The Early Years

«The following is an attempt to piece together what is known of Jimmy Ellis’ recording career before signing with Sun and Boblo Records. Although the amount of material is not as mammoth as what was done at Sun, finding the dates and who produced the recordings and whether anything else was done at those sessions is nearly impossible. I have included some rumoured songs as well that I have been told do exist and people claim to have heard them (although I have not). So I am considering these still to be rumours. But they are being listed when some evidence suggest that they should be.

Much of this has been formatted by myself having several conversations with Gregg McKenzie who has been a huge help. His knowledge of the music is considerable. Cliff has also been a great help in giving me some song titles. Jimmy Ellis’ long time personal friend, Steve Kelley, has been both a good friend and an aid in teaching me so many things about Jiimmy and his music. This early attempt at a sessionography could not have been possible without each one of them.» Shawn Walker

Note: During my own research I have come across a lot of new info and I have edit it all in to Shawn’s text and also corrected what I found to be wrong. Kenneth Dokkeberg


Jimmy Ellis and The Apollo’s:

Dradco Master #001
Don’t Count Your Chickens

Dradco Master #002
A Love is But A Love

These are Jimmy’s very first recordings. It’s rumoured he tried some Beatles songs but it’s not believed that anything else was actually recorded, as the band and Jimmy did not have much money to waste on tape. They were a garage band for all intents and purposes, and they also recorded the single in a garage-studio and then Dradco put it out for limited release. Supposedly only a few hundred of these singles were ever pressed and valued at around $100.00 the last time a copy was made available. Jimmy Ellis as a result of this “session” was eventually offered a recording contract from Capricorn Records but his parents turned it down and he eventually went to college to work with horses for several years.

Echoes Of Love (Rumoured Recording)

Rumoured homerecording of Jimmy Ellis singing along to Echoes Of Love and comparing his vocal to Elvis with classmates (mentioned on Robert Dillard’s CD «Downtime»). It is not known if this recording exists or not. However it has been mentioned by several different sources close to Jimmy Ellis that they had heard the recording. It is likely that this was Jimmy playing the song done by Elvis Presley and recording his own vocal while singing along on his home tape recorder. The question is what happened to the recording and did he make any other home recordings prior to 1969? So far none have ever surfaced.


Home Recordings Master #01

1. Whistling
2. What Will Mary Say
3. Milky White Way
4. Pocketful Of Rainbows
5. Just A Closer Walk With Thee
6. I Believe
7. I’ve Lost You
8. White Christmas
9. Silent Night
10. She Didn’t Say Why (unreleased)
11. Autumn Leaves (unreleased)
12. What Every Woman Lives For (partial only – unreleased)

These first appeared on the «Downtime» bootleg CD. They were taped in late 1969 through 1970. The last four songs were recorded from at least August 1970 through possibly December, as Elvis did not record I’ve Lost you until August 1970 and Jimmy Ellis likely first heard this song through Presley.

Three other home recordings have been released and suspected to be from this session but may actually be from 1969 rather than during 1970.

Homerecordings Master #02

1. Just Call Me Lonesome
2. Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
3. The Fair Is Moving On.

I would guess these recordings were done in late 1969. The three home recordings here would be Presley songs and released on various albums between 1968 and 1969. The sound on all three lead me to believe they were recorded together and not at seperate recordings. All 3 of these appeared on the CD Bits and Pieces for the first time in 2001.These home recordings and any others that may in fact exist especially from this time period show a side to Jimmy Ellis rarely seen. This is Jimmy Ellis making music at home and singing the songs he loved to sing. Whereas in later years the songs he would sing would end up being mostly Elvis songs that friends and fans would request him to do these were songs he wanted to do. Even though the sound is not the best on these it is good enough to see that personal side to Jimmy and his music.
Were these all the home recordings done by Jimmy Ellis? Several sources indicate there may in fact be more out there, however this is all that has been released by any of these individuals at this time.

Homerecordings Master #03

1. Remember Me (unreleased)
2. Mary In The Morning (unreleased)
3. Separate Ways (unreleased)
4. Let Me Be There (partial only – unreleased)
5. You’re My Best Friend (unreleased)
6. My Way (partial only – unreleased)

Recorded at the kitchen table at the house of one of Jimmy’s managers at the time, Mike Ketterbaugh. Jimmy playing guitar and singing. Date unknown but according to Bobby Dillard it is most likely 1976.

Finley Duncan Sessions at Playground Recording Studio In Valparisio Florida
By this time Jimmy Ellis had come into contact with Finley Duncan and this association would continue until late 1973. In this particular session several songs were taped. I have listed the songs that are known to have been actually sung and the songs that were rumored for this session. I have used my own master numbers for all of these early sessions as none seem to exist.

Number Master Number Artist Song Title
14. #005 That’s All Right, Mama
15. #006 Blue Moon Of Kentucky
16. #007 Big Brother* (unreleased)
17. #008 Rockin’ Robin** (unreleased)
18. #009 Poor Little Fool*** (unreleased)
19. #010 She**** (unreleased)

Master Take #005
«That’s All Right, Mama» and #006 «Blue Moon Of Kentucky» were both sold to Sun in mid to late 1971, according to best sources, although it may have been as late as early 1972. Shelby Singleton was contacted by Duncan who did not know how to handle Jimmy’s «Elvis-voice». Shelby gave instructions that he wanted Jimmy to record the two songs as close to Elvis’ version. it was clearly he wanted to release them as newly found alternative takes of Elvis to get some attention. He succeeded.

Master #007 «Big Brother»
This is a Vince Everett track that Jimmy Ellis supposedly recorded first. However that would probably pre date this session. But it has been rumoured to have been recorded at this session by several different sources. So Jimmy Ellis may have been mistaken as to who recorded it first.

Master #008 «Rockin’ Robin»
Originally recorded by Bobby Day in the mid 1950’s this is definitely the type of song Jimmy Ellis would have enjoyed wrapping his vocal chords around and considering the fact he did That’s All Right and Blue Moon Of Kentucky that leads to some crediblity that this and the other songs may have also been recorded here.

Master #009 «Poor Little Fool»
Originally recorded by the late Rick Nelson it became a huge hit for him in 1958. No tape of this recording has surfaced to date but it has been mentioned in several song lists from 1969 – 1972, but most likely if it was indeed recorded here.

Master #010 «She»
This was recorded by The Monkees in the 60’s so it is possible that Jimmy Ellis heard it, liked it and recorded it here. Even after putting this song list down the sessions done at Playground Recording Studio is still a mystery to most fans. Further updates for this in the future as more details unfold. Stay Tuned.

One session that was supposedly done in 1971 for Finley Duncan, in Florida yet again, included several songs that to date have not been released in any shape or form. Most were covers.

Produced By Finley Duncan
Number Master Number Artist Song Title
21 #011 Galveston** (unreleased)
22. #012 Winter Wonderland (unreleased)***
25. #013 That’s All Right (rumoured)

The two songs Master #011 «Galvston» and #012 «Winter Wonderland» are also rumoured to exist by several different fans, unfortunatly to date no tapes of this session exist, or if they do have not been released to the general public. In regards to #013 «That’s All Right», two sessions are mentioned for it. One is 1969, the other is this one in 1971. The book True Disbelievers states that Billy Walker was the producer for «I Use Her To Remind Me Of You» at Jack Clement’s Studios. However Jimmy to anyone’s best knowledge did not record at Jack Clement Studios until at least 1973. Between ‘73 and ‘75 he did several sessions for them, but it appears the comments in True Disbelievers may be inaccurate in regards to «I Use Her To Remind Me Of You».

In early 1972 Sun Records released the single Sun 45/1129 «That’s All Right, Mama» and «Blue Moon Of Kentucky». The record got quite a bit of air time and became the number one song in several states, but never managed to make the jump to the national chart.
RCA sued Shelby Singleton and Sun over supposedly releasing two Elvis songs. For months this went on and stories differ as to whether or not Elvis himself actually learned about it. In fact Shelby Singleton, before he had issued the record, played it for Sam Phillips over the phone and asked him who he thought it was. Sam said Elvis. Eventually Shelby proved it was Jimmy Ellis and not Elvis and the law suit was later dropped. Apparently this furore over the record, although it was not a hit was enough to draw the interest of someone from MCA and The “McCloud” television series. Somehow Jimmy Ellis landed a deal to record two songs for MCA. «There Ya Go» was to be featured in the TV series as well.


In early 1973 the following songs were done.
MCA Recording Session, Nashville
Producer Joe Johnson, Arranger and Conductor Billy Walker

Number Master # Artist Song Title
26. #014 There Ya’ Go
27. #015 Here Comes That Feeling Again

Both of these songs would be issued on both an MCA 45 and Challenger (which was no doubt a subsidiary of MCA). No other songs are known to exist from this session. By all best reports these were the only two songs authorized to be recorded. MCA also does not have the master tape to this session. It has been lost. Probably a collector has it. The session log I saw makes it appear as though both songs were completed in only a few takes as well. The single was released in May, 1973.


Jack Clement Studio, Nashville, Tennessee
Number Master # Artist Song Title
28. I Use Her To Remind Me Of You
29. Changing


TTG Studios, 1441 North McCadden Place, Hollywood (Los Angeles), California:
20 #016 By The Time I Get To Phoenix (rumoured)
23. #017 Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast 
24. #018 Medley: I’ll Never Be Free/You Don’t Know Me/Born To Loose/I Can’t Stop Loving You/Trouble In Mind/Bye Bye Love (unreleased)
25. #019 Medley: Swing Low Sweet Chariot/Feel Like Going Home/Homeward Bound/Feel Like Going Home
26. #020 Medley: Feelings/Loving Arms/Everything Must Change/All In Love Is Fair/And I Love You So (unreleased)
26. #021 Medley: Last Date/Without Love 
27. #022 Wildflower*
28. #023 The Closer He Gets
29. #024 Movin’ On


Master #26 contains a duet with an unknown woman. All of the above mentioned songs have never been released except*. Master #016 was mentioned by Jimmy Ellis himself in an old fan club newsletter and that is the only evidence of it’s excistence. All the other masters are in the vaults of Sun Records so Jimmy did most likely bring them to Shelby later when he signed with them.
Jimmy recorded a version of #023 in California which did not have the talking part in the middle. The talking was edited in to the song by Bobby Smith when Jimmy signed with Boblo Records and then released. The complete song without talking has never been released.

Does anyone know where to purchase / find Jimmy’s amazing rendition of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” + rest of melody? Same version i’m assuming was used in Documentary. Thanks in advance!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *