Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, was known for his flashy style, iconic dance moves, and unforgettable voice. But behind the scenes, Elvis also surrounded himself with incredibly talented musicians in his backing band.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Elvis paid his band members around $100 per week in the 1950s. This increased over the years, with some making over $1,000 per week by the 1970s.
In this comprehensive article, we’ll take an in-depth look at Elvis’ band members over the years, their roles, and how much they were paid.
Elvis’ Early Bands in the 1950s
During the 1950s, Elvis Presley rose to fame and became a music icon. But behind his success, there were talented musicians who formed his bands and played a crucial role in shaping his sound. Two notable bands that Elvis worked with during this time were The Blue Moon Boys and The Jordanaires.
The Blue Moon Boys
The Blue Moon Boys were Elvis’ backing band in the early days of his career. The band consisted of guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, and drummer D.J. Fontana. Together, they created the iconic rockabilly sound that defined Elvis’ early recordings.
Scotty Moore’s innovative guitar playing, combined with Bill Black’s driving bass lines and D.J. Fontana’s energetic drumming, provided the perfect foundation for Elvis’ unique vocal style. Their collaboration resulted in hits like “That’s All Right” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” which catapulted Elvis to stardom.
Although there isn’t much information available about the exact amount Elvis paid his band members during this time, it is known that he treated them fairly and ensured they received their due recognition.
Elvis valued the talent and contribution of his band members, and their collaboration played a significant role in his success.
In addition to The Blue Moon Boys, Elvis also worked closely with a vocal group called The Jordanaires. This quartet, consisting of Gordon Stoker, Hoyt Hawkins, Neal Matthews Jr., and Hugh Jarrett, provided backing vocals for many of Elvis’ recordings and live performances.
The Jordanaires’ harmonies added depth and richness to Elvis’ music, giving it a distinct and memorable quality. Their contributions can be heard on songs like “Hound Dog” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” among many others.
While specific details about the monetary arrangements between Elvis and The Jordanaires are not widely available, it is known that they were well-compensated for their work. Elvis recognized the importance of their vocal talent and ensured that they received proper credit and compensation for their contributions.
Pay for Elvis’ Band Members in the 1950s
Elvis Presley, known as the King of Rock and Roll, was not only famous for his iconic music but also for his talented band members who supported him on stage. During the 1950s, Elvis paid his band members a base salary of around $100 per week, which was considered quite generous for that time period.
It’s important to note that this base pay was only the starting point, and there were additional bonuses and perks that made working with Elvis even more lucrative.
Base Pay of Around $100 Per Week
The base pay for Elvis’ band members in the 1950s was approximately $100 per week, which was a substantial amount considering the average weekly wage during that era. In today’s dollars, this would be equivalent to around $950 per week, which demonstrates Elvis’ commitment to compensating his band members fairly.
This base pay was provided to each band member, including guitarists, drummers, piano players, and vocalists. It was a testament to Elvis’ respect for his band’s talent and dedication.
Bonuses for Successful Tours and Special Appearances
In addition to the base pay, Elvis’ band members had the opportunity to earn substantial bonuses for successful tours and special appearances. These bonuses were based on the overall success of the performances and the revenue generated.
Elvis’ popularity during the 1950s meant that his tours were often sold out, resulting in significant financial rewards for his band members. This incentivized them to deliver exceptional performances and contribute to the overall success of Elvis’ career.
It’s important to note that Elvis’ generosity extended beyond financial compensation. He also provided his band members with various perks, such as accommodations, transportation, and access to exclusive events.
This created a sense of camaraderie within the band and fostered a positive working environment.
Elvis’ Concert and Touring Band in the 1960s and 1970s
The TCB Band
One of the most iconic and influential bands in the history of rock and roll, Elvis Presley’s concert and touring band during the 1960s and 1970s was known as the TCB Band. TCB stands for “Taking Care of Business,” which was not only the band’s motto but also the name of Elvis’ personal logo.
The TCB Band was formed in 1969 and remained with Elvis until his passing in 1977.
The TCB Band consisted of some of the most talented musicians of their time. They were known for their exceptional skills and ability to adapt to different musical genres, ranging from rock and roll to gospel and country.
This versatility allowed them to accompany Elvis during his performances and contribute to the unique sound that made him a legend.
Key Members and Roles
Several key members played integral roles in Elvis’ concert and touring band. James Burton, a renowned guitarist, was a crucial part of the TCB Band. His distinctive guitar solos became synonymous with Elvis’ live performances.
Ronnie Tutt, a highly skilled drummer, provided the energetic and dynamic rhythm that drove Elvis’ music forward. His powerful drumming style added an extra layer of excitement to each performance.
Glen D. Hardin, a talented pianist, played an essential role in creating the rich and melodic sound of Elvis’ live shows. His piano skills added depth and complexity to the band’s arrangements, enhancing the overall musical experience.
Jerry Scheff, a skilled bassist, held down the low end of the band’s sound, providing a solid foundation for the other musicians to build upon. His contributions were instrumental in creating the tight and cohesive sound that defined Elvis’ performances.
These are just a few examples of the talented individuals who made up Elvis’ concert and touring band. Each member brought their unique skills and musicality to the table, contributing to the success and enduring legacy of Elvis Presley.
Higher Salaries for Band Members in the 1970s
During the 1970s, Elvis Presley’s band members saw a significant increase in their salaries compared to previous decades. The growing success and popularity of Elvis meant that the demand for talented musicians to join his band was high.
As a result, the salaries for band members were raised to attract and retain top talent.
Base Salaries Increased to $200-500 Per Week
In the 1970s, Elvis Presley’s band members were paid base salaries ranging from $200 to $500 per week. This was a substantial increase compared to the lower salaries they received in the earlier years of their careers.
The higher salaries reflected the value that Elvis placed on his band members and the importance he attributed to their contributions to his live performances and recordings.
It’s important to note that these salaries were considered excellent for musicians at that time, especially considering the average income of individuals in other professions. The higher salaries not only rewarded the band members for their musical skills but also provided them with financial stability and security.
Additional Bonuses and Royalties
Apart from their base salaries, Elvis also provided his band members with additional bonuses and royalties. These incentives were given as a way to recognize their exceptional performances and commitment to the band.
The bonuses were often awarded for special achievements, such as playing on hit records or contributing to successful tours.
The royalties, on the other hand, were a percentage of the earnings generated from album sales, concert ticket sales, and other revenue streams. This allowed the band members to benefit from the commercial success of Elvis Presley, making their income even more lucrative.
It’s worth mentioning that the exact amount of bonuses and royalties received by each band member varied depending on their level of involvement and contribution to Elvis’s music. However, these additional incentives were undoubtedly a significant factor in ensuring the band members’ loyalty and dedication to Elvis’s musical career.
Why Did Elvis Pay His Bands Well?
Elvis Presley, often referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll,” was not only known for his incredible musical talent but also for his generosity towards his band members. Unlike many other artists of his time, Elvis made sure to pay his bands well. There were several reasons why he chose to do so.
Loyalty and Camaraderie
Elvis valued loyalty and camaraderie among his band members. He believed that treating them well and compensating them fairly would foster a strong bond and create a positive working environment. This approach not only helped him build a loyal and dedicated team but also contributed to the success of his live performances.
Elvis understood that a happy and satisfied band would give their best on stage, resulting in outstanding performances that delighted his fans. By paying his bands well, he ensured that they were motivated and felt valued, which in turn enhanced their loyalty to him and his music.
Supporting Talented Musicians
Another reason Elvis paid his bands well was his deep appreciation for talented musicians. He recognized that without their exceptional skills and contributions, his music would not have been as remarkable. Therefore, he wanted to show his gratitude by compensating them generously.
Elvis believed in investing in his band members’ talent and potential. By providing them with fair wages, he not only supported their livelihoods but also encouraged them to continue enhancing their skills.
This approach attracted top-notch musicians to join his band, further elevating the quality of his performances.
According to a report by Rolling Stone, Elvis paid his band members significantly more than what was considered standard in the industry at that time. This generous compensation not only helped them financially but also demonstrated Elvis’ commitment to recognizing and rewarding talent.
Elvis Presley clearly valued the contributions of his talented band members, as evidenced by the fair pay and bonuses he provided them over the decades.
While base salaries started small in the 1950s, they grew substantially over the years, allowing Elvis’ bands to make a good living playing with the King of Rock and Roll.