I wrote this post five years ago for another site, but I felt it could be nice posting it here too. I hope you like it.
************* "Such A Night" - Did Elvis influence Clyde McPhatter ?
Well, not really.
McPhatter was a fully-formed singer and stylist by the time Elvis came along. It was, as everybody knows, the other way around : Clyde was one of Elvis’ strongest musical influences. No need to go through the whole story once again, I'm sure.
But here’s a small example of Elvis “influencing” Clyde.
“Such A Night”, a Lincoln Chase composition, was first recorded by Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters in November 1953, for Atlantic Records. It was a hugely successful disk on the charts, and it was covered by many artists, from very different backgrounds : Johnnie Ray, Bunny Paul, The Four Lovers, Tommy Sands, Dinah Washington, The Joe Sawyer Trio, and others.
Then, in April 1960, Elvis cut the song in Nashville, at his second session after the Army period. The song was included as track 2 / side 2 of the legendary “Elvis Is Back !” album. In 1964, it was re-released as a single, backed with “Never Ending”.
And here’s where the story gets interesting. In early (March / April) 1962, Clyde McPhatter, already a solo act since the mid 50s, did a series of sessions for the Mercury label in Nashville, under the production of Shelby Singleton. Three of the songs scheduled to record were remakes of titles he had already done for Federal or Atlantic : “Sixty Minute Man”, “Money Honey”, and “Such A Night”.
Here’s the impressive list of musicians and backing vocalists used during those sessions (highlighted in bold red are the names also present on Elvis’ version of "Such A Night") :
--Guitar : Jerry Kennedy, Kelso Herston, Harold Bradley, Ray Edenton.
--Bass : Bob Moore
--Drums : Willie Ackerman, Buddy Harman
--Harmonica : Charlie McCoy.
--Piano : Hargus Robbins.
--Trumpet : Bill Justis.
--Tenor Sax : Boots Randolph
--Backing Vocals : The Merry Melody Singers (Margie Singleton, Millie Kirkham, Neal Matthews Jr., Gordon Stoker, Ray Walker
And here’s Clyde’s 1962 re-recording of “Such A Night” :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4xH4IoLobc
As you can hear, this track bears more than a passing resemblance to Elvis’ 1960 version. The sax riff played by Randolph as the intro is virtually the same. And the whole arrangement is very similar. However, note that at mid-song Clyde does the same beautiful modulation he had done nine years before, and which is absent from Elvis’ reading.
All in all, it’s not strange that this version may sound similar to Elvis’, having been recorded in Nashville with some of the same musicians and vocalists who had backed Elvis in his version only two years earlier.
And, make no mistake, it’s also a superb version by McPhatter, a consummate master, although his own 1953 original is probably unbeatable.
Anyway, I’ve always been a big fan of Elvis’ version, the first one I knew. I heard it for the first time on the “A Legendary Performer
- Vol. 2” album, and I was stunned. Later, I got to hear it in the correct context, “Elvis Is Back !”. I think it’s an absolute masterpiece, too. Elvis is in total, effortless, command, and clearly enjoying himself. Just fabulous.
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