On This Day: Elvis Presley’s ‘Promised Land’ Goes No. 1 in 1975

by Emily Morgan
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In 1975, 46-years-ago today, Elvis Presley’s “Promised Land” from his album of the same name claimed the No. 1 spot on the charts. In December 1973, Presley recorded his version of Chucky Berry’s famous hit, “Promised Land.” Presley released his rendition as a single on September 27, 1974. 

Six months later, it peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard charts and No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart. He also included it on his 1975 album, and his version was also on the 1997 film Men in Black. Presley and his record label, RCA Records, released his 21st album, Promised Land, on January 8, 1975. Presley laid down the record in December of 1973 at Stax Records studios in Memphis. 

In celebration of his 40th birthday, Presley released the 10-track album in January of 1975, two years after recording the songs. Promised Land pealed at No. 47 on the Billboard “Top 200” chart and claimed the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s “Top Country LPs” chart in the states. Additionally, the album also garnered the No. 1 spot on the “Country Cashbox” albums chart. It also became a crossover hit, reaching No. 21 in the UK. 

Elvis Presley Records His Version Of Chuck Berry’s ‘Promised Land’

Before Presley stunned fans with his version, another rock-n-roll icon, Chuck Berry, wrote “Promised Land” in 1964 for his album St. Louis to Liverpool. Berry released the original in December 1964 as his first single and peaked at No. 41 in the Billboard charts in January of 1965.

As the narrator tells it, the “the poor boy” sings of his travels from Norfolk, Virginia, to Los Angeles, California, which he refers to as “the promised land.” During the song, the narrator describes several cities in Southern states that he passes through.  

I left my home in Norfolk, Virginia… California on my mind
I straddled that Greyhound and rode him into Raleigh and on across Caroline
We had motor trouble that turned into a struggle halfway across Alabam’
Well, that ‘hound broke down and left us all stranded in downtown Birmingham

In addition to Elvis, James Taylor, The Grateful Dead, and Jerry Lee Lewis also put their spin on the song.

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