Monday, January 23, 2012
VINCE EVERETT - DON'T GO
The American record-buying public thought the same way. Between 1956 and 1958, Elvis outsold everybody. It is said that RCA Victor didn't sell Elvis 45s by the millions - they sold them by the ton. Other record companies scrambled to find young, good-looking singers so that they could have their own "Elvis". But none of 'em sounded like Elvis.
However, by the time 1960 rolled around and Elvis had finished his stint in the Army, the other diskeries got a little wilier - instead of finding good-looking guys who resembled Elvis and could sing OK, they now were finding guys who sounded EXACTLY like Elvis Presley - Ral Donner and Vince Everett.
Vince (born Marvin Eugene Benefield in College Park, GA - no, he was NOT British as some folks say) had recorded a few songs under his own name (and as Marvin Fields) for the Jam and Town labels in 1960. In late 1961, Marvin somehow caught the ear of Ray Stevens, who, at the time, was working for Rick Hall in an early version of the Fame studio band down in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Ray introduced Marvin to some of his friends - Tommy Roe, Bill Lowery, Joe South, Mac Davis and a young producer/musician named Felton Jarvis. Jarvis heard the young Marvin Benefield and knew he could produce records that would sell - Ral Donner had just had a top ten hit with "You Don't Know What You've Got" - so he got Bill Lowery to sign Marvin to his NRC label. Unfortunately, Lowery's label went bankrupt soon afterwards, but he soon got a new production deal from ABC-Paramount Records to record his stable of artists.
However, Lowery (and Jarvis) knew that "Marvin Benefield" just would not do as an artist's name. So, at Jarvis' suggestion, and to reinforce the fact that this guy sounded EXACTLY like Elvis, Marvin Benefield became "Vince Everett", taken from the name of the character Elvis portrayed in "Jailhouse Rock". By the way, if you want to see the picture sleeves of Elvis as Vince Everett (made as props for the "Jailhouse Rock" film), check out the cool "Dead Wax" blog here.
Anyway, for the first Vince Everett 45, Felton and Bill decided to go the Ral Donner route and have Marvin record a tune that Elvis had already recorded for the "Elvis Is Back!" LP (Ral's first hit, "Girl Of My Best Friend", was originally done by Elvis on this same LP), "Such A Night". Written by songwriter Lincoln Chase, the song was originally done by The Drifters in 1954, but was soon banned from airplay due to its "suggestive nature". That didn't stop Mitch Miller from covering the song with Johnnie Ray a few weeks later. Elvis loved the song, and recorded it on his first post-Army LP, but at this point - 1962 - it was only an LP cut (Elvis would eventually release it as a single in 1964), so it wasn't getting airplay anyway. Jarvis copied the arrangement from the original Elvis record (even hiring The Jordanaires as backup singers), and released it in March of 1962. The record became a top 20 hit in Chicago - and almost nowhere else. It stands to reason, really - why would someone, if they were an Elvis fan, buy a 45 by a guy doing an Elvis song, sounding just like Elvis, with the EXACT same arrangement as the Elvis record, if they already had the original by Elvis? At least Ral Donner's version of "Girl Of My Best Friend" had a better arrangement than the Elvis recording of it! So the record was a national flop. Everett would go on to make three more singles for ABC-Paramount (all rare as hen's teeth) and in 1966 he got drafted (though, thankfully, he never went to Vietnam). After returning from the Army in 1969, he decided to forgo the music business and went back to work at his old job as an electrical parts assembler at Square D Company in Atlanta, GA. He's still around today, living in nearby Buchanan, GA, happily anonymous.
Felton Jarvis ended up becoming the producer for the real Elvis Presley in the early 1970s. I wonder if they ever discussed the Vince Everett 45s.....knowing Elvis, he probably had them all.
Jarvis and Lowery, in my opinion, probably would have been better off promoting the other side of Vince's first 45 - "Don't Go", an original tune written by Marvin Benefield. Great vocals, cool backing by The Jordanaires, and great rocking groove (supplied, according to Marvin, by all-star session guys such as Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, Floyd Cramer and Boots Randolph) all make for one hell of a B-side. He may not have been Elvis, but at least for a handful of 45s, Marvin Benefield was as close as it got.
Vince Everett - Don't Go (ABC-Paramount 10313) - 1962