The Early Years - new Oriondiscs website

Go to content

The Early Years



Jimmy Ellis and The Apollos:

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. As information on these recordings is minimal, it is not even known if they actually recorded these two songs in a studio. They were a garage band for all intents and purposes, so it is quite possible they recorded the songs themselves and then Dradco put them 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 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, while still continuing to harbor a desire to become a professional recording artist.

Echoes Of Love (Rumoured Recording)

Rumoured homerecording of Jimmy Ellis singing along to Elvis' Echoes Of Love on the KISSIN' COUSINS soundtrack album and comparing his vocal to that of Elvis with classmates (mentioned on Robert Dillard’s DOWNTIME CD).
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 as recorded 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 #001
1. Whistling
2. What Will My 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)
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 release I’ve Lost You until July 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 #002
1. Just Call Me Lonesome
2. Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
3. The Fair Is Moving On.

It seems these recordings were done in late 1969. The three home recordings here, although Presley songs, could not all have been Jimmy's source for hearing the songs. The first of these tracks recorded by Elvis had been released in late 1967 and the third in late 1969. The song Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain however, although recorded by several country stars, had not been recorded by Presley at this time, in fact it would be 1976 before he would record his version. Possibly a more likely inspiration may have been the previous years' album COUNTRY LOVE SONGS by singer/songwriter John D. Loudermilk which, as well as featuring the aforementioned Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, also included Welcome To My World, Am I That Easy To Forget; I Can't Stop Loving You and a song soon to have a big impact on Jimmy's future - Honey. Pure speculation of course. The sound on all three of these songs sounds like they were recorded together and not at seperate recordings. All three appeared on the CD release 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 making music at home, relaxing 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 give an insight into the personal side of 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.

Home Recordings Master #003
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 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. Listed here are the songs that are known to have been actually sung and the songs that were rumored for this session. Master numbers have been created for all of these early sessions as none seem to exist.

Number Master Number Song Title
14. #005   That’s All Right
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 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’ versions. it was clear 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, composed by Joe South, that Jimmy Ellis supposedly recorded first. However, as Everett recorded his version in 1965, that would pre date this session. But it has been rumoured to have been recorded at this session by several different sources. So Jimmy Ellis must have been mistaken as to who recorded it first.

Master #008 Rockin’ Robin
Originally recorded by Bobby Day in 1958 this is definitely the type of song Jimmy 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 Ricky Nelson it became a huge hit for him in 1958. No tape of this recording has surfaced to date. It has been mentioned in several song lists from 1969 – 1972, but most likely it was indeed recorded here.

Master #010 She
This was recorded by The Monkees in 1967 so it is possible that Jimmy Ellis heard it, liked it and recorded it here. Even after compiling this song list the sessions held at Playground Recording Studio are still a mystery to most fans. Further updates for this in the future as more details unfold.

One recording session that was supposedly held 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 cover versions.

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

The two songs Master #011 Galveston and #012 Winter Wonderland are also rumoured to exist by several different fans, unfortunately to date no tapes of this session exist, or if they do have not seen release. 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 the recording of I Use Her To Remind Me Of You.

In early 1972 Sun Records released the 45rpm single Sun 1129 That’s All Right 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. Apparently There Ya Go was to be featured in the TV series as well. which it was, although the recent DVD release of the episode in question features vocals by another singer and not the version recorded by Jimmy Ellis. Several fans are certain that when first aired the show did include Jimmy's version of There Ya Go but, considering it has been more than forty years since first broadcast, the question of whether Jimmy sang on the "McLoud" show remains unanswered.

1972 - 1974

Finley Duncan Sessions at Playground Recording Studio In Valparisio, Florida
At present it is difficult to be more precise, but sometime between 1972 and 1974 (possibly at the above session) Jimmy recorded quite a few other songs at Playground Studios, at least one (Georgia Pines) simply recorded over a pre-existing rhythm track. Several would surface, in poor quality, on cassette tapes among fans for years before finally seeing an official release in studio quality. The following are known to have been laid down at Playground Studios:

          Georgia Pines
          Anna Jones*
          The Most Natural Thing*
          Days Of Autumn Gold
          Remember You
          Circle On Your Finger*
          Tender Side Of Me*
          I Can Love You Better
          Every Time You Touch Me
          Kiss The Hurt Away

Days Of Autumn Gold and Remember You found official release on Dradco Records 2003 release A VOICE FROM THE PAST. The remaining recordings were eventually to see an official release in 2006 on the Dradco Records release JIMMY ELLIS AT PLAYGROUND RECORDING STUDIO complete with bonus outtakes and alternate mixes of tracks marked *.
The Hit One Records bootleg release IN THE BEGINNING features the above recordings, in slightly poorer quality, along with the following which are possibly other Playground recordings:

          Going To California
          Tiny Hands

In early 1973 the following songs were put down in the studio:

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, according to rumour, also on Challenger Records (which may have been a subsidiary of MCA) although no evidence of this second release has ever surfaced and all indications are this rumour is unfounded. 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 seem to indicate that 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


Jimmy's recording history for this time would appear to be very difficult to pin down with any accuracy and, at present, the following info cannot be 100% confirmed.
It would appear however that he laid down a few tracks once again at the Jack Clement Studio in Nashville only one of which would see an official release the following year:

Jack Clement Studio, Nashville, Tennessee
      Promised Land
This song was to be found on an ultra rare compilation album titled SUPER HITS 1974 VOL.IV released by Gusto-Power Pak Records with no credit given to Jimmy or any of the other artists included on the album.


TTG Studios, 1441 North McCadden Place, Hollywood, 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 Lose/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)
27. #021    Medley: Last Date/Without Love*
28. #022    Wildflower
29. #023    The Closer He Gets
30. #024    Movin’ On

Masters #017 and #019 Remained unreleased until 2016 when they were included on the CD presented with the book published as JIMMY ELLIS - IN THE SHADOW OF A KING.
Master #26 contains a duet with an unknown woman. All of the above mentioned songs have never been released officially except * which first saw release on the Dradco CD release A VOICE FROM THE PAST in 2003.
Master #016 was mentioned by Jimmy Ellis himself in an old fan club newsletter and that is the only evidence of it’s existence.
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, as yet, never been released.

Back to content