more respected at this time.
    So I have never read anything about him for it was always in controversy. Maybe enough time has gone there is some honest articles on his life that we can learn from.
    I would like to find some, apparently the book by Jerry Scheff (spell check on that) is really close. Until then ……. I’ll Just Pretend.
  6. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    I am going to speculate on this.

    1) This has Bill Black on DB and Elvis on Electric Bass
    2) Elvis is playing an elementary guitar E string pattern on the electric bass. B is playing the more traditional rockabilly pattern in the background, boosted around 1:10 for the solo.
    3) He is using a pick, flat wounds and very likely a P Bass.
    4) This is a Holywood recording because it was part of the JailHouse Rock movie EP that was coreleased with the movie.
    5) Elvis recorded under RCA. Non-film albums were done in Nasviille with Steve Sholes as producer and Chet Atkins (VP of Production) dropping by to watch and make suggestions. Chet did not get involved much with Elvis (unlike Willie Nelson) and caught a lot of heat for it.
  7. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    I was impressed with his guitar playing skills. Adding in little fills and things on the reunion special when he played Scottys guitar. Or something probably played by strings on the original recording. Definitely more freely playing than Scotty. I'd seen it many times before but I somehow missed it.
  8. knockerjoe

    knockerjoe Supporting Member

    Jun 5, 2016

    Attached Files:

  9. ficelles

    ficelles Inactive

    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    lowdownthump and DJ Bebop like this.
  10. wazzel


    Dec 27, 2007
    Cypress, TX
    EB-6 neck, like the fender bass VI. Was used in the movie Spinout.

    Last edited: Dec 2, 2021
  11. ficelles

    ficelles Inactive

    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    If that instrument still exists, it must be worth a fortune.

    [Edit] the Scotty Moore site says it's part of the collection at Graceland.
  12. With the exception of the Gibson double neck....
    Elvis was all about that Pbass Jack!!
    lowdownthump likes this.
  13. Ostie


    Aug 1, 2018
    Mid MI
    Upper right: photo of Elvis on Wheel of Fortune. :)
  14. wazzel


    Dec 27, 2007
    Cypress, TX
    Other sites say it is on display at Graceland also.
  15. Great story. thanks for sharing. You know, I’m not surprised as talented as he was. I’m more surprised that a bassist of any sort would have trouble playing what was required of a bass part on an Elvis song.

    On second thought, maybe it was a “Pick” thing. Or when you are used to plucking a DB hard live on stage with not great bass amps pulling as hard as you can to be heard he found it hard to lighten up his touch. Or the narrower string spacing on the PB ( plenty of posts on TB here about spacing being important) was giving him fits.

    Maybe there are some DB players, especially one that play both, that could chip in and post about that transition.
    IamGroot, jd56hawk and CaribooBass like this.
  16. claudel

    claudel Supporting Member

    [Edit] the Scotty Moore site says it's part of the collection at Graceland.[/QUOTE]

    #1 of the one 6-string bass/6-string doublenecks Gibson made.

    Safe in a glass box @ Graceland.

    I miss my EB-6 more than most of the others that have come & gone...
    B-Mac likes this.
  17. CaribooBass


    Nov 30, 2017
    I was gifted one Christmas with a DVD called Elvis lives. They had taken all the concert footage and removed the music. Cleaned up Elvis’s vocal and played it on a big screen. The remaining members of the TCB band then play live underneath him. The big screen in the middle had Elvis on it and the screens to either side had the band. Apparently they toured with this show and it was very well received. Well enough to do the same with his songs from his movies. I just found out about this and I would like to know if anyone here has seen it? If so what did you think of it?
    jd56hawk likes this.
  18. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    It has its own web page:
    Spectrum, B-Mac and 4SG like this.
  19. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    I was a DB guy. It's gotta be the right hand technique thing, since Black had just picked up a BG for the first time in those recording sessions. I'm not surprised that it was a struggle for Black to play that line evenly, with the right accents, at the right tempo - I've sort of experienced that myself with being in college for classical Double Bass performance and occasionally picking up a BG and not being able to play punk rock songs I played when I was 12 years old. The right hand technique is different enough to throw you off in a very frustrating and demoralizing way.

    I bet Black - being an all-time great country/western DB player - was pretty embarrassed to be on the spot in front of other musicians and not be able to play a moderately-fast syncopated eighth note line. I'm sure if someone had just let him go in a closet somewhere and work it out for 20-30 minutes, he'd have been fine.

    It's also not surprising that Elvis could pick up the bass and play the line easily. With a pick, it's a very guitar-like line.
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

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