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Jordanaire, Ray Walker evokes sizzling Nashville nights with Elvis and Jerry Reed

The only original Jordanaire still standing, genial bass extraordinaire Ray Walker (born March 19, 1934) has experienced an astronomical 60-year career in show business, adding a nuanced low backing vocal to definitive hit singles by Elvis Presley, Rick Nelson (e.g. 'Poor Little Fool' and 'Travelin' Man'), and Patsy Cline.

In fact, Walker's debut recording session with the King of Rock 'n' Roll in June 1958 yielded a million selling record - '(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I'. By 1969 the renowned country-gospel quartet was singing harmonies on roughly 80 percent of the songs recorded in Nashville, performing on over 30,000 total studio recordings.

Walker regularly appears on George Klein's Elvis radio show, which is broadcast every Friday afternoon from 2 to 6 p.m. central time. Affectionately known as G.K., the legendary disc jockey met Elvis in the eighth grade at the rough and tumble Humes High School in Memphis (the superstar later served as Klein's best man).

During an extended Feb. 4, 2011 call-in session to 'The GK Show', Walker talked at length about his 12 years in the recording studio with Elvis, including a rambunctious front row center session at RCA Studio B in Nashville when the 'Alabama Wild Man' himself, singer-songwriter-guitarist Jerry Reed, unexpectedly showed up to add some patented gut-string guitar licks to 'Guitar Man' and 'Big Boss Man', both rockin', country blues numbers that planted the seeds for Elvis' artistic comeback the following year

George Klein : Did Elvis criticize a musician if he made a mistake?

Ray Walker : Now, Elvis would criticize somebody if they criticized the musicians. If somebody had no more sense than to put somebody down, Elvis didn't like that at all. Elvis didn't put anybody down, and he would normally laugh if somebody made a mistake. Elvis said one time that his whole career was mistakes (laughs).

Klein : How did Elvis warm up for a session?

Walker : Later on he did gospel songs. Basically Elvis would just sing, but he mainly stood there and studied the song. Then he would do his warm-up during the tracking process.

Jeremy Roberts : Did you prefer recording in Nashville or Hollywood with Elvis?

Walker : We liked recording in Nashville, and Elvis liked Nashville. It was certainly special to go to Hollywood and work at Radio Recorders. Nevertheless, it was homey when we were here in Nashville.

Roberts : How did you become a member of the Jordanaires ?

Jordanaire, Ray Walker evokes sizzling Nashville nights with Elvis and Jerry Reed
The Jordanaires  - (Top L to R) : Hoyt Hawkins, Gordon Stoker, (Bottom L to R): Neal Matthews, Hugh Jarrett ,

Walker : Well, original bass singer Hugh Jarrett decided to devote more time to his burgeoning radio career, so he gave notice of his resignation in late spring 1958. The Jordanaires' first session with Rick Nelson was on April 28, 1958, at Master Recorders in Los Angeles.

I took a break from teaching school - I was also an assistant principal and a coach - and went to Hollywood as the Jordanaires' choice to be introduced to Capitol Records.

We also worked with Tommy Sands and did four Jordanaires' singles during the day plus a 10 p.m. session with Rick later that night. Ozzie, Harriet, and David were also there. 'Poor Little Fool' and 'Don't Leave Me This Way' were on this session.

Klein, possessing a genuine knack for conducting informal interviews with Elvis' close confidants and musicians, initiated the proceedings. Yours truly decided to email four questions in to segment producer Jim Sykes which Walker graciously answered. Collected below in slightly edited form are the highlights from that interview.

George Klein : What was unique about singing with Elvis?

Ray Walker : The Jordanaires have sung with around 3,000 artists. There were two or three that had the same temperament or ability in the studio. Of course, everyone's personality is to each their own, but Elvis Presley, Rick Nelson, Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page, and Connie Francis knew exactly what their limits were. They wouldn't let anybody push 'em past those limits. They knew the tempos, how to feel about it, and Elvis was the same way.

Jordanaire, Ray Walker evokes sizzling Nashville nights with Elvis and Jerry Reed
Above, a never before seen picture of Ray and Elvis working on a part for the G.I. Blues soundtrack, 1960.

I think the most revealing thing about Elvis Presley was that he didn't feel that special. He didn't act special. As far as thinking he was somebody hot, he never thought that. Never did. I mean, he dressed up for his fans and enjoyed doing that - I think he was a clown. He enjoyed looking the way the fans expected to see him and wanted to see him. Elvis realized that was part of his life.

But when he was on his own, he had on jeans, a cowboy hat - just regular clothes. When he went out, he made sure that if anybody saw him, they saw him at his best. That was part of his life, and a tribute to his honesty and love for his fans.

We went back to Nashville, and I resumed teaching until May 31. I joined the group officially on June 1, 1958. Gordon Stoker had called me the first week of May and asked if I could go with them to Dick Clark's American Bandstand television series that week.

I told him no. He replied, 'What if I told you that if you can't come on

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