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Memphis
ELVIS 1953 (1-6)
January 1, 1953 to June 30, 1953
 
 
Live Recordings for Elvis Presley On Various Locations, 1953 (Possible)
Live Recording for Elvis Presley, May 26, 1953 (Possible)
Attended at Studio Session for The Prisonaires, June 1, 1953 (Possible)
 
For Elvis Presley's Biography see > The Sun Biographies <
Elvis Presley's Sun recordings can be heard on the playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

UNKNOWN DATE 1952 OR 1953

Elvis Presley perform at Red Coach Night Club and the country music show originating from the Quachita Valley Jamboree in Monroe, Louisiana, 300 miles south of Memphis, according to Richard Wilcox in Lucy de Barbin's book "Are You Lonesome Tonight". Elvis Presley unsuccessfully attempted to get onto the show.

Billie Jean Jones Williams, former wife of country singer Hank Williams and of country singer Johnny Horton recalled that in 1953 Elvis Presley visited Louisiana, where she remembers giving Elvis money.

JANUARY 1953

Using demo tapes intended for the Chess label, Sam Phillips planned his next record release.

Meteor Records had released Elmore James "I Believe", and both the record and artist were successful. Sam Phillips realized that the best blues musicians would flock to Meteor if he didn't move quickly.

Reflecting on his new record company years later, Phillips remarked: "I don't know what made me take that very brave step which, from a strictly business standpoint, I'm not sure anyone in their right mind would have taken".

UNKNOWN DATE 1953

In addition to hanging out at Lansky Brother's (see below) clothing store on Beale Street, Elvis Presley after wandered into Henry's Record Shop on Beale. Robert Henry, a Memphis businessman had promoted every conceivable show business venture. As a result, Henry's Record Shop was a place where black musicians congregated, and therefore a focal point for Elvis Presley. Robert Henry was a close friend of W.C. Handy and Dewey Phillips. Henry passed away in 1978. 

"That boy listened to out music, and took it to the bank", Jimmy McCracklin remarked. "He loved my music, and I couldn't wait to get back to Beale Street. I remember the white boys coming into some of the black clubs", McCracklin reminisced.

JIMMY MCCRACKLIN - In the 1953-1954 period Jimmy McCracklin was a talented blues performer who had not yet had a major hit. Working in Texas, McCracklin toured Mississippi and worked in the local Memphis clubs. His music was played on blues and rhythm and blues radio stations in the South. A prolific songwriter and a dynamic showman, McCracklin played on Beale Street and toured the South in 1954-1955 when Elvis Presley was beginning his career.

Although they never performed together, Elvis Presley had an affinity for Jimmy McCracklin hard-driving blues. When "The Walk" became a major hit for McCracklin in the late 1950s, Elvis Presley added the record to his collection. Musician Kenneth Herman remembers McCracklin's records playing at Graceland.

A good example of how self-produced records could hit the charts is evident from the career of Jimmy McCracklin. Every song that McCracklin had on the rhythm and blues charts in the 1950s was written, arranged, and produced by him. The record company simply pressed the master and released the song. McCracklin was typical of the artists who gravitated to Memphis, Chicago, and Los Angeles to find a record deal.

Eventually, McCracklin's single "The Walk", on Checker Records, a Chess subsidiary, established his musical career. Like many fledgling songwriters and performers in 1953, Jimmy McCracklin spent time on Beale Street. "You couldn't help but be influenced by those cats", McCracklin remarked about B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and Johnny Ace. "I took the records I was producing and went from one company to the next; it worked", McCracklin concluded.

Elvis Presley was much like McCracklin, in that he, too, hoped to make a record that would garner a recording contract. "I was always trying for that crossover sound", McCracklin noted. "Elvis got it and all our money, too!". Jimmy McCracklin, who recorded for Imperial, Checker, and Crown among others, remarked: "Imperial Records presented me with a $70,000 bill when I left them. I was paid fifty dollars a week, and told I was lucky to have a record contract".

Fortunately, Jimmy McCracklin, retained the copyright to his songs, and he has continued to collect royalties from those he recorded for these labels. From time to time - JMC, ArtTone, and Oak City. To this day, however, Jimmy McCracklin is bitter about the way he was treated. "The white man took the money and the black man got nothing. The black man who did what the white man wanted continued to record", McCracklin concluded. Blacks who didn't how the mark, it was clear, were simply passed over by the white establishment.

McCracklin continued to tour and produce new albums in the 1980s and 1990s. Bob Dylan has cited McCracklin as a favorite. He played at the San Francisco Blues Festival in 1973, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1984 and 2007. He was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1990, and the Living Legend and Hall of Fame award at the Bay Area Black Music Awards, in 2007. McCracklin continued to write, record, and perform into the 21st century. Jimmy McCracklin died in San Pablo, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, on December 20, 2012, after a long illness, at the aged of 91.

UNKNOWN DATE 1953

Elvis Presley frequently at 81 Club, located at 81 North Second Street, Memphis, Tennessee. The reason was that Elvis Presley known restaurant owner, Lil Thompson. "Elvis would come in and sat, 'Mama Lil, if I play the guitar for you would you give me a quarter?'", Lil recalled. And she would always reply, "No, but I'll cook you a cheeseburger".

After stardom, she proudly remembered Elvis' an evening years later at her Western Steakhouse and Lounge at 1298 Madison Avenue. Near closing time, Elvis' friend George Klein called if Elvis could eat at the restaurant.

"Give us an hour to get there", George said. About an hour later, Elvis' group of about twenty friends and girlfriends arrived.

Lil waited tables and her husband Tommy cooked. The party stayed for a couple of hours, enjoying the food and each other's company. When Elvis finally got up to leave, he asked Tommy how much he owed them. "Son, you don't owe us anything", Tommy replied.

Shortly after the party left, Elvis called. "Look in the back of the telephone directory", he said cryptically. Lil found five hundred dollars hidden there. "I really loved Elvis", Lil said recently. "I've buried a son and a husband, but the saddest thing of my life was losing Elvis. When that hearse drove out of the gates of Graceland, it liked to killed me, it was so sad". In the late 1990, the Western Steakhouse and Lounge is demolished.

THE TRUE COMPLETE STORY OF MARK HANKS - ''Hello, my name is Elvis, and I'll be your server this evening."

Presley-impersonator Joe Kent is working the crowd at the Western Steakhouse and Lounge. It's a frequent Saturday-night gig for him, and he knows that line always delivers the laughs. The Western provides a modest setting for Kent's act; no stage, no band, just a narrow corner of the restaurant, a karaoke machine, and enough "sizzlin' steer and beer", as a sign on the wall behind him reads, to clog the arteries of a major metropolitan infrastructure.

Still, for Kent and other Elvis disciples the world over, the Western is hallowed ground. There was a time when the King himself frequented this establishment. He never served a steak, but he ate plenty of them. For nearly 40 years, the Western has been one of Memphis' most cherished country-music landmarks. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was a safe house for some of the genre's biggest names, where not just Elvis but Johnny Cash, Webb Pierce, Charlie Pride, and a host of others would come to escape their celebrity and enjoy a tender steak, or a stiff drink.

These days, the Western still packs 'em in, but restaurant proprietors T. Tommy and "Mama" Lil Thomsen are "getting on up in age'', as she puts it. Lil used to juggle cooking, waitressing, and cleaning duties at the Western, but she admits, "I do good just to take care of T. Tommy now. He requires more attention than I'm able to give him, and I don't like that. It's just time that both of us retire''.

Lil and T. Tommy are all too aware of this city's penchant for neglecting (or, in many cases, destroying) its musical landmarks. So they've come up with a way to absolve themselves of the Western and ensure that it continues on well into the new millennium. They're holding a contest. For a token fee of $100, anyone who cares to can submit an essay explaining why he or she would be an ideal heir to the Western Steakhouse legacy. The best essay will be chosen and the keys to the building will be turned over to the lucky winner.

Here's the specifics. The contest is open to anyone of legal majority. Essays are to be no more than 250 words, and are due on or before April 25, 1997. Lil, T. Tommy, and other senior members of the Western Steakhouse staff will read all the essays and choose the 25 best entries. They will then turn those entries over to former Memphis mayor Wyeth Chandler and Millington businessman Babe Howard, the finalist judges who will choose a winner and two runners-up from the pool of 25. The names of these three entrants will be announced in May. The contest winner (or subsequent runner(s) up) must take possession of the Western Steakhouse within 30 days of notification. The transfer of property will include the restaurant and the apartment units located above it in the same building. The business and property is completely debt-free, and no taxes or mortgages will be levied against the new owner. Again, what a bargain! An official list of contest rules and instructions can be obtained from the Western Steakhouse, 1298 Madison Avenue.

Of course, the contest winner will acquire more than a building. He or she will inherit a family of employees and customers that spans generations, a rich historical legacy, and a coffer of really cool stuff. "We'll walk outta here (leaving the restaurant) the way you see it'', Lil promises. "I'm leavin' everything behind, except for Elvis' guitar and that (autographed) picture of him hangin' above the jukebox''.

The "everything" of which Lil speaks is no mere bric-a-brac. The decor at the Western has taken 40 years to accumulate. As much as the friendly service or the famous clientele, it's what gives the place its character. Longtime Western employee Shirley Evans boasts, "It's like a mini-museum in here", an ever-expanding exhibit where the spectacle of celebrity and the eccentricities of the everyday intersect.

Amid the hundreds of autographed publicity photos and framed newspaper clippings, there are some wonderfully strange items, each one of them the figurehead for some legendary tale. Above the doorway, there's a (presumably dormant) hornets' nest the size of a beach ball. A few feet over, a urinal hangs from the ceiling. Move to the next wall and you'll find an enlarged photo of Lil standing in the Western with her horse Diamond (she brought it in one day as a promotion for a show they were putting on), followed by a succession of taxidermied deer heads. At the bar, a metal armadillo made from old car bumpers sits atop a display case filled with racks of raw steaks. Adorning the back wall of the restaurant, there's a cowboy-motif mural painted by another loyal Western Steakhouse patron, professional wrestler and Andy Kaufman's archnemesis, Jerry Lawler.

And then, there's the most popular seat in the house, Elvis' favorite booth. Lil recalls that "he'd come in here with his entourage, bodyguards and everything, after closin' time. He'd always wear sunshades and some kinda big ol' hat. He'd sit back there in his booth, with his back to the rest (of the restaurant)''. And when Elvis asked for the usual? "The 16-ounce rib-eye, that was his favorite''.

Lil continues, "Now we never charged him (for his meals). That was just something special we'd do, you know, for Elvis. So, one night he ate his steak and then he said to T. Tommy, ''How much do I owe you?''. T. Tommy said, ''Elvis, you know you don't owe me a damn thing''. Elvis went on home and 20 minutes later the phone rings. T. Tommy picked it up and it was Elvis on the line. He said, ''Tell Mama Lil to go back and look in the telephone book''. ''I didn't think anything about it at the time, but finally I got around to lookin' in the phone book. He'd left me $500''.

If you're inclined to listen, Lil can spin Elvis anecdotes like that one for hours. As she sits folding the redand-white checkered bibs that come with every steak, she recalls another night when the Western held an Elvis look-alike talent show, a forerunner to the Elvis impersonator contests that have proliferated since the King's demise. "Elvis came in, and entered the contest, sort-of in disguise. I guess the disguise worked 'cause he came in third place''.

A sign now hangs above Elvis' booth commemorating its place in carnivorous history (in the men's bathroom stall there's another sign that reads, "This was Elvis' second-favorite booth"). The seat cushions in the booth have lost some of their springs, and they've been rendered lumpy and uncomfortable from all the ass-traffic over the years. But Elvis' booth is still the Western's signature attraction, with reservations sometimes booked solid for days in advance.

Trying to take in all the sights and stories at the Western, to say nothing of taking possession of them, is enough to make your head spin. But Lil and Shirley plan to stay on for a little while after the contest to help acclimate the new owner. Shirley explains, "Everything in here, including the customers, has been here for many, many years. We'd like to introduce (the new owner) to all of them''.

"Everybody has their own ideas (about how to run the restaurant)'', says Lil, "but I'd like the new owner to keep it like it is, and I'd like 'em to keep Elvis in mind. I'll keep an eye on 'em, because I'll (still) probably come down here and eat a lot''. Lil has spent a lifetime in this business, and by her own admission, "That's about all I know to do''.

Lil and T. Tommy opened the Western Steakhouse in 1958, and they both brought plenty of experience to the venture. "I been in this business since I was 18 years old, honey'', says Lil. "The first place I ever worked at was an open-air beer garden. When I was 19 years old I started drivin' a big long Cadillac. Everybody thought I was hustlin''. They couldn't understand why this little country gal from Ripley, Tennessee, was drivin' such a nice car. I was workin' seven days a week, that's why. I was makin' about $125 a night, and that was a lot of money in those days. These people that owned the beer garden, they just kinda took me under their wing, like I took Shirley. They was like my mom and dad. I really had a good life with them."

With a taste for this good life, and a strong work ethic to match, Lil opened her own club in 1952. The 81 Club was located at 81 North Second Street, and played host to the burgeoning country and rockabilly music of the day. "Elvis used to come in the 81 Club all the time, too'', says Lil. "Back then he was just a little ol' boy, just a bug in a rug''.

The 81 club was also where Lil first met T. Tommy. After a stint in the Navy, T. Tommy turned his eye to the music business, and by the early 1950s, he had become one of the city's key country-concert promoters. He would often book shows at the 81 Club, and soon enough he struck up a relationship with his future bride.

"He was a great P.R. Man'', recalls Lil. "He just knew everybody, and he charmed me right away''. Lil and T. Tommy have shared a charmed life together ever since, and it's not easy for them to let go of their life's work. Lil confides, "I don't know how I'm gonna handle it when it gets time to go. It isn't a day goes by I don't have a good cry about it. But we gotta go and let somebody else enjoy the restaurant. I hope they enjoy it as much as I have''.

As she escorts me to the door, Lil stops to show me one last thing. It's a photo of her that was taken around the time the Western opened. Wearing a tasseled silk shirt and Stetson hat, she looks like the consummate honky-tonk angel. Lil sighs and then laughs a little. "Time changes everything, don't it?" she asks. Everything but the Western Steakhouse and Lounge, ma'am''.

- Copyright, Memphis Flyer Website Magazine, 2012

JANUARY 1953

Sun Records is re-launched with three blues discs. Sam Phillips now ceases to record music for license to other labels and concentrates on developing Sun Records.

JANUARY 1, 1953 THURSDAY

After dragged down by drinking, drugs, illness, and divorce, Hank Williams career was as chaotic as it was successful; by the end, he was banned from the Grand Ole Opry for his sins, In Knoxville, Tennessee, he dies in his car on New Year's Day, only twenty-nine years old. Williams was being chauffeured to a gig in Canton, Ohio. En route he hell unconscious and was taken to Knoxville's Andrew Johnson Hotel. A doctor was called, and although Williams had been drinking, two shots of morphine were administered. Hotel porters carried him back to the car at around 11 p.m., by the time he reached Oak Hill, West Virginia, it was clear that country's top performer was not sleeping but dead. Country buffs still argue over whether or not Hank was already deceased by the time the car pulled into Knoxville. The hotel has since been converted into offices, housing the local education bored, a TV station, and other businesses.

Thousands of mourners attended Williams' funeral held at the City Auditorium and buried at Oakwood Cemetery Annex, 1305 Upper Wetumpka Road, Birmingham, Alabama. Williams lies under an impressive white marble headstone etched with notes from "Your Cheatin' Heart". Among the country stars paying tribute were the straight-laced Roy Acuff, who performed the singer's evangelical "I Saw The Light". A statue of Hank Williams is in Lister Hall Plaza on North Perry Street.

HIRAM HANK WILLIAMS - (1923-1953) Country singer. Widely acclaimed as country music's greatest singer and composer, Hiram Hank Williams was born at Olive Hill, near Georgiana, Alabama, on September 17, 1923, the son of a sawmill and railroad worker.

He was introduced to music in the Baptist church, where he was faithfully taken by his mother, and, according to popular legend, learned both songs and guitar chords from a black street singer in Georgiana, Rufus Payne ("Teetot").

Williams' evolution as a professional performer and composer began at the age of 14 when he won a talent show in a Montgomery theater singing "WPA Blues" winning fifteen dollars. He obtained his first radio job in the same year, 1937, at WSFA in Montgomery.

When World War II - that crucible that integrated country music's disparate regional styles and ultimately nationalized it - came, Williams worked in the Mobile shipyards and sang regularly in the honky-tonks of south Alabama.

By the time the war ended Williams had compiled eight hard years of performing experience and had built a style that reflected the composite musical influences of his youth: gospel, blues, and old-time country. Professionally, he acknowledged a dept to the Texas honky-tonk singer Ernest Tubb and to the Tennessee mountain singer Roy Acuff, whose styles Williams fused in a way that reflected a similar synthesis in the larger country field during the war and immediate postwar years.

Williams' ascendance to fame began shortly after the war when he became associated with Fred Rose, the famous Nashville songwriter and publisher. Rose encouraged Williams' natural songwriting abilities and published his songs; he helped him obtain recording contracts with Sterling and MGM Records; he persuaded Molly O'Day, one of the greatest singers of the time, to record some of Williams' compositions; and he helped him get a position on KWKH's Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. The Hayride, which was then second only to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville as a successful country radio show, was the vehicle that launched Hank Williams on the road to performing fame.

With his country band called the Drifting Cowboys, Williams played a major role in making country music a national phenomenon. On June 11, 1949, Hank Williams made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry, singing an old pop tune, "Lovesick Blues" over and over again at the audience's request, which featured the yodelling he had learned from another Alabama singer, Rex Griffin. Williams soon moved as regular to the Grand Ole Opry, where he became the most popular country singer since Jimmie Rodgers. In the brief span from 1949 to 1953 Williams dominated the country charts with songs that are still considered classics of country music.

With a remarkably expressive voice that moved with equal facility from the strident yodelling of "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" to the gentle lyricism of "I Just Told Mama Goodbye", Williams communicated with his listeners in a fashion that has only rarely been equalled by other country singers. The word "sincerity" has no doubt been over-used in describing the styles of country musicians, but in the case of Williams it means simply that he as a singer convincingly articulated in songs a feeling that he and his listeners shared.

On January 1, 1953, Williams' chauffeur, Charles Carr, found him dead in the backseat of his Cadillac. Williams' second wife, Billie Jean, would also be married to singer Johnny Horton when Horton died in a car accident in 1960. In 1961 Hank Williams was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.

Some of Williams' compositions include: "Cold, Cold Heart"; "Hey, Good Lookin'"; "Half As Much"; "Jambalaya"; "Move It Over"; "Your Cheatin' Heart"; and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" are classics. Elvis Presley recorded "Your Cheatin' Heart" in 1958. His release of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" is from the Elvis Aloha From Hawaii concert in 1973. A photograph of Hank Williams can be seen in Elvis Presley's 1957 movie Jailhouse Rock.

As a songwriter - not as a singer- Williams played a most important role in breaking down the fragile barriers between country and pop music. Williams' singing was quintessentially rural, and his own records never "crossed over" into the lucrative pop market. His songs, though, moved into the larger sphere of American popular music and from there, perhaps, into the permanent consciousness of the American people. Like no earlier country writer's works, Hank's songs appeared with great frequency in the repertoires of such pop musicians as Tony Bennett, Frankie Lane, and Mitch Miller. For good or ill, this popularization in pop music continues.

Commercial and professional success did not bring peace of mind to the Alabama country boy. A chronic back ailment, a troubled marriage, and a subsequent divorce and remarriage accentuated a penchant for alcohol that he had acquired when only a small boy. After being fired by the Grand Ole Opry for drunkenness and erratic behaviour, he returned to the scene of his first triumphs - the Louisiana Hayride. His legacy lives on in his songs and in the scores of singers, including his immensely talented son, Hank, Jr., who still bear his influence.

JANUARY 6, 1953 TUESDAY

Eddie Cantor send a 10 1/2x7 1/4 inches letter to Colonel Tom Parker, and is signed by the singer: "How nice to receive your very gracious letter. And those Eddy Arnold string ties! I'm liable to be the best dressed old man in show business". Eddie Cantor, one of the most beloved American vaudeville entertainers, became a Hollywood star in the thirties. He received an Academy Award in 1956 for distinguished service to the film industry.

JANUARY 7, 1953 WEDNESDAY

The Presley's moved into a small house at 698 Saffarans Avenue (398 Cypress Street). It was a small apartment house in which - for $52-a-month rent - they secured two downstairs rooms. It was easy to understand why the living situation at 698 Saffarans Avenue depressed Elvis Presley. In theory, 698 Saffarans Avenue was a step from Lauderdale Courts public housing because the rent was higher and the Presley's no longer had to go through the ritual of qualifying for low income housing. The Saffarans Avenue apartment was disastrous. It was a small unit desperately in need of paint, new plumbing, and adequate lighting. There were other reasons for Elvis' unhappiness with his new surrounding. each morning he arose and complained about the squalid sanitary conditions. The common bathroom was down the hall, and Elvis Presley found it cold and dirty. The water was never hot and the bathtub was always filled with hair. His experiences at this apartment created an aversion to bathing, and Elvis Presley showered only when absolutely necessary. He cultivated the habit of purchasing large bottles of Aqua Velva after-shave, and splashed the lotion all over his body. The result was a disconcerting smell, a cross between body odour and lilacs.

698 SAFFARANS AVENUE - The Presley family lived at this address from January 7, 1953 until April 1953. They had been evicted from Lauderdale Courts on the basis of income. The Saffarans Avenue location was a step down in quality from Lauderdale Courts. In spite of their higher income, they were unable to rent a suitable apartment without a federal subsidy. Within four months, however, the Presley's would move back to the Lauderdale Courts neighbourhood.

The Presley's apartment at 698 Saffarans Avenue was only a stepping stone for the family. This address was erroneously reported as 398 Cypress Avenue. The real address wasn't uncovered until 1991, when Joe Haertel, discovered the discrepancy and the true location of the Presley's 1953 apartment - a feat even the wire services considered newsworthy.

The apartment was ten dollars a month more than the one they had left at Lauderdale Courts, and much smaller. Still they must have been pleased by the location. Saffarans Avenue runs north and south adjacent to what was then Humes High School. The apartment, which has since been torn down, was directly across the street from Elvis Presley's school. How did the true address surface after all these years? This was the address listed on Elvis' draft card. He turned eighteen and registered for the draft while living in this apartment.

The building where the family lived no longer exists, but nearby buildings reflect the style of 698 Saffarans, and you can still get a sense of the low-income character of the now black neighbourhood. The address is now a vacant lot.

JANUARY 19, 1953 MONDAY

Elvis Presley is register for the selective service. Under the draft system, young men of good health were expected to be available from age 18, to serve in the military for two years of active duty and then four years in the reserves.

The double-sided card stock "Selective Service" number is 40-86-35-16 and was signed by Elvis Presley and Crace F. Martony in blue ink. Card issued to Elvis Aron Presley at 698 Saffarans in Memphis, Tennessee. Lists birth-date of Jan. 8, 1935 and birthplace of Tupelo, Miss.

Back of the card lists personal information: brown hair, green eyes, height of 5"11" and weight of 150. Selective Service number ''40-86-35-16''. The card is 2 1/2x3 3.4 inches.

Elvis Presley filled out this Selective Service card about a week after his 18th birthday. Then a senior at Memphis' Humes High School. Elvis, by then a major star, was called for his pre-induction physical on January 4, 1957, in order to determine his status for the draft. On December 19, 1957, Elvis now 22 years old, was notified that he'd been inducted into the Army. The next day, after picking up his draft notice in person, Elvis stopped by Sun Records and talked to reporters, calling his impending Army service a "duty I've got to fill and I'm going to do it".

On Christmas Eve 1957 Elvis wrote to the Memphis Draft Board requesting a deferment in order to finish filming his latest film for Paramount, "King Creole". Elvis asks for the deferment so that "these folks will not lose so much money, with all they have done so far".

Two days later the Draft Board granted Elvis a deferment until March 20, 1958 and was taken to Fort Chaffee in Arkansas for processing and then sent to Fort Hood in Texas. Elvis shipped out to Germany in September 1958. The Army had considered putting Elvis in its "Special Services" division to take advantage of his celebrity, but both the Colonel and Elvis insisted that he receive no special treatment, and Elvis' Army stint was relatively conventional.

UNKNOWN DATE JANUARY 1953

Elvis Presley was hanging around with a group of local truckdrivers. Their big trucks, long hair, sideburns, and free lifestyle intrigued him. Although his own sideburns had been long for some time, his hair greasy, and his collar turned up, it was in the early months of 1953 that he accentuated these affectations into a distinctive personal style. By January 1953, Elvis Presley was a mature, eighteen-year-old High School student.

JANUARY 24, 1953 SATURDAY

Rockabilly singer Carl Perkins married Valda Crider from Corinth, Mississippi. They moved to a government housing project in Jackson, Tennessee as he started appearing. However, Valda encouraged Carl to work on his music and try for a career in entertainment. Her support has nourished Perkins through a long career as a musician and through many bouts with the bottle and self doubt. In fact, it was Val who heard later a record on the radio that would after the course of Perkins' career.

UNKNOWN DATE EARLY 1953

Elvis Presley perform on a gig at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Charlie Thornton thinks he may well have been the first one to paid Elvis Presley to perform. Thornton can't pinpoint the exact date, but he's fairly certain it came in the early of 1953. Thornton was in a bind. A student at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Thornton booked bands for college fraternities and sonorities, as well as for high school parties. Toni Roderick telephoned Charlie Thornton to tell him the band booked for her high school party had suddenly cancelled, Thornton had mere hours to find a substitute.

"I called Rufus Thomas at WDIA radio in Memphis, but he couldn't come and he couldn't find anyone for me", said Thornton. "Gerald Parsons, a freshman fullback at ASU, heard of my plight and he told me he had a friend at Humes High School in Memphis who played music, but not very good. I asked him to contact his friend. I hired him on the telephone for seventy-five dollars. The next night, Elvis Presley showed up with two others to play the high school gig in Jonesboro. I went to hear him. I always wanted to hear the bands I hired, to see how good they were and if I wanted to book them again".

"I remember he was different looking. He had that greasy hair. Elvis played really bad that night! He played mostly gospel songs - at a high school party! At intermission, he and Toni came over to me. Elvis apologized for his selections. He told me he wanted to come back over and play for Toni again, this time for free. I said I would never book him again - even for free! I think this was the first time Elvis Presley ever got paid for a gig".

Thornton said Elvis Presley returned to Jonesboro a couple of times, but not to sing. He took Tony out on dates. After the show there Elvis Presley, Charlie Thornton and Toni Roderick went to the Fortune's Jungle Gardens (the world's first drive-in) and Elvis bought a round of beer. When the bill arrived, Elvis Presley said, "Boys, you've gotta buy the beer. I'm broke".

Charlie Thornton became assistant athletic director to the legendary Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama and visited Elvis twice when he played standing-room-only concerts at Tuscaloosa. Still later, Thornton was general manager of the professional Memphis Southmen football team.

SPRING 1953

Elvis' senior homeroom teacher, Miss Mildred Scrivener specifically remembered Elvis Presley bringing his guitar to a class picnic at Overton Park Shell where he entertained his classmates. Elvis Presley performed at two appearance for the East Trigg Baptist Church Choir, located at 1189 Trigg Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee. Pastor W. Herbert Brewster.

MARCH 1953

Earl Peterson, later to record for Sun Records, joins WFYC radio in Alma, Michigan. He also starts the Nuggett record label with Mrs. Pearle Lewis (his mother).

UNKNOWN DATE EARLY 1953

Elvis Presley would visit Gene Smith at the Hall's Grocery located at 1588 Mississippi Boulevard, nearly every afternoon after school. They would wander to the back of the store, to the dairy bar, and sip Purple Cows, a float made from grape soda and vanilla ice cream. Gene ended up working full time for Hall's Grocery, delivering groceries by bicycle. In many families such a difference in circumstance could have driven the two boys father apart.

As Gene Smith entered the work force, Elvis Presley didn't want his cousin to feel alone. He would listen to Gene talk about his hopes for simply finding a better job someday. In turn, Elvis would talk about his aspirations, how he wanted a career in music and was anxious to begin working as a gospel singer or musician.

UNKNOWN DATE MARCH 1953

Vernon Presley bought his son the 1942 light green Lincoln Zephyr for $450. This post-birthday pre-graduation present was a catalyst to Elvis Presley's musical education, and was one of the reasons Elvis Presley spent so much time around Beale Street. Elvis Presley loved to drive around the Peabody Hotel and circle the nearby Suzore II Theater.

It was a frivolous time for Elvis Presley, and his confidence grew as his social popularity soared. "We pushed that car around Memphis as much as we drove it", Ronald Smith remembered. "We had a good time with that car and Elvis Presley was just one of the fellows".

"He need the car. Elvis saw the street late, with the signs glowing, and to this day it holds a spell over him... Sometimes with his friends, sometimes alone, Elvis would head for Main Street, where the windows, the bustle of moving traffic, the hurrying crowd gave him something to watch and wonder about", recalled Bob Johnson, writer of the Memphis Press- Scimitar in 1956.

"Very few students had cars in those days", recalled insider at Lauderdale Courts, Luther Nall. "One day Elvis and I went down to an old junk car lot and he found an old two-door green Lincoln. The guy wanted thirty-five dollars for it. Elvis didn't have thirty-five dollars. So he got the money from his dad and he paid notes on it until he paid it out. We drove around a lot in that old car. One night we drove down to Tupelo. I was scared to death on that trip. The tires on that car were so thin you could read a newspaper through them. I didn't think we were going to make it down there and back. But he wanted to show me where he was born. We saw that, drank a Coke and came back to Memphis".

UNKNOWN DATE MARCH 1953

The Presley's rented the bottom floor of a large house at 462 Alabama Avenue. Elvis Presley liked the location because it was near Lauderdale Courts. Vernon Presley paid fifty dollars a month for the apartment, and the Presley's installed a telephone, and Johnny Burnette often dropped by Elvis' house to listen to blues or rockabilly songs. For a year and a half, Elvis Presley lived with his family in the Alabama Street apartment. It was here that Elvis Presley plotted his earliest career moves. The two-story brick building was comfortable, and Elvis Presley spent hours practising his music in the living room. Across the street, at 465 Alabama Street, lived Mrs. Ruth Black, the mother of bassist Bill and his brother Johnny Black.

462 ALABAMA AVENUE - Near the Lauderdale Courts complex, the two-store Victorian brick building on Alabama Avenue with a sweeping front porch, was home to the Presley's from April 1953, until late 1954. There were just two apartments in the house. The family paid $50,00 a month to rent a small apartment, fifteen dollars more than at Lauderdale Courts, payable to Mrs. Dubrovner, whose husband had been a kosher butcher and who lived down the street herself, and both Mrs. Dubrovner and the Presley's upstairs neighbours, Rabbi Alfred Fruchter and his wife, Jeanette, showed a considerable amount of kindness, and financial consideration, toward the new tenants.

Vernon and Gladys occupied the only bedroom. Minnie Mae slept on a cot in the dining room. Elvis Presley took the couch each night. Mrs. Fruchter later told an interviewer, "They never had much. There wasn't even a decent chair to sit down in. About all they had was this cheap little radio". Mrs. Fruchter remembered Saturday afternoons when Elvis Presley and Vernon would polish Elvis' ten-year-old Lincoln. Others recalled seeing Elvis Presley walk down the street with his guitar, his hair spilling over the collar of his pink shirt.

Mrs. Anna Mae Bradley, who lived a block away on High Street, also recalled the Presley's time at this address. Once, she was sitting on her front porch when Elvis Presley stopped to visit with his guitar. He sat down next to her on the porch swing and began to play. "It seems like a hundred years ago now", she said.

The Presley family was living here when Elvis Presley made his first recording at Memphis Recording Service, during the summer of 1953 and when he got his first call from Marion Keisker phoning for Sam Phillips in 1954. The building was demolished some years ago to make way for a freeway on-ramp.

MARCH 26, 1953 THURSDAY

Elvis Presley visits the Tennessee State Employment Security office, listing his address as 462 Alabama Street, where the family has moved to an apartment in a large Victorian home at a rent of $50 a month.

Elvis fills out the application carefully in pencil, nothing under "leisure time activities": "Sings, playing ball, working on car, going to movies" and indicating that he would like to work as a machinist. At the end of the application form, the interviewer notes that his appearance as a "rather flashily dressed "playboy" type (is) denied by fact has worked hard past three summers, wants a job dealing with people".

DAVID ''ALF'' AND JEANETTE FRUCHTER - Jewish family who lived upstairs at 464 Alabama Street at the time the Presley's lived in the lower unit at 462 Alabama Avenue. Fruchter was a rabbi for the Congregation Beth EL-Emeth. The Fruchters were good friends of the Presley's, and Elvis Presley sometimes used their telephone.

Supposedly, it was the Fruchters' telephone number that Marion Keisker wrote down after Elvis Presley recorded "My Happiness"/"That's When Your Heartaches Begin" in the summer of 1953. However, the Presley's did have a telephone at the time so that story seems unlike. Elvis Presley was said to have borrowed the Fruchters' phonograph to play his first Sun recordings. Friends of Elvis Presley, however, recall that Elvis Presley did have a phonograph.

APRIL 4, 1953 SATURDAY

Don Robey's injunction against Sun Records also set some kind of speed record. What our gang lost in royalties, they gained in wisdom. The letter reads:

Dear sirs,

I have been advised by Mr. Harry Fox, Agent and Trustee for Lion Publishing Company of Houston, Texas, that license were issued to you authorizing the use of our composition "Hound Dog", your identical copy, being "Bear Cat", but to date, the licence have not been returned.

Please be advised that first, you should have contacted the owner prior to the release of the record, as release of the composition leaves you liable for 5 cents to 8 cents per record royalty for the intrusion upon the rights of others.

I advised Mr. Harry Fox to license you for the statutory 2 cents per record royalty, allowing you to continue with pressing the record, the same as all of the Companies who were properly licensed prior to the release of their own versions of our composition.

This is to also inform that unless contracts are signed and in the office of Mr. Harris Fox by Wednesday, April 8th, 1953, I will be forced to take immediate steps with Court Actions, plus apply charges for full 5 cents to 8 cents per record royalty.

Both Billboard and Cash Box questioned how such quick release was arranged on our material, so is everyone else questioning how the record was released so soon.

I, do hope that this will not cause any unfriendly relations, but, please remember, I have to pay, when I intrude upon the rights of others, and certainly must protect my own rights.

Very truly yours

LION PUBLISHING COMPANY
Don D. Robey

DDR:J

APRIL 6, 1953 MONDAY

For the second time Elvis Presley visit to the Tennessee State Employment office states that he has reevaluated his professional ambitions and wants to operate "big lathes".

APRIL 9, 1953 THURSDAY

"Elvis Prestley, guitarist", as he was mistakenly listed in the program, was 16th on a bill of 22 acts in the Annual Minstrel Show put on by Humes High School to raise money for various school projects. On the 8:00 p.m. revue he reportedly sang "Cold Icy Fingers", which appears to have been the same song remembered by Ms. Elsie Marmann. Due to the enthusiastic response following his performance, Elvis was allowed the program's only encore and he sang "Til I Waltz Again With You". There were an estimated 1500 students, faculty and parents in attendance that night.

"I wasn't popular in school, I wasn't dating anybody there. I failed music - only thing I ever failed. And then they entered me in this talent show, and I came out and did my "Till I Waltz Again With You" by Teresa Brewer, and when I came on stage I heard people kind of rumbling and whispering and so forth, 'cause nobody knew I even sang. It was amazing how popular I became after that. Then I went on through high school and I graduated", recalled Elvis Presley.

UNKNOWN DATE MAY 1953

Later one night at the Cotton Club in West Memphis, Arkansas, Elvis Presley met blues-singer Mae Glover. He also with her at many clubs at Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

LILLIE MAE HARDISON GLOVER - Also called Big Mama Blues, and May Rainey Two, was born in 1906 into a family dominated by her father, a pastor. His strict disciplinarian-ism backfired when she ran away from home at the age of fourteen (with a local lad named Tom Simpson) to join a travelling carnival where she won prizes for her singing and dancing.

Her travelling began in 1919 and continued through the golden age of the classic women blues singers, her path crossing at one time or another with Bessie Smith, Ida Cox, Ethel Waters, Sara Martin, and Ma Rainey. She appearing on the same show with Ma for two weeks at the old Frolic Theater in Birmingham.

She returned to her family briefly before taking off again, this time with Jim Hayden, and travelled throughout the South as a singer and comedienne with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, she also travelled with the Bronze Mannequins, the Vampin' Baby Show, the Georgia Minstrels, Harlem in Havana, and others. She was with Nina Benson's Medicine Show when she first visited Memphis and Beale Street in 1928; and from then on, even though she was backwards and forwards on the road, Memphis was her home base. After her marriage to Willie Glover, a cook in a Memphis restaurant, her on-stage appearances were at night spots around Memphis and occasionally at the Midnight Rambles, the risque revue staged weekly for white audience at the Palace Theater. Lillie Mae Clover also performed frequently in the Palace's amateur shows, and sing in many of the clubs in the Beale area, Citizens Club, Manhattan Club, Coca-Cola Club, Hotel Improvement Club.

"It was always a piano in the back of the joints, and drums. The boys would play and I'd sing, and we'd just call ourselves balling. Especially on Thursday, which is cook's ball day, when the cooks got paid. The boys would be on the stem for the cooks on Thursday because they knowed the cooks was going to get off and spend their money".

Among other Big Mama singing and drinking with on Beale in various areas were Memphis Slim (Peter Chatman, blues pianist) and none other than Bessie Smith. "I had met Bessie on the road, and when she came to Memphis to play the Palace, she'd stop to see me".

By the 1950s Beale Street had slowed down so much that Big Mama found herself playing more and more for white audience. It was at a white night spot, the Cotton Club in West Memphis, Arkansas, she and Elvis Presley first met, that Mama spent seven years performing, the longest booking of her life. Being at the Cotton Club was something like old times for her; the brawling in this hangout for roughneck whites was as prevalent as it had been in the dives on Beale Street. On April 19, 1953, Big Memphis Ma Rainey recorded for Sun Records "Call Me Anything, But Call Me"/"Baby, No!" (SUN 184). At times she sang with other bands, even a white hillbilly group. She sang their country and rock and roll. Whenever she sang them, the blues were always special to her.

Big Mama Glover died at her apartment in Memphis, in the same building were Elvis Presley lived in the Lauderdale Courts on March 27, 1985.

MAY 23, 1953 SATURDAY

Ronald Smith was at it again. With virtually no notice, he booked "his band", including Elvis Presley, to play a private party at Lodge Banquet, downtown Memphis' Columbia Mutual Towers on Main Street, just north of Court Square. This Saturday night engagement took place during the Annual Cotton Festival in Memphis.

One of Ronald's friends Mary Scott, had suggested that her dad hire a teenage band to play at the Columbia Mutual Towers. Ronald Smith and Elvis Presley joined with Ray and James Damon Secton to play in the activity room at the twelve-story Columbia Mutual Towers building. The dance was an adult affair, and the band stuck primarily to country and pop tunes. Elvis Presley was delighted with his job.

"I called Raymond and Damon Sexton. They were both singers", said Smith. "I got Johnny Fine on bass. Then Mary Scott, who had told me about this gig, mentioned Elvis Presley. I called him and told him we would each be making three or four dollars for the night and if he wanted, he could join us up there. When Elvis Presley showed up, Raymond and Damon and Fine huddled on the corner outside the building. They said they didn't want to go on if Elvis were going to be on stage also. So, just Elvis and I ended up performing".

"Lee Adkins was playing in the regular band at the Odd Fellows Hall on Main Street, which was up on the second floor, and we were to playing during that band's intermissions". "I wasn't scared at all. I had been playing at KWEM radio with Scotty Moore and Bill Black even before Elvis met them. Anyway, just the two of us went on. There wasn't anything Elvis couldn't sing bluegrass, country, gospel. He was nervous that night, but years later he learned to turn that nervousness into a positive and let it work for him. He was so nervous he kept dropping his guitar pick and one time he said, 'I'm just going to leave it there', and kept on picking and singing".

"I think he was nervous because he wanted to be accepted. He sang Marty Robbins, he sang "Crying In The Chapel, "Money Honey", "Tryin' To Get To You". We sang the intermissions and, man, they were long intermissions", said Ronald Smith.

It was also about this time, as discussed earlier, that Elvis Presley began showing up regularly at the Hi-Hat Supper Club, located at South Third Street, (Highway 61) Memphis, Tennessee, to watch Eddie Bond and The Stompers. The importance of the influence of the band that Eddie Bond put together for the Hi-Hat should be further emphasized.

In addition to Ronald Smith on guitar, it included drummer Mark Waters, and piano player Aubrey Meadows, Dixie Locke frequently come with Elvis Presley to the Hi-Hat Supper Club. After adding Ace Cannon on saxophone to give the combo a pop sound, he brought in Elvis Presley as the vocalist.

"I was singing at the Hi-Hat Club down on South Third", Eddie Bond recalls. "I was a country and western singer. I couldn't sing pop worth a toot. Still can't. Ronald Smith knew Elvis, knew he could sing pop, and Ronald suggested I hire Elvis to sing the pop songs with our band. I had known Elvis before when he sang over at the Home for Incurables. My daddy sold paint to the Home. I had met Elvis over there, knew he could sing anything".

"So, I asked Elvis if he wanted to sing pop with Eddie Bond and the Stompers down at the Hi-Hat and he jumped at the chance. He came down and began singing with us. He sang three or four weeks with us". "Sitting right in front of the bandstand were a man and two women. We called them the Board of Directors. One of them owned the club. After they heard Elvis and saw Elvis, they came to me and said, 'If you don't get rid of that greasy-haired redneck, we will get rid you of you''!

"I was making $1500 a week at the time. Not long out of high school. That was big money in those days. I wasn’t about to give that up. What else could I do?", said Bond. "So I fired Elvis!. Not long after that, Elvis recorded "That's All Right", the record took off, Elvis took off, headed toward becoming a legend!".

"The owner of the club came to me then and said, 'We might let him back if he wants to come back". "I went to Elvis and gave him the offer. He kind of laughed. Said, sure, he would come back to the Hi-Hat, but it would cost them $2500 a week!".

Not long after Elvis' first hit record with Sun Records, Eddie Bond joined the Sun label, together with Johnny cash, Carl Perkins and Warren Smith. "When my record came out", said Bond. "Bob Neal asked us to tour with Elvis Presley and we did until Bob sold Elvis' contract to Tom Parker", Bond said.

When Ronald Smith and Elvis Presley attended the Memphis Cotton Carnival and played for Mary Scott's dad at the Columbia Mutual Towers, Barbara Hearn came along for fun.

During this appearance, Elvis Presley talked to Barbara and Ronald about the Memphis music scene. He was aware of Sam Phillips' Sun Records label. When Phillips' second group of records was released in March 1953, Elvis Presley went to the House of Records and found and bought the recordings.

A South Side coat, wanting to go to the Odd Fellows gig, but not being allowed to go "uptown" alone, called one of Barbara Hearn classmates to see if she would like to go alone. "They're going to have this new hillbilly singer there. I think you'd like him. So please go with me". "What's this new singer's name?" asked her friend. "Elvis Presley". "What's an Elvis?" Barbara Hearn asked, then decided to go alone with her eager friend.

DIXIE LOCKE - Born in 1938 in Memphis, Tennessee. Girlfriend of Elvis Presley during his high school days. They both attended the First Assembly of God Church at 1885 McLemore Avenue in Memphis. Locke first met Elvis Presley at the Hi-Hat Supper Club in Memphis and at the Rainbow Rollerdrome in the winter of 1953 and dated him steadily until late 1955. The two went to the Southside High School prom together, double-dating with Gene Smith and his date, Betty. Locke became president of the first Elvis Presley fanclub. The popular photograph of Elvis' prom night is actually Dixie's prom in 1954.

Some believe that Elvis Presley wanted to marry Dixie, but before he could, she decided to break off their relationship with Elvis because he was on the road too often. She married, becoming Mrs. Dixie Emmons. Locke was loosely portrayed by Melody Anderson as a girl named Bonnie in the 1979 TV movie Elvis. Today Dixie Locke Emmons is the church secretary of the Alpha Congregation of the Temples of the Living God on 1084 East McLemore Avenue in Memphis.

BARBARA HEARN - Born in Memphis, Barbara Hearn became close friends with Elvis Presley from 1956 to 1957. In fact, such close friends that she was referred to as a “frequent companion of Elvis Presley.” Referred to so often, she used to joke that no matter what wonderful things she might accomplish in life, “frequent companion of Elvis Presley” would probably figure prominently in her obituary. Hearn played a bit part in the 1957 movie "Loving You". While at Elvis Presley's house on 1034 Audubon Drive in Memphis, Hearn got the opportunity to hear the acetate for "Any Way You Want Me" before RCA released the song.

After attending the University of Memphis, she moved to Washington in 1961 to work in the office of Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver. It was there that she met her lawyer husband Jim who had begun working in the U.S. government.

In 2006, Holly Tree Manor became a Bed & Breakfast as so many Elvis fans over the years have expressed an interest in meeting Barbara. To accommodate them, she and her husband decided recently to abandon their plans for a leisurely, laid back retirement to open their home to Elvis fans worldwide.

Now, after raising their three children, five grandchildren and traveling the world with Jim's job as a CIA agent, Barbara and Jim are looking forward to meeting Elvis fans, getting to know them, and reminiscing about her Elvis years.

SUMMER 1953

It was also Eddie Bond who tried to persuade Elvis Presley to play at Red's Place on Highway 61, Frayser, Tennessee. Red's was a bucket-of-blood-type night club saloon that drew the worst local rednecks. Most bands were afraid to play to his crowd because of the nightly brawls.

A sign at the door warned people not to urinate inside the club, and a bouncer checked patrons for weapons as they entered. The police came in every hour, looked around, and checked the bathrooms for troublemakers. People who ignored the club's signs were the least of its problems; the club was plagued by fistfights, knifings, and an occasional shooting.

Paul Burlison, lead guitarist with Johnny Burnette Rock And Roll Trio, remembers the band having to fight its way off stage because a small coterie of roughnecks didn't like the way that they played a Bob Wills song. It was into this environment that Eddie Bond tried to coax Elvis Presley, who refused to be coaxed. It was not only too rough, but few people listened to the music. "Can't play that place", Elvis Presley told Ronald Smith. "They'll tear my head off". Smith laughed, but Eddie Bond persisted. Elvis Presley instead persuaded Bond that he should sit in with the Stompers at the Hi-Hat, and he'd think about playing Red's. Frightened by the "ambience" at Red's Place, Elvis Presley never did.

SUMMER 1953

An important part of Elvis Presley's show business education during the summer of 1953 resulted from discussions with musicians who cut their own records. The proliferation of small records labels, the rise of vanity recording studios, hobbyists operating in garages, and the hustling businessmen who promoted this product led to a boom in homemade records. Everyone thought that they could produce a hit record. No one was more confident of his ability to cut his own records than Charlie Feathers.

While he was growing up in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Feathers remembered how ''the cotton-patch blues'' used to inspire him. This was the music played by black field workers, and it became the most important influence upon his unique country-rockabilly style.

''When you take the blues out of country or rockabilly'', Feathers remarked, ''you ain't got no more country music''.

With Stan Kesler, Feathers wrote ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'', and he became a Memphis musical legend. Long before Elvis Presley appeared in local clubs or recorded for Sun Records, Feathers was performing a rockabilly type of music very similar to that heard on Elvis' Sun recordings. Sam Phillips discovered Feathers' talent and hired him as a studio musician, house songwriter, and musical arranger. Not only was Feathers present at Elvis' recording sessions, but Memphis musicians spoke constantly of Feathers' contribution to Elvis' music. Stan Kesler, Marcus Van Story, Ronald Smith, Paul Burlison, Kenneth Herman, and Doug Poindexter were around the Sun studio in 1953 and 1954 and remembers Fathers.

In March 1955, when Charlie Feathers recorded his first Sun single, ''I've Been Deceived'', his music was rockabilly. There is no doubt that he influenced Elvis, because Feathers was an open, somewhat naive, man who readily shared his musical ideas. For years, the critics have scoffed at Feathers' claim that he influenced Elvis. Yet, every important musician who hung out at Sun Records or recorded with Sam Phillips speaks of Feathers' contribution. Elvis listened and watched and used the best of Charlie Feathers' material. In most of his songs, Elvis was a singer who copied other styles, and Feathers was one of Elvis' earliest influences. Since Feathers talked about cutting his own records, it was only natural for Elvis to do the same. Feathers does not appear to be an important influence upon Elvis only because his reputation has never been more than that of an obscure legend. To some, Feathers is a legend in his own mind. To others, he is a legitimate rockabilly pioneer. After interviewing a number of Memphis musicians, it is clear that Feathers is a seminal figure in the Sun Elvis story. ''It's not that Elvis copies Charlie Feathers'', Ronald Smith remarked, ''but he sure did build on Feathers' music''.

UNKNOWN DATE MAY 1953

Elvis Presley performed at the Silver Stallion Night Club, located at 1447 Union Avenue, Memphis. This change was noticeable as early as March 1953, when Elvis Presley began spending more time hanging out in the Beale Street clubs. The blues that Elvis Presley heard in these bars was transformed into a new sound.

In honky tonk bars like the Silver Stallion Club, it was possible for young Elvis Presley to perform blues-tinged tunes with a rockabilly flair. The Silver Stallion paid off the beat cop to let underage people into the bar, and they held amateur shows each week.

The amateur nights at the Silver Stallion were ones that Elvis Presley loved, because they provided some of his strangest moments as a neophyte performer. One night, the owner of this club decided to bring in some show horses to do tricks on the dance floor.

Much to Elvis' horror, he was to follow the horse show with an acoustic guitar set. Not only was Elvis Presley unsure how the crowd would react to a singer following the horses, his nose told him there had been an accident on the floor. The crowd roared as Elvis Presley came on holding his nose. He laughed and the crowd cheered him. This incident was so well known in Memphis that there was even an oblique reference to it in the Humes High School year book.

MAY 1953

Maywood Beach and Park was opened by Maurice and May Woodson on July 4, 1931. The Woodsons were Memphians who were looking for a change of pace from city life.

Maurice Woodson was a cotton linter and president of Woodson Brothers, Inc., a company that he owned with his brothers Edward and R. Peyton Woodson. Some time in the late 1920s Maurice was told by his doctor that he must give up his business for his health’s sake.

Soon after the couple purchased 400 acres (1.6 km2) of land in DeSoto County, Mississippi. On the property was a clear, spring fed lake. With the help of a mule team they dug the lake out and lined the bottom with several hundred tons of white sand imported from Deston, Florida. Then, tapping down into a natural artesian water basin below the ground, they filled it with cold, clear water which eventually fed into two other lakes on the property.

Lake Shahkoka, as it was called, after a Chickasaw Indian who once lived on the land, soon had picnic tables, barbecue pits, pavilions, a bowling alley, and a mini golf course, as well as playgrounds, a snack bar, and tearoom at the Maywood swimming pool. (It had been renamed after Mrs. Woodson.) These amenities were added as the Woodson's sold getaway homes around their property.

The pool was a great success; Memphians came from opening day in May to its close in September. It became a surrogate beach for Memphians longing for the ocean and hosted TV commercials for Memphis-based Coppertone, publicity photos for beauty queens, weddings, baptisms, church picnics, parachutists, class reunions, and corporate gatherings. There was a pavilion on site which was a popular dance arena from the 1930s on, and Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and a host of others played there early in their careers.

For more than half a century, Maywood remained largely unchanged. It was marketed as a "Swimming Beach"; it was not called a "Water Park" until some radio ads started calling it that in the 1990s. Water slides were added over the years, but the clear lake remained spring-fed and was clear enough to see your feet while standing in five feet of water.

The unexpected news that Maywood was closing came from current owner Hugh Armistead. He blamed higher insurance costs as he explained in the Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal. The lake and surrounding property were turned into a private residential development. The park closed in July 2003. The closest similar, spring-fed water park is Willow Springs Water Park, roughly three hours away by automobile.

MAY 26, 1953 TUESDAY

According to several sources, Elvis Presley may have hitch-hiked from Memphis to Meridian, Mississippi. He supposedly made this journey so he could participate in the First Annual Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Celebration, honouring the "father" of modern country music. The celebration commemorating the singing brakeman's musical feats was not yet a highly commercial event. Although Rodger's untimely death of tuberculosis at age thirty-six established his musical legacy, nevertheless, many of meridian's citizens were unhappy about the celebration. As a result, there was a mixed community reaction when Rodger's Mississippi friends organized the weekend feat. The Meridian Star advertised a talent contest open only to local Mississippi performers. The musical talent contest was an attempt to showcase local artists and popularize Jimmie Rodger's music. Unwittingly, the contest promoters attracted many fledgling rockabilly singers like Elvis Presley, performers who were young men dreaming of fame and fortune, and who, like Elvis Presley, weren't necessarily local Mississippi performers any longer.

MAY 26, 1953 TUESDAY

Elvis Presley was only a week away from High School graduation, but the Jimmie Rodgers talent contest occupied all his thoughts. When Elvis Presley arrived in the sleepy Mississippi town, Elvis went immediately to the Lamar Hotel. It was in this hotel that Jimmie Rodgers was treated by his Meridian physician, Dr. Inman Cooper. To local citizens, the hotel symbolized Rodgers' tragic end.

Consequently, it was selected as the site of the amateur singing contest. This magnificent old Southern hotel had a spacious ballroom, an open garden sitting area, and a sumptuous dining room. The crowd milling around the Lamar consisted largely of country music purists. Red, white, and blue bunting covering the stage of the hotel, an idea proposed by the Meridian Star, mirrored a patriotic theme that pleased most people.

The contest rules were strict ones; each performer was to be given a maximum of four minutes to perform his song. The audience ended up being shocked by some of the entrants, which included a bunch of young kids singing uptempo rockabilly songs that, according to one observer, violated all the hallowed traditions of country music. Clearly, although the rockabilly revolution was on its way - with Elvis Presley was in the vanguard of the movement - it would be an uphill battle.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

POSSIBLY LIVE APPEARANCE FOR ELVIS PRESLEY

LAMAR HOTEL, 5TH STREET, DOWTOWN, MERIDIAN, MISSISSIPPI
LIVE APPEARANCE: MAY 26, 1953 TUESDAY

"We performed together on May 26 in Meridian at the Jimmie Rodgers Celebration. That was my birthday", said Martha Ann Barhanovich, one of the young singers on the musical contest.

01 - "OLD SHEP" - B.M.I.
Composer: - Clyde "Red" Foley-Willis Arthur
Red Foley and Willis Arthur wrote "Old Shep" in 1933. The song was about Foley's
19-year-old German Shepherd dog, "Hoover", who had been poisoned.
it wasn't until 1940 that Foley recorded his song.
Publisher: - L. Writh Music Limited.
Recorded: - Unknown - Elvis Presley Performance - May 26, 1953

02 - ''UNKNOWN''

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Elvis Presley - Vocal and Acoustic Rhythm Guitar (Martin Dreadnought 18)

Before performed, Elvis Presley, like many of the contestants, wandered around Meridian. He walked to the small city park and looked curiously at a 1904 Baldwin locomotive with eight wheels. The locomotive was painted red and protected from the public by a fence. Next to the locomotive, a statue of Jimmie Rodgers occupied a conspicuous spot. A small plaque praised Rodgers' contribution to country music.

During the day's celebration, a unique event occurred when Bill Bruner, a local musician who had recorded for Okeh Records, donated a guitar that Jimmie Rodgers had given to him. During a 1929 country music show in Meridian, Rodgers was too sick to perform, and Bill Bruner took his place. After the show Rodgers showed his appreciation to Bruner by giving him the guitar. It was one of Bruner's prized possessions, and he decided to pass it on to a deserving country musician. On May 26, 1953, Bruner presented the guitar to Hank Snow's son, Jimmie Rodgers Snow. As Elvis Presley viewed the ceremony, he had no idea that the next two years he would be touring with Hank Snow and his manager Colonel Tom Parker.

As Elvis Presley waited to go on stage, he nervously paced around behind the contestant's area. What song should he sing? What type of vocal presence should he cultivate? There was always one song that Elvis Presley felt safe performing: "Old Shep". But was this song right for the Jimmie Rodgers celebration? Elvis Presley had sung "Old Shep" many times at home, and to conquer his shaky nerves he decided to perform it in Meridian. Elvis Presley finished second in the contest and won a new guitar. The Meridian Star didn't publish a list of contestants nor the prizes awarded, and Elvis' performance generally escaped public notice, but the new guitar was prize enough. With summer approaching, Elvis Presley planned to continue performing at amateur night in local Memphis clubs, so a new guitar was a nice bonus.

When Elvis Presley left the Jimmie Rodgers festival, Elvis had taken his first serious step toward a professional music career. His performing style was still largely country, but Elvis Presley was responding to the signs of musical change. The clubs that he frequented in Memphis, northern Mississippi, and West Memphis, Arkansas, were vibrant with rockabilly sounds.

A thorough search of the Meridian Star turned up no mention of an amateur hour as part of the festivities in 1953. The affair began on the evening of May 25 with a banquet as the Railroad Trainmen's Lodge No. 373.

On Tuesday, May 26, a full day of activities included a train ride to the Jimmie Rodgers memorial park where a monument was dedicated, a banquet sponsored by the Jaycess, and entertainment at Meridian Junior College Stadium. Billboard's review of the festivities (June 6, 1953) does not mention any amateur contest. The confusion may come from the fact that during the May 26 singing program, one of Jimmie Rodgers' original guitars was presented to seventeen-year old Jimmie Rodgers Snow.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CLYDE JULIAN "RED" FOLEY - (1910-1968) One of the founding fathers of country music, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967. Born in Bluelick, Kentucky, on June 17, 1910, Red Foley was a veteran of the Grand Ole Opry. In 1935, country singer Red Foley composed with Willia Arthus the song "Old Shep", but Arthur never mentioned on Elvis Presley's recordings. In 1955 he moved to network television with "Ozark Jubilee", a show that he hosted. It was on his program in 1956 that Elvis Presley and Charlie Hodge, lead singer of the Foggy River Boys, first together. One of Foley's daughters, Shirley Lee, is married to Pat Boone and is the mother of singer Debby Boone, Foley's granddaughter.

Elvis Presley recorded a number of songs that Red Foley had previously recorded: "Shake A Hand" (Decca 28839), "Peace In The Valley" (Decca 14573), "Old Shep" (Decca 46052), "I Believe" (Decca 28694), "It Is No Secret" (Decca 14566), and "Just Call Me Lonesome" (Decca 29626). Elvis Presley is believed to have recorded two other Foley songs at Sun Records: "Tennessee Saturday Night" (Decca 46136) and "Blue Guitar" (Decca 29626).

Elvis Presley sang Foley's "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" (Decca 14505) at Eddie Fadal's house in Waco, Texas, 1958. There is a photo of Red Foley in Vince Everett's cell in the 1957 movie "Jailhouse Rock". In the 1975 movie "Nashville", Henry Gibson portrayed Haven Hamilton, a character loosely based on Red Foley.

Clyde Julian "Red" Foley died on September 19, 1968 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

JAMES CHARLES "JIMMIE" RODGERS - (1897-1933) Generally acknowledged as "The Father of Country Music", James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers, who was born September 8, 1897 in Pine Springs, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, was a major influence on the emerging "hillbilly" recording industry almost from the time of his first records in November 1927 when he first introduced of his Blue Yodels (the still-popular 'T for Texas'). His father was Aaron Rodgers, a railroad foreman and his mother was Eliza Bozeman, and he was one of 3 children.

He moved to Scooba, Mississippi, then to Meridian, Mississippi as child and raised in and around the railroad yards learning songs and learned the instruments from the railroad workers in his youth, won an amateur contest in the local theater in Meridian, Mississippi in 1911.

Then he toured briefly with the passing medicine show and worked outside the music (as section hand on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad) from 1911 into 1912, continued working outside the music on various railroad jobs through the Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas area in 1913 into 1923 and toured briefly with Billy Terrel's Comedians in 1923.

Jimmie Rodgers married Stella Kelly from 1917 to 1919 (1 child), and after divorce he married Cecil Williamson 1920 to 1933 (2 children), Jimmy is influenced by Blind Lemon Jefferson and influenced artists to John Arnold, Frank Floyd, Merle Haggard, John Hurt, Kenneth Threadgill and Ernest Tubb, and, of course, Elvis Presley.

Although Rodgers initially conceived of himself in broader terms, singing Tin Pan Alley hits and popular standards, his intrinsic musical talent was deeply rooted in the rural southern environment out of which he came, as seen in the titles of many of his songs: "My Carolina Sunshine Girl", "My Little Old Home Down In New Orleans", "Dear Old Sunny South By The Sea", "Mississippi River Blues", "Peach Pickin' Time Down In Georgia", "Memphis Yodel", "In The Hills Of Tennessee", the original "Blue Yodel" ("T For Texas"), and others.

In adapting the black country blues of his native South to the nascent patterns of commercial hillbilly music of the day, Rodgers created a unique new form - the famous "blue yodel" - which led the way to further innovations in style and subject matter and exerted a lasting influence on country music as both art form and industry. Through the force of his magnetic personality and showmanship, Rodgers almost single-handedly established the role of the singing star, influencing such later performers as Gene Autry, Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Elvis Presley, George Jones, and Willie Nelson.

Rodgers frequently entertained for friends, social groups, and gatherings in Meridian, Mississippi through the 1920s, and continued outside the music in 1924 into 1927. Stricken by tuberculosis in 1924, he left the rails soon after to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a professional entertainer. Retired from railroad work he settled in Asheville, North Carolina to work outside the music with frequent work at the local parties and dances in the area from 1927, appeared on the WWNC-radio in Asheville in 1927, he formed the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers for working at the Kiwanis carnival in Johnson City, Tennessee in 1927.

After several years of hard knocks and failure, he gained an audition and first recorded on August 4, 1927 with Ralph Peer, an independent producer who had set up a temporary recording studio in Bristol, Tennessee, for the Victor Talking Machine Company (later RCA Victor) in Camden, New Jersey. There, on August 4, 1927, Rodgers made his first recordings. Working on occasional theater and club dates in Washington D.C. in 1927- 1928, appeared on the Monday Night Feature on WTFF-radio in Washington D.C in 1928, and toured with the Loew's vaudeville circuit on working at theaters through the South and Southeast in 1928, recorded for the Victor label in Camden New Jersey and Atlanta, Georgia in 1928; toured with Paul English Players on working theaters dates in 1929, recorded for the Victor label in New York City and New Orleans, Louisiana, in Dallas, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia in 1929.

Within a year he reached national popularity and received billings as "The Singing Brakeman" and "America's Blue Yodeler", appeared in the film The Singing Brakeman in 1929, and worked at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, Texas in 1929, toured Keith- Orpheum-Interstate circuit on working theater dates through the South in 1929.

In 1929 he built a home in the resort town of Kerrville, Texas, and moved there in an effort to restore his failing health. The onset of the Depression and increasing illness further slowed the progress of his career, but throughout the early 1930s he continued to record and perform with touring stage shows. He toured with Swain's Hollywood Follies on working theaters trough the South in 1930, recorded for the Victor label in Hollywood, California in 1930, and settled in San Antonio, Texas, toured with Will Rogers on working charity shows through Texas and Oklahoma in 1931, worked on the Leslie E Kell Shows in Houston and Dallas, Texas in 1931, recorded for the Victor label in San Antonio, Texas and Louisville, Kentucky in 1931 into 1932.

Jimmie Rodgers worked with Robert Nighthawk in Jackson, Mississippi in 1931 and appeared on his own show on KMAC-radio in San Antonio, Texas in 1932, and briefly toured with J. Doug Morgen Show in 1932 and recorded at last for Victor label in New York City in 1933.

By the time of his death of pulmonary tuberculosis in New York City at 35 on May 26, 1933, he had recorded 110 titles, representing a diverse repertoire that included almost every type of song now identified with country music: love ballads, honky-tonk tunes, railroad and hobo songs, cowboy songs, novelty numbers, and the series of 13 blue yodels. A statue was erected in Meridian, Mississippi in 1953. On November 3, 1961 Rodgers became the first performer elected to Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame, immortalized as "the man who started it all". He won American Music Conference National Music Award in 1976 and a US commemorative postage stamp was issued in his honour in 1979.

Jimmie Rodgers is buried at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Meridian, Mississippi. Although generally neglected by historians of the blues, his adherence to the twelve-bar, three phrase form helped promote and sustain this as the most common blues vehicle and made country music say, "Blues, How Do You Do?". T he accuracy and authenticity of his blues singing stand as an instructive early memorial - on records - to the interaction of white and black that has so profoundly enriched western music in the cities and the heartlands of America. Rodgers' efforts crystallized the white blues form and insured its future in country music.

GOODWIN INSTITUTE - Located at 127 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, this was a hall that Marcus Van Story played in, bringing his brand of rockabilly and blues music to Memphis' young people. Elvis Presley played at the Institute in 1953 and 1954 and this venue was instrumental in allowing Elvis Presley's talent to develop.

UNKNOWN DATE MAY 1953 FRIDAY

Marcus Van Story, one of the young musicians from Lauderdale Courts, recalls playing with Elvis Presley at the Goodwyn Institute, located at 127 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, a local music hall where amateurs were encouraged to perform and led by Ray Sexton. According to Van Story, he and Elvis Presley sang country songs here on several occasions.

On Friday night, Van Story's band performed at a local hall. Sam Phillips had first heard Van Story at the Institute, and quickly hired him as a studio musician. "Elvis would wander in and we would do mostly country songs", Van Story remembered. "He had a real way with the crowd".

Elvis Presley also ventured to West Memphis to sit in with Charlie Feather's band. They appeared on the West Memphis Jamboree, a show hosted by Uncle Richard (Dick Steward) that was broadcast over KWEM on Saturday nights. In a dingy back-room record shop on Beale Street in 1953, Elvis Presley listened to Franklin McCormick's vocal on "Are You Lonesome Tonight". McCormick, a Chicago radio announcer, was the lead singer for the Blue Barron's Orchestra in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and his vocal stylings were similar to those Elvis Presley used in his own ballads. Elvis listened to McCormick's song, and his own version of ''Are You Lonesome Tonight'' ended up a virtual copy.

MARCUS VAN STORY - Relatively obscure, yet seminally important figure in the Sun Records story. Born in Corinth, Mississippi on May 3, 1920 as a young man, Van Story was heavily influenced by black musicians.

When he heard Deford Bailey's harmonica on the "Grand Ole Opry", Van Story was surprised to find that Bailey was black, and he began the eagerly learn from local black artists. As a result Van Story became a multi-talented artist who could play any instrument.

In the early 1950s, van Story played with the Snearly Ranch Boys, and he toured with Warren Smith. Van Story's singing style was one that used a blues harmonica, and he often sang "Milkcow Blues" and Arthur Crudup's "My Baby Left Me".

In 1953-1955, Elvis Presley performed with Marcus Van Story on a number of occasions and they were friends from 1953 to 1955. Although he raised a family and worked a day job, Van Story's vocal performances and musical skill had an enormous impact upon the young Elvis Presley.

The significance of Marcus van Story is that he helped Elvis Presley to pace his early shows. At the Goodwin Institute, located at 127 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, where Van Story had a regular show, he taught Elvis Presley to calm down and work the audience. Another important aspect of Van Story's influence is that he taught Elvis Presley to wait for the instrumental break in a song and then give the musicians a change to finish their licks. "I think Elvis learned a lot from the shows in Memphis", Van Story remarked in 1986.

Marcus Van Story is one of the original musicians who crafted the rockabilly sound that made Sun Records in Memphis famous, Van Story was known as the ''Slap Bass King'' for his prowess on the upright bass. He toured with Memphis musicians and recorded at Sun Records during the era when Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and other artists were redefining American music. "He was a character'', said Barbara Pittman, who recorded at Sun from 1956-1960. "He played percussion bass, he popped those strings''.

Van Story had toured and recorded with the Sun Rhythm Section, a group of six veteran musicians who had worked with Elvis and others. The ensemble's most recent album was ''Old Time Rock 'N Roll''. He was one of the original rockabillies'', said his son, Eddie Van Story of Nesbit, Mississippi. "People came from all over the world to interview him''. Van Story's longest association during the classic era of the late 1950s and early 1960s was with Warren Smith, a Sun rockabilly star who never achieved the fame of Presley or Perkins. Smith was best known for such wild rock songs as ''Ubangi Stomp'' and ''Miss Froggie'', the story of a woman "shaped just like a frog" who enjoyed "drinking muddy water and sleeping in a hollow log''. On the road with Smith, Van Story would sometimes black out a tooth and paint freckles on his face to add an element of hillbilly humor to the act.

Van Story first became involved in music at the local church. He moved to Memphis in 1946. He began playing in local clubs, and made the acquaintance of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips. Van Story added harmonica and backup vocals to some records, as well as playing bass. He recorded his only solo album in 1977, ''Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-Oh-Dee - Memphis Wildcat Marcus Van Story''. The album was released by Barrelhouse Records of Chicago. In recent years, Sun Rhythm Section tours took Van Story all over the world, especially Europe. The other members of the group were D.J. Fontana, guitarists Paul Burlison and Sonny Burgess, guitarist and bass player Stan Kesler, and pianist Smoochy Smith. Van Story worked as a welder when not recording or on tour. For more than 14 years, he worked at ''Sweet's Trailer Hitch & 4-Wheel Drive'' shop on Summer Avenue in Memphis. He was an Army veteran and a member of Bethel Baptist Church.

On Friday April 24, 1992, Marcus Van Story died at Methodist Hospital in Memphis of a heart attack at the age of 71.

UNKNOWN DATE MAY 1953

Elvis Presley with Regis Wilson Vaughn, a fourteen-year-old freshman at Holy Name School, o the senior prom, which was held at the Continental Ballroom in the Peabody Hotel.

He never told Regis about the talent show at high school, he never talked about becoming a singer, "he talked about finding a job so that he could afford to buy a house for his mother", recalled Regis Vaughn.

Regis Wilson Vaughn lived in Lauderdale Courts for six years before moving to nearby Merriweather Street. When they dated for three months during the spring of Elvis' senior year, she was fourteen and Elvis was eighteen. Just three years later, many a teenage girl would swoon over the idea of going to the prom with Elvis, but its doubtful anyone would have imagined it just as it happened.

Elvis Presley rented a blue tuxedo and a shine blue Chevrolet for the prom. When he picket up Regis at her house, he pinned a pink corsage on her. "It's hard to believe, but he did not know how to dance", Regis remembers. After the prom, he took her to a drive-in restaurant on Lamar Avenue where some of his friends said they would meet them. "We waited and waited, but his friends never showed up". "At fourteen you can't really be in love with someone, but I liked him a lot", Regis said. They dated until she moved to Florida that May. When Elvis Presley performed in Miami in 1956, she went to the show and tried to get backstage, but the security guard didn't believe her when she said she knew Elvis Presley. "I knew him at a time when his life was simple and he was sweet. I'd just have to say it was a special time", Regis said.

THE REAL STORY OF REGIS WILSON VAUGHN

She wore a new pink dress, a hairdo she got free at the beauty school and shoes she'd saved from Easter. He rented a dark blue tuxedo and a new Chevy with money he'd made ushering at the theater. He wore blue suede shoes. His own.

It was prom night for the Class of '53 at Humes High School in Memphis, Tennessee. Pompadoured and side-burned, Elvis, the only real Elvis, future King of Rock And Roll, came to her door and pinned a pink carnation corsage onto Regis Wilson, future housewife of Herb the Drag Bucket Salesman.

There's a picture in a fan magazine to prove it. Of him, it says: ''The star-to-be wearing a tuxedo for the first time …''. About her it says: ''Gladys Presley provided this snapshot ... but could not remember the young lady's name''.

Her name now is Regis Vaughn. Has been for 32 years, since she married Herb who now is a national contract sales manager for Bassett Bedding. She's got three daughters and a lovely home in Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Regis, the unknown young lady on the star-to-be's arm, is happy and alive. Elvis, no offense, isn't. But when he was both, when who you took to your senior prom really meant something, Elvis took Regis. He was 18. She was 14. It was a big deal. It got bigger.

''I don't go around telling people the story that much'', Regis says, ''because it's like they say 'Yeah, sure''. Yeah, sure, Regis. And he probably danced you into the Memphis moonlight and loved you tender. Wrong.

Here's some news you'll like, boys: Elvis, who mothers would fear, who said more with a 2-second curled lip than the rest of us will say in a lifetime, was a dud as prom dates go. ''It's hard to believe, but he did not know how to dance'', Regis says. ''And I loved to dance, but I said, 'That's all right. So we sat the whole evening''.

Elvis sat the whole evening at his senior prom.

And Regis sat the whole evening beside him. Because Regis had a crush on Elvis. Had one since she used to watch him in the playground of the housing project where they each lived. And since the day he gave her a ride home from a birthday party a few years later.

But he was 18 and she was 14, which is not like being, say, 28 and 24. And isn't that just a little, uh, unusual? ''I've read where Priscilla was 14 when he met her. And by that time he was in his 20s'', Regis says. ''So I don't know. Maybe...''.

Maybe Elvis was looking for someone to replace the girl he took to his senior prom because that girl left him. Moved to Florida. Faded out of his life like a black and white promenade photo. Gone. As if he'd never sat beside her in the front-porch glider, parted his handsome and formidable lips and sung right into her barely teen-aged face: ''Evening shadows make me blue; when each weary day is through; how I long to be with you, my happiness...''.

Maybe Regis Wilson broke Elvis Presley's heart. Fact is, we know Elvis kept his picture from the senior prom; Regis lost hers in the move to Florida. And just maybe its no coincidence that ''My Happiness'' ended up on a 45 from a boy in Memphis. Maybe Elvis needed you, Regis Wilson Vaughn. Maybe Herb does, too. But darn it, Elvis didn't have many friends. Not even on prom night.

''There was supposed to be a party at a drive-in on Lamar Street after the prom'', Regis says. ''Some of his friends were going to meet us there, so we drove there and waited and waited, but his friends never showed up''.

So on his senior prom night, what should have been the biggest night of his life, Elvis didn't dance with his date, didn't party because his friends stood him up. The future King, our King, ended his date by midnight, then drove off in his rented car and rented tux.

We don't know what he did next. So let's believe that Elvis went to Beale Street in his blue suede shoes and danced like a man whose sideburns weren't all that made him different.

There was trouble in the Wilson house and her parent' divorce led to Regis moving here. She had been seeing Elvis for about six months when she left.

Their first date had been to a gospel singing, and Elvis sort of embarrassed her when he tried to hit the high notes along with the quartets. She says that he used to talk about the future, about having a job and buying a house for mama.

And here's how Elvis talked to the girl he took to his senior prom: ''He said to me 'You look pretty when I look you right in the face, but if you turn sideways, you don't have a good profile'', says Regis. ''It's funny I should even remember that''.

Then Regis left to become the girl whose name Gladys Presley couldn't remember and Elvis went on to become Elvis.

''At 14, you can't really be in love with someone'', Regis says, ''but I liked him a lot. I didn't want to say goodbye, I just wanted to leave it at that point''.

When Elvis played Miami in 1956, she went to the theater and tried to get backstage. ''But I know Elvis'', she told the security guard. ''Sure you do'', said the guard.

She gets back to Memphis for funerals. She didn't go to its biggest one. She thinks all of that is a shame. ''What happened to him later in life was tragic'', Regis says. ''I knew him at a time when his life was simple, and he was sweet. I'd just have to say it was a special time''.

Regis kept her prom dress, but not because it was the one she wore to go out with Elvis. That's why she keeps it now, but back then she kept it because she used it again when she was a junior at Fort Lauderdale High. When she started to school there, her new friends asked her if she had a boyfriend. ''Well, I had one back in Memphis'', Regis told them. ''His name was Elvis''.

UNKNOWN DATE SUMMER 1953

While listening to Charley's records during his senior year at Humes High, Elvis Presley talked at length to Ronald Smith about his hopes for a music career, Elvis' early thoughts about show business were also articulated to the son of the First Assembly of God paster, James E. Hamill. By the summer of 1953, as Elvis Presley walked down to the First Assembly of God church at 1085 McLemore Avenue, he considered his musical options.

"Elvis Presley wanted to be a gospel singer", Ronald Smith remarked. "He liked pop and hillbilly music, but it made him uneasy. He was a religious young man with a feeling for the church".

Humes High School classmate memory of Elvis by Juanita Richardson-Mitchell. ''Since Elvis lived near by, I did see him quite a bit, but we weren’t close friends.

We were in the same homeroom and had a class together in the 12th grade. I remember one funny story. We were invited to a weiner roast at Mattie’s house. I rode with Elvis and his friends because they didn’t know where she lived. When we arrived, Mattie’s dad was "supervising" the festivities. When Elvis got out of the car and started, well, being his usual nutty self by taking off a silly floppy hat and slapping it against his leg and dancing around to the music, Mattie‘s dad was not terribly amused. He was sure that Elvis was drunk. We convinced "Dad" that Elvis wasn’t under the influence; he was just "normally" that way!

After Elvis became well known, I saw him in Lowenstein’s Department Store located at 27 South Main Street. I didn’t want to bother him ( I figured that enough people were doing that already) so I walked on by. Then I heard him say "What! Aren’t you speaking these days''? I turned and said "Sure, I just figured you wouldn’t want to be spoken to''! He laughed and said "My friends will always be my friends''. We had a nice chat, right there in the middle of the store. It was nice to catch up''.

REVEREND JAMES E. HAMILL - Pastor of the First Assembly of God Church at 1085 McLemore Avenue in Memphis, which the Presley's attended. In the fall of 1953 Reverend James E. Hamill held an audition at the church to form a gospel quartet. Elvis Presley auditioned and after he sang, Hamill told him, "Give it up". Reverend Hamill gave the eulogy at Gladys Presley's funeral in August 1958.

DATE SUMMER 1953

Elvis Presley discovered the music at Grady Loftin's Cotton Club, Broadway Street, in West Memphis, Arkansas. This was one of the most popular spots in the area for musicians to play after hours.

Johnny Burnette often accompanied Elvis Presley, and they were greatly influenced by the blues and rockabilly sounds that local musicians employed in extemporaneous jam sessions. Paul Burlison remembers going in the back door of the Cotton Club to talk to Howlin' Wolf. "We all loved the Wolf's music, it had something special to it".

Also on the Cotton Club, Elvis Presley watched Harmonica Frank play a small harmonica. "Harmonica Frank could put that thing in his mouth and play it like a violin", Marcus Van Story noted. "No one could play blues licks better than Harmonica Frank", Ronald Smith added. "Elvis Presley was in awe of his talent".

One such incident involved with Clyde Leoppard, whose band performed at the Cotton Club in West Memphis, Arkansas. Leoppard's earliest band, the Snearly Ranch Boys, were musical legends.

Around the same time at Elvis' first private recording session at the Sun studio, Leoppard informed Presley that he couldn't sing anymore during intermissions at the Cotton Club. "I can sing as well as anyone in your band", Elvis remarked. "Forget it, kid", Leoppard replied.

Marcus Van Story couldn't figure out the reason for this exchange between Elvis Presley and Clyde Leoppard. Of course, it didn't help that the young girls hung around the bandstand when Elvis Presley played.

It was obvious that there was something about Elvis Presley that irritated Leoppard. As it turned out, Leoppard had complained for months to Charlie Feathers that Elvis Presley was doing his best to get into the band, and that he thought Elvis was a brash kid who needed more experience before he would ever play for him.

In 1960, the Cotton Club in West Memphis was closed after an under-age girl who had visited the club was murdered nearby.

UNKNOWN DATE SUMMER 1953

One night during the summer of 1953, as Elvis Presley sat in the back of Flamingo, a Beale Street Night Club, a young, black piano player, Billy "The Kid" Emerson, approached him, and they spent some time talking about the local music scene. During this visits with Elvis Presley at the Flamingo, Emerson played a number of Big Joe Turner songs.

Afterward, as they talked, Emerson told Elvis the story of a song he had written while listening to Turner. The tune was entitled "When It Rains, It Really Pours", and it had a powerful impact upon Elvis Presley. "That song", Emerson remarked to Colin Escott, "was nearly a monster seller. I wanted Elvis to cut it".

UNKNOWN DATE SUMMER JUNE 1953

Elvis Presley with some friends stopped by Meteor Recording Studio, located on 1794 Chelsea Avenue in Memphis, for an private recording. Meteor Records was owned and operated by the brothers Lester and Jules Bihari, and during the short visit, Jules Bihari reference Elvis Presley and his friends to Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service, located on 706 Union Avenue, for make your private records.

JUNE 1, 1953 MONDAY

Jim Bulleit, owner of Bullet Records in Nashville, drove five singing prisoners at the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville to Memphis. The Prisonaires arrived at 706 Union Avenue to make their first record for Sun Records (SUN 186). It is very likely, the item about the session in an article on June 2, 1953 from reporter Clark Porteous, that captured the attention of Elvis Presley.

At 10:30 a.m., they grouped themselves around a microphone at the Sun Records studio, at the junction of Union and Marshall Avenues in Memphis. The guard and the trusty went next door to Taylor's Restaurant, and the group tried to get a recording balance for Sun Records' owner Sam Phillips. They sang in the sweet close harmony style for which Phillips had little affection, so he called over to local bottling and vending don, Drew Canale, and asked if his houseboy, Joe Hill Louis, could come down and sit in on guitar. Louis' music was at the polar opposite extreme of black music: raw, unsophisticated and bluesy. "You guys are good", said Louis to Bragg, "but you've got to stick together". Bragg replied that, with three of the group in for 99 years, there was not much change of doing otherwise.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR THE PRISONAIRES
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1953

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: JUNE 1, 1953 MONDAY
SESSION HOURS: 10:30 A.M. TO 8:30 P.M.
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

Johnny Bragg, the lead singer of the Prisonaires, suggests that Elvis Presley's face was a familiar sight at Sun as early as June 1953. Bragg clearly recalled that Elvis Presley was present during the all-day session on June 1, 1953 that resulted in "Just Walkin' In The Rain".

"I was having problems phrasing some of the words", said Bragg. "Sam was ready to give up on it, and here come this guy out of nowhere, wearing raggedy blue jeans. He said, "I believe I can help him pronounce the words". Sam got mad. He said, "Didn't I tell you to stay outta here? These men are prisoners. We're likely to be sued". I said, "If he thinks he can help me phrase this thing, give him a chance". I was getting disgusted because Sam didn't like "Just Walkin' In The Rain", and I knew it could amount to something. Eventually, Sam said, "Ok, let him try", so we took a break, and Elvis Presley worked with me on my diction. He didn't know too much about what he was doing, but he worked with me on it, and when we went back, we got it the first cut". According to Bragg, that visitor, was Elvis Presley. If so, it means he was hanging around the Sun studio a year before his first record was cut, which invites a minor re-write of history. Bragg may have telescoped the time frame, confusing the first Prisonaires session with a later one; certainly, there is no mention of Presley in his article. Still, its fairly clear that Elvis Presley met Bragg at some point in 1953 or early 1954 when the Prisonaires were recording for Sun. The last Prisonaires session logged at Sun was in February 1954, although they returned for another unlogged session, when Sam Phillips recorded them over outtakes of Elvis Presley's reeltape "Good Rockin' Tonight". Elvis Presley remembered Johnny Bragg and went to the Tennessee State Penitentiary in 1960 to visit him - "He has known Bragg from back when he was starting out", said the accompanying report.

"JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN" – B.M.I. - 2:45
Composer: - Robert Riley-Johnny Bragg-Buddy Killen
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated - Wortham Music - Golden West Melodies
Matrix number: - U 76
Recorded: - June 1, 1953
Released: - July 8, 1953
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Sun 186-B < mono
JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN / BABY PLEASE
Reissued: - 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15523 mono
THE PRISONAIRES - JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN

This is, perhaps even primitive, vocal harmony record with minimal instrumental support, which is precisely what five guys sitting around a prison cell should sound like. So much for "Just Walkin' In The rain", which went on to become a minor standard after Johnnie Ray cut it three years later.

Joe Hill Louis hard edge brought considerable counterpoint to the relatively smooth harmonies of "Baby Please". Sam Phillips wasn't at his best in trying to produce the Prisonaires, and, surprisingly, he saw "Baby Please" as the top side. They worked on two songs until 8:30 p.m. Louis gave a hard, bluesy edge to one of the songs, "Baby Please" - for which he was paid $10.00, but the group persuaded Phillips to make Louis sit out the other song, "Just Walking In The Rain". Sam Phillips saw potential in "Baby Please", but Johnny Bragg and the other group members knew that "Just Walking In The Rain" held something special. They didn't want its poignancy destroyed by Louis' rough-hewn guitar licks.

"BABY PLEASE" – B.M.I. - 2:25
Composer: - Robert Riley
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated - Wortham Music - Golden West Melodies
Matrix number: - U 75
Recorded: - June 1, 1953
Released: - July 8, 1953
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Sun 186-A <  mono
BABY PLEASE/ JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN
Reissued: - 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15523 mono
THE PRISONAIRES - JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN

Most of an interview with Johnny Bragg was reported on June 2, 1953 by Clark Porteous in the "Memphis Commercial Appeal". Porteous made no mention of another visitor to the session.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Johnny Bragg - Lead Tenor Vocal, has been in prison since he was 16, thinks he is 27 now.
Under sentence he cannot be paroled.
John E. Drue - Lead Tenor Vocal, 29 years-old, doubles as master of ceremonies.
His regular job is chauffeur for the prison's warde.
William Steward - Baritone Vocal and Guitar, for eight other children in family despite his confinement,
30-years-old, has become photographer, movie projectionist and musician singer being imprisoned
at the age of 17.
Marcell Sanders - Bass Vocal, 29-years-old, had brief formal voice training.
He will pass up parole to remain with quintet.
Ed Thurman - Tenor Vocal, 36-years-old, he once attended college, teaches prison Bible study group.
Joe Hill Louis - Electric Guitar
Probably Elvis Presley - Acoustic Rhythm Guitar

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THE PRISONAIRES - Johnny Bragg, 27-years-old from Nashville, was the lead singer in the Prisonaires. Other members of the group are, John Drue, 29 years-old from Lebanon, lead tenor vocal; Marcel Sanders, 29-years-old from Chattanooga, bass vocal; 30-year-old Williams Steward, baritone vocal and guitar who has been imprisoned since he was 17 years old, got to crying, his mother was crying; and Edward Thurman, 36-years-old from Nashville, tenor vocal.

The group was made up of inmates from the Tennessee State Penitentiary. They wrote and recorded for Sun Records. According to prison records, Johnny Bragg was a bad-ass kid, born in Nashville, Tennessee on January 18, 1926, and jailed on May 8, 1943 on six counts of rape.

According to Bragg, he was born on May, 1929 (the earlier date is his brother's birth date, which he used because the City had no trace of his own birth), and the prison term was the result of a frame-up and terrible misunderstanding. "My troubles started when I was twelve years old", said Bragg cagily. "My friend was dating my girlfriend, we got to fighting, and she said I tried to rape her. While they had me, they put all these unsolved cases on me, told the peoples I was the one. Later some of them said they was wrong, and wanted to clear their consciences before they died. A lady goes to my church, and she shakes her head and says, 'We sure did you wrong, John'".

Once inside, Bragg joined a gospel group with Ed Thurman, William Steward, Clarence Moore and another whom Bragg recalls only as 'Sam'. They subsequently argued, and Bragg formed another group called the Prisonaires. He later brought in 36 year-old Thurman (99 years for murder) as manager, and 30 year-old Steward (99 years for murder) as music director. Guitarist Steward had a convict since his seventeenth birthday. They were joined in the early 1950s by John Drue (3 years for larceny), and Marcel Sanders (1 to 5 years for involuntary manslaughter). Incidentally, it appears as though Steward was not the same William Steward who recorded country blues for Sun. The William "Talking Boy" Steward tapes were recorded in 1951, and Bragg recalls that William Steward never played country blues.

It is unclear how the Prisonaires came to be heard outside the prison walls. A contemporary report stated that Joe Calloway of WSIX, Nashville, was at the prison for a newscast, heard the group and arranged for them to have a regular show on WSIX, and on the local black station, WSOK. Calloway's approach came as a wind of change was blowing through the prison. Previously known as 'Swafford's Graveyard' after the previous warden, the jail was now being managed by James Edwards, a friend of Governor Frank Clement, who wanted to prepare the inmates for their return to society.

According to Johnny Bragg, he had already made contact with the outside world - in particular with hillbilly singers, who would come to the penitentiary to buy songs. "Word go around there was a nigger who could write any kind of songs", said Bragg. "Hank Williams come out there, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Little Jimmie Dickens... they all come". Among the songs that Bragg claims to have sold was "Your Cheatin' Heart", and it is at least possible that Williams bought the genesis of the song from Bragg, as he bought other songs that he made uniquely his own. One of those who came to the prison looking for copyrights was Red Wortham, owner of Wortham Music.

Johnny Bragg says that Wortham came to buy songs from him; according to the 'Commercial Appeal' report, Wortham came to the prison to check out a hillbilly songwriter (possible Clarence "Two Hats" McKeel who later wrote songs for Hugh X. Lewis and others, and helped write the lead-sheet for "Just Walking In The Rain"), but was asked to listen to the Prisonaires.

Not regarding himself a judge of rhythm and blues acts, Wortham sent a tape of the Prisonaires made at WSIX to his cousin, Jim Bulleit. By that point, Bulleit had a long career in the Nashville music business - as a partner in Bullet Records, as manager of his own labels, and representative of others. Early in 1953 he bought himself a minority holding in Sun Records, and one of his first moves was to forward Wortham's tape to Sam Phillips with the recommendation that the group be signed. That tape is probably the one that contains earlier versions of "Just Walking In The Rain" and "Baby Please", together with the Louis Jordan tune "That Chick's Too Young To Fry". The songs were tapes over a WSIX radio show, "Youth On Parade", starring Pat Boone.

Johnny Bragg recalled that he had written "Just Walking In The Rain" (SUN 186) in conjunction with Robert Riley, an inmate who couldn't sing. They were walking to the prison laundry, when Bragg said, "Here we are walking in the rain. I wonder what the little girls are doing?". Riley said it sounded like a good song title, and they quickly worked up the song.

Bulleit evidently persuaded Phillips to record the group, while Wortham retained the music publishing rights. Sam Phillips released "Just Walking In The Rain" on July 8, 1953. On July 28, Jud Phillips went to Nashville to meet Bulleit and the Prisonaires. Jud had joined Sun a few months earlier, and was learning the fine art of record promotion and distribution. "They boys (Prisonaires) are getting from 10 to 25 letters a day from all over the country", wrote Jud. "They plan to bring all of them to you when they come over. They make me think of a bunch of baby birds. They are fine boys all of them. I get great joy out of helping people like that... I know you do too".

Phillips also got great joy from watching the orders roll in. Ebony magazine reported that "Just Walkin' In The Rain" sold almost a quarter of a million copies, and heaped praise on the Sun label. If Sam Phillips was able to press 50,000 of this song he was lucky, but the publicity was important to Sun.

The Prisonaires' lead singer, Johnny Bragg, told a number of reporters that Elvis Presley helped with the lyrics to "Just Walkin' In The Rain". Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins, in Good Rockin' Tonight, published in 1991, report Braggs' claim that Elvis Presley was in the studio when the Prisonaires recorded "Just Walkin' In The Rain". It is unlikely that Elvis Presley was hanging around Sun Records during the Prisonaires recording sessions. "It was hard to keep Elvis Presley from the studio", Marcus Van Story remembered. "He loved the Prisonaires gospel sound". Despite this, Bragg's claim remains unsubstantiated. "I don't remember Elvis watching the Prisonaires record", Ronald Smith commented. The Prisonaires were nevertheless an important influence upon both Elvis Presley and Sam Phillips. Elvis Presley was mesmerized by Bragg's vocals, and Sam Phillips was intrigued by the crossover sound the Prisonaires produced.

The group making personal appearances on day passes throughout the state, and - with considerable complication - outside the state. They were held up by Warden Edwards and Governor Clement as shining examples of rehabilitation. "The hopes of tomorrow rather than the mistakes of yesterday", gushed Clement, who brought the group to the governor's mansion, and bought William Steward a new guitar. His enthusiasm earned him the unissued paean "What About Frank Clement (A Mighty, Mighty Man)", which had "Parole - Please" written all over it.

Sam Phillips found it impossible to continue the Prisonaires' success, however. As the follow-up record to "Just Walkin' In The Rain" Phillips selected "Softly And Tenderly" (SUN 189). Billboard reviewed this release enthusiastically, but it failed to sell in large numbers. Sun Records then released two more pop Prisonaires records before the group faded into obscurity. There remain a number of unreleased Prisonaires recording, years later, released by Bear Family Records in Germany.

Around early 1955, the group started breaking up. Drue and Sanders were released, followed by Steward and Thurman. Surprisingly, Thurman's release excited some controversy in the local press, "The people of Tennessee can only hope that the killers still behind bars are non singers", said the editorial in the Nashville Tennessean on April 29, 1955. Bragg re-formed the Prisonaires as the Marigolds with a new set of faces including Hal Hebb (Bobby Hebb's brother).

Unknown to Bragg, though, events were taking place that would help to secure his future once he got outside. In May 1954, Joe Johnson (later president of Challence Records, then working for Gene Autry's publishing company, Golden West Melodies) arranged for Autry to acquire the copyright of "Just Walking In The Rain" from Red Wortham, shortly after, Autry recorded a dismal version for Columbia, but Don Law, Columbia's head of country Artist and Repertoire, saw something in the song, and when he was in New York he ran into Mitch Miller who was scouting songs for a Johnny Ray session. Ray recorded "Just Walking In The Rain" on June 29, 1956 in his usual petulant style, and it provide to be his commercial rebirth after a year or two in the wilderness.

Johnny Bragg claims to have had a premonition of Ray's recording, but he had no premonition of the vast amount of money it would bring him. "The first cheque was for $1400", recalls Bragg, "and I told the warden to go ahead and put the cheque in the commissary so I could buy some candy and so on. I thought the amount was $14.00! The next cheque was for $7500". Johnny Bragg received and invitation to the Annual BMI Awards dinner in New York for December 3, 1956. The invitation specified that he could bring a guest, who - had he gone - would probably have been an armed guard.

By this point, Johnny Bragg was far less keen to sell compositions. He successfully pitched a few of his songs, including "Don't Bug Me Baby", recorded by Milton Allen for RCA in 1957 (and reissued on Bear Family BFX 15357). Ernie Young, owner of Ernie's record Mart and Excello/Nashboro Records, signed the Marigolds and they cut four singles, including "Two Stranger", first recorded by the Prisonaires at Sun. At roughly the same time, another unissued Prisonaires song, "Don't Say Tomorrow" was cut by the Hollyhocks on Nasco Records. Detail hounds may care to note that the Marigolds also cut an unreleased version of the song.

Johnny Bragg was finally released from prison in 1959, and he started recording for Decca Records in Nashville and writing for Tree Music. However, he was back behind bars again the following year for robbery and attempted murder, charges that Bragg asserts were setup. "A man whose name I can't say, said 'If that Bible totin' governor turns that nigger loose, I'll get him back inside even if I have to frame him", said Bragg darkly. "They charged me on three counts and finally got me on a charge of stealing $2.50 - and I had all kinds of money. It was pitiful". UPI reported that Johnny Bragg had indeed been indicted on charges of stealing $2.50, but that he had done so at gunpoint, whereupon two other white women identified him as the man who had tried to attack them. One of the charges finally stuck, and Johnny Bragg went back inside in May 1960.

A few months later, the Elvis Presley connection had its final postscript. Bragg was visited by Elvis Presley, who had just returned from West-Germany. "He asked repeatedly", said Bragg, "Did I need a lawyer, was there anything he could do for me". Needing help so bad he could taste it, Bragg nevertheless declined. "They said if I didn't take the case to the Supreme Court, they'd get me out in nine months", asserted Brag, "but I didn't get out in nine months, and that messed me up a little bit".

An article in the local press in Nashville reads: ELVIS VISITS PRISON. En route home to Memphis after Wednesday's visit to the State Legislature, singer-actor Elvis Presley stopped for approximately 45 minutes at the State Prison.

He toured the various workshops, dining hall, and death-house, and talked briefly with song-writer Johnny Bragg, who is doing time for a parole violation. "It was Elvis' idea to drive by the penitentiary", one of his traveling companions - buddy-guard - said. "He has known Bragg from back when he was starting out as an entertainer; scrounging for a living".

Upon his re-release seven years later, Johnny Bragg formed Elbejay Records in partnership with Raymond Ligon and Cyril Jackson, and recorded three singles for them. By his account, he forgave Red Wortham for cheating the Prisonaires out of publishing royalties on "Just Walking In The Rain", and brought him in as Artist and Repertoire manager at Elbejay Records.

Johnny Bragg's troubles didn't end upon his re-release, though. He was returned to prison for shoplifting, and released on parole (for the third time) following the death of his wife, leaving him a single parent. With his faith and his health still more-or-less, intact, though, he has done better than the other members of the Prisonaires. They all died in varying degrees of poverty or distress. The saddest case was that of William Steward who died of alcohol poisoning in a cheap motel room in Florida. Only Robert Riley manager to eke a more-or-less successful career in the music business. Before his death he became a contracted writer at Three Music and cranked out country-soul songs for Nashville-based labels such as Dial, Todd and Sound Stage Seven.

The Prisonaires gained their moment of fame as a novelty act, but, as his music proves convincingly, their work transcends more novelty appeal. Johnny Bragg had a stilling lead tenor that ranks alongside that of his idol, Bill Kenny of the Inkspots. The music they cut for Sun Records was quite unlike anything else on the label - sophisticated and urbane, largely lacking the raw edge that Sam Phillips cherished. Certainly, there were some performances that missed the mark, but there's also "Just Walking In The Rain", a classic by any criterion.

There is fierce pride in Johnny Bragg - evident in the way he spits out the world "Penitentiary". There is also darkness within him, which he laid aside to produce some hauntingly beautiful music.

JUNE 3, 1953 WEDNESDAY

Elvis' L.C. Humes High School commencement, a joyous moment for the Presley family finally arrived. On that muggy Wednesday night, Elvis Presley anxiously entered the spacious Ellis Auditorium's South Hall for the graduation ceremony. In his subdued black tie and new white shirt, Elvis Presley felt awkward as he walked into the hall with his classmates. As the Class 202 members of the Humes class of 1953 marched forward to accept their diplomas, there was an uncomfortable feeling in Elvis' stomach.

As Elvis Presley wandered into the Ellis Auditorium, he met George Klein, the Humes High class president. They were both poor boys who were highly successful overachievers. Elvis Presley admired Klein's poise and self-assurance, and George Klein was smitten with Elvis' musical talent.

The bubbly sense of anticipation that erupts during a High School graduation was evident as each student shook principal T.C. Brindley's hand and received a diploma from the superintendent of the Memphis Public Schools, E.C. Ball.

As Elvis Presley left on stage, he turned to Billy Leaptrott, a classmate and photographer, and remarked: "I don't got it". It was Elvis Presley's humorous way of suggesting that, despite his rural Southern background, he was smarter than many people realized. Elvis Presley always took care to use proper English, and his remark was a cutting reference to the strict class lines that prevailed in Memphis society.

The Senior Glee Club sang a selection by Rachmaninoff and "Nocturne" by the Czech composer Zdenko Fibich, and during the ceremony, Vernon and Gladys beamed from the audience. Elvis' aunt and uncle, Travis and Lorraine Smith, sat next to Jeanette and Alfred Fruchter, and they all smiled as Elvis walked across the stage. Many of Elvis' biographers have perpetuated the myth that Elvis didn't own a record player. Nothing was further from the truth, according to Jeanette Fruchter, who told Vince Staten that she never loaned a record player to Elvis Presley.

She indicated that the Presley's not only owned their own record player, but that Elvis Presley was an avid collector of different types of music. It is obvious from the Fruchter's observations that Elvis Presley was already well on his way to pursuing a musical career.

- HUMES HIGH, CLASS OF 1953 –
COMMENTS FROM ELVIS' CLASSMATES

EDWIN LEEK - I started to Humes in the middle of the 12th grade, shortly before the Christmas holidays. I wanted to graduate from Humes, because my father and mother had graduated from there. My father was a doctor and I had been an Army brat for part of my life due to my father’s service in World War II and beyond. I had attended 16 schools before Humes; so coming to a new school didn’t bother me much.

I am sorry that I was not around long enough to get to know more of my classmates, but I did find some new friends. My closest friends were Elvis Presley, Albert Teague, Bill Clenney and Charles Manspeaker. I enjoyed my time there and the friends I made.

After I graduated, I attended Memphis State and UT to take my pre-med courses. Although becoming a doctor was my parents and grandparents idea, it was not mine. As soon as I had enough chemistry to get a job, I went to work at a coated fabric place and put my first paycheck down on a small airplane in West Memphis, Arkansas. I eventually earned the necessary ratings and achieved a position with a scheduled airline as a First Officer. I made Captain 5 years later flying out of Chicago with Ozark Airlines, which later merged into TWA and finally, American.

I retired early in 1988, as I did not like the merger treatments. Thirty years and 24,000 hours flying commercial airplanes should be sufficient for a lifetime. Since retirement, I have been showing my wife of 47 years the world, having taken her to 71 countries and all 7 continents, so far. (Free or highly discounted air travel sure helps.) We lived in Key Largo, Florida for 33 years (I commuted to Chicago and St. Louis when I was flying). During the past few months we have put the Key Largo house up for sale and moved 200 miles into the middle of the state between Sarasota and Vero Beach to get farther away from the threat of possible hurricanes. We have been in the eyes of 3 hurricanes since that time! The Keys got very little damage from any of the storms, so I suppose one just can’t win sometimes. We also have a winter home in the mountains of Costa Rica that may be sold soon, as travel is not so much fun any more with the new restrictions at airports (unless you wish to travel nude and without luggage).

My Elvis Stories: I gave Elvis $4.00 to make his first dub at Sam Phillip’s Sun Records. It took him two months to get up the courage to do it. My idea was to make the record and knock on radio station doors to get it played and hopefully find him a singing job. Elvis was very unsure of himself in the early days of his career. I had a good time traveling, double dating, etc. with him until he went into the Army. He would call me to ''round up'' the bunch (about 16 total) to come to where ever he was to perform. He was afraid there wouldn’t be anyone there if we didn’t come.

He is still the only singer I listen to. I own the original dub along with the music rights to it. I have allowed RCA and Disney to publish the music mainly so the fans can hear the two songs, which I felt, were very good. The record has all the elements that later developed into his personal style. I also still have the first commercial disk out of the labeling machine at Plastic Products on Chelsea Avenue. (That’s All Right and Blue Moon), which Elvis signed for me after I pulled it out of the collection box. I sold my Humes year book; my class photo and the little pink business card Elvis gave me ( to get backstage after he began famous) some years back for unbelievable prices. I figured they would be well cared for by Elvis collectors. I am considering letting the commercial record and perhaps the 'dub find new homes soon. I am 70 years old and have no family except my wife to give them to. I have enjoyed them for over 50 years, along with my memories of Elvis.

- Edwin Leek, October 7, 2004

BETTY DIEPHOLZ-LOVELESS: ''I was President of the History Club in Miss Scrivener's 12th grade class. She assigned me the task of getting Elvis to sing at our class party at Overton Park. He did and we all enjoyed the party and the singing. A few of us, including Elvis, climbed into L.D. Ledbetter's car and went downtown to enjoy the Cotton Carnival. We rode the rides and hung out on the steps of the downtown library to listen to Elvis sing again. This attracted a crowd - the police came along and dispersed the crowd and we went home. Later, when we were signing yearbooks, we laughed about that night. Elvis wrote in my book 'Remember Me - Elvis'. Ironic that we all remember Elvis''.

WILIAM LARRY CURLE: ''During his senior year Larry and I had Miss Moss' 5th period American Problems class together with Elvis Presley. One day Miss Moss got so fed up with Larry and me she told us to take the rest of the day off and go to the athletic room. She allowed Elvis to tag along''. ''The three of us went riding in Larry's red 1940 Studebaker that didn't have a reverse gear. During our ride around town, we went somewhere to get Elvis' guitar; he sat in the backseat playing and singing. Larry and I were both impressed with his songs, although I was more impressed, I think. Larry was also a talented singer. We talked about the upcoming talent show where Larry and I were appearing with several boys doing gymnastic things. Elvis said, 'I'll warm them up for you''. ''When that night came, he did warm them up! After a couple of his scheduled songs, the audience response demanded he sit on the apron and sing a few more. The show really finished when Elvis did, but we went on and performed our act without much distinction''.

DWIGHT MALONE: ''Elvis was different. Most boys had crew cuts and wore tee shirts and blue jeans. Elvis would appear at school in a pink jacket and yellow pants and a duck tail haircut. He was quiet, very courteous and largely stayed to himself. I did play touch football with him on the triangle at Lauderdale Courts. He was not fast, but he had very quick movements. He had those swivel hips even then. When he caught the ball, he was difficult to tag. He could swivel out of reach in a moment. To tag him, a player had to grab him and hold on until he could apply the tag''.

ELVIS and WARREN GREGORY were close friends. Warren was musically gifted. He could play a piano beautifully, the guitar, the trumpet and any other available instrument. He never took a lesson. He could play any tune he heard and improvise the melody. During the summer months Elvis and Warren would sit on the street curb, strumming their guitars and singing country songs. Frankly, in their early attempts, they were not that good. I think they had a few shoes thrown at them by the neighbors. ''It was at the Humes Talent Show in April, 1953 that I realized that Elvis could really sing. I remember our barbershop quartet singing. I remember Gloria Trout, a gorgeous little blond dancer who was also a cheerleader. But mostly, I remember Elvis. There were no swivel hips. His props were a chair, a guitar and a loud costume. He put one foot on the chair, strummed the guitar and sang his heart out. To me, that was when rock and roll was born. The ovation was thunderous and long''.

RACHAEL MADDOX VAN WAGGONER: ''Glee Club was a favorite class because I truly enjoyed singing. In April, 1953, I sang Because of You' at the annual talent show. I heard Elvis play his guitar and sing and was surprised by how much talent he had. I think his performance was the reason I asked him to sign my yearbook''.

BETTY JEAN MOORE-MUNSON: ''Whenever Elvis Presley walked by we would look at each other and laugh and giggle. (We both had a crush on him.) One day he walked up to Dorothy and asked her why we laughed when he walked by. She was so dumbfounded that she blurted out 'It's because we think you are so good-looking'. I guess he was surprised also; he just broke into a grin and walked away. I was just sitting there with the reddest face that a girl could ever have. Whenever I'm embarrassed, I blush so badly that I feel as though my face will ignite. My face didn't ignite but from then on whenever I would see Elvis coming down the hall, I would stick my face into a book and not look up''. ''Elvis and I were in Miss Alexander's homeroom in the 11th grade. She taught music, so the classroom was a music room. She divided our class into an 'L' shape with boys on one side and girls on the other side. Elvis sat in the front row next to a guy sporting a Mohawk haircut. I sat in the second row of girls so I could see him very well and I often stared at him because there was something about him that I really liked. He didn't dress or act like the rest of the boys. He always had a lock of hair hanging to the side of his face''. ''He had a serious expression most of the time during the beginning of the school year. But, later in the year, he surprised us by playing his guitar before school several mornings. He didn't sing; he just played. He was accompanied on the grand piano by another student, Warren Gregory. We really enjoyed the impromptu jam sessions, but we kept our eyes peeled for Miss Alexander because we weren't real sure how she would react to our choice of music. We never found out because she never showed up while they were playing''. ''Elvis was very polite and respectful to all the teachers. He always addressed them as 'Ma am' and 'Sir. He Seemed very shy and I identified with him since I was shy, too. It was a very special year for me. I remember him driving a maroon convertible; I believe it was a Lincoln. Sometimes he wore dark colored pants with a stripe down the sides. I found out later that they were part of his movie usher uniform''.

ROSE HOWELL KLIMEK: ''After church on Sunday night, my friends and I liked to go to Leonard's Barbeque on Bellevue and then to East Trigg Baptist Church to listen to the spirituals. The church had a special section for white visitors. Elvis was often there and occasionally sang with the choir. I loved to watch the people who got the spirit dance and roll in the aisles. I guess that's where the term 'holy rollers' came from''.

BILL LEAPTROTT - Classmate and friend of Elvis Presley at L.C. Humes High School in Memphis. He and Elvis Presley were members of Class 202, the graduating glass of 1953. Leaptrott, a photographer for the Press-Scimitar, accompanied Elvis Presley after his discharge from the Army. He wrote the article "A Kid From The Northside", which appears in 1987 book "Elvis In Private".

"When we graduated from Humes High School in 1953, we were a bunch of kids from the northside, without very aspirations. Few of use were thinking of going to college. We didn't have the money", recalls William Leaptrott.

"That went for Elvis Presley, too. Elvis was a member of my graduating class, and I remember him from the time he first came to Memphis from Tupelo, Mississippi. He was in my class all through high school.

Elvis was different. I remember him as a kid who had long hair with duck tails, when everybody else was wearing a flat top. He had two pairs of pants that I can remember - one pair was black with a white stripe down the side, and the other pair was black with a pink stripe. They were gaberdine. The rest of the kids were wearing Levis.

He wasn't in any crowd. I guess you would say he was a loner. He was very low key and took no part in school activities. I can't even remember him being at a prom. I don't think I had a class with him, but, like everybody else, he was in ROTC, and he played touch football.

Even then, Elvis showed a propensity for luxury cars. He drove an old Lincoln coupe, a 1940 or 1941 model. And he sang and played the guitar, pure country stuff, in our male beauty show. None of it turned any of us on.

I remember graduation night. When Elvis came off the stage with his diploma in his hand, he says: 'I done got it'. Elvis always called me 'Billy'. And throughout the years of his stardom, he never forgot our school days and gave me news breaks that other photographers couldn't.

It was a little surprising, because I didn't have all that much contact with him in school. The most we were together was in the afternoons after I delivered The Press-Scimitar to his home in the Lauderdale Courts housing complex.

I lived on Overton, and after I threw the paper at Lauderdale, we used to play football. He was tough. Long after he became a star, he kept playing touch ball.

It was while I was at summer at UCLA in 1954, between my freshman and sophomore years at Memphis State University, that I first learned of Elvis' success. When I phoned home, I was told Elvis had just cut his first Sun record, with his famous songs, "That's All Right", and "Blue Moon Of Kentucky".

We were in a graduating class of 202. I thought at first Elvis was the third in our class to die. I remember one was killed in a plane crash in New Orleans and one was murdered. The records show today, though, that Elvis was the seventh in our class to die", recalled William Leaptrott.

JUNE 4, 1953 THURSDAY

The morning after graduation, Elvis Presley trekked down to the state-run Tennessee Employment Security Office, located at 122 Union Avenue, filled out his application for work and sat waiting for an interview and evaluation. That Thursday morning was the day that Elvis Presley reported to work at the M.B. Parker Machinist Company owned by M.B. Parker.

The first sign of dissatisfaction with the Parker Company occurred when Elvis Presley reported to David Parker, the boss' son, and complained about being assigned to an eight-man crew stripping nail kegs from equipment about to be reconditioned.

The tedious work bothered Elvis Presley, so he talked at length about his show business aspirations. The withholding statement when Elvis worked for M.B. Parker is 3 1/4x7 inches. "A job. Any job. I just want to work", Elvis Presley told the interviewer.

That same afternoon, M.B. Parker stopped by Tennessee Employment to see if maybe he could find a helper for his shop. Parker's small company, in the nearby Thomas-Chelsea area (which later would house American Sound Studio), paired small engines. It was dirty work. greasy work. But it was steady work and it handed out paychecks every other Saturday. "Mr. Parker", the interviewer said, "I had a young man come in here this morning you might want to talk to. He was nice and clean. Very polite. said 'yes sir' and 'no sir'. Just graduated last night from Humes". "He sounds okay", Parker said. Send him to see me". "Well, now, Mr. Parker", the interviewer fudged, "you might not like him when you see him". "Why not?". "Because he's got long sideburns". "Well, send him around anyhow".

And a day or so later, Elvis Presley began learning to repair small engines for M.B. Parker. It really was dirty work, but Elvis was very much looking forward to that first paycheck because he had plans for some of the money he had earned. Big plans.

M.B. PARKER COMPANY - Located at 1449 Thomas Street, Memphis, Tennessee, the work was tedious at M.B. Parker, where Elvis Presley worked during the summer of 1953. Nothing more than standing on an assembly like taking the heads off flame-throw regulators, replacing the "O" rings, and putting the heads back on. It wasn't particularly laborious work, but the shop was sweltering during the summer.

It was a small company with an open-door policy. Before work one morning, more than a month after Elvis Presley joined the company, he paid a visit to his supervisor Mr. Parker. Elvis was visibly upset, and he said that without an advance on his wages he wouldn't be able to make his payment on the Lincoln, and it would be repossessed. Mr. Parker explained that it was against company policy to make such a loan, but Elvis Presley was so near tears that Mr. Parker agreed to write a personal check for thirty-three dollars. two days later, Elvis promptly turned his paycheck over to Mr. Parker to repay the loan.

UNKNOWN DATE SUMMER 1953

During the six months after graduating from Humes High School, Elvis Presley would cultivate an extensive knowledge of urban Memphis blues. His acquaintance with rural Mississippi blues was already quite strong. There was a special feeling in blues records that excited Elvis Presley. It was the blues that inspired Elvis to alter his country and western and pop stylings, and craft his music more towards a distinct rockabilly sound.

Elvis Presley began performing by Memphis blues artists like Rosco Gordon, B.B. King, and Little Junior Parker, developing himself into a white blues singer with rockabilly overtones. By that time, Elvis had mastered the Memphis sound, and the influence of local musicians like Eddie Bond, Marcus Van Story, Kenneth Herman, and Ronald Smith would be evident.

UNKNOWN DATE SUMMER 1953

Elvis Presley dropped in the Old Red's on Third Street in Memphis to play for a crowd of boisterous beer drinkers. "We would play for a couple hours and they would pass the hat", Kenneth Herman remarked. The band included Gerald Ferguson on bass, Kenneth Herman on steel guitar, and Ronald Smith on lead guitar. Sometimes there was a drummer, other times the band played without drums. Elvis Presley sang country music tunes.

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