Soul-Music Legend David Porter Talks About Elvis Presley: The Searcher, Documentary Debuting 4/14 on HBO
He was a boy from Tupelo who grew up to become the biggest star in music. Along the way, he absorbed a staggering range of influences, creating a revolutionary sound in his lifelong search for self-expression.
Following his creative journey from childhood through the final 1976 Jungle Room recording sessions, the two-part presentation Elvis Presley: THE SEARCHER debutsSATURDAY, APRIL 14 (8:00-11:30 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO. The documentary includes stunning atmospheric shots taken inside Graceland, Elvis' iconic home, and features more than 20 new, primary source interviews with session players, producers, engineers, directors and other artists who knew him or who were profoundly influenced by him, as well as never-before-seen photos and footage from private collections worldwide.
Q: You were a teenager when Elvis became a star. What were your initial impressions of him?
David Porter: This was a white kid in the 1950s going on Beale Street, learning from masters of black music like Roy Hamilton, Jackie Wilson and others. He was different, interesting, but not something you felt the magnitude of at first - not until you heard Dewey Phillips playing "That's All Right" on [his radio show] "Red, Hot & Blue." Hearing what he was doing, singing black music with a confidence and a uniqueness, made me and other African-American talents say, "This guy has something." And he did!
DP: We felt that maybe he was opening up a market that had been not fully opening up to black music, breaking down barriers to a greater appreciation of what black music truly was. That opened up more doors for artists like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Brook Benton and so many others. He was not Pat Boone, because he was soulfully expressing the songs with an r'n'b flair, showing what black music was through his perspective.
Q: Even if it wasn't Elvis' conscious goal to break down boundaries for his audience, it seems like that's what he did.
DP: What Elvis did for me was cement in my mind the great potential reach of r'n'b and soul music. The credibility that he bought to it, whether he viewed it that way or not, doesn't matter, because this was the net result.
DP: The common thread that runs through great Memphis music is emotional connectivity. You can't help but feel the passion, the pain, the joy that comes when true Memphis artists put their truth into the song that they are singing. The "it" factor comes only through the great ones.
Q: Are there any songs of yours in particular that you would have liked to see him sing? Elvis could have done a great job on "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby."
DP: "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby" is one. The second is "You Got Me Hummin'."
Q: What did you take away from the film on a personal level?
DP: This documentary gives the complete picture of the person, his greatness, some of his secrets, some of his ups, some of his downs and an abundance of his power.
Elvis Presley: THE SEARCHER is an HBO DOCUMENTARY FILMS Presentation in association with Sony Pictures Television; executive producers, Glen Zipper, Priscilla Presley, Jerry Schilling, Andrew Solt, Alan Gasmer and Jamie Salter (chairman and CEO, Authentic Brands Group); producers, Jon Landau and Kary Antholis; directed and produced by Thom Zimny.