On the 16th August 1977, Elvis Presley passed away; let’s go back to when it all started.
Elvis visited Sam Phillips’ Sun Recording Studio to record a birthday present for his mother. He recorded “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”. It could have ended right there but for studio manager Marion Keisker. Not long after Phillips had this song, “Without You” which was written by a local black artist, and he knew that it would be a hit with the right kind of singer, but whom? Marion reminded him of the 19-year-old kid who had been in earlier and Sam hunted for his phone number.
Before he had hung up the phone Elvis had sprinted down to the studio to get to work. But try as they may they could not get it right so Phillips asked “What can you do?” Elvis, who been turned away by Memphis’ Modern Records earlier in the year, knew that if Sun didn’t take him nobody would, so he sang his whole repertoire of pop, gospel and country. In the end they got nothing on tape but Phillips knew he had a talent here, a white boy who had the sound of a black soul singer, and decided to team Elvis with Scotty Moore who had a local country band and bassist Bill Black. After weeks of rehearsals on the 5th July 1954, Sam Phillips thought it was time to get something down on tape. First up was a country ballad “I Love You Because”, then during a delay Elvis started a hyped-up version of Arthur Crudup’s “That’s Alright, Mama” with Scotty and Bill jamming in, suddenly Sam burst into the room yelling “What the devil is this, what are you doing?”. All three sheepishly shrugged and Sam commanded “Well find out and don’t lose it, run it through again and let’s get it on tape”. So Elvis’ debut disc for Sun was the extraordinary “That’s Alright Mama” coupled with Bill Monroe’s old blue-grass song given a new bluesy treatment “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”.
Local response was encouraging when 20,000 copies were sold. The second single was Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and “I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine”. Then came the bluesy “Milkcow Blues Boogie” and the more popular upbeat “You’re A Heartbreaker”. The momentum continued with “I’m Left You’re Right I’m Gone” / “Baby Let’s Play House” this led to Elvis performing on The Grand Old Opry and Louisiana Hayride TV shows when he was introduced as The Hillbilly Cat. The audience reaction was fanatical with Elvis’ hip swivelling erotic performances and resulted in hysterical fan mania. The last record for Sun was Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train”, later acclaimed as the definitive rock ‘n’ roll single. Watching on was the imposing Colonel Tom Parker who persuaded Sam Phillips to release Elvis Presley for $35,000 an incredible sum then but chicken-feed when you know what was to come.
Elvis was then signed to the major RCA label along with Scotty Moore and Bill Black and on 10th January 1956 in the Nashville RCA Studio he recorded one of the most popular ground breaking records ever released “Heartbreak Hotel”, the rest as we say is now history.
Tell us, what is your favourite song or memory of Elvis?