Doug Koempel © 2015
lead vocal, piano and clavinet: Doug Koempel
acoustic guitar: Steve Logan
electric guitar: Jimmy Bryant
steel guitar: Buddy Emmons
bass: Bud Logan (Jim Reeve's original bass player
          and John Conlee's producer)
drums: D.J. Fontana (Elvis's original drummer)
strings: The Wire Choir (arranged by Kris Wilkinson)
background vocals: Sound Seventy Singers (including Janie Fricke)
recorded at: Music City Recorders / Nashville, TN
engineered by: Jack Logan

NOTES: Kevin Conner and I were performing at the Black Steer in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It was 4:30 PM on a Tuesday, and I was just pulling out of the motel parking lot on my way to the club when I heard it on the radio: "Police in Memphis, Tennessee say Elvis Presley, the Mississippi boy whose country rock guitar and gyrating hips launched a new style in popular music, died this afternoon at Methodist Hospital. Presley was 42 years old."

I was stunned as I had been an avid fan of Elvis's ever since I'd seen him on Ed Sullivan in the 1950s. I immediately headed back to my motel room and scribbled out the first draft of a tribute song. Within an hour or so, I was finished and had called the head of the record label I was recording for and convinced him to let me release this tribute as a single.

Within a month I was at Music City Recorders in Nashville surrounded by a superstar lineup of session players including, ironically, D.J. Fontana (Elvis's original drummer.) We recorded the single and sent out 3,000 copies to program directors throughout the U.S. including all the Billboard tracking stations.

We included a promotional insert (see below) with a picture of me on one side, the lyrics on the other and a detachable comment card.

On the comment card were two checkable options:
  • I like your record and will play it!
  • Nope, better go back to driving a truck!

And then there was a "Comments" section from which we learned something surprising. Read on . . .

Although we had jumped on this release and got the record out within a few weeks, we found out that we weren't the only ones doing tributes to Elvis. In fact we found through the comments section on the reply cards that some of the program directors didn't take kindly to these tribute records! Some of the stations felt that those doing tributes were trying to capitalize on Elvis's death! Although that may have been true in some cases, it certainly wasn't my intent.

Nevertheless we did garner a lot of airplay, and our record was considered one of the top tributes to Elvis. However, one tribute turned out to be an unprecedented hit - selling 5,000,000 copies to date and that was "The King Is Gone" by Ronnie McDowell.

That record had been recorded a week before ours in the very same studio with the same session players. The irony was that although "The King Is Gone" launched Ronnie McDowell's recording career, it also sunk his label, Scorpion, and caused the owner, Bradley Williamson to quit the music business. To read that fascinating story, click here (scroll to bottom of interview for details related to "The King Is Gone.") 

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SONG #12

writer: Doug Koempel
song written: August 16, 1977

single release (1977)
label: Chart Action / CA-114-A
publishing: Jaroco Music, BMI / Blue Baker Music, BMI

album release (1980)
album title: SAYIN' GOOD-BYE
label: JAROCO Records
publishing: Jaroco Music, BMI / Blue Baker Music BMI
play "Rock On And On And On"