HAIL TO THE KING

I spent most of the day last Tuesday with Bret Alexander at Saturation Acres recording studio cutting a tune for the "Concert For A Cause VI" CD, which will be released next month. It's the fifth year I'll be kicking in a track for the album, and it's always a lot of fun. The first year, for CFC II, I offered one of my own tunes, "Summer Days," and for the past few records, I've simply recorded one of my all-time favorite songs. For CFC III, I did The Beatles "Blackbird," for CFC IV, I did Bruce Springtseen's "Happy" and last year I did John Lennon's "Watching The Wheels," which I've always loved and which seemed very fitting for what was happening in my life at the time

(Approaching fatherhood, a greater sense of domesticity, etc. ...)

I like recording songs that I love and can relate to, and working with a good friend like Bret (The Badlees, The Cellarbirds) makes it even more fun. I've said it many times: he is the most talented guy I have ever known.

For this year's CFC VI album, we knocked out a rockabilly flavored, boogie-woogie-style cover of Elvis Presley's "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame." It was a Top-5 hit for The King in the summer of '61, long before I was even born, but I've always loved it, just as I've always loved Elvis. The musicians on my version --drummer Ron Simasek, bassist Paul Smith and Bret - all said they'd never heard the song before, but they too agreed it's one hell of a little pop song. Ronnie said that after just one listen to Presley's version, it "instantaneously became my all-time favorite Elvis song."

Me too.

At first I though we'd beef it up into an almost modern-rock version song, but after Bret laid a few acoustic tracks down, it became a lot more organic and true to its retro roots. Some bouncy piano, a bit of tambourine and some baritone guitar (on loan from Aaron Fink from Breaking Benjamin) left us with a tune that still rocks a bit, yet it might also make you dance.

It's not my best vocal performance. I think I did much better with "Summer Days" and "Blackbird," but I also know that unless you're local Elvis-man Shawn Klush, nobody really even has any business singing Presley, who along with Roger Daltrey, I regard as the greatest rock singers ever. This one was done in sheer homage and out of respect to The King. Though we didn't plan it that way, the day of my session with Bret fell on Jan. 8, which was Elvis' birthday. We figured that might get us some good karma. And for me, personally, it had even more meaning. For 15 years, I have covered rock and pop music in NEPA. It has been a huge part of my life. And the main reason I first fell in love with music was because of my grandfather, who when I was just five, six, seven years old, would sit with me for hours in his parlor, listening to music. Usually, Elvis.

"(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame" was one of the songs we always played.

I loved it then. I love it now.

This one's for CFC VI, and in memory of my grandpa.

I hope that somewhere up there, he and Elvis are tappin' their feet to the beat.