It was 61 years ago Sunday (April 3rd, 1960) that Elvis Presley recorded “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” The song was originally written in 1926, and was first recorded by legend Al Jolson. “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” along with “The King’s” 1960 Number One hit “It’s Now Or Never,” was tracked during a three-day set of sessions at Nashville’s legendary RCA Studio B, which also produced such favorites as “Such A Night,” “Fever,” and “Reconsider Baby.”
“Are You Lonesome Tonight” hit Number One on November 28th, 1960 and went on to top the charts for six weeks. It was the first Elvis hit to gain substantial airplay on not only Top 40 pop radio but on easy listening stations as well. In later years, when he performed the song’s spoken interlude, which references Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Elvis would often become tongue-tied while trying to get the words right, and he would be reduced to fits of hysterical giggling.
“It’s Now Or Never” is on the based on the Italian song of the Neapolitan language, “‘O Sole Mio” by Eduardo di Capua. The song, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five straight weeks starting on August 15th, 1960, remains his biggest selling single globally,
Throughout Elvis latter-day touring years, he only performed a small selection from his early-’60s catalogue — including only “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Little Sister,” “It’s Now Or Never,” “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” “Fever,” “Reconsider Baby,” and his trademark show-closer “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”
Fans often wondered why “The King” chose to perform so many cover songs in his concert tours and Las Vegas shows, instead of major ’60s hits such as “Return To Sender,” “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise,” “Good Luck Charm,” “Surrender,” “(Marie’s The Name) Of His Latest Flame,” and the most obvious choice, “Viva Las Vegas.”
Elvis longtime guitarist James Burton was asked if Presley ever considered adding his classic ’60s hits to his ’70s concerts: “Y’know, he would do them from time to time. Sometimes he would do them in like a rehearsal or something and then we’d put the show together and it wouldn’t be on the show.”