Welcome to “Original Rock Legends!” To celebrate Geva’s final show this season, the hit musical Million Dollar Quartet directed by Hunter Foster, I’m taking you through a musical journey, uncovering the history behind the songs featured in Million Dollar Quartet.
This week, we’re exploring the legends behind Elvis Presley’s music:
“Long Tall Sally”-1956
“Well, I saw Uncle John with long tall Sally/He saw Aunt Mary comin’ and he ducked back in the alley oh baby/Yeah baby, woo baby/Havin’ me some fun tonight, yeah, ow!”
“Long Tall Sally” was originally written by Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, Enotris Johnson, and Little Richard to spite Pat Boone. Due to racism in the mainstream media, white-run radio stations would not play Little Richard’s original recording of “Tutti-Frutti,” but instead played Boone’s cover of the tune, launching Boone to #1 on the charts. Irked by this slight, Little Richard and his team wrote “Long Tall Sally” with even more wordy lyrics at a fast tempo, as Blackwell said, “so fast that Boone wouldn’t be able to get his mouth together to do it!” Released in March 1956, “Long Tall Sally” ended up being Little Richard’s biggest hit; the song was #6 on the R&B charts for 19 weeks, and remains #55 on Rolling Stones’ list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Ironically, white artists still recorded—and found ample success with—their own covers of the song: Boone managed to get his mouth around all those words after all, and his recording hit #8 on the charts. Shortly after, Presley recorded his own version, which he released with RCA on his second album, Elvis, later in 1956. And the Beatles recorded their famous cover a bit later, in 1964.
Here’s Little Richard performing his original version of “Long Tall Sally” on TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxNSvFMkag
By contrast, here’s Pat Boone’s cover of the tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfMh14PC67I
And Elvis Presley’s cover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJBn9hXoWiY
And the Beatles’ cover, in which the Beatles give credit to Little Richard before performing “Long Tall Sally” live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxT0DcRR9cQ
Thanks for tuning in to “Original Rock Legends!” We’ll be back on Friday with more stories behind the legendary musicians who defined rock ‘n’ roll. This program is sponsored by Geva Theatre Center, where the Million Dollar Quartet comes back to life, LIVE onstage, now through June 25th. Until next time, rock on my friends!