The Backing 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) Jose Vadiz Miguel Alcaide Felix Melendes Pedro Berrios German Vega
The Amigos backed Elvis on “We'll Be Together” from Girls! Girls! Girls!, in March of 1962, and then 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)” Jean King Fanita James
This girl-group backed Elvis for his NBC-TV special “Elvis” (the “comeback” special), recorded in June of 1968. One of the girls does the duet with Elvis on “Let Yourself Go”, in the video version of the song. The Blossoms appeared briefly in Elvis' last feature film, Change of Habit (1970), as Elvis' neighbours. The Carole Lombard Quartet / Trio (1963 - 1964) As a quartet, they backed Elvis on his recording of “What'd I Say”, from Viva Las Vegas, in July 1963, and as a trio, sang on the Girl Happy soundtrack session a year later in July 1964. The Imperials (1966 - 1971) Jake Hess Jim Murray Gary McSpadden Armand Morales Sherrill Nielsen - also see individual entry.
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. The Jordanaires (1956 - 1970) Gordon Stoker (first tenor) - also see individual entry Neal Matthews (second tenor) Hoyt Hawkins (baritone) Hugh Jarrett (bass) (up to June 1958) Ray Walker (bass) (from June 1958 on)
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 Favorites. The Jubilee Four (1963 - 1965) This quartet, along with the Carole Lombard Trio, backed Elvis on “What'd I Say” from Viva Las Vegas in July of 1963, as well as the soundtrack recording session for the film, Girl Happy, which took place in June and July of 1964. The Ken Darby Trio (1956) Chuck Prescott John Dodson Rad Robinson
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. The Mello Men (1962 - 1965) Thurl Ravenscroft - bass 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. Much more info on the Mello Men is available at the Thurl Ravenscroft site (which now has a separate Mello Men page), as well as some interesting sound clips. There is a photo of the group on the Thurl Ravenscroft in Music page. The Nashville Edition (1970 - 1971) Dolores Edgin June Page Hurshel Wiginton Joe Babcock
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. J.D. Sumner & The Stamps Quartet (1971 - 1977) 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.
— various members included:
Ed Enoch (lead) (J.D.'s son-in-law) Ed Hill (baritone) Larry Strickland Donnie Sumner (J.D.'s nephew) Bill Baize Buck Buckles Richard Sterban Dave Roland (baritone) (Dave later was part of the country group “Dave and Sugar”)
Elvis met J.D. Sumner when he was a teenager, and J.D. was singing with the Sunshine Boys in Memphis. He 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”.
Lyrics to Sweet, Sweet Spirit.
There's a sweet sweet spirit in this place And I know that it's the spirit of the Lord
There are sweet expressions on each face And I know that it's the presence of the Lord
Sweet Holy Spirit Sweet heavenly dove Stay right here with us Filling us with your love And for these blessings We lift our hearts in praise (hearts in praise) Without a doubt we'll know that we have been revived When we shall leave this place The Surfers (1961) Patrick Sylva Bernard Ching Clayton Naluai Alan Naluai
This vocal group sang backup on the soundtrack recordings for Blue Hawaii, March 21 - 23, 1961. The Sweet Inspirations (1969 - 1977) Emily (Cissy) Houston (from 1975, after taking the place of Anne Williams) Myrna Smith Estelle Brown Sylvia Shemwell Anne Williams (from 1970 to 1975)
These ladies got their start backing up Aretha Franklin, and in 1968, had a hit of their own with “Sweet Inspiration”, which is how they got their name. 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.
Paula from the Touched By Elvis Fan Club, pointed out that Miss Anne Williams was a member of the Sweet Insirations from 1970-1975. Sissy Houston took her place from 1975. Paula has a page about Anne Williams on her web site. So take a look. (More info on the Sweet Inspirations at Ichiban Records). Voice (1973 - 1975) Donnie Sumner Per-Erik (Pete) Hallin Tim Baty Sherrill Nielsen - also see individual entry Individual Backup Singers
J. Allen (1961)
Part of a female backing group, along with D. McCarty, L. Norman, and V. 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 (and I don't have any first names, either!)
Joe Babcock (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 Fricke.
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.
Glen Campbell (1963)
Although he certainly played guitar on the sessions for Viva Las Vegas (July '63), some sources say he also sang backup.
Dolores Edgin (1966 - 1976)
Sang backup with Elvis beginning on the How Great Thou Art sessions of May 1966, 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 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.
Mary Greene (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. At this point she was replaced by Kathy Westmoreland. However, in March of 1975, she recorded with Elvis one last time for his Today album.
D. McCarty (1961)
See “J. Allen” above.
Ronnie Milsap (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.
L. Norman (1961)
See “J. Allen” above.
Sherrill 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, 1976).
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 sessions.
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.
V. Rees (1961)
See “J. Allen” above.
Temple Riser (1970 - 1977)
Sang on the marathon June 1970 sessions, as well as the March and May 1971 sessions. He 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 October / November sessions.
Ben Speer (1956)
For Elvis' first sessions with RCA, Chet Atkins wanted the Speer Family 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.
Kathy Westmoreland (1972 - 1977)
Soprano who took over for Millie Kirkham in 1972 on Elvis' live concerts, Kathy also sang 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 little girl with high-voice”.
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 1976.
Kitty White (1958)
Provided the female voice on the song “Crawfish” from King Creole.