“And, further, when he went to Memphis in 1968 to record with a fine musical wrecking crew of accomplished studio musicians, he sounded, once again, as though he was actually interested in what he was singing. And, even better, on some of the early songs he recorded there, he performed with a touch of laryngitis–which not only curbed some of his post-gospel excesses (that heavy and throaty vibrato and sometimes shmaltzy sustain of certain pointlessly held notes) but which made him, if only briefly, into a near-pure, hoarse-souled blues singer of deep southern resonance.”

(Allen Lowe “Ten Things You Probably Don’t Know About Mississippi Blues Musicians” Oxford American Issue 75: 13th Annual Southern Music Issue, 2011)

In case you missed the key nugget in there–and I can understand how the eyes might glaze–Elvis produced the greatest vocal recordings of the twentieth century because he was lucky enough to get laryngitis at the beginning of the sessions.

Here’s a nice experiment: Sit down with any of the numerous editions of Elvis’ late-sixties Memphis sessions (say the Legacy Edition of From Elvis In Memphis). Then close your eyes and try to guess which vocals were performed with and without “laryngitis.”

Should you need a little mantra to keep you sane during this process, here’s one that works for me: “For ye have the maroons with you always.”

Rinse and repeat as necessary.

Elvis Presley “After Loving You” (studio)


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