Many things throughout Elvis' life and career have pointed to him being a staunch American patriot from his national service in the Army, his letter to Richard Nixon in December 1970 or the inclusion of this song in his setlist from 1972 and using America (The Beautiful) in his live show to celebrate his country's bicentennial in 1976.
As a Brit and a Scot and not an American it is not my place to judge how sincere or deep a patriot Elvis Presley was - that is purely for Americans to decide but whatever the truth may be something compelled Elvis to include American Trilogy in his repertoire where anyone can hear how much emotion he puts into the song and every fan has their favourite version.
The song itself is a fusion of three songs, 'Dixie', 'All My Trials' and 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' arranged by Mickey Newbury who released his version as a single in 1972 and reached #26 in the US charts. Surely as a consequence of being released in the US as a single so soon after the Newbury version was the mani reason for Elvis' single version being a commercial failure as it could only have been a case of RCA seeing the $ signs and although the fans would buy it, the general public are not going to buy the same song by two diffrent artists so close together! In the UK, however, the Elvis single was a hit peaking at #8 surely proving that very point.
Even before the inception of the FTD label there were several Elvis versions of this song officially released both on audio and video. The released filmed versions are the Greensboro version from On Tour and the two Aloha versions not to mention the Hampton Roads version at the end of 'This Is Elvis' with those strange overdubs.
Pre-FTD we had the single version recorded three weeks after this was performed, the two MSG versions, San Antonio (18 June 72) from the 'Close Up' box set, the version released on 'Recorded Live On Stage in Memphis' which has the young fan twice screaming 'Elvis' adding to this version's intimacy and the 1975 version from the 'Elvis Aron Presley' silver box set and of course the two versions from Hawaii in 1973.
This, the very first time Elvis performed the song, is a wonderful rendition and the intimacy of the Hilton showroom only adds to the feel of the song.
Having never recorded the song in the studio the RCA single master was instead recorded three weeks later at the same venue on 16 February.
For the next three and a half years the song would become a staple of the Elvis live show often as a showstopper before being replaced, with the American Bicentennial in mind, by America (The Beautiful) in the second half of 1975. Elvis would however still sing it five times in 1976 (three of which in Lake Tahoe) and for the one and only time in 1977 in Mobile, Alabama on June 2, the final live version which can itself be found elsewhere on my YouTube channel.
Unfortunately the concert from which this rendition came has not yet beeen given an official release but considering this show also contains the first live performances of 'I'll Remember You', 'A Big Hunk O' Love', 'Until It's Time For You To Go' and 'You Gave Me A Mountain' one can only hope that FTD will give it that official release sometime soon.