In January of 1969, coming on the heels of his successful Holiday “Comeback” NBC-TV special, Elvis Presley left the familiar RCA studios in Nashville to record his next album at a new studio in Memphis called American Sound. The main reason for going to Chip Moman's American Sound was the house band; “the Memphis Boys” and their "country soul" style – along with the hits they produced.
The resulting album, From Elvis in Memphis was released in June 1969 to favorable reviews. It peaked at number 13 on the Billboard 200, number two on the country charts and number one in the United Kingdom, and its single "In the Ghetto" reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100. The singles “Clean Up Your Own Backyard,” “Kentucky Rain,” and “Suspicious Minds” were also recorded at American Sound during this time.
Along with Dusty Springfield's Dusty in Memphis, From Elvis in Memphis became one of American Sound Studio's best-known productions. Both albums reflected similar times and musical trends on the Memphis scene. Today From Elvis in Memphis stands beside the legendary Sun recordings from the beginning of his career as his best. This album also forever left Elvis’ moribund soundtrack years behind him.
You may not have heard of the record, or perhaps you saw the album’s dated and hideous artwork and passed it over, thinking it was another tired soundtrack collection.
Here is the Original 1969 cover:
|Elvis in Memphis (front)|
|Elvis in Memphis (back)|
With an unimaginative still from the ’68 TV special on the front, and an even older publicity photo on the back – along with a typically tasteless product placement for Elvis’ last record - the King was done yet another disservice by his manager and RCA. If you've heard the record, you know that the artwork doesn't come close to reflecting the true nature of the collection.
The jacket’s even then passé design always irritated me. Whenever I see it I think, “What if they had given the album cover the same consideration that Elvis gave the music inside?”
|Elvis Presley American Sound by Dan Cunneen (front)|
|Elvis Presley American Sound by Dan Cunneen (back)|
My goal in re-imagining the cover was not to create a CD cover or reissue style, but a period correct piece.
In a nod to other albums that are named after the studios where they were recorded, I changed the name to American Sound. I wanted to find some imagery from Memphis and I was lucky to find a low-resolution shot of the actual studio. I figured a promotional sticker would most likely be added, so I made one up with a blatant sales pitch that points to the new musical direction inside.
For the back I chose period correct photos, some from the actual recording sessions. In an explicit break with the past, I included pictures of the house band and producer Chips Moman - as well as musician and songwriting credits.
Now I can rest easily.