Without a Song...
Quotes about Elvis's singing talent and voice - submitted by Sue Adams

(About his musical style, and impact as a vocalist)

Included below are comments currently available either on the internet, in reference guides, encyclopedias, or books, made by Music editors, producers and songwriters; Record company CEO´s; Theater critics; Music professors, publishers and commentators; Recording sound engineers; Musicians in the Classical, Pop, Blues, Gospel, R&B, Soul, Rock, C&W and Latin-American music fields; Voice teachers and coaches; Rock and Popular Music historians; and writers on the Humanities, the Arts, as well as on Social, Racial, Literary, Copyright-Law and other related studies

* * * * *

"Elvis Presley has been described variously as a baritone and a tenor. An extraordinary compass- the so-called register-, and a very wide range of vocal color have something to do with this divergence of opinion. The voice covers two octaves and a third, from the baritone low-G to the tenor high B, with an upward extension in falsetto to at least a D flat. Presley's best octave is in the middle, D-flat to D-flat, granting an extra full step up or down. Call him a high baritone. In "It's'now or never", (1960), he ends it in a full voice cadence (A, G, F), that has nothing to do with the vocal devices of Rhythm and Blues and Country. That A-note is hit right on the nose, and it is rendered less astonishing only by the number of tracks where he lands easy and accurate B-flats. Moreover, he has not been confined to one type of vocal production. In ballads and country songs he belts out full-voiced high G's and A's that an opera baritone might envy. He is a naturally assimilative stylist with a multiplicity of voices - in fact, Elvis' is an extraordinary voice, or many voices"
- Henry Pleasants, in his book "The Great American Popular Singers" (1974)

"I suppose you'd had to call him a lyric baritone, although with exceptional high notes and unexpectedly rich low ones. But what is more important about Elvis Presley is not his vocal range, nor how high, or low it extends, but where its center of gravity is. By that measure, Elvis was all at once a tenor, a baritone and a bass, the most unusual voice I've ever heard"
- Gregory Sandows, Music Professor at Columbia University, published in "The Village Voice".

"I am reminded of a comment made shortly after the death of Elvis Presley by a musician he had worked with. He pointed out that despite an impressive vocal range of two and a half octaves and something approaching perfect pitch, Elvis was perfectly willing to sing off-key when he thought the song required it. Those off-key notes were art."
- Patrick H. Adkins, The Dream Vaults of Opar

"He got even more maturity in his voice as he got older; I was often amazed at his range, just as one singer listening to another. He could sing anything. I've never seen such a versality, and in fact I don't see it today. Usually a voice can sing one way, but he had that ability about him, and he helped me to learn the importance of communication with an audience. He had such great soul. He had the ability to make everyone in the audience think that he was singing directly to them. He just had a way with communication that was totally unique"
- Gospel tenor Shawn Nielsen, who backed Presley`s recordings both with the "Imperials" and with the group "Voice", at the studio and in concert, from the late sixties until Presley's death in 1977

"Presley brought an excitement to singing, in part because rock and roll was greeted as his invention, but for other reasons not so widely reflected on: Elvis Presley had the most beautiful singing voice of any human being on earth."
- William F. Buckley, Jr., in his article "The Crooner, R.I.P.: Perry Como and the casual mode," published by the National Review on June 11, 2001.

"He would probably be considered a baritone, but he could reach notes that most baritone singers could not. Much of his abilities emanated from a very intense desire to execute a song as he wanted to do it, which meant that he really sang higher than he would normally be able to. When the adrenalin is going, and the song is really pumping, you can get into that mode where you can actually do things, vocally, that you couldn’t normally do. So he had a tremendous range because of his desire to excel and be better, and that’s why he could do a lot of things that most people couldn’t."
- Terry Blackwood, lead singer of the Gospel group, the "Imperials"

"Elvis' initial hopes for a music career involved singing in a gospel male quartet. His favorite part was bass baritone, and he himself had an almost 3-octave vocal range... Yet to posterity's surprise, such a superlative and magnetic natural talent always remained humble --perhaps too humble to keep performing forever."
- IMDb's review of his appearance in Frank Sinatra's 1960's "Welcome Home Party for Elvis Presley" TV special.

"The young Elvis Presley, without any doubt."
Top New Zealand opera star and soprano Kiri Te Kanawa's answer to UK show-host Michael Parkinson ( who probably expected her to name Luciano Pavarotti, or Maria Callas), when asked whose was the greatest voice she had ever heard (as published in, 3 January 2007)

"People will often say that opera singers sound too stiff and operatic when singing contemporary music. This is because the vowels in an operatic style tend to be more open, whereas in a rock style singers tend to thin out the vowel. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, in opening the vowel in the higher register so that the higher notes can be sustained. Elvis Presley was very open in his singing style even though he was 'the' rock and roller."
- Brain Gilbertson, world-famous voice teacher.

"Along with the rest of "Deep Purple", I once had the chance to meet Elvis. For a young singer like me, he was an absolute inspiration. I soaked up what he did like blotting paper. It's the same as being in school — you learn by copying the maestro. His personality was also extremely endearing, his interviews were very self-effacing (and), he came over as gentle and was generous in his praise of others. He had a natural, technical ability, but there was something in the humanity of his voice, and his delivery. Those early records at the Sun Records label are still incredible and the reason is simple: he was the greatest singer that ever lived."
Deep Purple's lead singer and frontman, Ian Gillan, interviewed by Classic Rock magazine, explaining why Presley belongs in the list of rock icons ( as published in, on 3rd January, 2007)

"But it was on the gospel numbers, such as the stunning "How Great Thou Art", (1977) that Presley showed the awesome power of his voice. The fact that he has one of the greatest voices in popular music has been obscured by the mystique that has surrounded him."
- Steve Millburgh, writing for the "Omaha World Herald", on one of Presley`s last concerts, on 19 June 1977.

"He was the most commercially successful singer of rock and roll, but he also had success with ballads, country, gospel, blues, pop, folk and even semi-operatic and jazz standards. His voice, which developed into many voices as his career progressed, had always a unique tonality and an extraordinarily unusual center of gravity, leading to his ability to tackle a range of songs and melodies which would be nearly impossible for most other popular singers to achieve"
- The Wikipedia`s all-too-brief, yet concise reference on Presley`s voice, and musical background

"There was no model for Elvis Presley's success; what Sun Records head Sam Phillips sensed was something in the wind, an inevitable outgrowth of all the country and blues he was recording at his Union Avenue studio; enter Presley in 1954, bringing with him a musical vocabulary rich in country, country blues, gospel, inspirational music, bluegrass, traditional country, and popular music -- as well as a host of emotional needs that found their most eloquent expression in song; his timing was impeccable, not only as a vocalist, but with regard to the cultural zeitgeist: emerging in the first blush of America's postwar ebullience, Presley captured the spirit of a country flexing its industrial muscle, of a generation unburdened by the concerns of war, younger, more mobile, more affluent, and better educated than any that had come before; (as such), the Sun recordings were the first salvos in an undeclared war on segregated radio stations nationwide.
- Rollingstone Magazine, focussing on the importance of Elvis' Sun Records label recordings

"In 1956, even the youngest of his fans knew that the 21-year-old Elvis Presley was unquestionably the whole package; and, obviously, his great three octave tenor voice, with a lower register close to bass, seemed to vibrate on the inner scale of every teenager in America; they loved the high tenor, but when he "got down" with that lower register, fans exploded; Elvis translated this into his moves on stage, so it was a 10.0 assault on the senses"
- Sugarpi Productions´' essay on Elvis Presley, as published in Clay´


"I am indebted to Scott W. Johnson, my fellow at the Claremont Institute, for many things over the years, but not many rate higher than his "introducing" me to Elvis Presley. I came of age (i.e., reached the 9th grade), just in time for the "British Invasion" and, despite my childhood memories, soon came to think of him as the ultimate in passe; so, I was astonished when Scott told me, a year or two ago, that in his opinion Elvis Presley was the greatest male vocalist of the 20th Century; I had never thought of him in that light, to put it mildly, but that conversation caused me to realize that I had never actually 'listened'; starting then, I did - with the aid of Scott's encyclopedic music collection -, so if you have never gotten past a cartoon image of Elvis, do yourself a favor and 'listen'".
- John H. Hinderaker, of the Claremont Institute, a Harvard Law School Graduate and expert on public policy issues, including income and race, as published in Power.Line, on January 09, 2007

"In Elvis, you had the whole lot; it's all there in that elastic voice and body. As he changed shape, so did the world. His last performances showcase a voice even bigger than his gut, where you cry real tears as the music messiah sings his tired heart out, turning casino into temple. I think the Vegas period is underrated. I find it the most emotional. By that point Elvis was clearly not in control of his own life, and there is this incredible pathos. The big opera voice of the later years -- that's the one that really hurts me."
- lead singer Bono, of U2, for Rollingstone Magazine, as published in their April 15, 2004 edition.

"Elvis Presley`s talent as a musical artist was double barrelled and more; his voice, on the one hand, was extraordinary for its quality, range and power, as well as being a unique stage performer with instinctive natural abilities in both areas; he was the master of a wide and diverse range of vocal stylings and ventriloquist effects, from the clear tenor of his C&W heroes, to the vibrato of the Gospel singers he loved, his voice invariably possessing an aching sincerity and an indefinable quality of yearning virtually impossible to pigeonhole".
- From the U.S Department of the Interior`s paper on criteria for greatness as a vocalist, which, together with all aspects of his life and legacy, led to the inclusion of his home, Graceland, in the National Register of Historic Places, in 2006.

"Blues, country, pop, rock and roll, gospel, and beyond, this man could sing anything. From the rockabilly of the Sun Sessions, to the MOR of "Wooden Heart", to the later day "Burnin' Love", Elvis proved that he had the skills as a vocalist that few have, or will ever have"
- Rob Jones, Canadian musicologist, writing in "Helium: Where knowledge rules".

"Elvis loved gospel music, he was raised on it, and he really did know what he was talking about. We would jam with him for an hour, and he had a feel for it and was "tickled" to have four `church sisters' backing him up; he was singing Gospel all the time, (in fact), almost anything he did had that flavor. You can’t get away from what your roots are."
- Gospel singer Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney Houston, and a founding member of the "Sweet Inspirations", one of the Gospel Groups who backed Presley in his live performances, from 1969 until his death, as told to Jerry Helligar in an interview published in "True Believer", at, on Aug 10, 1998

"The greatest voice of all time".
- "Q" Magazine Judging panel´s laud of Elvis Presley, from a poll published on their March 4, 2007 issue.

"I taught him some lyrics in Spanish and he learned them. I wrote it for him the way it was sung (phonetically). He was very talented. It was very difficult Mexican music."
- Manny Lopez, RCA vibraphone recording artist known as the "King of the Cha Cha", explaining how, under his tutelage, Elvis sang the Mexican standard, "Guadalajara", (1963) in Spanish, like an authentic Mariachi, as published in Las Vegas' "The Desert Sun", on March 16, 2007

"What he actually did was take 'black' and 'white' music and transform them into this third thing; (in the final analysis), no one sang so many different kinds of music - rock, gospel, country, standards -, as well as Presley sang them, at such a high level, and for such a long time"
- Greg Drew, world famous voice coach whose clients include Lenny Kravits, Avril Lavigne, and Corey Glover, as quoted in Mike Brewster`s "The Great Innovators: Birth of a Rock star", published by Business Week in its September 24, 2004 issue.

"Had Presley never sung a note he might have still caused a stir, but sing he did. Watershed hits such as "All Shook Up" (1957) or, for instance, "Are You Lonesome Tonight", (1960), were imminently Presley's from the moment he put his stamp on them. His jagged, bubbly highs, and Southern baritone jump from those recordings like spirits from a cauldron. Elvis crooned romantically, then screeched relentlessly, always pouring his heart into the lyric and melody. After Elvis, the male vocalist could no longer just sing a song, especially in the new world of rock-n-roll. The "feel" of a performance far out-weighed the perfection of the take."
- James Campion, in his book "The 25 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century", published in 1996.

"In the collective memory of his fans, he reigns as the sleek musical genius who soaked up the multiple influences of America's vernacular music -gospel, country swing, rhythm 'n' blues—, and made them his own; Bob Dylan, one of pop's favorite poets, put it best: Elvis, he said, was "the incendiary atomic musical firebrand loner who conquered the western world."
- Gwen Gibson, in his article "The Top 10 Pop Stars, Ever", published in the AARP's May 2003 edition

"The voice is so melodious, and - of course, by accident, this glorious voice and musical sensibility was combined with this beautiful, sexual man and this very unconscious - or unselfconscious stage movements. Presley's registration, the breadth of his tone, listening to some of his records, you'd think you were listening to an opera singer. But…it's an opera singer with a deep connection to the blues."
- Jerry Wexler, co-founder of Atlantic Records.

"When healthy and serious, he was flat-out the world's greatest singer. In his voice, he possessed the most beautiful musical instrument, and the genius to play that instrument perfectly; he could jump from octave to countless other octaves with such agility without voice crack, simultaneously sing a duet with his own overtones, rein in an always-lurking atomic explosion to so effortlessly fondle, and release, the most delicate chimes of pathos. Yet, those who haven't been open (or had the chance) to explore some of Presley's most brilliant work - the almost esoteric ballads and semi-classical recordings -, have cheated themselves out of one of the most beautiful gifts to fall out of the sky in a lifetime. Fortunately, this magnificent musical instrument reached its perfection around 1960, the same time the recording industry finally achieved sound reproduction rivaling that of today. So, it's never too late to explore and cherish a well-preserved miracle, as a simple trip to the record store will truly produce unparalleled chills and thrills, for the rest of your life; and then you'll finally understand the best reason this guy never goes away".
- Mike Handley, narrator and TV/radio spokesman, in the 'The Jim Bohannon Show', airing on 600+ radio stations on the Westwood One Network.

"He treats the song as a private meditation, full of pain and the yearning to believe. Though the lyrics speak of hope, Elvis turns them into a cry, as if reaching for one last sliver of light in engulfing darkness. 'I am alone', he seems to be saying. But maybe, just maybe, we can find someone or something to cling to. In his case, it's God. But each of us, hearing him, reaches for our own salvation; if great art needs nakedness (then), those few minutes of Elvis alone at the piano amount to the most naked performance I've ever witnessed."
- Nick Cohn, commenting on Elvis Presley's rendition, alone at the piano, of "You'll never walk alone" , at the Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, (1975) and published on the Guardian's Sunday edition, on January 21, 2007, in an article entitled "The 25 best gigs of all time".

"We are startled, on the amazing "Blue Moon," by his trick of shifting, in a heartbeat, from saloon baritone to pants-too-tight wailing and by his near Hawaiian avoiding of consonants ("Ya-hoo A-know Ah can be fou'/ Sittin' home all alo'"), from "Don't Be Cruel", a song that comes close to redefining the art of the pop vocal; So, what's left? A terrific crooner who was closer, in intonation, vocal virtuosity and care for a song's mood, to Bing Crosby, than to any top singer of the rock era. Toward the end, he still had it as a Gospel ballader, the choir-soloist power of the hymn "He Touched Me" — his voice breaking poignantly at the end of the hymn, as if he had just seen Jesus — still thrills and haunts. So does his desire to please an audience of kids and grandmas, instead of comfortably occupying a niche, as almost every pop star has done since"
- Richard Corliss, TIME magazine`s Music Editor, reviewing the "Platinum", box-set, as published in the magazine`s January 8, 2003 edition.

"He had a musically textured rhythmic voice that had emotional intelligence; concentrate on his voice: sweet, remorseful, defiant, suggestive"
- Eileen Battersby, literary correspondent, citing the reasons for her being hooked on Elvis after "discovering" him inadvertently as she changed the dial looking for her favorite classical music radio station, as published in the "Irish Times" in August of 2002.

"During the early going at the Charlotte Coliseum, there were scattered notes here and there that made you wonder if finally he was gonna do it but, always, he would pull up short, rely on the grins, the charisma and the legend, until finally a little before 10:45, he came to the gospel classic, "How Great Thou Art"-. And that was it. As he came to the part where he belts out the title, he sounded like Mario Lanza with soul, cutting loose a series of high notes that would tingle the spine of even the diehard skeptic; but crescendo came on a song called "Hurt"; it's an old song that Elvis didn't record until a couple of years ago, and the key ingredient is its range, an awesome collection of notes that could leave a normal set of vocal chords in shreds; he finished in what seemed his most potent style, but wasn't satisfied, and mumbled to the band, "Let's do that last part again."; he did, and if there was anyone among the packed-house crowd who had thought Elvis was a fluke, they no doubt came away converted.
- Frye Gaillard, reviewing his February 20, 1977 show at the Coliseum, for the "The Charlotte Observer"

"The point of Elvis Presley was that, after a dismal eight years on the screen, he returned to the stage where he always belonged and to the grinding treadmill of being on the road, which has killed so many of America's artists; he may not have pushed the boundaries of music farther but when he opened his mouth to release that baritone - the only white voice that could ever match the blues-, all you could feel was his longing. and your own stirrings"
- Adrian Hamilton, writing for "The Independent", on August 14, 2002

"He had an incredible, attractive instrument that worked in many registers; he could falsetto like Little Richard, his equipment was outstanding, his ear uncanny, and his sense of timing second to none; (in short) he could sing..."
- Jerry Leiber, who with Mike Stoller, co-wrote some of the greatest R&R and Pop hits of the 50's, and early 60's.

"Presley's voice was remarkable in the sense that, through it, he touched people in a way only great artists can do. (In fact), the people he touched are as diverse as humanity itself and, because of that his popularity has transcended race, class, national boundaries, and culture. There is no simple answer about why that is so, all I can say is he had that magic. When Elvis Presley was first popular, many people said that he did not have a good voice. Almost everyone, today, knows that he did, but more people today should see him not simply as a performer, but as an artist with a great soul.
- John Bakke, professor emeritus of the University of Memphis, in an interview with the US State Department, transcripted by UNUSINFO on July 18, 2006 on the legacy of Elvis Presley

"There comes a point when the voice starts to wash over you. You get inside of it, start to really hear what he's doing, and you realize his singing has this extraordinary, effortless quality to it. Sometimes it's like listening to a stream of honey. It's a very smooth ride, the voice of Elvis Presley. I don't think you focus on the words when he's singing. I think he's doing what bel canto singers do - you don't listen to the words, "just" to the beauty of his voice-. When I say "just", that makes it sound as if he's denying you something else but, actually, that's quite enough".
- Barb Jungr, reviewing the album "Love", for "The Scotsman", as published in its 25 June, 2005 edition

"Even in his laziest moments, Presley was a master of intonation and phrasing, delivering his rich baritone with a disarming naturalness. And when he caught a spark from his great T.C.B. Band, Presley could still out-sing anyone in American pop. You can hear it here on inspired versions of Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Working", Wayne Carson's "Always on My Mind", Chuck Berry's "Promised Land", McCartney's "Lady Madonna", Percy Mayfield's "Stranger in My Own Hometown", Dennis Linde's "Burning Love" and Joe South's "Walk a Mile in My Shoes".....
- Geoffrey Himes, reviewing the "Essential 70's masters" box-set, for

"Even as a young man, that's what Presley sounded, like a man. I wasn't of a culture nor a region that found Presley appealing, and I've never seen a Presley movie through but, a few years ago when in a tribute to him various modern singers covered some of his originals, followed, or enclosed by, his versions of the same songs, I was struck by how much fuller, deeper, and richer his were."
- Al Spike, explaining to North Africans why Presley's manly baritone rang true, in the web`s "Chicago Boyz".

"Take a track like "One Sided Love Affair" and really examine every nuance of his voice, every caress, every tease and every growl that he lets loose for the song's duration, and you`ll you come to understand that the reason Presley's voice has been so often imitated is because it was unique and, furthermore, damm great; no phony piano intro, not even a puerile lyric could have ever stopped him from turning this song into a real classic; imagine, then, how great it is when Elvis gets to sing material that is up to his standards — like on the Sun Records label song "Tryin' To Get You" - , probably the bluesiest song on this record, where Presley shows a sense of determination, not just a combination of nobleness and sex, but an expression of guts as well; quite simply, this is a guy who knows what he wants, and knows he's gonna get it, and his confidence - never arrogance -, is so contagious that by the end of the song, you believe it too"
- Daniel Reifferscheid, reviewing Elvis' first album, for Toxic Universe

"Then, in mid 1968 he taped a television special in a black leather suit, in front of a select live audience, opening with "Guitar Man" and closing with a mild social-conscience song, "If I Can Dream". But it wasn't until Greil Marcus brought out the recording of that performance for me, almost three years later, that I realized how significant it had been. Marcus has spent as much time listening as anyone who is liable to be objective, and he believes Elvis may have made the best music of his life that crucial comeback night. It's so easy to forget that Elvis was, or is, a great singer. Any account of his impact that omits that fundamental fact amounts to a dismissal."
- Robert Christgau, Dean of American Rock critics, in his 1973 book "Any old way you choose"

"With the way he was marketed, he didn't even need to be able to sing the way he could. But Elvis had talent, plain and simple. The guy had a thousandth-octave range, and a variety in his vocal styles and approach, he could make more vocal tones, with just his voice, than a guitar player with 50 pedals and gadgets. If you never even saw the guy, you could plain feel, not just hear, the emotion and passion in his voice, and you are immediately taken in, one hundred percent. On the merit of vocals alone, he had more talent in the barbecue stuck in his teeth than the singers who sell millions of records do today."
- Country singer Roger Wallace, in the web`s "Soapbox".

"Elvis' range was about two and a quarter octaves, as measured by musical notation, but his voice had an emotional range from tender whispers to sighs down to shouts, grunts, grumbles and sheer gruffness that could move the listener from calmness and surrender, to fear. His voice can not be measured in octaves, but in decibels; even that misses the problem of how to measure delicate whispers that are hardly audible at all."
- Lindsay Waters, Executive Editor for the Humanities at Harvard University Press, in his essay "Come softly, darling, hear what I say".

"During his rendition of "Hurt", (1976), he was in even better voice, singing in a register that gave more impact to his phrasing, and even hitting notes that could cause a mild hernia. And, after they drew a good crowd reaction, he offered them in a reprise that was tantamount to masochism."
- Mike Kalina, reviewing Elvis' 1976 New Year's concert for the "Pittsburgh Post Gazette", January 1, 1977.

"We can even hazard a little analysis as to what made his voice so appealing. "That curious baritone," one critic called it. Actually, that is inexact. The voice had mixed propensities, hovering between tenor and bass and everything in between. Even a convincing falsetto lay within his range. One thing he was not, ever, was "Steve-'n-Edie", the polished, professionally accomplished Vegas artistes who once pronounced on an afternoon interview show (Mr. Lawrence enunciating the sentiment for himself and his partner/wife, Ms. Gorme), "We don't really think of Elvis as a singer. But he was a star." It is only when, years later, one gets past the indignation of hearing such apparent ignorance, that the sense of the observation becomes clear. A singer is someone like Steve Lawrence rolling effortlessly (and meaninglessly) through a shlock-standard like "What Now, My Love?". More or less like doing the scales. A star is the persona in whom one invests one's vicarious longings, a being who is constantly hazarding — and intermittently succeeding at — the impossible stretches that every soul wishes to attempt but lacks the means or the will to. It's not a matter of virtuosity."
- Jackson Baker, in "Memphis Magazine", July 2002 issue.

"I don't really think Elvis' voice was significantly lower than those of any other baritones. The color of the voice and the sense of warmth and richness of tone gave the sense that the voice was much deeper. Elvis, in fact, did not force his lower register, comfortable as he was with it, which in turn gave the impression that it was lower than those of other baritones."
- Brian Gilbertson, world famous voice teacher, explaining the deepness of Elvis' lower registry.

"Elvis was a (Gospel) singer par excellence. On "Milky White Way", (1960), he' got the strength of a bassman and the sweetness of a tenor. The heritage we have in Elvis' gospel music is a gift to the world".
- Paul Poulton, as published in "Cross Rhythms Magazine"

"In "Hawaiian Wedding Song", (1960), Elvis takes particular advantage of his voice's strong lower middle and higher note registers, made particularly difficult because of the need to sing in cascading notes. Elvis meets the challenge on every occasion, his performance being absolutely meticulous, with not a hint of vocal strain."
- BMG's'review of his album "Blue Hawaii"

This is a website created strictly as a tribute to Elvis Presley. Elvis, Elvis Presley, Graceland and TCB are all registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises. I make no claim to Elvis Presley Enterprises, Elvis Presley, his music, videos or voice.

All flash presentations, creative art and text is copyrighted by Maia Nartoomid (and in some instances with text and documents, Wanda June Hill and JoAnna McKenzie) - all rights reserved.