Posted on 06.18.2024

Charlie’s Uncashed Checks from Elvis: The Untold Story - Soapbox Jr.

Not to be misleading by the title, but Dad and Elvis Presley never met each other, but in 1964, Elvis recorded a song that Dad had co-written with his friend and mentor Bob Johnston.

A little backstory on the song first, if you know anything about Dad’s early history, Bob was instrumental in helping Dad early in his career, from writing and producing his first recorded single, the instrumental, “Jaguar,” with Bob back in 1959.

Bob was living in Texas where he was from, and Dad was touring in Texas with his band, The Rockets. After recording “Jaguar” the band was banking on the song’s success and changed the name to The Jaguars.

Soon after, Bob moved to Nashville and began writing songs. In 1962, Dad was driving from El Paso to the East Coast and had an idea for a song. Bob invited him to Nashville to do some co-writing. Dad and Bob wrote the song, “It Hurts Me,” pretty quickly and Bob did a demo so it could be pitched to artists.

In doing research for this piece, here’s what I found, Bob was writing for Hill and Range at the time which I’m assuming administered Elvis Presley Music’s catalog. The article I’m referencing said they were the parent company, but I doubt Col. Parker would have sold all or part of the company to Hill and Range, but I would imagine they worked out an administration agreement, but that’s just my take.

Due to the connection, Elvis picked up the song and put it “on hold” which is a gentleman’s agreement of sorts in the music business. Putting a song “on hold” means the record label or artist, manager, etc., doesn’t want that song played for anyone else until they decide if they want to cut it or not.

In Elvis’ case, he had a whole portfolio of songs on hold and would consult the portfolio before he went into the studio to record new material.

After almost a year in his portfolio, Elvis recorded “It Hurts Me” on January 12, 1964, in a batch of songs that were intended to be released as a new album that year, however, that didn’t happen. It ended up being the B-side to “Kissin’ Cousins” from the movie of the same name and became a minor chart hit on its own.

There are several things regarding Elvis’ recording of “It Hurts Me” which are a bit puzzling to me. The first one is that an artist named Jerry Jackson recorded the song back in 1963, so I’m guessing that he may not have had a record label behind him – at least not one with the muscle of RCA Records - so that when Elvis put the song on hold, it prevented Jerry from releasing the song on his own. It would finally be released many decades later.

The second thing isn’t quite as puzzling, but the entire circumstances are a bit fuzzy. If you look at the songwriters for “It Hurts Me,” they are listed as Charles E Daniels and Joy Byers. Joy was Bob’s wife, and Byers was her maiden name. The way I understood it is that Elvis Presley Music wanted the publishing from each songwriter, however, Bob’s was tied up in another publishing deal, possibly the Hill and Range deal which is why Joy’s name appears on the songwriting credits instead of Bob’s.

Third, why was the album never released? This one, I can’t answer, except to say that the recordings got shuffled by RCA and Col. Tom Parker into B-sides and singles and the full album was never released, until 2006 when Elvis Presley “The LOST Album” was released.

The next question is one that I’m just now starting to understand.

Why do we have two framed $5 checks from Elvis Presley Music with sequential check numbers in our possession?

My curiosity was piqued again because I’m writing this from White Lake, North Carolina at The Grand Regal Resort which is home to The Charlie Daniels Gallery, a small collection of Charlie Daniels memorabilia and artifacts, and I remembered that one of the checks was on display. To my surprise, the check number was different from the one at Mom and Dad’s house.

Previously, I believed that one was a color copy for the Charlie Daniels Museum and the other was the original, and it was the first royalty check from Elvis Presley Music.

But I was mistaken.

Roger Campbell, Dad’s roadie of over 44 years, was the one who explained it to me when we were going through items for the gallery as Dad had explained it to him.

Col. Tom Parker was a shrewd businessman representing the biggest star in the world, and he devised a way to accumulate money in ways that no one before or since had the cajones to try.

So, Col. Parker convinced songwriters that if they wanted their songs in Elvis’ portfolio, they had to pay Elvis Presley Music $5 per song. If or when the song got cut, the $5 would be returned to the songwriters, and the same goes for if they eventually passed on the song – decided not to cut it – then the money would also be returned in the form of a $5 check from Elvis Presley Music complete with a photo of Elvis on the check.

This was both brilliant and diabolical by Col. Parker. Songwriters already get a pretty small piece of the pie, not only did he get them to pay to have their songs considered, but when the checks were written, the Col. must have known that many of them would rather have a check from Elvis than $5, even though $5 was worth a lot more back in 1964 than today.

No telling how much money sat in their accounts because songwriters never cashed their refund checks, because Dad said that he figured Col. Parker made a million $5 at a time with this system, and the checks were void after six months, so even if you did want to admire the check for a while, if you waited too long, then you couldn’t cash it anyway.

But since Dad had two checks, but only one Elvis cut, the best we can figure is that there must have been another song in the portfolio that they eventually passed on, therefore, two checks with sequential numbers.

The Elvis cut was a huge deal for Dad, and one of those things that kept him going, along with the Dylan sessions a few years later.

Sadly, he never got to meet Elvis, but he did get to meet his daughter Lisa Marie at Daytona in 2005. He told her “You know your dad picked one of my songs. I was a big fan.”

What do you think?

Let’s all make the day count!

Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.

God Bless America!

#SonyReleaseHonkyTonkAve

#BenghaziAintGoingAway #End22

 

- Charlie Daniels Jr.

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