Paul Evans Interview with Joe Krein
JK – Paul where were you born and raised?
PE- Well I’m a New Yorker born and raised and still living here , according to my wife I will parish here someday. I keep threating to move out but there is just so much to do here and I’m still involved a little in the music business, which I would not be if I was not in New York. Si will stay here until I can’t move anymore.
JK – What did you want to do when you grew up?
PE – Well a course a fireman.
JK – God I cant tell you Paul how many times I’ve been told that while doing interviews.
PE –Yeah the trucks were fun they were red. The guys were big and good looking, tough and strong. I wanted to do that . But the truth is I was in High School and I ran the High School variety shows. So I was hooked on that. I did go to College for one year at Columbia. Actually I had a scholarship at Columbia for engineering and the reason I chose that was because I could not think of anything else. So after my first year I said let me try getting into the music business. A course everyone in my family called me a dummy. Hey stupid are you kidding me your giving up a scholarship at Columbia to get into the music business? I said I promise I will take only one year off, if I don’t have some kind of success in that year then I will go back . I would have but I had a couple of R and B records and I had a win with the Kaylin Twins record in 1958. So I said good this is what I’m going to do and that was the end of any questions. No more engineering for me.
JK – So what was your early music influences?
PE- Well it had to be the Rockabilly guys, well wait first came RB and I will say the one record that got me , I mean I went wow was Earth Angel by the Penguins. I remembering think wow and then because I always loved Country Music the Rockabilly guys got my interest. I remember Elvis being interviewed on the one Country station it was in New Jersey I was living in New York at the time. I could get that station it was called barking with Larkin. It was a Country only show and Elvis Presley was interviewed. And I was hooked.
JK – So Paul let me ask you , what do you prefer to be a singer or a songwriter?
PE- you know I really should have a stock answer for that question but I don’t because it’s a tough one. Honestly I loved singing and being up on the stage. I’m a naturally born ham bone; I just loved being on stage making the audience feel good. But I must say as a writer you have other people record your songs and they come back with there own interpretation and it gave me a chance as a writer to be involved in the Presley craziness. That was wonderful; I remember when I got my first Elvis recording of a song called
‘ I Gotta Know”, which was on the other side by the way of “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. Not a bad side to be on. We got up to if I remember correctly to number fifteen on our side. Those were the days when there were A and B-sides and his would normally hit the charts. That was really fun for me. One song I’m thinking of who was a Elvis kind of singer was Roy Orbison and I remember hearing Roy’s” Oobie Doobie” and that really influenced me a lot. I mean the lyrics are just Oobie Doobie Oobie Doobie do wa do wa do wa. I said to myself I think I can do that. Honestly I swear, I remember thinking to myself this is not as hard as I thought. I wasn’t Roy Orbison but I was me and I think I can do that. So that was really a big influence in my life. I think that was the song that made me think I’m not going to be an engineer no way I’m going to be a singer.
JK – Elvis was a big fan of Roy Orbison’s.
PE – Well that I did not know but Roy was the all. He was a unique guy. I was more into the Pop area as a singer. I remember when I got “I Gotta Know “ by Elvis it crossed my mind that I did not need to write anything else. I had Elvis do one of my songs and I was thinking what else do I want. But you always want more and you always want something else or else you just get static and stand still. So I think the answer to your question after this long titrate here is probably a writer. My songs are still happening and I have a couple commercials running now on my old songs. One on WHEN by the way and I wrote that in 1957, it came out and it was a big smash hit for the Twins and here it is 20014 running as a big commercial in England for furniture store. That’s the amazing thing about writing; you know the songs just don’t give up. Its really fun for the writer.
JK – So what was your first successful song as a writer?
PE- Wow, well it depends on what you call successful. WHEN was my first real hit and I had a couple of RB records one called VALARIE by the Mellow Kings. The Schoolboys did a song of mine; Frankie Lyman did a song of mine. So you can see I was really into popish stuff. The a
Course I had some country songs recorded and then Elvis plus some of my own . My first hit as a singer, this will blow your mind. Was Seven Little Girls Sitting In The Back Seat. That was in 1959. That really got me into the business. WHEN started me in the business and so did Seven Little Girls . . You kind of had to be an artist at the time to make sense to make yourself some kind of a star. Writers became stars soon after that like the Kirshner crowd ,Sedacka and Greenfield. Plus Carol King and her husband. That whole crew, they did not have to sing to be stars but they were. I mean Carol King is enjoying a incredible come back, I’ve seen he on TV a couple times. Her performance on the Grammys was unbelievable. I have forgotten a name of a new comer but they were both wonderful. Carol was wonderful and its great that she is still out there doing it.
JK – Now im a big fan of Seven Little Girls , I have it on my jukebox. Its always been a family favorite. When we get together and party and start drinking. We will all start singing. Seven Little Girls, Beep Beep and George Jones She Stopped Loving Her Today.
PE – I don’t think I understand Joe from one thing to the other . I mean do you have a Fred in the family?
JK – No it was just something my kids loved plus I grew up listening to it. Its always spinning on my juke. We just sing it all the time. So I want to thank you.
PE – That’s just another wonderful unique thing about the Internet. I have a site PaulEvans.com . If the people would like to email me there is a link. I get these wonderful letters from people. The best was from a guy who said that I had been a part of his family .for thirty years. That was about forty years ago. Man how long ago was that 1959? Wow I don’t want to remind myself because that was a long time ago.
JK – I think every one should check out the video for SEVEN with the puppets.
PE – Yes that was on the Dick Clark Show. If people want to see that they can look up SLGSITBS or Paul Evans on YouTube plus I have a link to it on my site. That show was fun to do. I must say Joe that area was just a lot of fun.
JK – I bet it was . Now Fabian was suppose to be the one to release I GOTTA KNOW . Can you explain to us how that happened?
PE – Yes I can , I don’t know how it happened but I can explain the process that took place. I had written I GOTTA KNOW . I submitted it for Elvis. Elvis had cut it , there was a little like cabal that you knew when he was going to have a recording session. I was up in New York as was his major publisher Hill and Range. Everything had to go thru them . So anyway I submitted the song to Hill and Range they approved it for Elvis . They sent it to him he liked it , he recorded it but it hadn’t been released yet. So I got a phone call from Hill and Range his publisher. They asked me to come to there offices and they said look Paul we know that you want Elvis. We know that he has already cut your song. But we don’t know if it will get released, there is no guarantee about anything. All you know is that its in the can. I said okay that’s nice. But we have a new kid that we want to record this so with., and you know Paul if we record it with this kid Elvis’s record will never come out because he will not be known as a cover artist. I got hysterical, I said no way no way.
I want Elvis
I want Elvis. I don’t know why they asked me Joe that’s a part of the story I really don’t understand. No publisher ever asked permission of a writer . I don’t know if the guy up there Fred Beanstalk who I knew very well . If he was doing me a favor. I don’t know why he asked my permission to have this song cut by this new kid. Who turned out to be Fabian and it would have been on the TURN ME LOOSE session. It would have been terrific, actually when I left that meeting I was exhausted. They promised me they would not do the song with anyone but Elvis. So when I went out I was exhausted and I then ran into my co- writer Matt Williams. He said what was that all about and I said they wanted to put it out with some new kid and I told them that we didn’t want it. He got so angry with me. You know its so hard to get records and to get one with a new kid that they are putting a lot of money behind. So he was very angry, but he was no longer angry with me when Elvis’s record came out and the first check that we got was based on a million and a half singles of sales.
JK – Yes that first royalty check will always change your mind.
PE- It really did that time. Poor Matt he went thru this thing when Elvis cut the song. Its something a lot of writers did. They got to sure of things. Elvis’s record may have never come out . This is terrible to say , he left his job and he left his family . He was going to be the writer in town who had Elvis. It’s a long and sad story, I don’t know what was involved at the time. But all I knew was he disappeared from my life after the record did come out. He just disappeared and I have no idea where or what happened to him. I cant find him on the internet so obviously something bad. It’s a seductive business Joe . You know it’s so hard to get a record and when you do get a record and it can mean something. You can run off half cocked, I’m afraid that is what happened to my partner.
JK- just so people know the young kid artist that they wanted to release the record was Fabian. So it could have been a hit as well.
PE – Yes it could have been a hit but it wasn’t like it was with having Elvis release it. Plus it wouldn’t have been on the other side of ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT. Like I said it did hit the charts on its own. I think it went up to fifteen; it was so long ago to remember. But it was a big song on its own and I couldn’t have made the money. Plus I would have not gotten the in road . Now people who cut for Elvis knew my name. So when a song of mine would be sent to them I knew they would at least take a second look at it.
JK – What’s the meaning behind I GOTTA KNOW?
PE – You know I was just a song writer. We first wrote it as I wanna know . I mean I don’t want to disappoint anybody but we were just to songwriters. We sat down in a small room with a piano. I could play a little piano and a little guitar. It would be what will we write today? Basically that was the meaning of it . We wanted to write a song for Elvis. I mean when you heard Elvis was coming up you just wrote for him. You wouldn’t write anything else. You wouldn’t write a song that you knew he would not do.
JK – Now I’m going to put you on the spot.
PE – G o ahead (laughing) yeah go ahead Joe.
JK- Cliff Richard also released I GOTTA KNOW.
PE- Yes ! There is this fellow in England who owns a magazine and he did a interview with me and that same subject came up . How come Cliff Richard cut the song and how did it come out before Elvis? After I just went thru this whole story that he would not cut a song when someone else had already released it. I just got a copy of the latest magazine and I have not read it yet . Its going to explain to me , well Sir Cliff Richards is going to explain to me how he got to do the song and why his recording did not stop Elvis’s people from releasing I GOTTA KNOW. So you got me on the spot . I don’t know but it will be interesting for me to find out what Sir Richard says.
JK- Now you have heard both , who do you think performed it better?
PE- Well (laughing) its almost cast and iron . The Elvis record was such a good record. What can I say . I had once put a recording together because I got some new music machinery. I put my demo and Elvis’s recording together and I made one song out of it. I mean no one else can hear it , the Presley estate would kill me if anybody ever released this thing. But it was interesting that he did the song in the same key that I had done it and in the same tempo as I did it. So without doing any shifting of the tempos. Are records were quick to quick. They were exactly the same. He did that I understand with many people. They took the demo and they would generally add strings and the Jordanairs to the recording. But they worked off the demo. I was flattered when I saw that he did it in my key, even thou his voices timber is a little higher then mine. So that’s what they did, I was a appreciative and I was proud of myself until I found out he did that a lot. If he liked the demo a lot they would just add arrangements to it.
JK- I was going to ask that question. But lets take it a little further. Did all the demos of the songs that you gave over to the Presley camp. Did they match all your demos?
PE- Pretty much. There was a song called SOMETHING BLUE where we had put a piano intro on and they matched that intro on one version. There were a couple of different versions of SOMETHING BLUE. I can give you any more information then that. But I know I have heard different versions with or without that piano intro that was on mine. On a song called THE NEXT STEP IS LOVE that he recorded. We on the demo used piccolo trumpets, very high trumpets.
(Making sounds of a trumpet and laughing)
That kind of a sound and there it is on Elvis’s recording. Its very strange, I mean he had the finest arranger’s and it killed them to be told now we love the demo so don’t stray to far from the demo. I know it killed them. I never met him by the way . I know your going to ask that.
JK – That was next on my list .
PE – I never met him. I was in Nashville and he was recording I think it was I GOTTA KNOW and I knew his producer. With the strange name of Felton Jarvis. Felton was a wonderful guy , I went to the studio I knew Elvis was in the studio recording and I was told he was going to record my song . I got a hold of Felton and I asked him to get me into the studio I just had to be there. I wanted to stand next to Mr. Presley. He said I cant security is so tight at these sessions they would kill me if I allowed somebody in . I wasn’t on the list, I was standing there like a jerk out side of RCA studios . But I couldn’t get in, it was a killer.
JK – Did you ever write a song just for Elvis?
PE – I GOTTA KNOW, no doubt about it . Some where in my collection which is very deep is the original lyrics to I GOTTA KNOW. Which wasn’t I GOTTA KNOW. Many of the lyrics was the same. I think it was I wanna know. I don’t remember the way we originally wrote it. We worked very hard on that song . You don’t take a lyric and just change. We changed it because we thought Elvis would like the song better. I’m happy we did that because we did come out with Elvis.
JK – 1962 comes around . SOMETHING BLUE comes out. How did that song come about?
PE – SOMETHING BLUE in 1961 one of my co-writers Al Byron walked into Associated Studios here in New York. It was a very large Demo studio. It was one of the two premier demo studios in New York. He said Paul I have a lyric for you and I said what is that ? He gave me a paper with the lyric. I joked with my musicians everyone take a five minute I’m going to write a hit song.
Ha Ha Ha
So I wrote a song with Al . The song was ROSES ARE RED MY LOVE. The Bobby Vinton smash. I mean I worked for a month trying to make the melody better. But I just couldn’t do it. So that’s the start of the story, you never know what you got. Sometimes you think you wrote the worlds first perfect song and nobody likes it. Then sometimes you think you had written a piece of junk and you throw it out and someone records it and it’s a hit. You just don’t know. Anyway that’s the way Al and I wrote and Al brought me the lyric to SOMETHING BLUE. So in that case it was the lyrics by Al Byron and the music of Paul Evans. Sometimes I wrote by myself, sometimes I wrote the music and words with somebody and sometimes I just wrote the music. In SOMETHINGS BLUE case I just wrote the music.
JK – In 1963 BLUE RIVER was released.
PE- BLUE RIVER was written with a fellow who wrote a couple hits on his own and we had a song called Johnny Will, which Pat Boone had a hit with. We wrote the same way . He was a lyricist; I would go to his office. That was incredible no one had there own office that I wrote with but he did. He had an office on Seventh Ave. right where all the action was. I remember being up there, the way we wrote was I would pick up my guitar and we would sing some songs and before you knew it you would end up with a lyric. When I wrote with Freddy he worked the same way Al Byron did. He wrote a lyric; in fact Freddy would not allow you to touch his lyric, it was very strange writing combination. He wrote Born To Late and he wrote Good Timing. So he had a track record, so if Freddy didn’t want me to touch his lyrics then okay. I wont touch them then. So we ended up with a Pat Boone record and we ended up with Blue River that we walked over to Hill and Range. The only place to go to if you wanted Elvis at the time. They accepted it and it was recorded by Elvis. That was not in my mind a sterling Elvis recording. It was a little sparse but it was one of his rocking records.
JK – THE NEXT STEP IS LOVE was released in 1970.
PE – All of these are with different writers, isn’t that strange. I never really thought about that before but that is pretty funny. THE NEXT STEP IS LOVE I wrote with Paul Parnes . Paul and I had written a song called Happiness Is. Which became a big cigarette commercial. I’m ashamed at myself!
It was a big commercial for Kent Cigarettes. It song was called Happiness Is . They used it to imply . Because they couldn’t say on Television that Happiness is smoking a Kent cigarette. They could not say that believe it or not. Before they banned commercials completely off television. You were not allowed to say you would get happy by smoking. Is that not strange, just tiny rules you had to follow. S o anyway that song did very well for us because of the commercial. It was recorded originally by Ray Coniff on Columbia at the time. So there is the history of my four Elvis records, all with a different writer.
JK – So what did you think when you heard your song in That’s The Way It Is?
PE – I loved it to death. I think they put on a preview if I remember it correctly. No im thinking of another song. They did a preview of a movie and they flashed my name across the screen and I heard a tiny voice go Yeah! It was my mother.
JK – Lets get serous here. What was the deal with the writing? I’ve talked to another write Michael Jerrett and other song writers and it always comes up with this deal that you have to give so much over. Can you explain that please?
PE – Sue you want Elvis generally speaking you go to Hill and Range they get the publishing and for some reason they also took back a third of the writing credit. So it was normally two co- writers would walk in and you had to give a third to Elvis. By the way who was never a member of ASCAP never a member of BMI the two collection agencies for radio and television performances But they took a third back and it went into the pot . I don’t understand it , maybe a show of power by the Colonel maybe? I don’t even know if Elvis was aware of this. What little I know of him he would probably had said no you cant do that to the writers. I mean why would he want to do that he was making enough money. The long story short , the shortest I can make this Joe . I managed to leave town every time Elvis recorded a song of mine. So I would not sign the third away and they recorded it and released it any way. When you think about it why wasn’t the other writers doing that? One day I went up to Hill and Range and a lawyer there cornered me. He had a paper and he shoved into my face and he said you sign this paper . I swear this is true on that paper there was every writer that I knew including the Kirshner crowd . Everyone signed the paper agreeing that when ever Elvis records one of there songs that they would give a third back . So I said I wont sign that , Freddy Bienstock who was the man who chose your songs for Elvis. He told me that I would never have to give back a third. The lawyer said that a crock of you know what. So lets walk into his office and lets see what happens. So we walked in and I said Freddy you promised me that I would never have to give back a third. You tell this lawyer that . Freddie said to me I promised you this? I said yes you did , if you want to take it back then I will sign this paper like everyone else . If you want to go back on your word. I tried giving him a little guilt. He turned to the lawyer and said this man does not have to give back a third. So I got away with it on a couple of my Elvis recordings. Eventually they stopped doing that, I don’t know why they stopped demanding that . That was a practice in the business it wasn’t just Elvis. If you wanted any big star they generally got a piece of your writing. It was a cost of publishing, it was a terrible a fare.
JK – Now I’m not saying this about your music but I think because of the music third give back . Elvis was not getting quality songs for him to release.
PE – Well it went through a period that it was like that. I think the good writers got defiant and said im not going to give you this. Then there were other writers with inferior songs saying well take this and I will give you a third back. Look we all know that writers are easily scared, well at least they used to be. Things have drastically changed writers are much smarter then my group was and much tougher. They know the value of a copyright. I don’t think we all knew the value of a copyright like we were talking about before Joe. I’ve held on to some of my old songs and here now I have commercials being used with them. Songs that I wrote in the 1950s. So if you had a Presley record and you had to give back a third most people would say well that’s a fair deal. He is the biggest artist in the world and if that’s what the deal is then I will take it. I got away with it some how and eventually they stopped doing that. I cant give you a year on it because I don’t remember. But I do remember Freddy saying Paul you had something to do with this. Because you would not give back so other writers said well Paul Evans doesn’t have to then i refuse as well. I am sure I gabbed about refusing and it got around. Anyway I always had some pride in doing that . It took spine Joe because you wanted Elvis so desperately. You wanted any major artist so desperately. I mean Al Jolson’s name ended up on songs I mean it goes back that far. Everybody knew the value of the writing of the song and everyone wanted a piece of it.
Jk- I think it had more to do with the Colonel then it had to do with Elvis.
PE- Like we talked about before , with what I know of Elvis he would have never been a part of that. I mean what was the point of taking money out of the writers mouths?
JK – Did you ever have any dealings with Colonel Parker at all?
PE- N o I never had to deal with him. He was miles above of where we were. He was above the crowd , I never saw him.
JK – That’s probably a good thing.
PE- (LAUGHING) I was just thinking the same thing. I never made many friends after that lawyer after he tried to make me sign that paper. He said to me if you don’t sign this paper Paul I will see to it that you will never get an Elvis record. I guess that really did scare me because I did go in to Freddy’s office and said that lawyer is making me crazy. If you want me to sign that paper then I will sign it because he is harassing me so badly and threatening me that I will never get another Elvis record. So the truth is that iron in my back started to bend a little bit . Everybody was giving back. I just didn’t think it was right.
JK – Paul I saw on your website that when Elvis passed away in 1977 he had two of your songs.
PE- Yes one song was called TENDER MOMENTS and the other song was pulled from an old poem Quiet Desperation. I thought this would an amazing Elvis record and it did sound like Elvis. When I did these songs and I knew they would be played for Elvis I did my best to make it sound like Elvis. I used the kind of voice that he had when I did demos for him. Yes it hurt that they were both excepted for Elvis but he hadn’t recorded them yet. When he passed I was bitterly disappointed and upset at his passing. I mean Elvis was gone it was a terrible blow. How old was Elvis when he passed?
JK- He was 42 years young. How did you here that Elvis Presley passed away?
PE- Like most people did tv , radio. There was no special news for Paul Evans just because he recorded my songs. That didn’t mean anything. Just that he was gone and what a terrible loss for the world. What a shame and what a waste.
JK- What do you think about the everlasting popularity of Elvis Presley?
PE- Just incredible. Elvis came along at the right time. Everyone loved Elvis. Woman loved Elvis , men loved Elvis. Who else will last this long ? Maybe the Beatles? I don’t know.