Auto Tune: “Shoulder Holster” by Elton John

June 10th, 2015 at 3:00pm

Driving, riding, roads and of course cars themselves have all been immortalized by writers, composers and musicians around the world. Auto Tune is our way to spotlight a unique transportation song to celebrate these “ridden” gems along with the artists or composers who crafted them. Some you may know, many we’re sure you don’t.

Elton-John-Blue-MovesIf you know anything about Bernie Taupin, the man who wrote the lyrics to Elton John’s most recognizable tunes, then you know he is great lover of American roots music. In fact, he even has a weekly radio show on SiriusXM devoted to many of these early 20th century recordings.

This is germane because our Auto Tune this week, Elton John’s “Shoulder Holster,” is loosely based on a blues tune from the turn of the century – 1900 that is — by Mississippi John Hurt called “Frankie and Johnny.”

What qualifies it as one of my top Auto Tunes is how Mr. Taupin updated the cheating husband story to a late 1970s ethic complete with transportation. Dolly Summers, our song’s subject, has a lovely life in the American Midwest somewhere save for the fact that her husband ran off with another woman. Not one to be spurned, and obviously holding a bit of a grudge, she grabs her gun, jumps in her Mustang and goes searching for the runaway couple.

To hear the resolution you’ll have to listen to the song which is truly a pleasant experience the way it was it was produced by Gus Dudgeon who also produced the double album it resides on “Blue Moves” (the least successful of the EJ’s 70s run but Elton’s personal favorite).

Blue Moves was the first release on Elton’s own label Rocket Records with many of the songs recorded at different studios around the world. “Shoulder Holster” itself was produced in Hollywood probably so they could include the top talent that appeared on the song.

I guess when you can get voices like Toni Tenille from the Captain & Tenille and a soon-to-be “Official” Beach Boy Bruce Johnston to provide some of Elton’s backing vocals that makes it worth it. But in addition to the singers, recording in Hollywood also made easier to procure both the Brecker Brother horns from Blood, Sweat & Tears fame and saxophonist David Sanborn who gave the tune its musical direction.

I hope you enjoy Shoulder Holster as much as I have over the years. And if you like that early Elton John sound you might want to check out the entire album “Blue Moves” since it put a bow on the incredibly successful ‘70s run of John & Taupin. After seven number one albums – which Blue Moves brought an end to – the team would take a six-year hiatus. And even though they have since worked together over the last few decades, as so often happens, that early creative and commercial magic could not be recaptured. But you know what, my guess in spite of that they’re both doing just fine… just like Dolly Summers.

- Chip Drake, Executive Producer, Autoline

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One Comment to “Auto Tune: “Shoulder Holster” by Elton John”

  1. RumNCoke Says:

    I am probably one of the three people who actually bought this album in the 70s. I consider it a hidden gem since there are a number of great tracks on it. If you are looking for a nice driving tune, check out “One Horse Town”.