Amazing New Find!
Following previous year’s discovery of the missing Blue Note LP 1553 Elvis Sings Thelonious Monk (pictured right), another early career move of the fledgling ex-army GI Elvis Presley has come to light in an extraordinary find, in a Southside yard sale of the effects of recently departed sound engineer, Henrik Van Krankenhaus.
The Van Krankenhaus Connection
Van Krankenhaus was active in the jazz and avant guarde recording scene of New York and Chicago in the mid ’50s. His master signature stamp HVK is found on many recordings of the period, and he was a logical choice as engineer for a most challenging recording assignment from Saturn Records Inc.
The tape, found among several boxes of unreleased Van Krankenhaus sessions, is believed to be of the young Elvis as lead vocalist in an ambitious new Sun Ra line up from 1956 – musicologists are seeking to confirm the identity of the singer, identified on the paper sleeve only as ” EP”, a slender lead, but believed to be a coded reference to singer Elvis Presley, otherwise, industry-standard abbreviation for “Extended Play”
Sun Ra was looking to establish a new genre at this crucial time when extraterrestrial Jazz-Soul-Bop met head-on with Crooner Pop – a fusion which he termed Space Doo-Wop-a-Lula. The recording session was give a working title Elvis Digs Saturn (and Other Planets), on JCB Records – and was planned for final release as “Elvis Meets The Arkestra”, however this final title floundered on inability to agree contractual arrangements and royalty shares.
Sun Ra had even gone as far as to sound out the potential for endorsement for the recording by US Space Administration, NASA. In passing, NASA had been surprised to learn that Saturn was an already inhabited planet, swiftly cancelling their planned Saturn-probe, fearing future complaints of invasion of privacy.
The full Elvis Meets The Arkestra sessions tapes have largely deteriorated but an acetate found in the same filing cabinet looks like it may contain a test pressing prepared from the session and several grainy press photographs were also found, taken preparation for promotional use
Van Krankenhaus: “Special Microphone Techniques”
According to Van Krankenhaus’s recording notes, the “EP” session was recorded live to Ampex two track before a specially invited audience – half teenage girls recruited through Heart-throb Magazine, and half heavily-tranquilized beats, bused in from Greenwich Village. Whilst recording the music was pretty straight-forward, recalls Van Krankenhaus, recording the audience appreciation during the live session was a special challenge, as he noted during an interview with Hipster DJ Magazine. He settled on close-miking Neumann U-47s to capture beats stroking beards and their polite patter of applause, contrasted with a ceiling-suspended battery of AKG microphones to capture the young Elvis fans screaming, with reverb added through an EMT plate. The final result, “some might describe as an unholy mess”, commented Van Krankenhaus. “I would be one of them”
Saturn executives present during the recording session were not convinced that the record-buying public was ready for the Space Doo-Wop-a-Lula concept, and at the time Elvis was said to look uncomfortable crooning Space Is The Place, Lil’ Darling, and called all his lip-curling skills to manage “You ain’t Nuthin’ but a Space-dog, Uh huh!” . The session tape was quietly shelved.
Significant Historical Value
According to rock memorabilia experts and auctioneers Sotheby and Co. the combined Space Doo-wop-a-Lula stash could fetch upwards of $10 million dollars. In bringing the find to auction, to whet collector appetite, Sothebys have released a few minutes of the tape, in which they claim Elvis can be heard faintly in the background, clearing his throat and preparing to sing, in the closing bars of the tape, before the sound breaks up.
All of the artefacts of the sessions can be viewed in person at Sotheby’s Auction rooms, 34-35 New Bond Street, London W1, by personal appointment.
On-line Auction – An Invitation
Sotheby’s of London and New York have appointed LondonJazzCollector as agent for the auction of this unique collection of Space Doo-wop-a-Lula memorabilia. Readers are are invited to register for the online auction, which will commence precisely at noon GMT, 1st April, with live links to their New York, London and Tokyo salerooms.
Collectors interested in bidding will be required to provide full bank and credit card details (including security codes) prior to auction.
Bid with confidence at LJC Auctions.
More exciting records to come, only from LJC.