Though they met a few times in person throughout their respective careers, they never got the chance to take the stage together… and what a show that would’ve been.
Waylon started out as a radio disc jockey in Texas when he was still a teenager, and received a copy of Elvis’ first release on Sun Records back in the ’50s.
He remembers being stumped by Elvis’ style in his 1998 memoir, Waylon: An Autobiography, as Elvis was being marketed as a country artists at the time, though he had a sound that was totally as his own, hence the King of Rock and Roll title he was later given:
“I looked at that yellow Sun label from Memphis as if it was from Mars.
I thought, what a wild, strange sound… they didn’t know what to call Elvis yet on the radio, though they thought of him as a country artist.
I was crazy about Elvis. I loved that churning rhythm on the bottom. He didn’t even have drums yet, but the rock ‘n’ roll part was unmistakable. You’d think it was overnight, but he’d been plugging away a long time.”
Elvis later performed in Lubbock, Texas for the first time on January 6th, 1955, and he was billed as the “King of Hillbilly Bop.” Waylon missed that show, but made it to one not too long after on February 13th, when Elvis returned to the city, this time being billed as “Be-Bop Western Star of the Louisiana Hayride.”
Being a DJ at the time, Waylon got free tickets to the show, and went backstage to meet Elvis, saying:
“He was about the hottest thing to hit West Texas… He and Scotty Moore were standing over by the stage, and Elvis was just jumping around everywhere, bouncing and bubbling over with enthusiasm, full of more energy than anybody I ever saw.
He was talking to me like he’d known me for a thousand years.”
They met several other times through the years, mainly in Las Vegas at the end of the 1960s. RCA Records had invited Waylon to one of Elvis’ shows in Sin City, and Elvis wanted to see him again, so Waylon found himself backstage once more, this time with a leather wristband due to a fractured arm.
The band had a metal peace sign in the middle of it, which apparently caught Elvis’ eye, as he admired Waylon’s style:
“Elvis really liked that wristband; I think he wanted it. He kept admiring it – ‘You hillbillies sure know how to dress,’ and calling attention to it.”
Waylon, who was pretty easy on the eyes himself, even noted just how good looking Elvis was after meeting him in person on those several different occasions:
“Elvis may have been the most beautiful man in the world. His face was carved like a stone, chiseled out of rock, he was just that good looking.”
And it sounds like Elvis was just as much a fan of Waylon and his music, as he recorded one of Waylon’s singles, “You Asked Me To,” for his own album in the mid-70’s:
“He did one of my songs once, ‘Just Because You Asked Me To’, imitating my voice.
After he died, RCA wanted to put out a duet album with artists who had worked with Elvis, and asked me to sing along on his finished track.
I couldn’t handle that. ‘Call Elvis’, I told them. ‘If it’s okay with Elvis, it’s okay with me’.”
I mean, if Elvis is trying to imitate your voice, even if you’re Waylon Jennings, you must’ve done somethin’ right. I have a feeling Elvis would’ve loved to have Waylon on the song with him, but unfortunately, it never happened.
“You Asked Me To” was originally written by Waylon and Billy Joe Shaver, and first recorded by Waylon for his 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes. It later peaked at #8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart later that same year.
Elvis got ahold of it late in 1973, and recorded it in December of that year at Stax Record studios in Memphis. It was released on his 40th birthday, January 8th, 1975, just two years before his sudden death after a heart attack on August 16th, 1977.
It was the closing song on his 1975 Promised Land record, and was later included on the tracklist for his posthumous 1981 album Guitar Man, which reached the Top 50 in the U.S.
What I would give to have just one live performance of these two singing it together…
Here’s Elvis’ cover:
And check out Waylon singing it live at The Texas Opry back in 1975:
And though there’s no official duet between these to icons, somebody on YouTube mashed up a version of two separate live performances by them and made into a duet.
It was cut with audio from Elvis’ Rhythm and Country: Essential Elvis Vol 5 and dialogue from a live 1970 Las Vegas performance. Waylon’s audio was cut from a live performance in 1974 that was included on his Waylon Live: The Expanded Edition album.
It’s not a professional studio duet, and it sounds like they changed the key of each of their voices so they’re on the same note, but it’s pretty neat to hear nonetheless: