Born 8 January 1943, Philadelphia, Mississippi
Singer / pianist.
Jimmy Elledge was a versatile singer with a five-octave range, who could comfortably sing country, rock, pop or R&B equally well. Though his singles, especially those for RCA, were of consistently high quality, he could only manage one entry on Billboard’s pop singles charts. His rendition of “Funny How Time Slips Away” is one of the great ballad recordings of the 1960s. His versatility may have inadvertently put a damper on his career. It seems like RCA wasn’t sure whether to push him as a country artist or a pop artist.
Elledge was born in Mississippi, not in Nashville, as most sources say. He took piano lessons from the age of six and started out singing and playing piano in a group called the Future Farmers of America Hillbilly Band during his teens. While most of the group’s repertoire consisted of the country songs of the day, Elledge handled the rock ’n’ roll segment of the set, often performing his specialty, Jerry Lee Lewis numbers. In 1960 he made two demo recordings in Nashville. “Gotta Right To Want To Love You” featured his Jerry Lee Lewis style. “Rock and Roll Thunderbird” was sung by the Burt Sisters, with fine piano accompaniment by Elledge. Both songs remained in the vaults until the 1980s when Dutchman Cees Klop issued them on two different White Label LPs. Also in 1960, Jimmy sent a demo tape to famed country producer Chet Atkins, who signed him to RCA. His first single, recorded in January 1961, coupled a vocal number (“Send Me A Letter”) with a piano instrumental, an excellent boogie woogie version of Stephen Foster’s “Swanee River”, which he called “Swanee River Rocket”. Unfortunately, none of Elledge's later recordings would feature his piano playing so prominently.
His second RCA single is the one for which he is best known. “Funny How Time Slips Away” was written by Willie Nelson and first recorded by Billy Walker in April 1961 ; Elledge cut the song five months later. Helped by the distinctive piano accompaniment of Floyd Cramer, the record became a # 22 pop hit, but surprisingly failed to enter the country charts. Many other artists have recorded the song and, after Elledge, four others have charted with the song, most notably Joe Hinton in 1964 (# 13, under the title “Funny”). Jimmy’s version allegedly sold more than a million copies over the years. In most European countries “Funny How Time Slips Away” was coupled with “Swanee River Rocket”. Apparently too many copies were pressed for the Dutch market. In the second half of the 1960s, when I lived in Amsterdam, I could always find a mint copy of the record for very little money. I’ve sold quite a few in those years.
RCA released nine singles and one LP by Elledge. His best rocker was a great version of “Bo Diddley” (RCA 47-8042, 1962). In 1965 he switched to Wesley Rose’s Hickory label and had six more single releases. “Pink Dally Rue” is my personal favourite from this 1965-67 period. There followed releases on Sims, Big A, Spar, Sound-Town and Little Darlin’. The latter label also issued his second album, in 1969. Jimmy had his second chart entry in 1975, with "One By One” on 4 Star, but it spent only two weeks at the bottom of the country charts. A 1979 single for the Song Bird label was his last release for many years. In 1996 two new recordings were included on a Various Artists CD, including a great version of Margaret Lewis’s “Reconsider Me” (not on YouTube). In 2005 Jimmy Elledge recorded the album “Passion” (for the Arabo label), which also featured Billy Joe Royal. He never had another national hit after “Funny”, but continued to perform throughout his life, usually accompanying himself on piano. For many years he lived and performed in New Orleans. Later he had his own nightclub, the Jimmy Elledge Club, in Gretna, Louisiana.
In June 2012 came the news that Jimmy Elledge had died of a stroke. There was some confusion, as some people who knew him personally denied the rumours and said that it concerned a different Jimmy Elledge. However, there are so many different sources on the Internet that mention his passing that it is probably true, though none of these mention the location where he died. They might all be copying each other.
More info :
CD : Apart from the “Passion” CD, there is only one CD currently available by Jimmy Elledge, namely “Hickory Days”, first released on Sony in 2008 and reissued on Red Bus Digital in 2011 under the title “I’d Be A Legend In My Time”. Only 11 tracks.
Acknowledgements : Ray Vaughn, Frank Frantik.
Dik, January 2017
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