How Priscilla Presley Convinced Elvis Presley to Record This Hit

Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley’s relationship was romantic, however, there was at least a little bit of an artistic component to it. By her own admission, Priscilla couldn’t tell her husband which songs to sing. Yet, she convinced him to sing one of his late-period hits. Here’s a look at how she convinced him to record the song.

One of the most unusual songs Elvis Presley ever recorded

Elvis remains one of America’s most famous and important showbusiness icons. After all, he was ranked 8th on the Discovery Channel’s list of the Greatest Americans — higher than any other entertainer. It only makes sense he recorded a song that captured parts of America’s history — Mickey Newberry’s “An American Trilogy.”

“An America Trilogy” isn’t a conventional song — but rather a medley of American folk tunes. Perhaps the most famous of the three tunes in the medley is “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” — a marching song popular among Union forces during the American Civil War. Another song in the trilogy is “All My Trials,” an African-American spiritual song which was used as a protest song. The other song in the medley is “Dixie,” a pre-Civil War folk tune that was used as the national anthem of the Confederacy. In the 1970s, the tune was a radio staple in the Southern United States, but today anything associated with the Confederacy is inflammatory. Newberry’s recording of the song had a huge impact on Priscilla.

How Priscilla Presley convinced her husband to record ‘An American Trilogy’

“I was driving down Sunset Boulevard and I heard Mickey Newbury singing it, and I went ‘Oh, my God’ and made a U-turn and went back to the house,” she told Rolling Stone. “No one usually ever brought songs to him. Elvis picked out all of his songs, with the exception of movie songs which matched the scenes. No one ever said, ‘Hey El, you got to do this song.’ So I said, ‘There’s a song I think you really should listen to.’ And he said, ‘Well, put it on.’ So I did, and he just sat there at the desk. He put his head down and kind of nodded to it. He closed his eyes and said, ‘Damn, damn good song.’ And the next thing I know, we’re back in Vegas, and he ate it up and spit it out.”

How the world reacted to ‘An American Trilogy’ at the time and decades later

So did America eat up Elvis’ rendition of “An American Trilogy?” The track reached No. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll released many songs that were more commercially successful. However, it’s highly unusual that a recording of old folk tunes charted at all.

Even years later, the song resonated. In 2015, Rolling Stone conducted a poll of their readers’ favorite Elvis songs. “An American Trilogy” was eighth on the list, behind “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love, “Jailhouse Rock,” “In the Ghetto,” “If I Can Dream,” and “Suspicious Minds.” Clearly, Priscilla picked a song that Elvis’ fans loved.

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