Elvis Presley had many hit songs throughout his career. After all, who could forget “In the Ghetto” for instance? But the King of Rock ‘n Roll never actually wrote any of his own music.
It turns out Presley’s contributions to some of his tunes may have been greatly exaggerated. At the very least, he admitted as much during a 1957 interview. Perhaps, the King was being a jester. But Presley said he never wrote a song he performed. He just received credit as part of recording the tunes.
“It’s all a big hoax, honey. I never wrote a song in my life. I get one-third of the credit for recording it,” Presley told Dig Magazine in 1957. “It makes me look smarter than I am. I’ve never even had an idea for a song. Just once, maybe. I went to bed one night, had quite a dream, and woke up all shook up. I phoned a pal and told him about it. By morning, he had a new song, ‘All Shook Up.'”
Presley also reportedly couldn’t read or write music, at least not in the traditional sense. He had an ear for what would make a great song. He employed his natural talents for sound rather than learning notes on the page.
Elvis Presley Had an Ear For Music
Presley employed a group of songwriters and music cultivators to find potential hits. Freddy Bienstock worked with the King during the 1950s. It was his job to compose a list of tunes for the Presley to select through. Bienstock said the singer had a knack for finding tunes that would later become hits.
“He knew exactly what he wanted to do,” Bienstock told American Songwriter. “You couldn’t talk Elvis into doing a song; he had to feel it. He knew what would work for him. If Elvis didn’t like a song, he’d only play about eight bars and then he would take it off. Then there were times he’d want to hear it again and again. Elvis would often adapt the arrangements inherent in the demos. On songs that he was particularly fond of, he would make a real effort…sometimes he’d do 40 takes.”
Often, these sessions ranged between 50 to 200 songs. Presley then went through all of the tunes until he had a solid 20 to 30 songs. He would then narrow that selection even further down to around 10 songs. Presley often could feel if a song was going to be a hit or not. He had a special talent for finding the tunes that made his career shot to even greater heights.