Elvis Presley Recorded This Classic Hit in the Dark

Elvis Presley made top 40 music, however, he could still be pretty unconventional at times. For example, he recorded one of his most beloved songs in total darkness. Here’s a look at the history of the song — and the unusual reason he recorded it in the first place.

Elvis Presley with a guitar
Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The wife of this famous businessman got Elvis Presley to cover her favorite song

While Elvis gave the world numerous great, original songs, he performed many covers as well. Some of his most famous songs, like “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Always on My Mind” were originally performed by other artists. One time, Elvis decided to cover a classic song because of Marie Parker, the wife of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

According to the book Handbook of Psychobiography, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” is a song from 1926 which drew inspiration from the writings of William Shakespeare. Tom asked Elvis to record “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” because it was his wife’s favorite song. Elvis may have decided to cover the song because he liked Marie — not because Tom wanted him to cover it.

Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”

RELATED: How Priscilla Presley Reacted When Elvis Presley Shot His TV

Why Elvis Presley dimmed the lights while recording ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’

Goldmine Magazine reports when Elvis recorded the song, he turned the light down low while recording the track. “He liked for the lights to be turned down low,” recalls Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires, a band which often worked with Elvis. “As a matter of fact, the lights were turned down low so many times, we couldn’t see our parts.”

Why the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s version of ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ was almost never released

John Rumble, a music historian, had an interesting anecdote about the song’s ending. Bill Porter, a studio engineer, told Steve Sholes, a representative for RCA, that Elvis almost abandoned his recording of the track because he messed up the end of the take. Shole wanted Elvis to redo the end of the song so it could be spliced together with another recording of the track. 

Elvis Presley playing “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” live

RELATED: Elvis Presley: Why Singer Darlene Love Refused to Sleep With Him

“So then they did the ending, and it was fine,” Rumble said. “Then Sholes tells Porter, ‘Bill, I want you to run this tape as far as you can before you splice the ending on.’ Porter took him at his word, and he made the splice between the syllables of the word ‘tonight.’ So ‘to’ is on the take that they were going to keep, and then the ‘night’ is the short little piece on which they recorded only the ending.” Rumble added, “‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?,’ one of [Elvis’] most beloved songs, almost didn’t happen because they messed up the end.”

How the world reacted to the song

So how did the public react to “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” The track reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s one of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s more sorrowful moments and it’s often included on compilations of his best work. The studio where he recorded it is now a tourist attraction in Nashville, Tennessee. Elvis may not have been the first to record “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” but thanks to Marie, he made it his own.