MAY / JUNE 2000 - PART 1

Well, it's been two years since Ernst Jorgensen sat down with WORLDWIDE ELVIS for an interview. No doubt, everyone who's reading this knows who Ernst Jorgensen is but, just in case you don't - since the late 1980's, he has been the man responsible for producing all of the BMG releases on Elvis. He has heard everything that BMG has in their possession on Elvis and probably knows more about Elvis in the studio that anyone alive today. I first began corresponding with Ernst twenty some years ago when he had just released his first RECORDING SESSIONS booklet. Since then, many versions of this book have been printed but none can compare to his current book ELVIS PRESLEY - A LIFE IN MUSIC - THE COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS which was issued a few years ago and is the ultimate book on this subject. He also is the co author with Peter Guralnick of ELVIS-DAY BY DAY, a super book detailing most of what Elvis did throughout his life.
The interview below was taped via the phone on two days - May 29, 2000 and on June 1, 2000 from Ernst's home in Denmark.

It's impossible to list ALL of the people who e mailed me questions and it was imposible to ask Ernst ALL of the questions that were supplied (over 4,000!!!!! Yes, you read that correct! 4,000 questions were submitted) so of course I had to eliminate a lot of them. I had intended, like I did with the first lengthy interview Ernst did with WORLDWIDEELVIS.COM two years ago, to go over the interview and arrange the questions in order of years (50's, 60's, etc.) but decided that that would take more time and, as it is , it has taken weeks to get this up on my site.
If anyone wants to reprint the entire interview or onlya portion on their web site or in a magazine, book, etc. please feel free to do so. All I ask is that you give me (Paul Dowling and WORLDWIDE ELVIS) credit and mention my web site address! Thanks.
I must first and foremost thank the beautiful, lovely, sexy Kathi Faulkner for taking 14 hours of her time to transcribe these two interviews. I know this was a lot of work for her and I appreciate what she has done very, very much!! It took me weeks to do this two years ago so Kathi's help has been invaluable!! I'd still be working on the first ten minutes if I had to do this by myself!! Please excuse any spelling mistakes or whatever! These are my fault as, when I transferred the interview over to the website I had to make some corrections and I'm sure I missed things!! Enjoy!!

WWE: Hi Ernst. Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this. I guess we'll start off with the FTD (FOLLOW THAT DREAM collectors label) release. We know what the next one is, but any idea what the ones after that will be?
ERNST: There are a number of things we'd like to do. We're still trying to sort out the practical problem with the musician's union so we would be able to release soundboards. At one time we announced that Lake Tahoe might be the next one. I'm not sure it will, but if we can, the next one, the October first release will be a soundboard. But it's only if we can sort out the things. We hope to have it sorted out for this release so the new one LONG LONELY HIGHWAY which is number five, well it was actually intended to be number six, but because we couldn't sort out the logistics with the union we had to postpone it. So I don't think we have any a firm planning for all releases coming down the line. We are learning as we go along as well, and the one thing that we did learn is that people really like Elvis in the 70's. It gives us a problem inthat we have actually reached quite a lot of outtakes from the 70's both on A HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW and on RHYTHM AND COUNTRY and now on THE JUNGLE ROOM SESSIONS. Also various out takes over time on box sets so there's not a lot left. There's definitely one, two, maybe three CD's worth of 70's material in ways of outtakes. But on many of the songs in the 70's there were very few takes.

WWE: Because the backing was already done?
ERNST: No, basically, because I think they started recording when they basically knew they had it together. Where sometimes early on, there were certain songs from the 50's where you've got 19 takes of what they're trying out like "I've Got Stung," or his "Latest Flame" where it's really fun to see how the whole thing changes. But there will be more 70's material from the studio.

WWE: Of course if you can work out the live problems?
ERNST: We'll have soundboards as well. I'm sure we can work it out, it just takes a lot of time to figure out who the hell was playing on that June tour in 1975 and we have to sort that out with the union before we can release the stuff. There's a lot of things that we need to worry about that the bootleggers didn't worry about. It's not so much paying the copyrights and the royalties that's the problem; it's actually identifying the musicians who played--not the guitar player or the drummers. Elvis' own band we knew, but it's all these extras who played violins and trumpets and God knows what.

WWE: What if you put out a CD and missed a couple of them in the acknowledgements.
ERNST: I think it's not so much the acknowledgement, it's payment. These people need to get paid. If we can't clear the names of them then we can't get a clearance from the union to release the project. I know that we will sort it out eventually and I really hope it will be for the next release, but that doesn't mean that it's necessarily the Lake Tahoe show that's going to be the first soundboard. It's a question all the time, especially when you go out with a soundboard and the bootleggers have been so busy in the past what, three, four, five years to make sure that we take one where those who bought bootlegs will say, "Oh God, we have that already." I have a terrible time keeping track on how many soundboard bootlegs are out there.

WWE: Who cares?
ERNST: Well, a lot of people must have cared, because some of them sold really well.

WWE: Well actually they do care. I don't care, but they do care. I mean people call me up and they would be content if you would put out a live soundboard every week. They'd probably buy it too.
ERNST: Some of them would probably buy a lot more. At this time, we have an arrangement with RCA to release four CD's a year, and that doesn't mean that we can't do double CD's or variations. Only time will tell. This is Michael Omansky's call at the end of the day. Just now we are learning from those that we are putting out and as long as this year keeps selling solid and there's no losses that RCA need to worry about or anything the series will continue.

WWE: Do you think there will ever be vinyl on a collector's label? Somebody had mentioned that at one time.
ERNST: I don't know that. This is not the deal we have. We have a deal for CD's. If it comes out on vinyl it might be through another company, actually, like maybe you!

WWE: Right. Well, the most important question somebody asked to ask you is when you visit New York, what do you have for breakfast?
ERNST: I have white toast and Swiss cheese and coffee and orange juice.

WWE: And a Danish?

WWE: No, Okay, that's a very important question that somebody was asking.
ERNST: Remember, that a danish in Denmark is called epia\ena bread. Everybody passes the blame to the next guy.

WWE: Michael Omansky will be glad to know what you have for breakfast.
ERNST: Yes, because he is paying for it every time I'm in New York.

WWE: How does it feel to have all the lavish benefits of working as a producer with RCA records, overseas flights, swiss cheese for breakfast at the Millennium, and have a great room in a hotel in New York City, etc. Michael's a character, isn't he?
ERNST: He's a funny man, because he's not a music man and I don't think he would find that wrong of me to say. He's a business man, who ended up working for companies instead of himself.

WWE: So we got that out of the way.
ERNST: I appreciate his concerns.

WWE: He's quite a character.

WWE: Let's start off with the SUN stuff. Why was the outtake of "I DON'T CARE IF THE SUN DON'T SHINE" from an original master tape as released on the SUNRISE CD released as an alternate take, when the fact the master take with two false starts.
ERNST: It was included there in the concext of which it arrived and it shouldn't have been labeled an alternate take, but if indeed the original tape copy of the master as opposed to what is out on the record, which is an RCA dub. So it should have been an original master tape copy as opposed to an alternate. It got lost in the last minute checking of the liner note and some people have actually noticed it has a different sound to the record. Even to the point where I'm thinking of repairing this one and using this one as the master in the future. It's a better generation, simply, than the RCA master.

WWE: Of course, one of the questions everybody asks, I'm sure they've asked you for years, have any other original Sun tapes, or copies been located?
ERNST: The problem with that is there is a general policy that Mike (Omansky) instigated actually with my support in that we don't give out information on that. Some people, quite rightly, are a bit annoyed with this, but it turned out that being open about what tapes were missing created so much trouble for us in that a lot of people started calling and knowing which tapes we didn't have and say, "I know who's got this." And we would spend hours and hours on the phone, lots of time and energy waiting for something that never happened. We never got one tape that way, and that's a problem for us. I will not mention any names of people, but a lot of people got over excited and say, "I know who's got the ELVIS IS BACK outtakes," and "I know who's got the SUN outtakes ." If it doesn't materialize after we've tried so many times, it's better for us to have a non-comment policy. We are, as you know and Mike probably told you as well, we're constantly acquiring tapes that never were RCA tapes in the first place. But also we keep tracking down people who have some of the missing tapes. We eventually find them, most of them.

WWE: Like the ELVIS IS BACK sessions, a lot of people ask if any of those tapes have surfaced yet.
ERNST: Anybody whose thought such a thing will know know that there's a few tapes there that some of the professors out on the website claims we didn't have. Anybody who makes an analysis will, of course, be able to conclude that we actually got a hold of the original stereo master or three track master or "COME WHAT MAY" so there's no reason to hide that. But going into detail on what tapes are still missing and what we have acquired in the last two or three years, we may have acquired as much as 60 or 70 tapes over a three-year period.

WWE: Have Steve Sholes' original extended notes on the 15 SUN tapes been recovered by now?
ERNST: Yeah, they've been recovered for a long time.

WWE: It says, "A sheet with brief notes was once remembered lost, but suddenly appeared in the book LIFE AND MUSIC. One would like to guess that all notes were stored in the same place."
ERNST: Yes. Right, but they're not detailed. The main mystery in all of those notes is that there is a tape called "That's All Right," plus two other selections. The big question is, were those two other selections Elvis or not, and if they were Elvis, what were they? That is one of the tapes that, according to the paper work, Bruce Hailstalk, the vault keeper at our old vault over at the Ave of the Americas he had. That is one of the tapes that, according to his notes, is destroyed.

WWE: There's always been a lot of echo on just one of the channels of "Harbor Lights," was this echo applied by RCA in '76?
ERNST: Nope. Original.

WWE: Original Echo. That brings up something I want to ask you. The song "First in Line." I'm sure it was definitely an RCA recording, right? But it's got that echo in there. It sounds weird.
ERNST: It does sound weird, but it's definitely from that session. There is no doubt about that. The notes, unfortunately, never gives you any information on technical things, but we have all notes on all recordings from the sessions. A lot of paper work has actually surmised separate from the tapes. And that is when you ask about whether Sholes' notes have been recovered. Yes, they have and they include more stuff than just the SUN stuff, but I in no way comprehend it either. It's just bits and pieces.

WWE: Okay, there's a longer running version of "MYSTERY TRAIN" that was released on a European budget CD in '87. This version runs longer than any known SUN or RCA release. It even seems to include the very last note played before the fade-out is over. Is there any information available on this complete "Mystery Train"?
ERNST: I don't know that tape, or that recording.

WWE: I'm sure people keep asking you about "HOUND DOG". How come BMG keeps using the worst sounding "HOUND DOG" tape available?
ERNST: Because I have never heard anything that's better than that and I still haven't heard anything that's better than that.

WWE: They bring up the one that's on the Rhino CD.
ERNST: Yeah, but I don't have that Rhino CD. Rhino could never have the better copy that we have. At least, in theory, that's what we believe. How could they?

WWE: I guess it's like what DCC does. You know, their releases, they change the sound.
ERNST: You can go in there and you can take the top frequences out and boost the middle and you can add reverb, or somehow track the reverb. You can change the sound on that if you like that better than the sound that Elvis wanted, that's fine by me, but remember that the RCA tape of "HOUND DOG" is not a third generation copy, it's an original. It's not a second-generation tape. And the reason we know that, is we figured out how they did it. They actually cut the masters out of the master reel and created the ELVIS' GOLDEN RECORDS VOL. 1. I've been as curious as so many others as to hear this RHINO record set but it's not available where I live and basically when people tell me stuff like that, there are people who like to give us some stick, so people say what do I know if it sounds so horrible and that this is not a horrible source, but it's a first generation. You don't spend a lot of time changing it, but I of course, if I found the CD I'd buy it and go home and check it.

WWE: Yeah, I'll have to get somebody to send it to you.
ERNST: Do you have it?

WWE: No. I've never heard of it. I've never heard it at all, but I've been hearing it for years. People tell me that. Is it true the latest BMG ELVIS' CHRISTMAS ALBUM from Japan was mastered from a recently found master tape? Wasn't that tape was found in 1990 as the sound quality is much better on his new release than it was on the '94 Christmas CD or the 50's Box.
ERNST: It's not much better. It's the same.

WWE: Yeah. Some quick questions. Are you going to release out takes from the Felton Jarvis Sessions in 1980 in the future on perhaps the FOLLOW THAT DREAM label?
ERNST: Yeah, possibly, yeah. It's not been decided yet, but there's no reason why we shouldn't. There's quite a handful of songs that were never released on the original album.

WWE: Here's one." Mr. Jorgensen wrote in his book LIFE AND MUSIC that take two of "WAY DOWN" is the master, but why does he and also RCA always say that the alternate version of this song released on PLATINUM and the JUNGLE ROOM SESSIONS is also take two?
ERNST: Because Felton Jarvis slatedtwo takes as take two. One, two, two, two. I know it's insane and we should at least give people an explanation so here it is. The explanation is that Felton couldn't count to three. Of course Felton could count to three, but he got confused, I'm sure.

WWE: Are there any plans for future HAYRIDE material. Of course, there are the rumored songs such as "Sixteen Tons" "Rock Around The Clock," "Little Mama."
ERNST: Yeah, they all come from my book and from Joe Tunzi's book so again all this material comes from this little lady in Big Spring, Texas who actually wrote down what Elvis sang on the show and that information has become available from Joe and me and from a few other people I'm sure. The Hayride material will be depending on how much we find and how good it is. We had fairly luke-warm reactions to the rough sounding Hayride material we put on SUNRISE. But again you could argue if it's not from the RCA main label, it could be for the collector's label, but it won't be until we have a smashing package. We're not going to just release it all again with inferior sounding cuts. What we find today is copies from acetates. What we need to find are copies from tapes.

WWE: RCA is suppose you put up a Hayride type CD in a year or two, right?
ERNST: Well there was a Hayride...if you go back to the preliminary release plan last summer? But that is not on the release plan anymore, but we can go back, if you want to I can give you an update on the release plan as it looks. THAT'S THE WAY IT IS three disc set out in July and August we have WHITE CHRISTMAS which is not really for the collectors, it's just a regular Christmas album from the main market. And also a cut down version, or at least, not from the music point, but the 50's box set at a lower price without the booklet and stuff. September is either two CD COUNTRY set which is not aimed at collector's either or a three CD GOSPEL set, which may have a few things on it that people don't have already. And then there's a planned gap of releases all the way until late summer, where there will be a Las Vegas box set.

WWE: So that's definitely coming out?
ERNST: That is coming out. I'm working on that now. There's also going to be a box set in the summer of 2002, for the 25th anniversary, and everything else is under discussion, which doesn't mean it won't happen or will happen. For instance, if I remember that paper where there was an ESSENTIAL 7 in January and there isn't anymore. I mean, it's definite, but there won't be an ESSENTIAL ELVIS in Janurary.

WWE: Michael's telling me that as far as the ESSENTIAL series that it might be no longer.
ERNST: Yeah, I think that's one of the decisions we made. Also, there doesn't seem to be enough interest in going further in the upgrades. We've done all the so-called great albums, and of course, you know the completests they're going to want to have the remaining albums as upgrades as well. But this is a commercial decision and I don't think there's room for an upgrade for "Fool", "Raised on Rock," "Love Letters," and "Today." So I think that series stops as well. You know it's always trying to adopt through the market place and we have the collectors label to at least take some of this pressure off from the fans. You can say that the LONG LONELY HIGHWAY CD that's coming out now could easily have been worked. ESSENTIAL ELVIS was supposed to be released and now half of the tracks were on my list of what was going to go on that CD. So for the collectors there is no loss. We just want to be very insistent on what it is we put through retail. We can't be coming running up every month with a stack of Elvis CD's and also get them to do something extra when we have a big one like THAT'S THE WAY IT IS or the Las Vegas box.

WWE: What about STANDING ROOM ONLY Will that ever come out?
ERNST: Under that title?

WWE: Yeah.
ERNST: I don't know. Nobody knows exactly what the album, what would have been. Joan (Deary) always told me it was meant to be a live album, not a combination of the March sessions, but when they started out recording it in Las Vegas, they actually planned to finish it as early as Knoxville on the tour. The equipment broke down in Knoxville, and then as this idea kept rolling along, suddenly came the idea of doing ELVIS ON TOUR instead, and the suddenly the idea came of Madison Square Garden, and then the ALOHA show. At no time were they ready to figure out what the hell would have been on STANDING ROOM ONLY. They only had the title and mark up art-work catalogue number, if I remember,LSP 4762, right? That doesn't mean we couldn't go in and inprincipal fabricate it. What would it have been, or what could it have been. But at this time, the 30th anniversary of ON TOUR is in 2002 so that may clash with whatever it is we're putting out that summer. Also since we are doing a THAT'S THE WAY IT IS- both Turner Entertainment and us -we will probably be waiting to see if Turner wants to do something about restoring THAT'S THE WAY IT IS. Then we may tie it in with something there. On another level, the material recorded for ELVIS ON TOUR will be made available at this stage, if not all of it. We're definitely going to take one of the concerts and mix it at some stage or some of the rehearsals, so it's not lost; we're just not ready for that yet.

WWE: Will ON TOUR being reissued on video with additional footage.
ERNST: There have been no decisions made in relation to ON TOUR at this time, because it's a commercial business and we need to know how well THAT'S THE WAY IT IS will do. Not until that time will decisions be made on what to do with ELVIS ON TOUR.

WWE: That's a good point. Was Madison Square Garden ever filmed professionally, any of the shows?
ERNST: No, but there are some pretty neat amateur photo stuff that I've seen that I've enjoyed, but I've never seen anything professional. I tried, at one time, to find a clip on CBS, but I never managed to, or they filmed one or two songs, but I could never find anybody who could confirm that at CBS.

WWE: Were all four shows recorded by RCA, or just two?
ERNST: No, only the two.

WWE: We might as well talk about THAT'S THE WAY IT IS because that's what a lot people ask about. What's the plan? I know it's coming out in July, but are they doing a T.V. documentary first and the DVD later, or the video, or how is that working?
ERNST: The current plan from Turner is that in January of next year they will have a 90 minute version, or 96 minute version, or whatever, on TV and at this time it is going to be premiered on their CLASSIC MOVIES channel in January. Around the same time there will be a DVD and a video, which will feature more material than the TV special. There will be, of course, this premiere showing in August at the Elvis week where everybody will get to see the film version or the TV version, whatever you call it. At this time there's been no decision whether to do a theatrical release or not. That is one possibility. Also, it is the possibility that some of the dating of the Turner element's may change.

WWE: The what? What was that now?
ERNST: It could get on network before that or it could get to theatres before that, but the current planning is for January.

WWE: Will it omit the interviews with the fans?

WWE: That's good.
ERNST: It will omit everything that today you will find tacky or dated. One thing is doing a film in 1970 - one thing I wanted to get out of that movie was the way that I feel that it misrepresents the people who likes Elvis music. Also, I do not need to see people prepare food, or get married. I joked to Todd Slaughter that finally I get him out of it. So there's no Luxembourg convention or anything like that.

WWE: That's good. Did MGM film the entire shows?
ERNST: The situation is that in the camera that you filmed with in the 1970's a roll of film would last eleven minutes, so after eleven minutes you had to take the reel out and put a new reel in. They had five cameras going at the same time and to cover the whole thing they would have had two times five cameras going. These are big monsters, as Elvis keeps telling everybody on the show, so there's no way they could have done that. So they have bits and pieces of all shows, but no show is complete. This was before the time of video. We can't even say that they did a bad job. That was in the nature of what they were doing.

WWE: Did both RCA and MGM have tape recorders running during a lot of the sessions, or was it just MGM?
ERNST: No. You can't say it was MGM or RCA. They were on all of the shows; there were two tape recorders going at the same time. What we did, like we always did with MGM, we split the tapes after the whole thing was over so they got one set and we got the other. It was all recorded by Felton Jarvis.

WWE: On the "THAT'S THE WAY IT IS" box set, are they going to put their regular CD "THAT'S THE WAY IT IS" version on there also.
ERNST: Yeah. One of the CDs, the regular album as it was mixed back then, just in a better quality with seven bonus songs on.

NOTE: Please go to PART 2 for more of the interview!