Monday, April 12, 2010

Elvis Presley & The Blue Moon Boys

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a long-lost friend from more than 40 years ago! Dan Griffin was one of my percussion students at the Sardis (AL) High School Band Camps, held at Guntersville Lake, from 1969-1971. At that time, I was an undergraduate at Jacksonville State University playing in the drumline of the famed Marching Southerners. Dan and I connected due to our interest in rock music, and my band at that time, The Barkley-Almon Band, played for a couple of functions at his school.

After high school, Dan plunged headlong into the world of rock ‘n roll and has amassed a career most rockers would envy. From touring musician to manager, promoter, producer, and even filmmaker, Dan has done a little bit of everything in the music business including touring with the Rolling Stones and Elton John, and working with former Beatles George Harrison and Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant), and a host of other rock luminaries.

Dan is also the co-author a wonderful book entitled The Blue Moon Boys: The Story of Elvis Presley’s Band, the story of Scotty Moore (guitar), D. J. Fontana (drums), and Bill Black (bass – Bill Black Combo), Elvis’ original band and reputedly the world’s first rock ‘n roll band. They helped Presley forge his early rockabilly sound on Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Blue Moon Boys: The Story of Elvis Presley’s Band by Ken Burke and Dan Griffin (Chicago Review Press, 2006).

Dan’s bio from the jacket cover.

In 1965, my very first band, The Shandells, recorded our first single in Nashville, Tennessee, at the old Music City Recorders, a studio owned by Scott Moore and including D. J. Fontana. We were very green (I was 15), and while we certainly knew of Elvis Presley and The Beatles, etc., we did not know who Moore and Fontana were. In fact, D. J. wanted me to use his old, battered drum set (complete with a brown and white calfskin bass drum head) already set up in the recording booth; but, after viewing the remains and judging it a piece of crap, I opted for my new Ludwig set. Later, when we were in the control room listening to the playback, I noticed a picture of Elvis on the wall with Scotty on guitar and D.J. playing that very same drum set with the brown and white calfskin bass drum head! Also, during a break, Scotty, D.J., and others sat down and played some really nice jazz. And, D. J. made those beat-up old drums sing!

The Shandells in 1965, the year we met Scotty Moore and D. J. Fontana in Nashville. (Credit: Terry Barkley)

All of the images below are from The Blue Moon Boys. I have included the captions and credits. I hope you will enjoy looking at these images: