Elvis Presley performed the song in the 1958 motion picture King Creole, and his recording was included on the soundtrack of the same name. “Trouble”, featuring Scotty Moore on guitar, was one of only three songs written by Leiber and Stoller for the feature. Presley’s performance in the film alludes to Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. “If you’re looking for trouble”, he intones, “then look right in my face. Because I’m evil. My middle name is Misery”. Music critic Maury Dean suggests that “Trouble”, with Presley’s “growling snarl”, is one of the earliest proto-punk rock songs.
Ten years later, Presley opened his 1968 comeback special with this number. With dark, moody lighting highlighting his sneer, the sequence alluded to Presley’s checkered past and “dangerous” image and served to prove that the singer was still “sexy, surly and downright provocative”. The piece then segued into “Guitar Man” against a “Jailhouse Rock” backdrop featuring male dancers in cells. Presley performed the song several times on tour in the early 1970s and unofficial recordings of these performances have circulated. In 1975, Presley recorded “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” for a single, but this is a completely different song.
“Guitar Man” is a 1967 song written by Jerry Reed, who took his version of it to number 53 on the country music charts in 1967.
Soon after Reed’s single appeared, Elvis Presley recorded the song with Reed playing the guitar part, and it became a minor country and pop hit. According to Peter Guralnick in his two volume biography of Presley, the singer had been trying unsuccessfully to record the tune, but wasn’t happy with the groove. He said something to the effect of: “Get me that redneck picker who’s on the original tune”, and his staff brought Reed into the studio – who nailed it on the first take (though this romantic account is contradicted by a studio tape of the session that documents the first, second and fifth takes which are available on video-sharing website youtube.com). The single spent one week at number one on the country chart.
Thirteen years later, “Guitar Man” was re-recorded in a new electric arrangement, with Presley’s original vocal left intact, and it was the last of his eleven number one country hits. The record also peaked at number twenty-eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and was his last top-40 pop hit in the U.S.