Johnny Cash Impersonates Elvis Presley: A Slapstick Version of “Heartbreak Hotel” (1959)

In his auto­bi­og­ra­phy, John­ny Cash recalled meet­ing Elvis Pres­ley in Mem­phis, cir­ca 1954:

The first time I saw Elvis, singing from a flatbed truck at a Katz drug­store open­ing on Lamar Avenue, two or three hun­dred peo­ple, most­ly teenage girls, had come out to see him. With just one sin­gle to his cred­it, he sang those two songs over and over. That’s the first time I met him.

Although the two musi­cians were “nev­er tight,” they liked one anoth­er. Cash admired Pres­ley’s rhythm gui­tar play­ing and his show­man­ship. He writes: “Elvis was so good. Every show I did with him, I nev­er missed the chance to stand in the wings and watch. We all did. He was that charis­mat­ic.” Which brings us to the short, com­plete­ly amus­ing clip found above.

Accord­ing to the Pig Riv­er Records web site (a “com­pre­hen­sive guide to music as it was 50 years ago”), this footage dates back to a 1959 tour. Cash was the open­ing act; Pres­ley, the head­lin­er. And each night, “Cash would imper­son­ate his friend and tour­ing part­ner, and then Elvis would come out and do the same. Two char­ac­ters just hav­ing a good ol’ time whilst simul­ta­ne­ous­ly cre­at­ing the genre of rock and roll.”

If you want to spend a lit­tle more time at the Cash-Pres­ley nexus, I’d encour­age you to lis­ten to Mil­lion Dol­lar Quar­tet, a record­ing that cap­tures Cash and Pres­ley’s impromp­tu jam ses­sion with Carl Perkins and Jer­ry Lee Lewis. It was record­ed in 1956, at the Sun Record Stu­dios in Mem­phis.

Final­ly, if you care to see more Elvis imper­son­ations, you can see how Cash stacks up against Quentin Taran­ti­no and the great Andy Kauf­man.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Ear­li­est Footage of Elvis Pres­ley, Bud­dy Hol­ly and John­ny Cash (1955)

The First Episode of The John­ny Cash Show, Fea­tur­ing Bob Dylan & Joni Mitchell (1969)

Library Card Signed by 13-Year-Old Elvis Pres­ley, the Ear­li­est Known Sig­na­ture of the King

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