His Latest Flame Original
His Latest Flame Original & Cover Released Within Months
Songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame”, a “light-hearted story song with a Latin-influenced Bo Diddley beat”. Rock ‘n’ roll musician Del Shannon released the “His Latest Flame” original in June 1961 on his debut album Runaway With Del Shannon. And then a couple months later, Elvis Presley released a more successful and well-known cover in August 1961. A likable tune, “His Latest Flame” performed well on both pop and easy listening radio stations.
Pomus-Shuman: Writers of Legendary Rock ‘n’ Roll
Pomus and Shuman were one of the most important rock ‘n’ roll songwriting teams of the late 50s and early 60s. They met when Shuman dated Pomus’s cousin. Pomus asked Shuman to collaborate with him because at the time Pomus wasn’t as familiar with rock ‘n’ roll as Shuman. Generally Shuman composed the music and Pomus wrote the lyrics, but they often worked on both together.
The duo achieved their greatest success writing for the Drifters and Presley. Overall they composed more than 500 songs between 1958 and 1965. Hits included “A Teenager in Love”, “Save The Last Dance For Me”, “Hushabye”, “This Magic Moment”, “Turn Me Loose”, “Sweets For My Sweet” , “Go, Jimmy, Go”, “Little Sister”, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”, “Suspicion”, “Surrender” and “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame”.
Shannon was born Charles Weedon Westover in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1934. Like Presley, he was drafted into the army in the mid-50s and served in Germany. After his service, Shannon returned to Michigan and after working as a carpet salesman and truck driver started playing in bands. A rock ‘n’ roll and country musician, Shannon was spotted by disk jockey, Ollie McLaughlin, singing with his band, the Big Little Show Band, in Battle Creek, Michigan. This lead to a recording contract with Bigtop Records.
Shannon had huge success with his 1961 Billboard hit “Runaway“. You can literally hear the 50s turning into the 60s in this song. The song also features a wonderful invention by keyboardist Max Crook, an electric keyboard called a musitron, forerunner to the synthesizer that we’ll come to know and love in 70s and 80s new wave music.
Shannon’s His Latest Flame Original
Shannon’s “His Latest Flame” original was intended to follow the success of “Runaway”, but this did not happen. While a sound little song, it’s just not “Runaway” and Shannon just isn’t Elvis. I did find it interesting that the “His Latest Flame” original featured trumpets and Presley’s cover featured guitars. Both instrumentals sound great.
In 1963, Shannon became the first American to cover the Beatles with his version of “From Me To You”. But he never achieved the same success as he’d done with “Runaway”. Tragically, Shannon died by suicide in 1990.
Presley released his version of “His Latest Flame” as a single with another Pomus-Shuman tune, “Little Sister”, on the B-side. Both tracks came out of an all-night recording session in Nashville. “His Latest Flame” made it to number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the Easy Listening chart.
Presley’s “His Latest Flame” is pretty much just him and a guitar. Fantastic rock ‘n’ roll. The photos of Presley in his prime on this video clip are also worth admiring.
When Presley released “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame”, his wife, Priscilla Presley, wondered at the time if he was dating a girl called Donna Marie. I couldn’t find anything to confirm or deny that though.
Other musicians released their own versions of “His Latest Flame”. In 1961, the same year as Shannon and Presley’s versions, Ted Herold released a German version, “Sie War All Sein Glück“. Despite using more piano and being sung in German, the tune sounds very similar to the American versions. Herald even sported the same Elvis hairstyle.
In 1986, the Smiths performed a live medley of “His Latest Flame” with “Rusholme Ruffians”, a song which already sounded similar to Presley’s version. The medley appeared on the Smiths’ 1988 live album Rank. The guitars are janglier, but the tune is beautifully familiar, the perfect song to go with Morrissey’s quiff.
Other covers of “His Latest Flame” include versions by the punk band the Misfits, heavy-metal band the Scorpions, Italian alternative-rock band Verdena, Brian May and Mexican-American musician El Vez. In 1987, Marco T released a Spanish version “Mary es el nombre (de su nuevo amor)” in Colombia.