Elvis' Backup Singers
The following groups and individuals provided backing vocals for Elvis, either live on stage, in the studio, or both. The years in parentheses indicate time spent backing Elvis. Almost all of these groups and individuals had full careers besides their association with Elvis.
The Amigos (1962 - 1963)
The Amigos backed Elvis on "We'll Be Together" from Girls! Girls! Girls!, in March of 1962, and their version of "Mama", without Elvis, was featured in the film briefly. They backed Elvis again on the Fun In Acapulco soundtrack, in January and February of 1963.
The Blossoms (1968)
Darlene Love - (born Darlene Wright) One of Phil Spector's studio singers, Darlene sang lead on the Crystals' hit, "He's A Rebel", and as a solo artist had quite a few hits as well, including the holiday rock 'n' roll classic, "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)"
This group of "unsung heroines" backed Elvis
for his NBC-TV special "Elvis" (the "comeback" special), recorded in June
of 1968. Darlene does the duet with Elvis on "Let Yourself Go",
in the video version of the song (the CD version is just Elvis). Darlene also
sings lead on "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" with the others backing her, as part of the Gospel
Medley. The Blossoms also sang at the sessions for The Trouble With Girls, at least on "Swing Down Sweet Chariot". They appeared briefly in Elvis' last feature film,
Change of Habit (1970), as Elvis' neighbors. The "History of Rock"
webpage below is a very interesting and very detailed account of the
Blossoms' career. The Blossoms can be heard, completely uncredited, on
many other Phil Spector girl-group hits, as well as the Darlene Love
"solo" songs mentioned above.
The Imperials first joined up with Elvis in May of 1966, for his first non-soundtrack recording session in over two years. Out of these sessions came the entire How Great Thou Art album, as well as six other songs. The Imperials would accompany Elvis on many occasions for the next five years, both in the studio, and for many of his live concerts during his "comeback" period. They also appeared in
the documentary Elvis: That's the Way It Is in 1970. Their last session with Elvis was for another gospel album, He Touched Me, recorded in May and June of 1971.
Probably the group
most often associated with Elvis, the Jordanaires appeared on almost all
Elvis' recordings from July 1956 through September 1970. They had
previously backed Hank Snow, among others, having sung at the Grand Ole
Opry for many years. In Memphis at the Cotton Carnival in early 1954,
Elvis met the Jordanaires backstage and told them, "If I ever cut a
record, I want to use you guys singing background with me." Their first
session with Elvis took place on July 2, 1956, and produced the
double-sided hit record "Don't Be Cruel" / "Hound Dog" which would be
Elvis' biggest selling single of all-time. Their last sessions with Elvis
were the marathon recording dates of June 4 - 8, 1970, which yielded 34
songs, and a follow-up session on September 22 producing only 4 cuts.
These sessions produced the albums That's The Way It Is, Elvis
Country, and Love Letters, along with a few leftovers! The
Jordanaires can be seen in a few of Elvis' films, most notably in
Loving You, in the final number on stage, and in G.I. Blues,
during the song, "Frankfort Special". After Elvis' death, they released a
tribute album, The Jordanaires Sing Elvis's Gospel
In July of 1963, this quartet took part in the Viva Las Vegas sessions. George MacFadden of the group sang the lead vocal on "The Climb", with Elvis and the Jordanaires singing backup. In the film itself, George and the Jubilee Four lip-sync the song in that great dance scene! Also, the group, along with the Carole Lombard Trio, backed Elvis on "What'd I Say". The quartet also backed Elvis on the soundtrack recording session for the film, Girl Happy, which took place in June and July of 1964.
The Ken Darby Trio (1956)
Ken Darby was the musical director for Love Me
Tender, Elvis' first film. The Ken Darby Trio backed Elvis on the four
soundtrack songs, including the hit title song.
Max Smith - tenor (retired in 1966, replaced by Gene Merlino)
Gene Merlino - tenor (1966 - 1972?)
Bill Lee - baritone
Bob Hamlin - lead tenor (until 1955, left the group)
Bob Stevens - lead tenor (1955 - 1961, Bob died in 1961 and was replaced
by Bill Cole)
Bill Cole - lead tenor (1962 - 1972?)
This group backed up Elvis on the soundtrack session for It Happened At The World's Fair in October 1962. They can also be seen in the film, during the performance of "One Broken Heart For Sale". They also provided backing on the title song to the film Roustabout, recorded in March 1964, as well as the entire session for the soundtrack of Paradise Hawaiian Style, in July and August of 1965. They also appeared as the gospel quartet in The Trouble with Girls, and provided the singing voices for the college boys in other scenes (see his film page). Much more info on the Mello Men is available at the Thurl Ravenscroft site above (which now has a separate Mello Men page), as well as some interesting sound clips. Tom Wagner, who corrected me on some details (thanks, Tom), says his sister is writing a book on the Sportsmen Quartet, and since some of the members of that group became members of The Mellomen, they will be prominently featured in her book.
This vocal group consisted of people who sang with Elvis individually on different recordings. (See individual entries below.) As The Nashville Edition, they accompanied Elvis during the recording sessions of March 15 and June 4 - 8, 1970, and March 15, 1971. They also appeared regularly on Hee Haw in the '70s.
J.D. Sumner (bass) --
Formerly of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, J.D. Sumner is listed in the
Guiness Book of World Records for having the world's lowest bass singing
voice. He was also the founder of the National Quartet Convention.
Dave Roland (baritone) (Dave later was part of the country group )
When he was a teenager, Elvis met J.D. Sumner while J.D.
was singing with the Sunshine Boys in Memphis. J.D. would let Elvis in backstage
to meet the gospel groups. In 1972, after losing both the Jordanaires and the
Imperial Quartet, Elvis asked J.D. and his group, the Stamps Quartet, to back
him both on stage and in the studio. They were performing with Elvis live by at
least February of 1972, when recordings were made of Elvis' Vegas show. Their
first session together in the studio was in March of that year and produced
"Burning Love", "Always On My Mind", and "Separate Ways", among others. These
last two songs were filmed for Elvis On Tour. The Stamps can be seen
throughout the film, and anyone who doubts that Elvis loved gospel music need
only watch his reaction to the Stamps' performance of "Sweet, Sweet Spirit"
(He's definitely enjoying it). After Elvis' death, the Stamps released the
tribute albums Elvis' Favorite Gospel Songs and Memories of Our Friend
Elvis. J.D. Sumner released a tribute single called "Elvis Has Left the
Building". After J.D.'s death in 1998, the members of the Stamps formed Ed Enoch & The Golden
Led by brothers Clay and Alan Naluai, The Surfers were popularizing Hawaiian music long before Don Ho! They were a natural choice to sing backup on the soundtrack recordings for Blue Hawaii, March 21 - 23, 1961.
In the mid-to-late-Sixties, these ladies could be heard backing up
Aretha Franklin, Gene Pitney and Wilson Pickett, among others, but they didn't
have a name until singer Chuck Jackson suggested they call themselves The
Inspirations. Finding that the name was already taken, Jerry Wexler then
suggested, "since they were so sweet", they change it to The Sweet Inspirations,
and in 1968, had a hit of their own with their signature song, "Sweet
Inspiration", written by two of the musicians that played on their first album.
Elvis was looking for a female group for his August 1969 Las Vegas engagement,
his first live appearances since 1961. When he heard their record, he knew he'd
found the group he wanted. Along with the Stamps Quartet, the Sweet Inspirations
often opened Elvis' concerts in the '70's with a few songs on their own. Each
group would perform fifteen or twenty minutes. Although the Sweet Inspirations
appeared with Elvis on almost all concert tours up through his final tour, they
never recorded with him in the studio, as did the Stamps Quartet. The group
appeared in both of Elvis' documentary films, Elvis: That's The Way It Is
and Elvis On Tour.
Elvis with Jeannie Green and Donna Thatcher, January 1969
Allen (1961) - soprano - Part of a female backing group, along with Dorothy
McCarthy, Loulie Jean Norman, and Virginia Rees, that backed Elvis on the song,
"Moonlight Swim", from the Blue Hawaii soundtrack session, on March 22,
1961. As far as I know, this is the only time this group sang with Elvis. Jackie
was a studio singer and frequent voice double and chorus singer in MGM musicals
of the 50s. (thanks to Karine Philippot for the info!)
(1963) - sang with Elvis on the May 26 - 27, 1963 session that would later
become known as "The Lost Album". Joe later sang with Elvis as The Nashville
Edition (see above).
Lea Jane Berinati (1975 - 1977) - worked with
Elvis on the March 10 - 13, 1975 sessions (the Today album), as well as
the 1977 CBS special, Elvis In Concert. For this special, credit is given
to "The Lea Jane Berinati Singers", but no members are known other than Janie
Larry Bunker (1966) -
sang backup on the song "She's A Machine", recorded for the Easy Come, Easy
Go soundtrack, but not used in the film.
(1963 - 1976) - sang backup with Elvis beginning on the session for the Kissin' Cousins soundtrack in September 1963, and ending with Graceland recordings in February
1976. Also see the Nashville Edition above.
Janie Fricke(1977) - Before
becoming a Country & Western star, she sang backup as one of The Lea Jane Berinati Singers on Elvis' last tour and on the TV special, Elvis In Concert.
James Glazer (1970) - sang on the live recordings of
February 1970 in Las Vegas.
Jeannie Green (1969 - 1973) - sang
with Elvis during his comeback live engagement in Vegas, August 1969, and her
last session was in Stax studios in December of 1973.
(1969) - provided vocals for Elvis during the January & February 1969
sessions in Memphis.
Charlie Hodge (1960 - 1977) - Elvis' close
friend (and Memphis Mafia member), Charlie sang harmony with Elvis on stage and
in the studio all the years they were together. Although they met in 1956, they
became good friends in the army in 1958. On the way to Germany aboard the USS
Randall, they sang a duet of "I Will Be Home Again", which they recorded
together when they got back in 1960. Charlie continued to sing and play rhythm
guitar for Elvis throughout his career, both in the studio and on stage. He also
had bit roles in several of Elvis' films during the '60's.
Ginger Holladay (1969 - 1975) - Ginger's association with Elvis spanned the period from the August '69 comeback in Vegas to the Today sessions of March 1975.
Mary Holladay (1969 - 1975) - Mary sang with Elvis in the
studio sessions of January & February 1969, and her last session was in March 1975 for the Today album.
Priscilla Hubbard (1967) - overdubbed vocals on "Confidence", for the soundtrack of Clambake in February 1967.
Millie Kirkham (1957 - 1975) - backed Elvis on various recordings for almost his entire career. Her initial appearance was on the sessions that produced Elvis' Christmas Album in 1957. Yes, she's that voice in the background on "Blue Christmas". She can be heard prominently on others like "Give Me the Right" and "Angel". She was with Elvis on stage during his comeback period of the late '60's and both on stage and in the studio up to 1971. She can also be seen in Elvis: That's The Way It Is. In March of 1975, she recorded with Elvis one last time for his Today album.
Dorothy McCarthy (1961) - Part of a female backing group, along with Jacqueline (Jackie) Allen, Loulie Jean Norman, and Virginia Rees, that backed Elvis on the song, "Moonlight Swim", from the Blue Hawaii soundtrack session, on March 22, 1961. Studio and backup singer, sang in the chorus in countless films starting in the mid-40s. (thanks to Karine
Philippot for the info!)
(1969) - besides playing piano for Elvis' January 1969 sessions
in the American Studios in Memphis, Ronnie also provided a backup vocal,
overdubbed later, for the recording of Elvis' hit "Kentucky Rain". Elvis
recorded it on February 19th, but Ronnie's vocals were overdubbed in March or
May of that year.
Sonja Montgomery (1969 - 1971) - sang backup on
studio recordings from the February 1969 sessions up to the June 1971 sessions
for his gospel album, He Touched Me.
Loulie Jean Norman
(1961) - Soprano - Part of a female backing group, along with Jacqueline (Jackie) Allen, Dorothy McCarthy, and Virginia Rees, that backed Elvis on the song, "Moonlight Swim", from the Blue Hawaii soundtrack session, on March
22, 1961. A soprano who started out with the Mel Tones in the 40s, sang in the chorus in numerous movies, also voice double for Diahann Carroll in Porgy and Bess (1959), for Juliet Prowse in G.I. Blues (1960), Stella Stevens in Too Late Blues (1961). Famous for singing . Recorded extensively as studio singer. (thanks to Karine Philippot for the info!)
Nielsen (1975 - 1977) - sang with both the Imperials and Voice (see above),
and in 1975 began backing Elvis on stage, often as a "guest lead vocal", like on
"O Sole Mio / It's Now Or Never", and "Softly As I Leave You". He was also
present at Elvis' last Graceland recording sessions (October 29 - November 1,
June Page (1966 - 1977) - her first session with Elvis was
the How Great Thou Art album in May of 1966. She backed him up on various
recordings, both in the studio and on stage, through to the June 1971
Susan Pilkington (1969 - 1973) - provided backup vocals
for the American Studios sessions of January & February 1969, as well as the
Stax Studios sessions of December 1973.
Sandy Posey (1966 - 1977)
- sang backup for Elvis in the studio for the How Great Thou Art sessions
and the American Studios January 1969 sessions. She sang live with Elvis in
August 1969, and in February 1970.
Virginia Rees (1961) - alto -
Part of a female backing group, along with Jacqueline (Jackie) Allen, Dorothy
McCarthy, and Loulie Jean Norman, that backed Elvis on the song, "Moonlight
Swim", from the Blue Hawaii soundtrack session, on March 22, 1961. Mainly
worked as ghost-singer for actresses like Lucille Ball (1946), Angela Lansbury
(1946), Vera Ralston (1953-55), Adele Jergens (1949-50) and even Marlene
Dietrich (1942)! Also part of the Merry Macs during the 50s. Frequent back-up
singer. (thanks to Karine Philippot for the info!)
(1970 - 1977) - sang on the marathon June 1970 sessions, as well as the March
and May 1971 sessions. She performed a duet with Elvis on "The First Time Ever I
Saw Your Face" from the March 15th session.
Myrna Smith (1976) -
one of the Sweet Inspirations (see above), Myrna also backed Elvis up during his
1976 Graceland recordings, both in February of that year, and in the
Ben Speer (1956) - For Elvis' first sessions with RCA, Chet Atkins wanted the to back up Elvis, but he could only get Ben and Brock at the time. Along with Jordanaire Gordon Stoker, they backed Elvis on "Heartbreak Hotel" and "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You", among others.
Brock Speer (1956) - see "Ben Speer" above.
Gordon Stoker (1956) - see "Ben Speer" above, as well as the Jordanaires entry.
Wendellyn Suits (1976) - provided vocals for Elvis' Graceland recording sessions of February 2 - 8, 1976.
Donna Thatcher (1969 - ?) - sang backup for the January and February 1969 American
Studios sessions in Memphis.
Kathy Westmoreland (1970 -
1977) - soprano who began singing with Elvis in August of 1970, singing
background at Elvis' live concerts, as well as on most studio recordings from
this point on until Elvis' death. During Elvis' introductions on stage, he
always singled her out, saying something like "the beautiful little girl who
does the high-voiced singing".
Hurshel Wiginton (1969 - 1976) -
besides the sessions as a member of the Nashville Edition (see above), he also
backed up Elvis on several recordings starting with the American Studios
sessions of February 1969, and ending with the Graceland sessions of February
Kitty White (1958) - provided the female voice on the song
"Crawfish" from King Creole.
Special thanks to my sources, who did all the real work, so that folks like
me could just look things up... and type a lot.
Ernst Jorgensen, Erik Rasmussen, & Johnny Mikkelsen, authors of
"Reconsider Baby: The Definitive Elvis Sessionography 1954-1977" Pierian
Press, Inc. - these guys did the original investigative research that
most of us have used as a backbone ever since. This page would be pretty darn
close to BLANK without them. Ernst Jorgensen's new revised version is
available as Elvis
Presley: A Life In Music.
Fred L. Worth & Steve Tamerius, authors of Elvis: His Life from A to Z - THE Elvis Encyclopedia, a major source for "all
things Elvis", including biographical info on many of the people mentioned on