The Auction at Graceland•Elvis Week•August 12, 2018
This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on: 8/12/2018 11:30:00 AM

Lot #26: Historic August 27, 1956, Elvis Presley Signed and Initialed Songwriters Contract for the Song “Love Me Tender” - Also Signed by Ken Darby’s (The Song’s Writer) Wife Vera Matson and Freddy Bienstock*


From The Tar-Zen Collection

The Files of Hill and Range: Elvis Presley's Music Publisher

The following four offerings represent an unprecedented opportunity in the annals of Elvis Presley collecting. Based on their content and context to each other, these documents emanate from the files of Hill and Range Songs, Inc. They document historical, even seminal, points in the career of the 20th century's most important entertainer. We see the agreement for arguably his most recognizable hit song and the contracts with the publishing company and the man, Colonel Parker, that would help drive his career to never before seen heights. Furthermore are documents that give a glimpse into the inner workings of Elvis' early empire. Graceland Auctions is proud to present this incredible assemblage of truly important and exciting artifacts.

Love Me Tender was Elvis’ first role in a movie that was named by 20th Century Fox after Elvis’ popular song release of the same title. Elvis’ song “Love Me Tender” was released by RCA Victor in September 1956 after being recorded in the 20th Century Fox studios that August. The film’s release (in November 1956) under the same name was intended to capitalize on the success of the song. The song itself was written by Ken Darby and published by Elvis Presley Music, which credited Elvis and Darby’s wife Vera Matson as Ken Darby’s pseudonym. Elvis received partial songwriting credit because of his relationship with Hill and Range, which demanded any song recorded by Elvis would entitle him to 50% writing credit. Ken Darby was once asked why he also credited his wife and his response was “she didn’t write it either.” The popularity of Elvis’ rendition of the song began when Elvis performed it on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956 after which RCA received more than a million advance orders. The song was Gold before it was released and hit number one on the Billboard charts in November where it remained for five weeks. This perfect timing for the film’s release made the song, film and singer rapidly rise in popularity and recognition. Offered is the original songwriters’ contract dated August 27, 1956 between Elvis Presley Music, Inc. and Vera Matson and Elvis Presley, and signed by Elvis Presley and Vera Matson, and by Freddy Bierstock for Elvis Presley Music. The standard two-page, double-sided printed agreement contains typed inserts and revisions to the contract that include the three songs covered by the agreement: “Love Me Tender,” “There’s a Leak in This Old Building” and “Poor Boy.” The payment from the publisher is listed as an advance of $1,000 to be evenly divided between the writers. Royalties were to be 4 cents per copy for regular piano copies sold in the U.S. and 5 cents royalty per copy of orchestrations sold in the U.S. as well as a royalty of 50% of all net sums for piano copies and orchestrations received by the publisher in any foreign country. Paragraph (e) has been struck while a paragraph H-1 has been added that states, “The sum of Twelve Dollars and Fifty Cents ($12.50) as and when said composition is published in any folio or composite work or lyric magazine by the Publisher or licensees of the Publisher.” The agreement makes several additional amendments including adding paragraphs 18 and 19 above the signatures which read: 

18. The Writers hereby consent and agree that the Publisher may, without any payment therefor, grant to TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX an unlimited worldwide synchronization license for the three (3) compositions covered by this agreement for any and all motion pictures produced and/or distributed by TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX and its associated companies and corporations for the full copyright terms of said compositions, and the same applies for the use of said titles as titles of motion pictures. 

19. This agreement covers three (3) musical compositions.

These additional paragraphs have been initialed by “F.B.” “E.P.” and “V.M.” Vera has included her address under her signature. Only two of the three songs listed on the contract—“Love Me Tender” and “Poor Boy”—were used in the movie. This incredible early amended standardized agreement provides a peek into the inner workings of the relationship between writers, publishers and singers for one of the most famous ballads sung by the ultimate entertainer during the fledgling years of his career. A most historic document from an amazing collection. The pages of the contract measure 11 by 8 1/2 inches (27.94 x 21.59 cm) and are accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Graceland Authenticated.

The document presents with moderate edge wear, with some chipping, and each page has two hole punches from filing. The two pages are still connected along the top edge, which was standard for these contracts. Excellent condition.
Final Bid (Includes Buyers Premium):$25,000
Minimum Bid:$10,000
Estimate:$20000 - $40000
Number of Bids:8