Navigation » Startseite » 2016 » 09

I’ve always liked Elvis‘ last studio recordings – those 16 songs that he recorded in February and October 1976 in the Jungle Room of his beloved home Graceland. Most of these songs that were first released on the albums From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee (1976) and Moody Blue (1977) are of a contemplative nature. They are highly emotional expressions of deep loss. In that sense quite a few of them belong to Elvis Presleys finest interpretations for me.

Elvis posing for a Memphis police badge photo at his home Graceland in February 1976

A serious looking Elvis posing for a Memphis police badge photo at his home Graceland in February 1976

Knowing that the Jungle Room recordings are Elvis‘ last studio recordings ever, many people are naturally drawn to listen to them simply as the final farewell of a sick and unhappy superstar who knows that his end is near. For a reason that I could never pinpoint myself I always found this retrospective viewpoint debatable, although it definitely reflects the mood of the songs. For me the Jungle Room recordings felt more like Elvis trying to refer to the beginnings of his career in the early 1950s at Sam Phillips‘ Sun Studio in Memphis. But as I said, I could never really explain why.

When RCA/Sony announced earlier this year that a new set with 2 discs called Way Down In The Jungle Room (Legacy Edition) is in the making with the support of a very successful young engineer called Matt Ross-Spang, I became curious. I found out that Matt had worked for years at the still existing Sun Studio in Memphis, before he changed location to the Sam Phillips Recording Service operated by the Phillips family.

Cover of Way Down In The Jungle Room - RCA/Sony Legacy 2016

Cover of Way Down In The Jungle Room – RCA/Sony Legacy 2016


Back cover of Way Down in The Jungle Room with the new mix of Matt Ross-Spang on CD 2 - RCA/Sony Legacy

Back cover of Way Down in The Jungle Room with the new mix of Matt Ross-Spang on disc 2 – RCA/Sony Legacy 2016

Matt Ross-Spang’s credits in the studio include names like Jerry Lee Lewis, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jakob Dylan, Justin Townes Earle, JD McPherson, and Chris Isaak. Just to name a few. Earlier this year Matt won a well deserved Grammy for engineering and mixing Jason Isabell’s Something More Than Free. Besides, he was responsible for engineering, mixing, and co-producing Margo Price’s debut record Midwestern Farmer’s Daughter.

Legendary Elvis – Sam Phillips – Sun Studio – Matt Ross Spang – Jungle Room sessions 1976? Was I right after all with my feelings about Elvis‘ last „studio“ recordings at Graceland? I decided to find out more about the new mix on Way Down In The Jungle Room (2016) and the engineer behind it by asking the man himself what all of this is really about. Matt Ross-Spang turned out to be a very nice guy.

Matt Ross-Spang entering Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis - Photo: Ross-Spang

Matt Ross-Spang entering Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis – Photo: Ross-Spang


The Memphis Flash: Matt, you’re from Memphis where it all started for Elvis in 1954 in Sam Phillips’ now world-famous Sun Studio. The studio and the Phillips family play a major role in your successful career as well. How come?

Matt Ross-Spang: Sure! I was born and raised in Memphis! I played guitar in bands and I got 2 hours of studio time at Sun Studio for my 14th birthday from my wonderful parents. When I recorded there I was mesmerized by the studio and the process of recording and mixing. The engineer there James Lott was a great patient man who made the whole process fun and answered all of my annoying questions! My cousin John was the President at Sun and offered me a job when I was 16 and could drive, so I started working there then as a tour guide and an intern in the studio.

Hound Dog-Parodist Sam Phillips in seinem berühmten Aufnahmestudio in der Union Avenue

Matt’s hero Sam Phillips at Sun Studio in Memphis

I soon worked my way up to Operations Manager and Chief Engineer. I spent 11 years at Sun and spent most of that time installing and using the same period equipment Sam Phillips used back in Sun’s heyday. While working at Sun I met and became friend with the Phillips‘. Sam and his two sons Knox and Jerry I consider to be heroes of mine (and many others). Obviously being from Memphis you are born an Elvis fan! But especially for me the history and the music that was recorded in Memphis really consumed me. Elvis is a big part of that!

The Memphis Flash: How did you get the assignment for a new mix of the outtakes and alternate versions on the new release Way Down in the Jungle Room?

Matt Ross-Spang: A friend of mine Sharon Corbitt-House recommended me to Sony’s Rob Santos and Ernst Jorgensen who are the Producers of the Elvis record. After a few phone calls we worked out scheduling and we decided to do it at Phillips. I am a freelance engineer but Phillips is a magical studio and Rob always wanted to do a project there so it was a perfect fit.


Navigation » Startseite » 2016 » 09

Nach Priscilla Presley, Anita Wood und Ginger Alden hat nun auch Linda Thompson (* 23. Mai 1950 in Memphis) die Geschichte ihrer viereinhalb Jahre dauerenden Liebesbeziehung zu Elvis Presley in einem Buch verarbeitet. A Little Thing Called Life: On Loving Elvis Presley, Bruce Jenner, and Songs in Between ist Ende August 2016  erschienen und hat – wie Ginger Aldens Veröffentlichung 2014 – sofort die Bestsellerliste der New York Times erklommen. Völlig zu Recht, denn A Little Thing Called Life ist wirklich lesenswert.

Linda Thompson in der Zeit, in der sie mit Elvis Presley liiert war (1972-1976)

Ebenso schön wie talentiert: Linda Thompson in der Zeit, in der sie mit Elvis Presley liiert war (1972-1976)

Das liegt vor allem daran, dass Linda neben ihrer frühen Karriere als Schönheitskönigin, mit der sie sich ihr Studium (Englisch, Theaterwissenschaften) an der Memphis State University verdiente, und späteren, meist eher kleineren Rollen als Schauspielerin in bekannten amerikanischen TV-Serien wie Hee Haw, Starsky & Hutch, Vega$, Beverly Hills 90210 und dem Film Bodyguard (1992) vor allem eins ist: eine talentierte Schriftstellerin mit einer besonderen Begabung für lyrische Texte.

Erfolgreich wurde Linda ab den 1985ern als Songtexterin u.a. für Kenny Rogers, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Josh Groban und Barbra Streisand. Gearbeitet hat Linda als Texterin meist im Duo mit einem Komponisten, hier vor allem ihrem 2. Ehemann, dem erfolgreichen kanadischen Musiker und Plattenproduzenten David Foster, mit dem sie bis 2005 verheiratet war. Foster zeichnet für die Debütalben von Michael Bublé und Josh Groban verantwortlich.

Für die Powerballade I Have Nothing, die Linda gemeinsam mit David Foster komponierte, und die Whitney Houston in dem Hollywood-Klassiker The Bodyguard singt, wurde sie 1993 zusammen mit Foster für einen Academy Award und 1994 für einen Grammy nominiert. 2003 erhielt Linda einen Emmy für Outstanding Music and Lyrics ihres Songs Aren’t They All Our Children in The Concert for World Children’s Day.

Wow. Warum hat die Dame eigentlich keine Songs für Elvis Presley geschrieben, der gute Songwriter nun wahrlich zu schätzen wusste? Ganz einfach: Sie wollte es nicht. Die Gedichte, die sie dem King – ihrer ersten großen Liebe – während ihrer Beziehung schrieb, waren zu privat, wie sie damals fand.

Seinen Vorschlag, einige besonders gelungene Texte von einem Komponisten vertonen zu lassen, lehnte sie ab. Ganz schön blöd, wie Linda heute selber findet, wäre es doch zu schön, zumindest einen ihrer Songstexte von ihm, bekannterweise ein Fan gefühlvoller Powerballaden, interpretiert zu wissen. Finanziell lukrativ wäre es außerdem gewesen.