ELVIS 1953 (7-12)
July 1, 1953 to December 31, 1953
Demo Recording for Elvis Presley, July 18, 1953 (Sun)
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 <


It was Charlie Feathers' constant talk about hit records that prompted Elvis Presley to consider going into Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service for a recording session. After hangout in the Beale Street nightclubs and the hillbilly bars around Memphis, Elvis Presley was excited about making a recording.

"It wasn't a problem on Beale Street", recalled Scotty Moore, "as far as black and white and violence was concerned... Everything was segregated back then and if you were seen in one of those clubs down there then you might get talked about. I don't know - it's possible Elvis went down there. Bill and I were married and had families to look after, so we weren't out running around with him all the time. He had friends he hung around with them. He may well have gone down there, but I can't remember him mentioning it to us if he did".

Elvis Presley frequented at VFW Hall, one of the seedier clip-joints, in Hernando, Mississippi. Elvis offered to entertain three nights for free. The manager introduced Elvis, and he stepped up on the tiny stage accompanied by only his guitar. Elvis was dressed in green pants, checkered jacket, pink shirt, sang a selections of current hits on the country charts, and his performance was a complete bust. Midway through the first song, a few people laughed. During the second song, some hecklers joined in. By the third song, Elvis voice tightened up, choked by his humiliation. He stopped altogether after an empty bottle was thrown in his general direction, followed by a littering of wadded-up paper cups. He got off the stage and walked straight out the back door, shutting out the laughter behind him. "I found him sitting in his car, propped against the door, tears wetting his face. He looked away as I climbed in the car", says Earl Greenwood, one of his cousins. "Jesus, Earl... I can't believe what jus' happen. They didn't even give me a change", says Elvis. "You were just nervous. It happens to everybody", recalled Greenwood. And Elvis said, "Not like that it doesn't, Earl, I thought I felt okay goin' up, but then I jus' felt ever'thin fallin' away from me. I couldn't even remember the words. No wonder they threw things. I was terrible. I wanna be swallowed up. How can I ever go back in there and face those people again? They hated me". "They didn't like your performance, it's got nothing to do with you as a person. Most of them don't even know you", says Greenwood. "Early, they tried to shut me up by throwin' a bottle at me. I coulda been killed. I don' know why I keep kiddin' myself that I can be a singer. I ain't foolin' anyone but me", said Elvis. "You're giving up because of one bad night". "I heard everythin' they said. They called me a freak. It's bad 'nough you saw it - what if I'd brought Mom" It've killed her. "But Elvis", said Earl Greenwood, "you weren't yourself up there tonight. You were trying too hard to sound like the radio instead of just being you. If you'd relax-". "Don't tell me how t'sing. You don' know the first thing about it", Elvis shot back angrily. "It wasn't just the singin' they didn't like, it was me". He tossed his guitar in the back seat. "Don't matter. I'm the ignorant one. This was a stupid idea from the start. Instead of wastin' my time here I should be doin' somethin' worthwide". Without a word, Elvis Presley started the car and screeched away from Hernando's, the car fishtailing on the slick streets, the ride home ominously silent. "When I got out of the car, Elvis didn't look at me or say a word, his face an unreadable stone wall", recalled Earl Greenwood.

The following night, Elvis Presley showed up to Earl Greenwoods house and asked him to go to Hernando's. "I have a date with Karen", say Earl. "Can't you be a little late for it? Or maybe you can both come". "I don' know I want to take her to that place, it's a little rough". "I tought you were quittin'".

Elvis was tense like never before, expecting to see more beer bottles flying through the air to him. He stood off to the side of the stage, taking deep breaths to calm himself. After his introductions, he got up on stage, fixed his eyes at the rear of the room and started singing. The songs were the same, but this time he sang them in the style that came naturally to him, in a strong, melodious voice. Nobody paid much attention one way or another - no bottles, no hecklers, but no applause, either. Tonight, Elvis Presley was just background noise.

When his set was done, he bounded off the stage, his face flushed with a sense of accomplishment. It wasn't a performance of the ages, but it was okay. And it gave Elvis enough to keep his dream alive. From that night on, he pursued singing with new-found vogor. Coming so close to losing it had done the trick.

Elvis Presley searched out every amateur night or honky-tonk looking for free talent in the greater Memphis area. He never had a regular set, just whatever was popular on the radio at the moment. He might hear something on the radio while driving to a club, be totally unprepared but try to sing it anyway, even if he only knew half the words, just because it was a hit song.

Some nights were good, many were bad. He took audience apathy or jeering personally. What he did was synonymous with who he was, so he construed any criticism of his singing as a personal rejection and it made him angry. And more determined. "I'll show 'em. One day tey'll see", he say whenever an audience gave him a cool reception.

EARL GREENWOOD - A second cousin to Elvis Presley, was with Elvis Presley in a personal and professional capacity - serving as his press agent for a time- throughout Presley's career. Earls grandfather, Tom Greenwood, married Elvis' aunt, Dixie Presley, and making him second cousins. He was two years younger, but the age difference was of little concern, and he grew up the best of friends and as close as brothers.

Several years later, as Elvis Presley and Earl Greenwood approached the teens, the families moved to Memphis within months of one another. After Elvis Presley became famous, Earl Greenwood felt into the role of his press agent, partly because Earl was capable but mostly because he felt most comfortable having family around him. Earl was in the unique, and what he admit occasionally considered cursed, position of being family, friend, confidant, and business associate all wrapped up in one. Earl Greenwood lives in Los Angeles today.


Elvis went to the Tennessee Employment Security office once again, trying to get himself another job. The job pays $.90 per hour, $36 per week. Elvis went to work for M.B. Parker as an assembler until July 29, when the job runs out, but Elvis was fixated on the idea of recording a $3.98 ten-inch master, but was having real problems working up the courage to take the plunge. He was too shy to tell anyone, so he decided to secretly make a personal recording. To pay for his own record session, Elvis went to his boss, M.B. Parker, Sr. and inquired about a salary advance to buy a car (actually Elvis' parents had recently purchased him the Lincoln). In reality, the money Elvis asked for was to be used for a demonstration record to impress Sam Phillips. The many hours that Elvis had spent at Taylor's Cafe, next to Sun Records, encouraged young Presley to cut his own record. Charlie Feathers and a number of other rockabilly artists shopped crudely recorded songs among the small labels and talent scouts that frequently Memphis, and talked about how they were going to make a hit record. Eddie Bond frequently dropped in and talked about his record. Marcus Van Story was always hanging around the studio. Doug Poindexter and the Starlite Wranglers encouraged Elvis to make his own record. Other people he knew, Stan Kesler, who played on a number of vanity records, and Smokey Joe Baugh, whose piano was evident on some Sun sessions, were doing it, so why shouldn't Elvis made a record?

JULY 1953

Sam Phillips' brother Jud joins Sun Records to help with promotion and sales as "Bear Cat" by Rufus Thomas becomes Sun's first hit in the blues market. Through the summer of 1953, Sun also hits with Little Junior Parker and the Prisonaires.

Phillips makes his first recordings by a white group for the Sun label. The Ripley Cotton Choppers, who had appeared on Memphis radio for several years.

JULY 12, 1953 FRIDAY

M.B. Parker rolled a cigar in his clenched teeth and listened to an impassioned plea from Elvis Presley, who wanted his paycheck early. Elvis was a good employee and Parker saw no reason to deny the request. Parker wrote out a thirty-three dollar check and Elvis Presley ran across the street to a liquor store to cash it. He took twenty dollars home to Gladys, and set the remainder aside for the record. During the next three days, Elvis spent a great deal of time in the bathroom practicing his vocal skills. Since Elvis hated bathing, Vernon and Gladys were more than curious about such long, sequestered spells in the privy.

Despite the practice, and having the money all set aside for a session, Elvis Presley still couldn't work up the courage to make a recording just then. His confidence simply hadn't reached the point where he was willing to test the water. Instead, Elvis continued listen to songs that he might record. He listening intently to the Pied Pipers 1948 hit "My Happiness", and when he was tired of it, he'd play the Ink Spots' "That's When Your Heartaches Begin" on the family Victrola record player. Vernon loved the Ink Spots and he spent hours talking about their music. There is no evidence that Elvis Presley listened to or was influenced by country singer Bob Lamb's version of "My Happiness".

"Elvis wanted to cut a record real bad", Ronald Smith recalled, "and he asked us a lot of questions about music". "The Ink Spots were one of Elvis' favorite acts", recalled Humes High girlfriend Susan Johnson, "I couldn't figure out why for the life of me".

JULY 17, 1953 FRIDAY

Vernon, Gladys and Elvis Presley spent the evening talking about the family's success. Elvis was happy because he was employed full-time. Gladys talked at length about her son's singing ability, and they all laughed into the night. Elvis Presley decided that very night to finally make a record to surprise his parents, quietly vowing to sing the to songs he had been practicing for so long.

Elvis and his friends were so consumed with the music that they couldn't think of anything else. ''Elvis wanted to cut a record real bad, ''Ronald Smith recalled, ''and he asked us a lot of questions about music''.


Elvis Presley stopped by the Memphis Recording Service on 706 Union Avenue, a small concern owned and operated by Sam Phillips. During the visit, Elvis Presley made a two sided 10-inch demonstration acetate of his singing while he accompanied himself on guitar. A close friend from Humes High School was also instrumental in Presley's decision to cut the record. "I had been trying to persuade Elvis Presley for quite some time to try his hand at making a record", Ed Leek recalled.

"After all, he was always going around singing". The record had nothing at all to do with Gladys' birthday, as some chroniclers have claimed, as that had already passed on April 25, but in hopes someone in the studio would discover him and give him a shot at recording commercially.

Its always been a common belief that the young Elvis Presley worked as electrician for the Crown Electric Company this time. It was the late Marion Keisker, who noticed that Elvis' tatty overalls were covered in oil, unusual for an electrician! Recently discovered documents from a small machinist's shop MB Parker which proved Marion Keisker right. Elvis Presley worked for the company fixing small engines -mostly mowers- from June to September when he found a higher paid job later in April 1954 at Crown Electric on 475 North Dunlap.

"This boy was no stranger to me", said Marion Keisker. "I had seen him walking up and down the sidewalk outside the studio several times, as if trying to get up enough nerve to walk in. This time he walked in".

THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE (SUN STUDIO) - Operated under three mottoes "We record anything-anywhere-anytime", "A complete service to fill every recording need", and "Combining the newest and best equipment with the latest and finest sonocoustic studio". Venetian blinds made it impossible to see through the plate glass window from the outside, but when you walked in the door into a shallow reception area that had been partitioned off from the studio directly behind it, you saw a blond woman of thirty-five, or thirty-six behind a desk wedged into the far left corner of the room. Out of this little storefront at 706 Union Avenue and Marshall, came music that would change the world.

Sam Phillips was also moderately successful in finding and recording Memphis blues musicians, including Rosco Gordon, Johnny Ace, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and B.B. King. In the early 1950s, the resulting songs were initially leased to record companies in Chicago (Chess) and Los Angeles (R.P.M.).

By 1953, Sam Phillips had founded his own label, Sun Records. That same year, Sun was enjoying success with two national hits, "Bear Cat" by Rufus Thomas and "Feelin' Good" by Little Junior's Blue Flames, featuring Herman "Junior" Parker.

In all, Sam Phillips only released ten songs performed by Elvis Presley on his Sun label. By then Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash had already recorded for Sam. Jerry Lee Lewis, Warren Smith, Roy Orbison, Billy Lee Riley, and Charlie Rich followed. All of them recorded hit songs that defined rock and roll. Soon, all these artists also would leave Sam Phillips for other recordings deals. Sam Phillips produced hit songs for less than ten years. But his place in history is secure.

"I opened the Memphis Recording Services", recalls Sam Phillips, "with the intention of recording singers and musicians from Memphis and the locality who I felt had something that people should be able to hear. I'm talking about blues - both the country style and the rhythm style - and also about gospel or spiritual music had not been given the opportunity to reach an audience. I feel strongly that a lot of the blues was a real true story. Unadulterated life as it was. My aim was to try and record the blues and other music I liked and to prove whether I was right or wrong about this music. I knew, or I felt I knew, that there was a bigger audience for blues than just the black man of the mid-South. There were city markets to be reached, and I knew that whites listened to blues surreptitiously. With the jet age coming on, with cotton-picking machines as big as a building going down the road, with society changing, I knew that this music wasn't going to be available in a pure sense forever".

Today Sun Studio is open for tours. Visitors assemble in the cafe and then are led into the recording room. The tour itself is an audio presentation of the Sun Records story amidst some of the original recording equipment and musical instruments. Above the cafe is an exhibit gallery of photographs and artifacts. Sun Studio also offers recording services in a room off limits to the tours.




For Elvis' demo recording(s) click on the available > buttons <

According to the 'Memphis Recording Service Volume 1' the date of this demo session is August 22 1953.

Elvis Presley walked into the Memphis Recording Service to record a four-dollar acetate. Elvis knew he had a good voice, and he was hoping to be discovered by Sam Phillips. Phillips was not in that day, but Marion Keisker was. The first song that Elvis Presley recorded at the Memphis Recording Service was "My Happiness". The second number was "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". Marion Keisker remembered Elvis Presley walking in dressed in dirty coveralls and with grease under his fingernails. "I never believed that story about his being a truck driver", Keisker would say six weeks before her death on December 29, 1989. "Truck drivers don't have grease under their fingernails". Then came that famous first conversation:

"What kind of singer are you".
"I song all kinds".
"Who do you sound like?".
"I don't sound like nobody".
"Yeah, I sing hillbilly".
Who do you sound like in hillbilly?".
"I don't sound like nobody".

"My Happiness"/"That's When Your Heartaches Begin" were lathe-recorded directly onto a ten-inch aluminum acetate disc. Soon after recording the demo, Elvis took it over to the East Jackson Avenue in Memphis, home of Ed Leek and his grandmother to play it for them. He left the demo with Leek and never asked for it back.

The acetate of "My Happiness"/"That's When Your Heartaches Begin" surfaced in 1988. It was found in the possession of Edwin S. Leek Jr., a classmate of Elvis at Humes High School. Leek says that it was he who urged Elvis to walk into the Memphis Recording Service to make the demo in July 1953.

Marion Keisker took the four dollars from Elvis Presley, then asked Sam Phillips if he wanted to record the young man, or did he want her to record him. "Sam snapped at me, 'Can't you see I'm bust. You do it", Marion Keisker would relate just before her death. "I had tears well up in my eyes. I almost cried. But that wasn't like Sam. He must have had something else bothering him at the time".

Marion took Elvis inside the tiny studio, turned on the machine, and Elvis Presley began recording "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". Impressed with what she was hearing, Keisker flipped on the Ampex tape recorder while Elvis was singing. Later, she would ask him for his name and address, putting it away in the files on her desk. "To make sure I remembered which one he was, I wrote 'Timothy Sideburns' on the paper", she recalled.

Sam Phillips insists it was he, not Marion, who recorded that first disc. "The truth of the matter is that I made the demo record of "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". I made the little record. He came in with his guitar; Marion was in front and I was in the control room". As further proof, he says that "I wouldn’t take anything away from Marion; I never had a better friend in my life. But Marion didn't know how to make an acetate record and she didn't try to".

Composer: - Betty Peterson-Borney Bergantine - Written in 1933
Publisher: - A.S.C.A.P. - Chappell Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - WPA5-2531 -10 Inch Acetate- Not Originally Issued (2:32)
Recorded: - July 18, 1953
Released: - August 1990
First appearance: - RCA BMG (CD) 500/200rpm PD 82227-1/1 mono
Reissued: - 1999 RCA BMG Music (CD) 500/200rpm 0786367675-1/1 mono

"My Happiness" had been a pop record, a country record, and a jazz record before Elvis got to it; his version was sung as a kind of half-confident plaint.

Composer: - William J. Raskin-Billy Hill-Fred Fisher - Written in 1940
Publisher: - A.S.C.A.P. - Fisher Music Corporation
Matrix number: - WPA5-2532 - 10 Inch Acetate - Not Originally Issued (2:46)
Recorded: - July 18, 1953
Released: - June 1992
First appearance: - RCA BMG (CD) 500/200rpm PD 90689(5)-5/1 mono
Reissued: 1999 RCA BMG Music (CD) 500/200rpm 0786367675-2/2 mono

"That's When Your Heartaches Begin" ends (with the words "that's the end") just after what would normally have been a mid-song recitation, although its not clear whether this was intentional. This song was filled with aspiration. If he had hoped for instant recognition, of for Sam Phillips to come out of the control booth to talk to him, he was sadly disappointed. Marion Keisker duly noted his name and number, but weeks and months went by and Elvis heard nothing.

After Elvis Presley cut the $3.98 ten-inch acetate of "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin", Elvis sat in the outer lobby while Marion Keisker typed out the label copy on the blank sides of a Prisonaires label "Softly And Tenderly", SUN 189 release. The Prisonaires record was a 1953 release and, as Stanley Kesler remembered, "it was common to take any label and put it on one of the "amateur records". The words "Elvis Presley" were written underneath the title on each side, and Elvis Presley took it with him when he left Sam Phillips' recording service.

"The guy that's got that thing, he came up here and when I first heard it NBC called me", recalled Sam Phillips, "and wanted me to review it on video tape that they had sent up here to their channel. I went down to accommodate them 'cause I knew some people at NBC and it didn't sound like him on the tape, so I told 'em that I was pretty sure that it was not the original acetate. But I said, 'Hey! I would not know unless I heard the record in person and make sure the speed's right', because that would be very important as there's so many imitators of Elvis that, I mean, close your eyes".

"So the guy brought the record up here and I listened to it and it really, in my belief, it definitely is it. I told him, I said, 'I know how many lines per inch that I cut on that acetate'. This is the thing that Marion Keisker said that she recorded, made a tape of and all that stuff, which is totally incorrect. It would be fine with me if she had, but it just didn't happen that way. I know how many lines per inch... it was 96 lines per inch that I was usin' and you went from that to 112, to 120, 130, 136 and that was the most lines per inch you could cut". "I told this guy, Ed Leek, that I would not say 100% until I analyzed the grooves. I told him, 'I really believe that it is now that I have been it in person'. I know what type of disc I putt it on, the brand name and the type of acetate coding it had on it and it was definitely aluminium and not glass-based, and this sort of thing. But anyway, he got back to me and I told him that I would not authenticate it at all unless I was certain in my own mind and I won't sign anything saying for sure. I would have to study this thing. I knew the type of cutting needle I used at that time. I knew my spiral-in, my spiral-out and that would just take some time and I haven't had a chance to do all that yet".

"Until I do, I'm not gonna say that its authentic. I believe that it is but I would no more say that it is unless I know, I mean with dead moral certainly. I know this, there wasn't a dub made of this record. It was not on tape, it was made directly onto the acetate. At that time there was no place in town that you could go and make a dub; I was the only place in town that you could go and make a dub. People will go to unbelievable lengths now, man to come up with somethin' they think they can get rich off so. I hope that it is. Boy, that's be a coup!", said Sam Phillips.

On October 10, 1988, Marion Keisker signed an affidavit of authenticity stating that she believed the acetate owned by Ed Leek was Elvis' very first recording. In April 1989, Leek signed for 500,000 dollars, a 50/50 partnership agreement with Sun Entertainment Corporation to release the recording to the public, but he retains sole ownership of the disc. Engineer Allen Stoker mastered the disc to tape at the Country Music Foundation on September 14 and 15, 1989 in Nashville. The sound was cleaned up, but nothing else was added.

At the time of this writing, plans are to release "My Happiness"/"That's When Your Heartaches Begin" on the soundtrack of a two-video package, "Elvis' Greatest Hits, Volume 1 and 2", a joint venture of Disney's Touchstone Films and RCA. Still photos of Elvis and his mother, Gladys, will be seen during the audio. Compact discs of the soundtrack are planned for release at the same time by RCA.

Ed Leek died on June 4, 2010, and his wife passed away in the summer of 2014. According to friend Maurice Golgan, Ed Leek had been valiantly fighting cancer for two years but recently was feeling more positive and cheerful. Ed Leek became a successful airline pilot Captain for TWA and American Airlines. The record was passed on to Leek's niece, Lorisa Hilburn, who consigned the acetate to the Graceland action on January 8, 2015. The disk sold for $240,000 and was won by an online bidder who ''wishes to remain anonymous'' according to the Elvis Presley Enterprises officials. With action house commissions and other fees, the purchase will cost the buyer close to $300,000 total.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Elvis Presley - Vocal and Acoustic Rhythm Guitar (Martin Dreadnought 18)
Only one copy, i.e. no tape left at the Sun studio


JULY 1953

After the session, Elvis Presley went immediately over to Ed Leek's house on East Jackson Avenue. Eventually, after spinning it for his parents, Elvis Presley and Ed Leek take the record home. Ed Leek stored the disc and forgot about it over time. It was not until August 1988, when the story broke nationally, that Ed Leek sought authentication of the record. It came quickly. There were a number of people in Memphis who were aware of it.

One of them was Marcus Van Story. He was sitting in a local cafe on the hot August day in 1953 that Elvis Presley decided to record his two songs. "I had nothing to do and was hanging around Taylor's Cafe", Van Story remarked. "In walked Elvis Presley and we talked for a moment. He wasn't nervous", van Story continued. Van Story walked with Ed Leek and Elvis Presley next door to Sun Records and left to do some errands.

"When Ed Leek and Elvis Presley walked into the Memphis Recording Service, I didn't think anything of it", Van Story concluded.

ELVIS ARON PRESLEY - (1935-1977) Nicknamed as "The King Of Rock And Roll", Elvis Presley is probably the most famous singer and entertainer of the 20th century. Born at 4:35 a.m. on January 8, 1935 (Astrological sign of Elvis is Capricorn) in East Tupelo, Mississippi, the son of Vernon Elvis and Gladys Love Smith Presley, and reared in Memphis in near poverty, he became an international celebrity and one of the wealthiest entertainers in history. Elvis' twin brother, Jesse Garon, was stillborn and buried in an unmarked grave in the Priceville Cemetery the next day.

In his early childhood, Elvis Presley loved to sing the gospel songs that were sung in the First Assembly of God Church just one block from his family's home. Elvis attended the church with his parents, who also enjoyed joining in on the musical praises.

While in the fifth grade at Lawhon Elementary School, Elvis' teacher, Mrs. J.C. Oleta Grimes, discovered that Elvis had an unusual singing talent when he extemporaneously sang "Old Shep" in class one day.

Grimes informed the school's principal, J.D. Cole, of Elvis' talent and, on October 3, 1945, he entered Elvis Presley in the annual talent contest at the Mississippi- Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. The talent contest was sponsored and broadcast live by Tupelo radio station WELO. Singing "Old Shep", Elvis Presley did not win second place, five dollars. Nubin Payne actually won second price that year, she still has her trophy.

On Elvis' birthday on January 8, 1946, he received his first guitar - a $7.75 model purchased by his mother at the Tupelo Hardware Store. According to the proprietor, Forrest L. Bobo, Elvis wanted a rifle and raised quite a ruckus in the store when it became evident that Gladys was not about to buy him the gun.

Elvis Presley was influenced by many country, gospel, and blues artists from his area, who lived adjacent to the African American neighborhoods of ''Shage Rag'' and ''On the Hill'' location next to the railway tracks, and according to musicians who have stated that Elvis Presley may have been especially swayed by the music of ''Tee-Toc'' or Lonnie Williams, and in the summer of 1948 the Presley's moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Though the circumstances remain clouded, it appears that Vernon Presley was in trouble with the law. Apparently he had been selling moonshine whiskey. Reportedly, Tupelo authorities gave Vernon two weeks to leave town. In any case, the Presley's moved from Tupelo to Memphis in September 1948, and Elvis Presley was enrolled at the Christine School. The following year he entered Humes High School.

From 1948 to 1953, Elvis Presley frequent on Beale Street and he joins the black bars and jukes listening to the black musicians, and his years at Humes High were unevenly, except for his senior year. During that year, 1952 to 1953, Elvis Presley was persuaded by his history and homeroom teacher Miss Mildred Scrivener, to perform in the annual Humes High Minstrel Show, which she produced.

While attending Humes High School, Elvis Presley went to work for the Precision Tool Company on June 3, 1951. He was employed there only a month. After graduating from high school, Elvis Presley frequently in the Beale Street area's, and was hired by the Crown Electric Company as a truck driver. His job consisted primarily of delivering supplies to the men on construction sites.

During a lunch break on a Saturday afternoon in July 1953, Elvis Presley stopped in front of the Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union Avenue. The Memphis Recording Service was a lucrative sideline for Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records. While there were several similar companies in Memphis. Elvis chose the Memphis Recording Service because it was owned by Sam Phillips. Legend has it that Elvis wanted to make a record for his mother's birthday; however, Gladys Presley's birthday was on April 25, so that story can be discounted.

Marion Keisker, a former "Miss Radio of Memphis" and then Sam Phillips' studio manager, was in the studio when Elvis Presley proceeded to record two songs "My Happiness", and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". Midway through "My Happiness", Keisker recognized in Elvis Presley the quality that Sam Phillips was looking for: "A white singer with a Negro voice". She immediately threaded a piece of discarded recording tape onto the Ampex tape recorder used in the studio and succeeded in recording the last third of "My Happiness" and all of "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". Before Elvis left the studio with his record, Keisker asked for his address and telephone number.

On Monday, January 4, 1954, Elvis Presley again returned to the Memphis Recording Service to make another four-dollar demo. In early June of 1954, Sam Phillips couldn't locate the black singer of a demo record of "Without Love" that he brought back from Peer Music in Nashville. He decided to record it with someone else, and Marion Keisker suggested he try Elvis Presley.

On Monday, July 5, 1954, Elvis Presley made his first commercial recording session at Sun Records. The first song he put on tape was "Harbor Lights". During a refreshment break, Elvis began cutting up and singing an upbeat version of Arthur Crudup's blues standard "That's All Right", and his musicians Scotty Moore and Bill Black joined in. The next evening they decided on an up-tempo version of Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" for the flip-side of the record.

Sam Phillips took acetates of Elvis' first record to many of the local disc jockeys. On the evening of July 7, 1954 on his WHBQ radio program, "Red Hot and Blue", disc jockey Dewey Phillips played "That's All Right". The response was so terrific that Dewey Phillips called Elvis at home to arrange an interview. The interview and record made Elvis an overnight celebrity in Memphis.

On July 12, 1954, Elvis Presley signed a managerial contract with Scotty Moore, and later that week signed a recording contract with Sun Records. The following week, on July 19, "That's All Right"/"Blue Moon Of Kentucky" (SUN 209) was released. Eventually sales totaled less than twenty thousand copies, but it was the beginning of a career that would be unmatched by anyone in the history of the entertainment industry.

Elvis Presley's first professional appearance after signing with Sun Records was at the Overton Park Shell on July 30, 1954. Slim Whitman was the featured performer that day.

Elvis soon began making many professional appearances, among them the grand opening of the Katz Drug Store in September 1954. On October 2, 1954, he made his first and only appearance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, singing "Blue Moon Of Kentucky". The audience response was lukewarm and Jim Denny, the talent coordinator for the Grand Ole Opry, suggested that Elvis Presley go back to driving a truck. Two weeks later, however, Elvis performed on the "Louisiana Hayride", and the response was so good that he was asked to become a regular.

On January 1, 1955, Scotty Moore, no longer able to fully devote his time to the management of Elvis Presley's career, relinquished his managerial duties to WMPS disc jockey Bob Neal.

Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black auditioned for "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" in New York City in April 1955, failing to make the show.

In the fall of 1955, Sam Phillips was faced with a problem: should he continue to devote his energies to promoting Elvis, or should he sell Elvis' contract to the highest bidder and use the money to develop several of the potential stars he had at Sun Records. He chose the latter. At the Warwick Hotel in New York City, on November 20, 1955, Sam Phillips sold Elvis' Sun contract to RCA Victor for the total sum of $40,000 ($25,000 from RCA and $15,000 from the Hill and Range Music Company), plus a $5,000 bonus to Elvis Presley to cover the amount he would have received in royalties from Sun Records.

Though he was with Sun Records for only sixteen months, Elvis Presley recorded five records: SUN 209 ("That's All Right"/"Blue Moon Of Kentucky''); SUN 210 ("Good Rockin' Tonight"/"I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine"); SUN 215 ("Milkcow Blues Boogie"/"You're A Heartbreaker"); SUN 217 ("Baby, Let's Play House"/"I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone"); SUN 233 ("Mystery Train"/"I Forgot To Remember To Forget").

In late 1954, Colonel Thomas Andrew Parker, a former carnival worker, began taking an interest in Elvis' career, and it was Parker who helped to secure the RCA Victor contract. In 1955, Parker assisted Bob Neal in booking several performances for Elvis Presley. Although Bob Neal was Elvis' legal manager, Parker began to guide his career in mid-1955. On March 15, 1956, Tom Parker officially took over the managerial duties.

After signing with RCA Victor, all of Elvis' Sun singles were re-released on RCA's label, and on January 10, 1956, Elvis Presley had his first recording session for RCA Victor in Nashville, Tennessee. The first song put on tape was "I Got A Woman", but the big hit from the session was "Heartbreak Hotel", a tune written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton. "Heartbreak Hotel", backed with "I Was The One", was released on January 27, 1956, and the following evening, Elvis, Scotty, and Bill made their national television debut on the Dorsey Brothers "Stage Show". Five more appearances followed. By the time of the last appearance, on March 24, "Heartbreak Hotel" was the number one song on Billboard magazine's popularity chart, and Elvis Presley was on his way to becoming a millionaire.

Elvis Presley made a screen test for Hal Wallis of Paramount studios on April 1, 1956. He did a scene from "The Rainmaker" with veteran actor Frank Faylen and sang "Blue Suede Shoes". Two days later, Elvis made the first of two appearances on "The Milton Berle Show". A disastrous two-week stand at the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, followed later in April and early May. Originally scheduled for four weeks. Elvis' last Las Vegas debut was cut short after the second week because of poor audience response. On June 5, 1956, Elvis made his second appearance on "The Milton Berle Show", and "The Steve Allen Show" followed on July 5, 1956. Elvis Presley's big break came when he performed on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on September 9, 1956. After that he was truly a national phenomenon. His performance was viewed by an estimated 54 million people.

Elvis' first movie, Love Me Tender, premiered in November 1956, and he was on his way to becoming a successful movie star. Three other films were made in the 1950s: Loving You, Jailhouse Rock, and King Creole.

Before filming King Creole, Elvis Presley received his draft notice. Originally scheduled to report for duty on January 20, 1958, Elvis requested and received a deferment to March 24, 1958 so that he could finish filming King Creole.

On Monday morning, March 24, 1958, Elvis Presley was inducted into the U.S. Army. He received his indoctrination at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and was then sent to Fort Wood, Texas, for boot camp. Though Elvis' Army career was primarily uneventual, two events did occur that were to change his life.

While Elvis was stationed at Fort Wood, Texas, his mother Gladys became ill. She died on August 14, 1958, at the Methodist Hospital in Memphis. Gladys Presley was forty-six, though it was erroneously believed she was forty-two.

In September 1958, Elvis Presley was assigned to the Second Armored Division in West Germany. During his stay in Germany, Airman Currie Grant introduced Elvis to his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu.

Vernon Presley also met his future wife in West Germany. Davada (Dee) Stanley was in the process of divorcing her husband, an Army sergeant, when Vernon met her. On July 3, 1960, Vernon Presley and Dee Stanley were married in a private ceremony in Huntsville, Alabama. Elvis Presley did not attend.

Soon after Elvis' discharge on March 5, 1960, he travelled to Miami, Florida, to film the Frank Sinatra-Timex Special "Welcome Home, Elvis" for ABC-TV. Just before Christmas 1960, Elvis placed a call to Colonel Joseph Beaulieu to ask for permission for Priscilla to spend the holiday at Graceland. After talking with Vernon Presley, Colonel Beaulieu agreed. More that a year later, Elvis arranged Priscilla to live at Graceland, enroling her in Immaculate Conception High School in Memphis.

Elvis Presley gave a benefit concert for the USS Arizona Memorial Fund in Honolulu, Hawaii, on March 25, 1961. It was to be his last live performance for eight years. "Good Luck Charm", was Elvis' last number one single until 1969, was released the following year.

During the 1960s, Elvis busied himself with making movies, filming twenty-seven of them during the decade. His most successful film was Viva Las Vegas in 1964. None of the movies received rave reviews from the critics, but Elvis' legion of fans made certain that they all showed a profit at the box office.

Musically, the mid-1960s was a period of decline for Elvis Presley. None of his singles released reached number one and almost all of them were from his movies. His records weren't the giant hits they were in his golden years of the 1950s and early 1960s. Elvis' decline can be attributed to several factors. Foremost among them is the advent of the British invasion and, specifically, the Beatles. The sheer number of instrumental and vocal groups and single performers on the music charts simply diluted the market. There was more competition for the publics record-buying dollar, and it took a much stronger record to reach number one or to become a million-seller.

On May 1, 1967, Elvis and Priscilla were married at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nine months later, on February 1, 1968, their child, Lisa Marie, was born. Elvis' marriage and the birth of Lisa Marie seemed to give him a new drive for success and the urge to perform before a live audience again.

After seven years of concert inactivity, Elvis Presley decided to start performing before the public once again. The first step on his comeback trail was an NBC television special titled "Elvis". He filmed the special in June of 1968 at NBC's Burbank, California, studios. The special, which aired on December 3, 1968, received critical acclaim and good ratings.

In January and February 1969, Elvis Presley had his first Memphis recording session since his days with Sun Records. His recordings at the American Sound Studios were among the most dynamic of his career. On July 31, 1969, Elvis began a spectacular one-month engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada - his first appearance in Las Vegas since the disastrous booking at the New Frontier Hotel thirteen years earlier.

In November 1969 Elvis Presley once again reached the top of the music charts with "Suspicious Minds" his first number one song since 1962. At the same time, Change Of Habit", his last movie (except for two documentaries), was released.

Elvis Presley was presented an award by the U.S. Jaycees for being one of the "Ten Outstanding Young Man of America" in 1971. Two years later one of the crowning achievements of Elvis' career occurred. On January 14, 1973, Elvis performed before a worldwide television audience in a special called "Elvis - Aloha From Hawaii". A taped and expanded version of the special was aired by NBC-TV in the United States on April 4, 1973.

Everything seemed to be coming up roses for Elvis Presley in the early 1970s - at least professionally. But the constant touring, filming, and long periods of separation from Priscilla put a strain on their marriage. In addition, Priscilla had to compete with Elvis' entourage, the Memphis Maffia, for his attention. In 1972, Priscilla left Elvis for Mike Stone, her karate instructor. Elvis and Priscilla were divorced in October 1973.

Even before his divorce, and shortly after his separation, Elvis began dating other woman. Although he dated Sheila Ryan, Malessa Blackwood, and several others. Linda Thompson was foremost in Elvis' life and was his steady companion from 1972 to 1976. Linda had been a Miss Tennessee.

Toward the end of 1976, Elvis had a new steady girl-friend - Ginger Alden, a first runner-up in the 1976 Miss Tennessee beauty pageant. According to Ginger Alden, Elvis proposed to her on January 26, 1977, and they were to be married on Christmas Day of 1977, That day never came. Elvis Presley made several concert appearances in 1977, the last in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977.

On the night of August 15-16, 1977, just one day before leaving on yet another tour, Elvis visited the office of dentist Lester Hoffman to get a cavity filled. A few hours later, he played racquetball with his cousin Billy Smith and his wife, Jo. After playing racquetball, Elvis went to bed. He awoke late in the morning to go to the bathroom, taking a book, "The Scientific Search For The Face Of Jesus", with him to read.

Shortly after 2:00 p.m., Ginger Alden found Elvis slumped on the floor. She called Joe Esposito, who tried to revive Elvis Presley. At approximately 2:30 paramedics Charlie Crosby and Ulysses S. Jones arrived at Graceland to render assistance and to take Elvis Presley to the Baptist Memorial Hospital. All attempts at resuscitation by the doctors failed, and Elvis Presley was pronounced dead at 3:30.

Throughout the world, Elvis' fans went into mourning, and many booked flights to Memphis. Reverend C.W. Bradley officiated at the private funeral services at Graceland an Thursday, August 18, 1977, and Elvis Presley's body was later entombed at Forest Hill Cemetery next to that of his mother. Because of an attempted body snatching on August 29, and the tremendous crowds at Forest Hill Cemetery, the bodies of Elvis and Gladys Presley were moved to the grounds of Graceland on the night of October 2, 1977.

Much speculation surrounds the death of Elvis Presley. He did have a history of health problems, three previous heart attacks (cardiac arrythmia, and drug did contribute to his death, some claim he had been taking prescription drugs because he was slowly dying of bone cancer. No matter what the cause of death, the world lost a greatest entertainer and the King Of Rock And Roll - Elvis Presley.

His Memphis home, Graceland (open to the public since 1982), one of the most popular tourist attractions in the South, is an enduring reminder of the quintessentially southern character of Elvis Presley.

On August 12, 1992, RCA and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) posthumously awarded to Elvis Presley 110 gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums and singles, the largest presentation of gold and platinum records in history. Included was a gold award for a new box set, Elvis, The King Of Rock And Roll, The Complete 50s Masters, for which there had been enough advance orders to prompt the RIAA to give it platinum status. In late 1993 another box set, Elvis: From Nashville to Memphis, The Essential 60s Master I, went gold, selling over 100,000 units of this five-disc collection. This brings Elvis Presley's total of gold, platinum, or multi-platinum titles to 111. This brings his total of times to go gold or platinum to 274 units, as one must go gold twice to go platinum, and some of the titles are multi-platinum.

Elvis Presley stood at number one on the list of certifications, with more than twice as many certifications as any of the nearest contenders. As of August 1992, the Beatles came in at number two with 41 titles, followed by the Rolling Stones with 39, Barbara Streisand with 37, and Elton John with 37.

It is estimated that Elvis Presley has sold in excess of one billion records worldwide, more than any other artist in the history of recorded voice.


Some references will pin the "My Happiness" recording date down only as close as the summer of 1953 (July 18). Some say late summer. But Marion Keisker said in November 1989 it had to have been in June because all of Memphis Recording Service's logs were intact with the exception of June 1953. It is easy to see why someone may have wanted to "borrow" that particular log, given its historic significance, and collector's value. It arbitrarily made it June 13, based on the fact we know it was on a Saturday and June 13 would have been Elvis' first payday from Parker. If not this date, then it almost had to have been June 27.

"She talked to Jerry Hopkins and Jerry had the first book on Presley", recalled Sam Phillips, "and course, Marion worked for me for a long time and she told stuff that was... That would have been just fine with me, I mean that she had enough confidence that she knew that she was gonna play it for me and I'd have to okey it or I would express an opinion. That is just simply not the truth".

"She was there when Presley came in. I was in the control room, she was sittin' up in the front office - the only office! That's exactly like it was. So that is unequivocally, if I say nothin' else to you today, that is absolutely... I wish that damn thing was put to rest. Not that it amounts to anything other than... Goddammit, it's a lie, for whatever reason. So that is certainly not true''.

MARION KEISKER MACINNES - College-educated studio manager for Sam Phillips at the Memphis Recording Service and Sun Records until November 1955. Marion Keisker was born in Memphis on September 23, 1917, and attended Memphis Southwestern College (Rhodes), where she in 1938 graduated, and had majored in English and medieval French. She had made her radio debut on the weekly children's hour "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" on WREC radio station in 1929 at the age of twelve and had been appearing on one show or another ever since.

After her marriage in 1939, she moved to Peoria, Illinois, returning to Memphis after her divorce in 1943. She began work as a secretary to a businessman named Chambers, who had offices in the Peabody Hotel, located at 149 Union Avenue. The Peabody housed the WREC radio, and Marion joined the station in 1946, a year after Sam Phillips. Keisker, who had held the title of "Miss Radio Memphis", and had been an announcer with WREC radio, and she had been the host of the very popular "Meet Kitty Kelly" since 1946, a talk show on which as the eponymous hostess she interviewed visiting celebrities or simply discoursed on subjects of her own choosing if a guest didn't happen to be on hand.

She was on the air five days a week, as well as the nightly broadcast of "Treasury Bandstand" from the Skyway Ballroom at the Peabody Hotel. She wrote, produced, and directed as many as fourteen other programs at a time on WREC radio and was an industrious on- and off-air personality. When Sam Phillips opened his own recording studio she came along as his office manager, although she continued to work part-time at the station until 1955 - she needed the radio station paycheck because the Memphis Recording Service barely did more than meet its own rent. Even after Phillips launched Sun Records in 1952, the picture didn't improve. Marion recalled that she would sometimes place her own money into petty cash in order to disguise the company's desperate financial picture from Sam Phillips, who suffered from frequent depression because of his inability to sustain a living from the studio and the label.

Despite a background in light classical music, Marion developed a genuine taste for the blues during her early years at Sun. She came to share Phillips' musical vision, and to cherish the unsophistication that he sought. She had especially fond memories of Howlin' Wolf, and even retrieved the rejected acetate masters of his sessions with Sam Phillips from the garbage for her own collection.

She was the one who called in the musicians, paid them, and logged events in a notebook that is the prime source for Phillips' activities during those early years. Without Marion's notebook, Sun archaeology would be a barren field. Sam Phillips' documentation skills barely ran beyond sticking a paper marker in a tape before his preferred cut. Marion also handled much of the day-to-day contact with distributors and pressing plants, which accounted for her distaste at later being tagged Sam Phillips' "secretary". Together with Sam and his brother Jud, she nurtured the distribution network and radio contacts that would serve as a launching pad for Sun Records. In her courtly southern manner she dealt with some of the most rapacious individuals in the cutthroat rhythm and blues business.

She was present when Elvis Presley entered the Memphis Recording Service to cut "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin" in the summer of 1953. It was Keisker's foresight that made her turn on the master Ampex 350 C (serial number 54L-220) tape recorder while Elvis was singing and then to ask him for his address and telephone number, written on the note: "Good ballad singer, hold". Most of the books written about Elvis Presley, as well as the 1979 movie "Elvis", have repeated her famous exchange with Elvis.

"He said, "If you know anyone that needs a singer..."
"And I said, "What kind of a singer are you?"
"He said, "I sing all kinds".
"I said, "Who do you sound like?"
"I don't sound like nobody".
"I thought, "Oh yeah, one of those.... "What do you sing, hillbilly?"
"Yeah, I sing hillbilly".
"Well, who do you sound like in hillbilly?"
"I don't sound like nobody".

In the 1940s she used the on-the-air pseudonym Kitty Kelly. Keisker even contributed a verse to the song "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine", which Elvis recorded in September 1954. She joined WHER, an all-woman radio station in Memphis, in 1955.

After Marion quit radio station WREC in 1955 she worked with Sam Phillips to launch WHER, an "all-girl" radio station (with all male shareholders). The parting of the ways eventually came in September 1957, when Marion Keisker left to join the Air Force. The rapidly growing success of Sun Records had destroyed the personal and professional relationship between Marion Keisker and Sam Phillips that seemed to have flourished in leaner times.

After she left the Air Force in a flurry of litigation in 1969, Marion Keisker returned to Memphis to begin a new career in theater. On her return, she discovered that the era of instant history was awaiting her.

There was a steady procession of music historians waiting to interview her about her involvement in Sun Records. Her assertion to Jerry Hopkins that she recorded the first Presley acetate brought her into conflict with Sam Phillips, a conflict that - like a Middle Eastern border war - would flare up intermittently over the next two decades.

After an operation for cancer in August 1989 and subsequent hospitalizations, Marion Keisker died on December 29, 1989 in Kennedy Hospital, located at 1030 Jefferson Avenue, in Memphis. Sam Phillips would probably have accomplished what he did without her, but Marion's organizational skills and support eased the pain. Though she never sought to deflect attention from Phillips' artistic achievement, for six largely barren years she underpinned his maverick operation.


Elvis Presley have taken his acetate "My Happiness"/"That's When Your Heartaches Begin" to The Blues Shop, a little record store at 286 North Main Street across the street from Suzore II Theater where the young men would gather to listen to the inventory. The shop played his acetate.

Elvis Presley was so proud of that record he wanted everyone to hear it. The shop played an unheralded role in Elvis' music education, introducing him to different styles of blues, gospel, and jazz. For years this favorite hangout has been referred to as "Charlie's" simply because everyone called in by the owner's name. Charlie was quick to play the latest offerings for anyone who stopped in at the store.

Later he took it to his classmate Ed Leek's house to play on the family record player. For whatever reason he left it there, and the acetate disappeared until Ed offered it for sale some thirty plus years later. RCA/BMG purchased it and released it as part of The Complete 50s Masters boxed set in 1992. But before Ed Leek stored it away, Elvis Presley may have played the acetate in a forgotten record store on North Main Street.


The country western bars, specially Hernando Hide-Away located on 3210 Old Hernando Road in Memphis, later a favorite hangout for Jerry Lee Lewis and especially attracted a lot of women, who hung around looking for companionship or just a drink and loved anybody who could carry a tune. Elvis Presley quickly noticed that singers were never at a loss for female company after a set, but as he spent more time at predominantly white bars, Elvis found himself the center of unfamiliar attention.

Experienced women saw through the loud clothes and dyed hair to his sexual potential. Bar groupies weren't good, simple, and pure, and Elvis Presley wasted no time immersing himself in their open arms.

Elvis wasn't comfortable talking about sex, but he couldn't contain himself after finally losing his virginity. He came and found out the diner hangout and dragged to Earl Greenwood outsite to talk in private.

"This better be good - I wasn't done eating yet". "Guess what", he said. "I got me a real date last night". "You know... I met a woman last night at Hernando's and we got to talkin' and had a few drinks, then she, you know, invited me over", he said. "What she look like", asked Earl. "Pretty enough, although she was wearin' too much make-up, but that's 'cause she was older". "How much older?". "I don' know, twenty-five maybe. Don't matter. She got her own place, real nice, too, and when we got there, we had us a drink and then she wanted to, you know, we did it". "You went all the way with her", asked Earl Greenwood. "All the way. Three times. I coulda done it to her all night, but she got tired and tol' me she had to get some sleep for work. Can you believe it? earl, it was great, you gotta get Karen to let you do it". "I mean it, there ain't nothin' better. You'll see what I mean. It makes you feel so... strong. I hardly slept t'all but felt like I could go on forever. Now I know what women are best for", he laughed. "What's her name". "Laura". "Laura what?". "I don' know - she didn't say".

Laura was the first in a steady stream of one- or two night stands. If the girl didn't have her own apartment, they drove to a secluded spot and climbed in the back seat of Elvis' car to satisfy their fevered urges. As he got more experience, Elvis developed a sexiness that bubbled to the surface, attracting even more ladies to fulfill his desires. Elvis Presley used women with relish but considered them cheap. His attitude toward them was harsh, even hostile, once the sex was over. More than once after finishing with one girl, he'd go back to the bar and pick up another for more. The last thing Elvis Presley wanted was to get emotionally involved, so the women he slept with were truly objects for sex, not human beings with feelings.


Elvis Presley once again back at the Tennessee State Employment Security office, expresses interest in obtaining a job where he can "keep clean" and is sent out for several interviews.


Elvis interviews for a job at Sears Roebuck but is not hired.


Elvis Presley applies for a job as a delivery boy but is not hired. Elvis applies for a job at Kroger's grocery store but is not hired.


Colonel Tom Parker, whose managerial skills have by now become legendary in Nashville, is let go by his single client, number-one-selling country artist Eddy Arnold. Arnold's letter comes out of the blue, leaving Parker both emotionally shaken and at professional loose ends, though a relatively amicable financial settlement leaves him with some of Arnold's bookings.


Elvis Presley, for the second time, and his cousin, Gene Smith, were hired by the Precision Tool Company, located at 1132 Kansas Street, at the same time in September 1953 to work the day shift. Working as a sander and manufacturer of shelves as well as the operator of a hand drill and drill press. His pay is $1.55 per hour. He will remain at this job until March 19, 1954.

The withholding statement when Elvis worked for Precision Tool Co. is 3 3/4x8 inches. An 3 1/2x6 3/4 inches pay stub issued to Elvis Presley from Precision Tool Co., Inc. in Memphis. Dated September 9, 1953. Shows 54 hours worked during the pay period, with $61.00 earned, $21.00 of which was overtime. $4.50 was deducted from income taxes.

(Above) (1) Gene Smith and Elvis Presley dressed for the West at the Mid South Fair in Memphis, September 1953. (2) Pay stub issued to Elvis Presley from Precision Tool Company in Memphis. Dated September 8, 1953. (3) Precision Tool Company ID Card.


Elvis Presley perform at Eagle's Nest located at 4090 Winchester Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee. According to accounts, the performance occurred while Elvis Presley was still working for Precision Tool Company, and he is said to have been paid five dollars. The house entertainment was the Johnny Long Band, and during their intermission, Elvis Presley sang and played guitar alone.

One witness, John Bruce, vividly remembers that Elvis Presley performed in October 1953 because the month coincided with a new car purchase. According to John Bruce, Dewey Phillips introduced Elvis Presley as the "poor man's Liberace" because Phillips believed Elvis was going to play the piano.

Bruce recalled that he felt sorry for Elvis Presley because it was apparent that he was poor. Even worse was the reaction that Elvis received. Scarcely anyone paid attention to him as he strummed his guitar singing Dean Martin's "That's Amore".


Little Junior Parker's "Feelin' Good" entered the Rhythm and Blues charts, and Ebony magazine featured a story on the Memphis blues artist. Capitalizing on his hit record, Little Junior Parker toured the South with Big Mama Thorton, Johnny Ace, and B.B. King.


Elvis Presley hung out with Marcus Van Story, Stanley Kesler, Paul Burlison, and Ronald Smith at Taylor's Cafe, located at 710 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, next to the Sun studio, and talked about music. A great deal of Elvis' musical proclivity was an outgrowth of the Memphis scene. There was a vibrant, electric diversity among the local bands, whetter their music was played in the blues clubs on Beale Street or the hillbilly bars on the outskirts of town. As he performed in small clubs, Elvis Presley chose songs he believed the general public wanted to hear. During this period, it was Presley's knowledge of pop, blues, hillbilly, and rhythm and blues tunes that allowed him to effectively entertain local audiences, interpreting these tunes in his own unique rockabilly style.

TAYLOR'S RESTAURANT (NOW SUN STUDIO CAFE) - Memphis restaurant located at 710 Union Avenue across Marshall Avenue, next to Sun Records. Sun artists would meet at Taylor's to eat and talk. In the mid-1950s, while recording with Sun, Roy Orbison lived in a two-room apartment above the restaurant, which had been established in 1949. Producer Jack Clement, an alumni of Sun Records and a talented Nashville producer, once said of Taylor's Cafe, "That's where all the guys did their writing and talking, and that's where the Sun sound was really born".

Sam Phillips, who boasted of not having a desk at his Memphis Recording Service, had his own booth at Taylor's, and it was here that he would pore over paperwork with a fresh cup of coffee at hand.

Musicians would often grab a bite to eat here, some while taking a much-deserved session break. If they were especially tired, they might spend the night in one of Miss Taylor's upstairs rooms. Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis all rented rooms in her second-floor boarding house above the cafe.

With so many professionals congregating at the cafe, it became a popular hangout for those who dreamed of a career in music, a place where they could eavesdrop on conversations about the industry and occasionally even hear the muffled music being created next door. Many people recall that Elvis Presley often came into Taylor's before he got his break at Sun Records. There, he could sit just a few feet from Sam Phillips, sip a coke, and go over the many ways he might draw attention to himself. He could plan and he could dream, all the while trying to find the courage to make his dreams come true.

Eventually Elvis Presley did find a way to introduce himself to Sam Phillips. Not long after their introduction, Sam invited his friend Scotty Moore to sit down with him in his booth at Taylor's Cafe. Over a cup of coffee, Sam Phillips told Scotty Moore about a young man who had come in to record a song for his mother. It was at Taylor's Cafe that the idea of pairing Scotty Moore and Bill Black with Elvis Presley was born.

Taylor's Cafe has been closed for many years, however, Sun Studio operates their cafe in the same location. The restaurant tin ceiling and checkered-tiled floor are from the original restaurant.


Elvis Presley appeared at the South Side High School in Memphis, Tennessee, for the Annual Talent Contest in November 1953, in a band with Ronald Smith and bass player Curtis Lee Alderson. The band finished second to a Jerry Lewis comedy impersonator. "Elvis was nervous and couldn't hold his pick very well", Ronald Smith chuckled.

Despite the pressures of performing, Elvis Presley was drawing a great deal from these appearances. He was slowly developing into a well-rounded and moderately seasoned performer, and there was also a silent confidence developing in Elvis Presley as his popularity at Humes High grew. It was an indication of how much Elvis Presley had leaned about playing guitar from Ronald Smith. "I don't know of anyone who tried harder to perfect music", Smith commented about Presley.


Employee Mrs. Weir Harris of the Tennessee Employment Security at 122 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, administered Elvis Presley the GATB tests (General Aptitude Test Battery) on November 1953. She recommended Elvis Presley when Gladys Tipler of Crown Electric called her looking for a truck driver that same year.


Elvis Presley perform at the Draghon's College in Memphis, Tennessee. "Back when I was a student at Draughon's, we had Elvis Presley come over and sing for one of our school assemblies", said Dick Foster, a native of the beautiful Missouri Ozarks. "He had sung maybe two or three times out at the Silver Slipper and one of our people had heard him and suggested we get him for the school. He came and played about an hour and we paid him fifty dollars. He had two guys with him. Back then he was singing hillbilly". Dick Foster attended Draughon's from September 1953 to May 1954, leaving at least six weeks before Elvis Presley recorded "That's All Right" on July 5, 1954, at Sun Records.


The radio was another important influence upon Elvis' musical growth. One of the young Elvis Presley's favorite shows was Bob Neal's program over radio station WMPS. On his show, beginning in late 1952, Bob Neal opened and closed by playing the Ripley Cotton Choppers record ''Silver Bells''. It was a typically corny country tune, but Elvis loved it. He had as much interest in traditional country music as the new hillbilly sound. Johnny and Dorsey Burnette also listened to Bob Neal, but they didn't like traditional country music. Johnny Burnette frequently came over to Elvis' house on Saturday nights to listen to the ''West Memphis Jamboree''. This radio show, hosted by Dick Stewart, Charlie Feathers brother-in-law, was popular due to its wide musical mix. It was while listening to the ''West Memphis Jamboree'' in 1952 that Elvis heard Tennessee Ernie Ford's ''Blackberry Boogie'' and the following year Ford's version of ''I Don't Know It'' also intrigued him. These songs were country-tinged, but they had a hint of rock and roll music.

SUN 190 "Blues Waltz" by the Ripley Cotton Choppers is released in September 1953 as the first country record on the label. The records have a hillbilly stamp on the label to distinguish them from Sun's blues releases.


Paul Burlison recalls that before Elvis Presley began working for Crown Electric Company, located 475 North Dunlap in Memphis, in April 1954, he joined Johnny and Dorsey Burnette and Burlison on November 1953 at a gig that was broadcast on KWEM radio in West Memphis.

The show took place at J&S Motors on the south side of Lamar Avenue, just west of Airways Avenue, as an advertising stunt. Joe Schaeffer, the "S" of J&S, was sponsoring a portion of the radio show. According to Burlison, Elvis Presley sang a slightly risqué number titled "Talkin' About Your Birthday Cake" with the Shelby Fowler's Band. At the time (1955), the Burnettes and Burlison were just about to record their first single, "You're Undecided" b/w ''Go Along Mule'' (Von 1006), for the small Von label of Booneville, Mississippi.

"Shelby Follin was our announcer and on every broadcast from J&S he would say, 'Anybody who wants to sing or play, come on out and we'll put you on the air", said Scheaffer. "Elvis came out just once and he sang only one song, "My Birthday Cake". "It opened with the lines, "Take your finger out of it, it don't belong to you".

And it went on like that until the end, where you learn what he's talking about, singing about, all this time, was only a birthday cake. "Follin thought it was a little risqué and he told Elvis this. But it didn't matter. Elvis never came back on the show", recalled Scheaffer.

In a similar vein, Burlison also recalled that Elvis Presley joined Burlison and another group, the Memphis Four, on several occasions during their KWEM broadcast from Airways Used Cars. Elvis sings "Take Your Finger Out Of It" and "It Don't Belong To You". One in the audience watching was a young country singer named Johnny Cash. The car lot was only a short walking distance from Elvis Presley's future home at 2414 Lamar Avenue.

"Over at KWEM", recalled Burlison, "they'd have a Saturday afternoon matinée. They'd have bands playing for thirty minutes in sponsored segments. Our sponsor was Airways Motors. One day we broadcast right off the car lot, and Elvis come up and sung with us. Shelby Fowler announced over the radio that if anyone wanted to sing or play an instrument that they should come on out and join in. I already knew Elvis could sing because every Saturday afternoon Elvis, Johnny Black (Bill Black's brother), and Lee Denson would play at the Girls' Club at Lauderdale Courts, and I'd already seen him there 'cause I lived right around the corner. There was a chaperoned hop every Saturday night and Elvis, Johnny, and Lee would get down there on Saturday afternoon, sit out on the lawn, and sing before the hop. Then I saw him standing by the stage when we were broadcasting and I said to Shelby, "Get that fella up here. He sings".

Over the next 18 months, Elvis Presley made at least three other appearances on KWEM.

PAUL BURLISON - The lead guitarist with Johnny and Dorsey Burnette's Rock And Roll Trio, Burlison was an extraordinary guitar player who taught Elvis a great deal about music. Not only did Elvis Presley play with the Rock And Roll Trio at an Airways auto dealership, but they were close friends prior to Elvis' fame. A quiet unassuming man, Burlison became a well-to-do figure in the construction industry while continuing to pursue his musical interests.

After Johnny and Dorsey Burnette's deaths, Burlison and more than a dozen Memphis music figures put out a tasteful tribute to the Rock And Roll Trio. At the present time he is the lead guitarist in the Sun Rhythm Section. An extraordinarily gifted musician who has never gotten full recognition for his innovative talents, Burlison remains a gifted guitarist.

Paul Burlison died on Saturday September 27, 2003 of cancer in Horn Lake, Mississippi at the age of 74.


Elvis Presley performed several times on KWEM Radio in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1954 prior to being discovered by Sam Phillips. Elvis was a frequent visitor to KWEM Studios at both KWEM locations in West Memphis and 62 Flicker Street in Memphis. The first appearance was with Kenneth Herman and Ronald Smith from South Side High School where Elvis' girlfriend, Dixie Locke, attended school. Later he performed with his Lauderdale Courts neighbor Johnny Burnette and the Rock And Roll Trio, and then with a country group, the Shelby Follin Band.

Paul Burlison was a friend of Elvis' and played guitar in both bands. Paul Burlison, Johnny Burnette, Dorsey Burnette, Bill Black and Johnny Black all lived in the Lauderdale Courts in Memphis along with Elvis lived.

Dorsey Burnette and Paul Burlison worked at Crown Electric Company with Elvis. Elvis, Johnny, and Dorsey Burnette had the same guitar teacher, Lee Denson. Paul Burlison had been performing on KWEM Radio since 1949 (he even played with Howlin' Wolf on KWEM). Johnny Burnette worked at Home Equipment where Johnny Cash also worked. Elvis made his first public appearance in 1953-1954 at the Saturday Night Music Jamboree in Memphis, which was also broadcast on KWEM Radio. The show was staged by Joe Manuel who was a KWEM disc jockey. The show also introduced Elvis to Johnny Cash, Eddie Bond, Lloyd Arnold and other new artists looking for exposure. The Burnette Brothers also appeared at the Jamboree.


North of Memphis in the suburb of Frayser was Doc's roadhouse. Early evening until 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., Doc's had an "open mike" and permitted anyone to entertain who possessed the courage to get on the small bandstand. This small-town bar, ten miles from downtown Memphis, drew large crowds from nearby Millington Air Force Base. Every other Friday night, Elvis Presley drove to Doc's and performed for five dollars. He dressed in a cowboy shirt and hat, and often wore a string tie. The four-by-eight-foot stage was barely large enough for Elvis Presley and his guitar. After finishing his set, Elvis would walk down to the bar to buy the regulars a drink. As he sipped a cola, he would listen to criticism of his act. Doc's bar was typical of the small amateur clubs that Elvis Presley worked in during 1953 and early 1954.

There were still others who shared Elvis Presley's musical interests. One of the people who hung around with Elvis was future label-owner of Erwin Records, Marshall Erwin Ellis, lived at 625 Chelsea Avenue in Memphis. He had converted his garage into a crude recording area, and was a kind of minor league Sam Phillips. In a few years, Ellis would found Fernwood Records and, with Thomas Wayne's hit ''Tragedy"", hit the Billboard pop chart. Like Elvis, Marshall Ellis was caught up with local Memphis music, and hoped to turn out his own records. Ellis and Elvis spent a great deal of time talking about the records played on the radio.


Jud Phillips traveled to New York to talk with Broadcast Music Incorporated, about setting up a Sun Record publishing company. Hi-Lo Music was soon registered with B.M.I. to publish Sun copyrights. Also in late 1953, Jud Phillips convinced his brother that Jim Bulleit interest in Sun Records was no longer an asset.


Elvis Presley again Ronald Smith on stage at South Side High School in Memphis, as part of the Annual Benefit show for the marching band. This time Ronald fronted his own rockabilly combo. They won second prize, losing top honours to a young comedian who impersonated Jerry Lewis.


Elvis Presley spent a long weekend in Louisiana at an amateur night, and there were throwing any bottles. Elvis won the amateur night at the Louisiana Hayride and won fifty dollars on this special contest.


In an unfortunate sidebar, Sam Phillips once again found himself in a legal dispute with Don Robey, this time over Little Parker's contract. Perhaps in part settlement, the name "Phillips" now appears appended to Parker whenever the composer credits are listed for "Mystery Train".

Jud Phillips write a letter to Don Robey and reads: "Record 192 by Little Junior is showing movement around you... Looks like both sides are selling but I think "Mystery Train" would be your side... How about checking it for me. I know you must have had a great day and I sorry that I failed to see while in town but I feel like I know you after our telephone conversation. Surely hope you can see fit to check this number and I know if you feel like it has it you can put it on the map".


Elvis Presley and photographer and policeman Ernest C. Withers at the Hippodrome at 500 Beale Street. "I served as a policeman on Beale Street and was just the photographer of that era", recalls Withers in 1995, who was a photographer for The Tri-State Defender and Memphis World newspapers.

"I worked the Civil Rights Movement across the South; I covered so much of the transition and development of B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, Johnny Ace, Earl Forest, Elvis Presley, Rosco Gordon, and a number of blues people in the Hippodrome, Club Handy, and Mitchell Hotel; I recorded the growth of Rufus Thomas and Amateur Night on Beale with Nat Williams''.

''I was there during the Black Power Movement; I was there with the riots during Martin Luther King, Jr. I was just on Beale Street".

Legendary photographer and policeman Ernest C. Withers completed his drive to land his photography studio bank on 333 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.


As 1953 ended, Elvis spent Christmas with Vernon and Gladys, and continued to talk about his show business ambitions. The road to rock and roll fame was still a long way off, although Elvis had begun to feel comfortable and confident with his music.

But it wasn't just Presley's music. The street-corner symphony was taken over America, the rhythm and blues music that was essential to the future of rock and roll.

When the Drifters' ''Money Honey'' was played on Memphis radio, Elvis sang along and talked eagerly about his rhythm and blues record collection. The gospel tinged vocals that Clyde McPhatter laid down with the Drifters were special to Presley, who was amazed that many local radio stations continued to ban black music.

In 1953, record banning was in its infancy. Despite the new freedom, the increased prosperity, and the lessening of racial tensions, not everyone believed that the new music was positive.

Station WDIA eventually banned the Bees' ''Toy Bell'', a song that would later become known as Chuck Berry's ''My Ding-a-Ling'', one of many that Memphis censors talked disparagingly about in the changing social-cultural environment because it contained ''bad words''.

''We knew that something special was happening with black music;;, Ronald Smith recalled. ''So we listened to as much of it as we could get''. Elvis, according to Smith, had a mission. It was to combine his musical interests into a unique style. ''I don't think Elvis knew what he was doing musically'', Smith concluded, ''but he sure as hell sounded good''.

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