ELVIS SUN 1954 (7)
July 1, 1954 to July 31, 1954

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Rehearsal Session for Elvis Presley, July 4, 1954 (Tape Lost)
Studio Session for Elvis Presley, July 5, 1954
Studio Session for Elvis Presley, July 6, 1954
Live Recordings for Elvis Presley, July 30, 1954 (Tape Lost)

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 <

JULY 1954

"The Great Medical Menagerist" (SUN 205) by Harmonica Frank is released.

Johnny Cash leaves the Armed Services and returns to Memphis. His brother introduces him to the Tennessee Three: Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant and Red Kernodle.


Elvis Presley came straight from his work to Dixie Locke's house, he didn't even bother to change. It was obvious from his tear-streaked face that he knew what had happened with the Blackwood Brothers. They went to Gaston Riverside Park that night and sipped on milk shakes and cried.


A funeral was held at the Ellis Auditorium for the two members of the Blackwood Brothers. Elvis Presley reportedly was so upset that he and Dixie Locke grieved all night on a bench in Riverside Park by McKeller Lake.

It was the first time that a funeral service had ever been conducted at Ellis Auditorium. The Statesmen sang, and so did the Speers and five other quartets. Governor Frank Clement, who had been present at the Blackwoods' last Memphis concert, delivered a sincere and emotional eulogy.

There were close to five thousand people present, included Elvis Presley, they opened up the North Hall when the South Hall was filled. "A number of negroes called the Auditorium asking if they could attend the funeral, and the galleries were reserved for negroes", Chauncey Barbour, Auditorium manager, said. The Reverend Hamill preached the sermon, and Dr. Robert G. Lee of Bellevue Baptist Church delivered the prayer.

RIVERSIDE PARK/MCKELLER LAKE - McKeller Lake is actually an old channell bed of the Mississippi River located southwest of downtown Memphis. The Corps of Engineers dredged and shaped the channel bed to create the new Port of Memphis. The new lake was named in honor of Senator McKeller, who supported the harbor project. The surrounding dock facilities and industrial sites make this an unusual place for water recreation. Elvis Presley was no stranger to this small recreational area by Riverside Park. Bob Neal and his family liked to boat here, and Elvis often joined them in the 1954 through 1955. Riverside Park is one of the places where Elvis courted Dixie Locke in the summer of 1953 and 1954.


Less than two weeks later, Cecil Blackwood was chosen to join the quartet, and he asked Elvis to fill his vacancy in the Songfellows and was formed by Jim Hamil and Cecil Blackwood, a nephew of James Blackwood, a subsidiary of the Blackwood Brothers. Elvis Presley knew both, and asked for an audition. "Elvis wanted to fill the opening that was left in the Songfellows, which was a local quartet", said R.W. Blackwood.

"The Songfellows were managed by my uncle Cecil who was the lead singer, and my father's younger brother who moved from that group to the Blackwood Brothers. Elvis decided to try out for the Songfellows.
We were quite busy and did a lot of singing, however, after some awkwardness, the group turned him down". "I remember he was very upset about that.

Hamill recalled years later: "I did not tell Elvis he couldn't sing. I told him he couldn't hear harmony. And he couldn't. As long as he was singing lead, he was fine, but when the baritone or the tenor took the lead, someone had to sing harmony, and he could not harmony. He'd sing baritone a line or two, then switch off to tenor for a couple of lines, and wind up singing the lead part. That was the reason we didn't take him into the quartet with us".

Elvis Presley listened, continued to improve, and a few months later on July 2, 1954, the Songfellows gave him a second shot when Cecil moved up to the regular Blackwoods Brothers. "When he learned to sing harmony, he had already signed that contract with Sun Records. Me and Cecil went to him and tried to get him to break his contract and sing in the quartet with us - but he wouldn't. Or couldn't". By then, Elvis Presley had a contract "TO SING THE BLUES".

Cecil Blackwood died on November 12, 2000 at Baptist Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

James Blackwood picks up the story from here. "Elvis and Cecil were in the same Sunday School class at First Assembly Of God Church", said James Blackwood. Cecil, young James Hamill (the preacher's son) and a couple of others had a gospel group, the Songfellows. Elvis would sing (in rehearsal) a lot with them. One of the guys was supposed to leave and Elvis was set to take his place, but the guy changed his mind. Later, another said he was leaving and Elvis was going to take his place, but he, too, changed his mind.

"Then, Sun Records came along and his whole life took a change. I've seen stories that said Elvis tried out for the Songfellows and the Blackwood Brothers and didn't make it.

That's just not the way it happened. When Elvis was living in Lauderdale Courts and we had those big gospel conventions at Ellis Auditorium, I would take Elvis backstage with me", said Blackwood. "One time I didn't see him and he went to the front door. People there didn't know who he was, so he had to buy a ticket.

When I found out about this, I wrote him a letter and enclosed a check - I think it was for $1.25 - and sent it to him to refund his money. That was about 1954. I heard they still have that check down at Graceland".

"That finished it, and I think Elvis was disappointed, but he still sang with the boys from time to time during rehearsals". Elvis Presley continued to come to the All-Night Sings. Later he would sing an occasional solo with the Blackwoods backing him up. James Blackwood recalls, "He often kept his eyes shut as he sang. Some dreams died hard". "He always came to the gospel conventions and, when Bob Neal was his manager, we would introduce him and he would come on stage and sing a couple of gospel songs. We and the Statesmen would sing harmony behind him. Then, after Colonel Tom Parker took over, he put a stop to Elvis singing on stage. Still, he would come, but we only introduce him".


On the afternoon of this date, Scotty Moore, then twenty-two, stopped by Memphis Recording Service to chat with Sam Phillips. It had been two months since the release of "My Kind Of Carrying On". On that July 3 the heat was suffocating. Since it was Saturday, many people sought refuge in the air-conditioned movie theaters. On that particular day, you could see Gary Cooper and Susan Hayward in Garden of Evil, Elizabeth Taylor and Dana Andrews in Elephant Walk, or if you taste were more exotic, Lana Turner in Flame and the Flesh.

The hottest movie in town would not be shown until after dark, when the Sunset Drive-In ran the steamy Naughty New Orleans, an uncensored look at New Orleans strippers.

When Scotty Moore arrived at the studio, there were no customers, so Marion Keisker and Sam Phillips went with Scotty to Taylor's cafe for a cup of coffee. Scotty got right to the point. "You called that boy yet?", he asked. Finally, Sam Phillips gave in.

He told Marion Keisker to dig out the boy's name and phone number and give it to Scotty Moore. Later, when she gave Scotty his name, he was taken aback. "What kind of a name is this?", Scotty asked. He read the name over a second time - Elvis Presley.

"I don't know", answered Sam Phillips. "It's his name. Give him a call. Ask him to come over to your house and see what you think". By the time Scotty Moore got home it was late in the afternoon. He called Elvis Presley that evening after dinner. Gladys Presley, his mother, said that he had gone to a movie. Scotty said he represented Sun Records and wanted to talk to Elvis about an audition. Gladys said she would make sure Elvis returned his call.

Scotty Moore's wife, Bobbie, had just cleared away the dinner dishes when the phone rang. The call said his name was Elvis Presley. He said he was returning Scotty's call. Scotty explained that he was working for Sam Phillips, helping him look for talent for Sun Records. Would Elvis be interested in coming over to the house for an informal audition?

"Well, I guess so", said Elvis. "How about tomorrow?", asked Scotty. "All right", said Elvis. Scotty gave him directions to the house, They agreed to meet sometime after lunch.

Johnny Cash left after duty for four years the U.S. Air Force.


Memphis sizzled. The temperature peaked at 100 degrees at 3:20 p.m. and didn't dip below 90 until 8 p.m. The humidity hung fast at 92 percent. The Fairground Amusement Park opened at 2 p.m., offering cold watermelon and a concert by Slim Rhodes. There would be no fireworks on the Fourth that year, it would be sacrilegious to do that on Sunday, but the following day the skies over the fairgrounds would be ablaze with rockets' red glare. Elvis Presley arrived shortly after noon at Scotty Moore's house. He had on a white lacy shirt, pink pants with a black stripe down the legs, and white buck shoes. He was carrying a guitar.

"Is this the right place", he said when Bobbie Moore answered the door. "Yeah, it's the right place. Come on in". Scotty's wife left Elvis in the living room and went into the bedroom to tell Scotty. "That's guy's here", she said. "What guy?", asked Scotty. "You know, the guy you invited over", she said. "They sat around for a while talking", recalls Bobbie Moore. "Then they started playing. Scotty asked me to go and ask Bill Black to come down and I did". Bill's bass was already there, propped in the corner of the living room. He kept it at Scotty's house because, with two children, he didn't have room for it at his own place.

As Scotty Moore and Elvis Presley went through Elvis' song list, Bill came over and sat down to listen. An hour or two later, Bobbie returned. "He had his audience then", she recalls. "He was doing o lot of slow ballads. Everything had the word 'because' in it, "Because Of You", "I Love You Because", "Because You Think You're So Pretty", I don't think anyone was real impressed. He had a good voice and he could sing, but the type of stuff he was singing, he was just like everybody else".


Based on Scotty Moore's recommendation, Sam Phillips called Elvis Presley at night and set up an audition for Monday night at the studio. But, on Sunday, July 4, 1954, Elvis Presley went to Moore's apartment on 983 Belz Street, with Bill Black arriving later that afternoon. Elvis Presley was dressed in a pink shirt, pink pants with a white stripe down the legs, and white shoes. Scotty recalled that he had "lots of hair". Some of the songs the three rehearsed were here. 

Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore and Bill Black practised a couple of songs in Moore's living room as Memphis prepared for its July 4 celebration. The fireworks made the evening celebration a festive. Beale Street was crowded with tourists and the music blared from the clubs. The Bel-Air, Bon Air and Eagle's Nest were alive with country music, and the streets were filled with partygoers, a fitting setting for the night before Elvis Presley's debut recording session. Repertoire based on interviews with Scotty and Bobbie Moore, Evelyn Black en Johnny Black, brother of Bill Black. 

According to Scotty Moore, the rehearsals on this day are ''If I Didn't Care'', ''Tomorrow Night'', ''I Don't Hurt Anymore'', ''I Apologize'', ''I Really Don't Want To Know'', You Belong To Me'', and ''I Love You Because''. 

When Scotty Moore later described the practice session, he remembered how wildly Presley had dressed that Sunday afternoon. "I thought my wife was going out the back door", Moore recalled. Once the shock over Elvis' clothes subsided, they practised for awhile doing two country songs and one ballad. This combination of country and ballad tunes, Bill Black reasoned, was enough to guarantee Elvis Presley some success. There was another side to Presley's music that neither Scotty nor Bill witnessed that afternoon, however. Since Elvis Presley wasn't able to perform an uptempo song, they didn't realize his potential as a rockabilly singer. 

"And one day, Marion Keisker was in the studio with us and I don't think Sam mentioned Elvis by name", recalled Scotty Moore, "but he said, 'Have we still git that boy's name and phone number that was in about a year ago?'. He said, 'The best I remember he had a pretty good voice'. Marion told him yeah and Sam said, 'Let me get a hold of him and bring him in for an audition'. So, of course, I picket up on that and then for about the next two weeks or so I'd say, 'Did you call this guy yet? Did you get in touch with him?' And he finally told me to give him a call and get him to come over to my house and just kinda do a preliminary thing - see what I thought. So I called him... I think this was on a Saturday... or Sunday... told him who I was, told him I was workin' with Sam Phillips and Sun Records and that we were basically lookin' for some talent, was he interested and would he come on over. 

"He said yeah. So the next day he came over to my house and at that time, Bill Black just lived a few doors down the street from me and he came down while we were there. I told Elvis to just sing some songs like he normally did. He ran the whole gamut - everything from rhythm and blues to country, pop, Eddy Arnold, Ray Charles - just a little bit of everything". 

"After he left I called Sam and told him, I said, 'The guy's got a good voice, it'll just be a matter of probably gettin' the right style, the right song or somethin' of that nature'". 

"Sam said, 'Fine, I'll cal him and we'll set up an audition - see what he sounds like on tape'. He said, 'Why don't you and Bill come in and do a little background music - don't need the whole band'. So, basically, that's what happened; we went in and started goin' through different songs... "Blue Moon" was one of the ones we ran through and was on tape before we ever got to "That's All Right"? 

Before too long, Moore's wife Bobby, stopped the festivities and reminded everyone that, although the music impressed her, it was a holiday. No matter, as after they had gone through two or three different songs, Scotty Moore decided that Elvis Presley left and Scotty and Bill talked about Elvis' performance. "The boy sings pretty good", Scotty remarked, "but he didn't knocker me out". He then called Sam Phillips and stated that Elvis Presley was ready to record. A week later, on July 5, Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black recorded "That's All Right" at the Sun Studio. The full sound they created was so good that Sam Phillips didn't bother to add any additional instrumentation.

SCOTTY MOORE - Musician, producer, and guitar-player, born Winfield Scott Moore III on December 27, 1931 in Crockett County about five miles from Gadsden and five miles from Humboldt, Tennessee. His father, Winfield Scott Moore, and three older brothers, Carney, Edwin, and Ralph, played in a country band and this in turn prompted Scotty to take an interest in music. He got his first guitar when he was 8 years old, from a neighbour, and old man named Rip Brown. Scotty Moore started school at the age of five at a one room schoolhouse in Coxville.

Before the year was out, he was transferred to a larger school in Humboldt. On one Christmas day, Scotty play as a child with an received BB gun. As he was shooting the gun, one of the BBs rococheted back into his facem striking him in his left eye. Ever since the accident, Scotty has been legally blind in one eye. By January 1948, Scotty Moore would join the navy and see the world.

Scotty Moore played lead guitar for Elvis Presley from his first recording session in July 1954, through June 1968. Moore first formed a band while he was in the U.S. Navy in the late 1940s, played with a group of musicians who broadcast over station KBRO in Washington, D.C. On discharge from the service, Scotty moved to Memphis where two of his brothers owned a laundry and dry cleaners.

Whilst working as a hatter, he put together in 1954 a country outfit, along with Bill Black, called The Starlite Wranglers, a group fronted by singer Doug Poindexter. The rest of the band consisted of Clyde Rush (rhythm guitar), Milard Yow (steel guitar), Tommy Deals (fiddle) and Bill Black (bass), and on May 25, 1954, this line-up recorded a solitary release for Sun Records, "My Kind Of Carryin' On"/"Now She Cares No More For Me" (SUN 202), both numbers written by Scotty Moore.

While with that group, Moore was asked by Sam Phillips to invite Elvis Presley over to Moore's apartment to rehearse a few songs. On Sunday, June 27, 1954, Elvis Presley went to Moore's apartment, with Bill Black arriving later that afternoon. Some of the songs the three rehearsed were: "I Don't Hurt Anymore", I Apologize", and "I Really Don't Want To Know". A week later, on July 5, Elvis, Scotty, and Bill recorded "That's All Right" at the Sun Studio. The full sound they created was so good that Sam Phillips didn't bother to add any additional instrumentation.

On July 12, 1954, a week after the first Sun recording session, Moore became Elvis' first manager. He and Elvis signed a one-page contract giving Moore a ten percent commission on all of the bookings he made. Elvis' parents also signed the document because their son was not yet twenty-one. When Moore discovered that he could not be both musician and manager, he allowed Elvis to void the contract, this allowing him to sign with Bob Neal. For a brief time, on the "Louisiana Hayride" and while touring in the South in 1955, Elvis, Scotty, and Bill were known as the Blue Moon Boys. In September 1957 Moore and Black split with Elvis because they didn't like the salary they were receiving (they got a flat - no royalties). Both came back to record with Elvis until he went into the Army. Bill Black never recorded with Elvis again. Moore did go back to Elvis in 1960, staying with him until 1968. During his two-year hiatus, Moore produced and played on some Jerry Lee Lewis recording sessions, with songs that included: "Sweet Little Sixteen" (SUN 379), "Good Rockin' Tonight" (SUN 1265), "Hello Josephine" (SUN 1265), and "Be-Bop-a-Lula" (SUN 1265). He recorded for CBS the 1964 album "The Guitar That Changed The World" on Epic Records.

Moore's last work with Elvis Presley was for the 1968 NBC-TV special, on which Elvis asked him to appear. It was also the last time that Moore would see Elvis. Although Sam Phillips is given credit for developing Elvis' talents in the early years (and rightly so!), Moore hasn't gotten much acknowledgment. Moore, perhaps more than anyone, must be given credit for creating the driving guitar sound on his Gibson guitar that became known as the "Elvis Presley Sound". Singer Elton John once said of Moore, "It was Scotty Moore's guitar riff when he was doing "The Steve Allen Show" that got me into rock music". Moore was portrayed by Emory Smith in the 1981 movie "This Is Elvis".

The Guitar That Changed The World - the title of Scotty Moore's 1964 Epic album of Elvis songs which has seen many reissues over the years - said it all. Scotty's distinctive and highly original guitar sound was the bedrock of the early Presley releases, creating licks and solos that have been much copied, but never bettered, down through the years. He worked with Elvis Presley for the best part of 14 years, playing lead guitar on virtually all of his pre-Army recordings and continuing throughout the best part of the 1960s to the 1970s primarily as rhythm guitarist.

In 1992, Moore returned to Memphis, where he recorded an album with Carl Perkins called ''706 ReUnion: A Sentimental Journey''. In 1994, he recorded an album with Sonny Burgess that was produced by Garry Tallent of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. Three years later, he and D.J. Fontana reunited for an album entitled ''All The King's Men'' that featured all-star backing by acolytes of the two Presley sideman, including Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Ron Wood and Levon Helm.

Scotty Moore has continued to tour and record into the 21st Century. In April 1999, he toured the United Kingdom, where he met George Harrison and Robert Plant. Four years later, in April 2003, he recorded an album with Alvin Lee of Ten Years After. And in 2007, he released two CDs, ''The Mighty Handful, Volumes I and II''. In 2002, Scotty Moore won the Orville H. Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, and Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at Number 44 on its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

At the age of 84, Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley's longtime guitarist and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, died on Tuesday June 28, 2016 at his home in Nashville, Tennessee. No cause of death was provided, but More had been in poor health in recent months.

BILL BLACK - (1926-1965) Bass player, nicknamed "Blackie", who backed Elvis Presley on many of his 1950s recordings. William Patton Black was born in Memphis on September 17, 1926, to a poor family. He had two brothers, Johnny ("Jack"), a musician, and Kenny. At one time, he and his brothers and mother, Ruth Black, lived in the same Memphis apartment complex as the Presley family (Lauderdale Courts). Prior to joining Elvis, Black played with the Starlite Wranglers, a Doug Poindexter group that included Scotty Moore on guitar.

It has often been says that Sam Phillips introduced Elvis Presley to Scotty Moore and Bill Black. But Elvis may have already known Bill and "jammed" with him and his brother Johnny, since they were neighbours at the Lauderdale Courts and their mothers were friends.

(In an interview with Jay Thompson in 1956, Elvis stated that he never knew Scotty or Bill before they recorded together; however, Elvis unintentionally gave misinformation in some of his interviews). Bill Black, Scotty Moore, and Elvis were briefly known as the Blue Moon Boys in 1955. They performed together on the "Louisiana Hayride" show and in many one-night stands throughout the South. Black added some fun to the performances when he would ride his big bass across the stage, slapping it like some racehorse that was just inches from the tape and that pot of gold! Some of the early live recordings on tour give examples of Black at work, messing up songs intros and screaming in the background. Black played Eddy the bass player in the 1957 movie "Loving You".

Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis' manager, told Bill Black to tone it down and just play the bass; that people wanted to see "my boy", not him acting the fool. This would probably be one of the many reasons there was little love lost between Bill Black and Tom Parker. There was also the oft-mentioned case of Elvis' tune "Baby I Don't Care" where Black couldn't get the famous and distinctive intro right ob his new electric bass and stormed off the studio. This left Elvis Presley to play the intro.

After Black and Moore left Elvis on September 21, 1957, because of a salary dispute (Elvis was making millions, while Moore and Black were making paltry $100-a-week salaries). Black formed the Bill Black Combo, Black did play on three more recording sessions with Elvis (January 15-16, January 23, and February 1, 1958). He was replaced by Bob Moore. The Bill Black Combo recorded a number of hit records for another Memphis company, Hi Records founded by Joe Coughi. Their hits included the instrumental "Smokie Part 2" (Hi

2018), and "White Silver Sands" (Hi 2021), both released in 1960. Black also recorded a version of "Don't Be Cruel" (Hi 2026). The Bill Black Combo appeared in the 1961 movie "Teen-Age Millionaire". Carl McVoy, an original member of Bill Black's Combo, is a cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. Black once owned a recording studio across the street from American Sound Studios in the North Main section of Memphis. Billboard magazine gave the Bill Black Combo its "Most Played Instrumental Group" award three times during the early 1960s.

In 1965 Black was hospitalized at the Baptist Memorial Hospital three times, from June to October 8 (when he went into a coma). On October 21, 1965, Bill Black died of a brain tumour during surgery. Vernon Presley attended the funeral, but Elvis did not. Elvis and his further wife Priscilla did visit the Black family not long after.

Black was survived by his wife, Evelyn, and three daughters. The stand-up bass that Black used on his recordings with Elvis is today owned by Paul McCartney, a bass player himself. (On Wings 1979 album "Back To The Eggs", McCartney played the bass, which still had the name Bill on the lower left, on the song "Baby's Request", which Paul had originally composed for the Mills Brothers).

Bill Black is buried at Forrest Hill Cemetery at 1661 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, included Packy Axton of the Mar-Keys, and the original grave sites of Elvis Presley and Gladys Presley, often marred by graffiti.

JOHNNY BLACK - Brother of musician Bill Black who also played stand-up bass. According to several sources, Elvis and Johnny buddied around together in the early 1950s and appeared with Johnny and Dorsey Burnette at various places in Memphis, usually on Saturday nights. According to Paul Burlison in an article in Goldmine magazine, it was Johnny Black whom Sam Phillips wanted to play bass behind Elvis in 1954, but Bill volunteered because his brother was away in Texas. Johnny Black can be seen playing bass for the Johnny Burnette Trio in the 1957 movie "Rock, Rock, Rock.

(The Burnette Trio disbanded soon after the movie, and brothers Johnny and Dorsey Burnette each had successful solo careers). Johnny Black played bass for Dean Bernard at Sun Records in 1956.


Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black, arrived at the small studios of Sun Records on 706 Union Avenue in Memphis about 8:00 p.m. on July 5, 1954. During the evening, they recorded several songs including "That's All Right". Over the next evening or two, they recorded "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", and Elvis Presley had both sides of his first Sun Records release.

The record was played over several local radio stations the following Saturday evening, July 10, and it was an instant success in Memphis. The resulting clamour led to immediate bookings for the trio as the intermission relief act for the Poindexter's weekend dates.

At first nothing seemed to go right. The first couple of songs they tried were ballads, naturally (a touchingly revealing "I Love You Because" remains intact from that session and was released later on Elvis' first RCA album), and the musicians seemed to be casting about for a direction, trying out snatches of one song, then another, without ever really hitting on, or even knowing, what it was they were looking for. But Sam Phillips was nothing if not patient, "In a personality not really given to patience", said Marion Keisker, "he showed unbelievable empathy and understanding", and he gave no indication he was growing discouraged in any way or was concerned about the time. Then, as the musicians took a break and were sipping on Cokes, "all of a sudden", said Scotty, "Elvis just started singing this song and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass and he started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them. Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open, and he stuck his head out and said, "What are you doing?". And we said, "We don't know". "Well, back up", he said, "try to find a place to start, and dot it again". This song was "That's All Right", an old blues by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, and nothing could have surprised Sam Phillips more than that this boy should even know, let alone perform with such freshness and verve, the music for which Sam had crusaded all these years, music of which he would later say with deep-seated satisfaction, "This is where the soul of man never dies". And while he had never anticipated, he could never have dreamt of this turn of events, it was one that he seized upon instantly, as he had Elvis and Scotty and Bill run through "That's All Right" until they got it right and, in the next few nights, watched them hit upon their transformation of Bill Monroe's bluegrass classic, "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", in similar fashion. "We thought it was exciting", said Scotty, "but what was it? It was just so completely different. But it just really flipped Sam - he felt it really had something. We just sort of shook our heads and said, "Well, that's fine, but good God, they'll run us out of town!".

That in a way was the story of Elvis Presley's Sun recordings: it represented, in a sense, the peeling away of layers, psychological as well as musical, the uncovering of depths which, if not hitherto unsuspected, had hitherto lain unplumbed. As he had already done with the blues singers for whom he had opened his studio, and as he would with each of the so-called "rockabilly" artists who followed (Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sonny Burgess and many others), Sam Phillips saw it as his mission to "open up an area of freedom within the artist himself, to help him to express what he believed his message to be".

With Elvis Presley he was astonished to discover an individual with a musical curiosity as omnivorous as his own ("It seemed like he had a photographic memory for every damn song he ever heard, and he had the most intuitive ability to hear songs without ever having to classify them, or himself"). In the studio his aim was to bring out that curiosity, to encourage that area of creative difference, to stifle not even the smallest element of exploration. "I had a mental picture of what I wanted to hear. Not note for note certainly, but in its essence: I wanted simpliciter, where we could look at what we were hearing and say, "This guy has just got it".

That was why Sam was so taken with the trio format, with trying out different ways of mixing the bass so that it would sound natural and creating a "total rhythm feel" that could move fluidly in any given direction. Sam Phillips prided himself on his engineering skills, which had been honed by over ten years in radio (much of it big band broadcasts), and he worked assiduously to create a distinctive and individual sound for each recording, combining clarity, presence, and a kind of adjustable reverb that he dubbed "slapback". When he introduced drums for the first time on the fourth Sun single, it was the idea of getting a very specific sound. But if it came down to a choice between sound and feel, there was never any question which Sam Phillips, or Elvis Presley, would choose. Sam believed totally in the accidental, the unexpected, the unique; he placed his full faith in the spontaneity of the moment, whether or not it might include formal mistakes. And that is exactly how Elvis Presley's records were made. The Sun sides still have a freshness about them that is almost uncanny. They are timeless in a way that virtually defies logic at a moment in history when last year's pop trends sound dated. And yet each one is different, the sound and feel and mood of each is distinctively its own, each one very much reflects the individual circumstances of its making. If you are looking for an evolutionary pattern, it would come solely in the realm of rhythm, for rhythm was at the heart of Sam Phillips' aesthetic.

With Elvis he continued to record the ballads that had first caught his attention, and there is no question that he continued to appreciate them as well. But he released only the rhythm numbers - in a sense every session was a matter of waiting the musicians out, going wherever it was that chance, or whim, or natural symbiosis might take them, and then, as at that very first session, "turning the light on" when he finally spotted the possum. With Bill Black it was very much a question of appreciating Bill's good qualities as a bass player while overlooking the bad ("Bill was the worst bass player in the world, technically, but, man, could he slap that bass!"). And with Scotty, who had started out as the closest thing to a collaborator that Sam Phillips would ever entertain, Sam kept playing records by Little Junior Parker, John Lee Hooker, Floyd Murphy or Pat Hare or one of the many other distinctive Memphis blues guitarists that he had himself recorded. Scotty's hero was Chet Atkins, and Sam appreciated Chet Atkins' pretty thumb-picking, too, he appreciated it very much - but he was always on Scotty to emphasize the rhythm. "I told him, "We don't want none of that soft bullshit. We want some biting bullshit!". "Everything had to be a stinger - and it had to have great rhythm".


In a number of interviews, Scotty Moore has suggested that the session planned for, July 5, was really Elvis Presley's first audition, an unrehearsed event that lead immediately to Elvis' emergence as an "undiscovered"talent. Either Moore was unaware of how much Sam Phillips had observed, talked to, and worked with Elvis Presley prior to that time, or he was attempting to perpetuate the legend that Elvis Presley was an overnight sensation.

The following year, Scotty Moore began to tell the revised story of how he first met and recorded with Elvis Presley. This version, which surfaced in December 1955, bears the unmistakable influence of Colonel Tom Parker. The Colonel intended to preserve and perpetuate the myth that Elvis Presley was an original talent who simply walked into Sun Records off the street, and that is not true.

A more plausible explanation is that Scotty Moore and Bill Black were brought into the studio to back Elvis Presley because he was finally ready to record a commercially acceptable record, and that there was nothing accidental about Elvis' first recording session. Sam Phillips' goal was to achieve a regional hit record, a tactic he had used with many other artists, and the direction from which, its safe to assume, he initially approached Elvis Presley. This first session began on the 5th, and took at least three maybe four nights. There are probably unreleased songs from this sessions.



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

On Monday night, July 5, 1954, Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black showed up at the Sun studio around seven o'clock. Scotty had offered to bring the entire band, but Sam Phillips didn't want to make a big deal out of it. The idea was to see what Elvis Presley could do, not to make a record. Scotty on guitar and Bill on bass would be enough. Sam wanted to keep it as simple as possible. Elvis Presley reported to Sun for his first recording session, arriving about seven, Elvis Presley was nervous, so Sam Phillips suggested that they begin the session with an old standard, although not a favorites' of Sam Phillips.

First came the small talk. Complaints about the heat (the temperature was still hovering around 90 degrees). Then the inevitable, what songs do you know? Then, what songs do you know that I know? Finally, for starters, they picked "Harbor Lights". Then they did one of Elvis' "because" numbers. They did one ballad after another.

> ''HARBOR LIGHTS'' - A.S.C.A.P. - 0:33 <
Composer: - Jimmy Kennedy-Hugh Williams
Publisher: - Chappell & Company Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - FS Take 1 - FS Take 2 - Breakdown - Tape Box 15
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: - August 3, 2012
First appearance: - FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-1 mono
Reissued: - 2016 Memphis Recording Service (CD) 500/200rpm MRS 10053055-2-1 mono

> ''HARBOR LIGHTS'' - A.S.C.A.P. - 2:39 <
Composer: - Jimmy Kennedy-Hugh Williams
Publisher: - Chappell & Company Incorporated
Matrix number: - EPA3-2742 - Take 3 Master
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: - January, 1976
First appearance: - RCA Victor (LP) 33rpm CPL1-1349 mono
Reissued: August 3 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-2 mono

> ''HARBOR LIGHTS'' - A.S.C.A.P. - 2:37 <
Composer: - Jimmy Kennedy-Hugh Williams
Publisher: - Chappell & Company Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Complete Take 4 - Tape Box 15
Listen as Take 3 on Golden Celebration
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: - August 1984
First appearance: BMG Music (LP) 33rpm CPM6-5172 mono
Reissued: August 3 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-3 mono

> ''HARBOR LIGHTS'' - A.S.C.A.P. - 1:22 <
Composer: - Jimmy Kennedy-Hugh Williams
Publisher: - Chappell & Company Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - FS Take 5 - LFS Take 6 - Tape Box 15
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: - August 3, 2012
First appearance: - FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-4 mono
Reissued: - 2016 Memphis Recording Service (CD) 500/200rpm MRS 10053055-2-2 mono

> ''HARBOR LIGHTS'' - A.S.C.A.P. - 2:21 <
Composer: - Jimmy Kennedy-Hugh Williams
Publisher: - Chappell & Company Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Complete Take 7 - Tape Box 15
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: - August 3, 2012
First appearance: - FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-5 mono
Reissued: - 2016 Memphis Recording Service (CD) 500/200rpm MRS 10053055-2-2 mono

> ''HARBOR LIGHTS'' - A.S.C.A.P. - 0:21 <
Composer: - Jimmy Kennedy-Hugh Williams
Publisher: - Chappell & Company Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - LFS Take 8 - Breakdown - Tape Box 15
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: - August 3, 2012
First appearance: - FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-6 mono
Reissued: - 2016 Memphis Recording Service (CD) 500/200rpm MRS 10053055-2-2 mono

Elvis Presley's version of "Harbor Lights" was inspired by Harry Owens and His Royal Hawaiians. The song contained guitar riffs similar to those used by Hank Garland, whose guitar style helped to develop a part of the early rock and roll sound. There were five cuts of "Harbor Lights" completed during this session. The first cut was an instrumental to calm Elvis Presley down and acquaint Scotty Moore and Bill Black with the musical direction that Sam Phillips wanted. Only two of the cuts of "Harbor Lights" were strong enough to consider for commercial release. Eventually, Elvis' two-minute and thirty-five-second version would appear on RCA's Elvis A Legendary Performer, Volume 2 in 1976. This cut featured a whistling bridge.

There was also an alternate cut of "Harbor Lights" with a soft guitar bridge. After listening to these versions, Ronald Smith concluded that Elvis Presley had even then crossed over into the pop market, a result of the fact that Sam Phillips recognized that Scotty Moore's guitar licks were a sophisticated mix of Chet Atkins' country guitar and Les Paul's electric city sound, a mix that was decidedly crossover.

"Harbor Lights" was written by Jimmy Kennedy and Hugh Williams (real name: Wilhelm "Will" Grosz) in 1937 and popularized in recordings that year by Frances Langford (Decca 1441) and Claude Thornhill and His Orchestra, with vocal by Jimmy Farrell (Vocalion 3595). The song was revived in 1950 by several artists, the most successful being Sammy Kaye, who had a number one recording (Columbia 38963). Over a million copies of sheet music were sold for "Harbor Lights" in 1950. The song was performed a record 29 times on "Your Hit Parade". "Harbor Lights" was used as the recurring theme song of the 1940 John Ford- directed movie "The Long Voyage Home", starring John Wayne. Elvis Presley recorded "Harbor Lights" on July 5, 1954 - his first commercial recording session. It was probably the first song put on tape. Sam Phillips of Sun Records considered the recording to be not worthy of release. In 1976 RCA released the master (Take 3) on the album "Elvis - A Legendary Performer Volume 2". In 1980, the National Enquirer an unidentified copy of Elvis' "Harbor Lights" to recording studios in Nashville and New York City. The recording was rejected by almost all of the companies?
Steve Sholes Sessions Notes

Scotch Magnetic Tape
Master Tapes Acquired

Box 12
01 I'll Never Let You Go Take 1 F2WB-81161
02 I'll Never Let You Go Take 2
03 Satisfied Take 1 1:15
04 I'll Never Let You Go Take 3
05 I'll Never Let You Go Take 4
06 I'll Never Let You Go Take 5
07 I'll Never Let You Go Take 6

Box 13
01 I Love You Because Take 1 G2WB-1086 3:27
02 I Love You Because Take 2 3:28
03 I Love You Because Take 3 Breakdown
04 I Love You Because Take 4 3:23 V
05 I Love You Because Take 5 3:25
06 That's All Right Take 1 F2WB-8040 N.G. 1:52

Steve Sholes from RCA, mixing later two ferry good takes to one track, take 3 and take 5 (time 2:39). Mixing-date January 20, 1956 in the RCA studios in Nashville, Tennessee.

Box 14
01 Blue Moon Of Kentucky Take 1 F2WB-80412:02
02 Blue Moon Of Kentucky Take 2 2:02
03 Blue Moon Of Kentucky Take 3 Breakdown
04 Blue Moon Of Kentucky Take 4 Last Part N.G.

Box 15
01 Harbor Lights Take 1 Breakdown EPA3-2742
02 Harbor Lights Take 2 2:35
03 Harbor Lights Take 3 2:27
04 Harbor Lights Take 4 Breakdown
05 Harbor Lights Take 5 2:20 N.G.
06 Harbor Lights Take 6 Breakdown

Elvis Presley remarked that he loved Eddie Fisher's pop version of "I Love You Because". The 1950 Fisher hit was one of Presley's favorites. Elvis Presley told Sam Phillips that he'd love to record it, but Sam Phillips initially rejected this suggestion because he wanted Elvis Presley to attempt an upbeat, rockabilly number. But Elvis Presley prevailed, persuading Phillips that it would be best to record a tune that he knew by heart.

Sam Phillips and Scotty Moore have both indicated that the Elvis' first recording session was a difficult one, primarily because of Presley's perfectionist nature. Although he was not in a position to make many demands during this first session, Elvis Presley was not only critical of his own performance, but from the first moments in the studio he demanded excellence from Scotty Moore and Bill Black. There were amazed by Elvis' professional manner, which was quick and self-assured.

This tendency toward musical perfection was demonstrated on Elvis' "I Love You Because". Leon Payne, a blind composer who often appeared in concert with Bob Wills And The Texas Playboys, was too country for Elvis Presley, but Sam Phillips at first pressured Elvis Presley to record the tune in Payne's mould. It was only after Elvis Presley pointed out that he could cut a Fisher-type version that the song was completed. After five different takes, however, Sam Phillips abandoned the tunes as commercially inviable. In 1956, Steve Sholes blended two of the cuts together into a master take, a strange mixture of Leon Payne's country version and Eddie Fisher's pop rendition. Elvis Presley told Eddie Bond that he preferred the Fisher version precisely because it was pop. "Elvis loved those pop songs and knew them by heart", Eddie Bond remembered. It is therefore surprising that Elvis Presley had difficulty recording the tune, which he had performed many time.

"I'm not for sure, "I Love You Because" one of the first things", recalled Scotty Moore, "I know for sure was … there was two or three there. "Harbor Light", I think, was one. And you can tell there's no style or anything - he's just groping in the dark, practically... And then of course the story on "That's All Right". "I Love You Because" was written and recorded by blind performer Leon Payne in late 1949. Elvis recorded "I Love You Because" during his first commercial recording session at Sun Records. Apparently, five takes were taped by Sam Phillips, but none deemed worthy of commercial release. However, after Elvis had skyrocketed to fame in 1956, RCA released a single of "I Love You Because" in September 1956, using previously appeased on the "Elvis Presley" LP. Take number 2 surfaced in 1974 on the LP "Elvis - A Legendary Performer Volume 1", and all five takes appeared on the 1987 LP "The Complete Sun Sessions". Before the release of "The Complete Sun Sessions", it had been understood that the master was a splice of takes number 2 and number 4 and that take number 1 appeared on "Elvis - A Legendary Performer Volume 1". Elvis is known to have sung "I Love You Because" on the Louisiana Hayride" in 1954 and 1955. A historical note: After the five takes of "I Love You Because", Elvis, Scotty and Bill started cutting up with "That's All Right" during a break.

> ''I LOVE YOU BECAUSE'' - B.M.I. - 0:19 <
Composer: - Leon Payne

Publisher: - Bourne Music Incorporated - Acuff Rose Music Publishing
Matrix number: - None – FS Take 1 – Tape Box 13 – Guitar Intro
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: – August 3, 2012
First appearance: – FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-7 mono
Reissued: - 2016 Memphis Recording Service (CD) 500/200rpm MRS 10053055-2-3 mono

> ''I I LOVE YOU BECAUSE'' - B.M.I. - 3:37 <
Composer: - Leon Payne
Publisher: - Bourne Music Incorporated - Acuff Rose Music Publishing
Matrix number: - None – Complete Take 2 – Tape Box 13 – Guitar Intro
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: – June 1987
First appearance: - RCA BMG (LP) 33rpm 6414-1-R mono
Reissued: - August 3, 2012 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-8 mono

> ''I LOVE YOU BECAUSE'' - B.M.I. - 3:35 <
Composer: - Leon Payne
Publisher: - Bourne Music Incorporated - Acuff Rose Music Publishing
Matrix number: - SPA1-4278 – Complete Take 3 – Master – Tape Box 13 – Whistling Intro
Used for Spliced RCA Master
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: – June 1987
First appearance: - RCA BMG (LP) 33rpm 6414-1-R mono
Reissued: - August 3, 2012 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-9 mono

> ''I LOVE YOU BECAUSE'' - B.M.I. - 0:40 <
Composer: - Leon Payne
Publisher: - Bourne Music Incorporated - Acuff Rose Music Publishing
Matrix number: - SPA1-4279 – FS Take 4 – Breakdown – Tape Box 13 – Whistling Intro
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: – June 1987
First appearance: - RCA BMG (LP) 33rpm 6414-1-R mono
Reissued: - August 3, 2012 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-10 mono

> ''I LOVE YOU BECAUSE'' - B.M.I. - 3:27 <
Composer: - Leon Payne
Publisher: - Bourne Music Incorporated - Acuff Rose Music Publishing
Matrix number: - SPA1-4280 – Complete Take 5 – Master – Tape Box 13 – Whistling Intro
Used for Spliced RCA Master
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: – June 1987
First appearance: - RCA BMG (LP) 33rpm 6414-1-R mono
Reissued: - August 3, 2012 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-10 mono

> ''I LOVE YOU BECAUSE'' - B.M.I. - 2:42 <
Composer: - Leon Payne
Publisher: - Bourne Music Incorporated - Acuff Rose Music Publishing
Matrix number: - G2WB-1086 – Tape Box 13
Master Spliced From Take 3 and Take 5 and omits the spoken part.
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: March 23, 1956
First appearance: - RCA Victor (LP) 33rpm LPM-1254 mono
Reissued: - August 3, 2012 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-1-6 mono

The next song Elvis Presley tried was the one that was to thrust him into regional musical prominence, and turn Elvis Presley's very first recording session into a hit-producing one. Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right" was originally recorded on September 6, 1947, for RCA Victor's Chicago-based Bluebird label. Elvis Presley, again, had some difficulty recording Crudup's tune. Whereas most of the songs he sang tended to follow the same phrasing as the original performer or demo singer, his interpretation of Crudup's country blues song bore little relationship to the original. So, it was a moment of great creativity as Elvis Presley interpreted "That's All Right" in his own unique manner. 

The trouble with the song developed as a result of the fact that Sam Phillips offered Elvis Presley more freedom than he would. At this stage, although practiced and professional when it came to songs for which he had an original basis - a "model", as it were - Elvis Presley wasn't sure how to fully use a situation which gave him total freedom and creativity. As a result of this inexperience, Elvis' vocal on the first take of "That's All Right" was laboured. It was not until later, when they were all tired and had taken a short break during which Elvis Presley began clowning around, that he broke into a faster version of the song that electrified Sam Phillips, who in turn hollered for Scotty Moore and Bill Black to join in. 

> ''THAT'S ALL RIGHT'' - B.M.I. - 0:20 <
Composer: - Arthur Crudup
Publisher: - Wabash Music Corporation - Crudup Music
Matrix number: – OPA1-4849 – FS Take 1 – FS Take 2 – Tape Box 13 - Breakdown
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: - October 1984
First appearance: - RCA (LP) 33rpm CPM6-5172-1 mono
Reissued: - August 3, 2012 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-12 mono

> ''THAT'S ALL RIGHT'' - B.M.I. - 1:53 <
Composer: - Arthur Crudup
Publisher: - Wabash Music Corporation - Crudup Music
Matrix number: – OPA1-4849 – Complete Take 3 – Tape Box 13 - Breakdown
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: - October 1984
First appearance: - RCA (LP) 33rpm CPM6-5172-1 mono
Reissued: - August 3, 2012 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-13 mono

"All of a sudden", said Scotty Moore, "Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass, and he started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them. Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open, I don't know, he was either editing some tape, or doing something, and he stuck his head out and said, 'What are you doing? And we said, 'We don't know'. 'Well back up', he said, 'try to find a place to start, and do it again". "So we stopped, we talked a few minutes about what we were doin', I tried to figure some kind of turnaround or instrumental part on it, we ran through it probably two or three times, and that was it".

Steve Sholes Session Notes
Box 13
That's All Right Take 1 Breakdown
That's All Right Take 2 Breakdown
That's All Right Take 3 Master 

> ''THAT'S ALL RIGHT'' - B.M.I. - 1:57 <
Composer: - Arthur Crudup
Publisher: - Wabash Music Corporation- Crudup Music
Matrix number: - U-128 - Single Master Take 3 – Tape Box 13 - F2WB-8040
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
The lyrics "my mama she done told me, papa done told me too" came from
Arthur Crudup's old blues song "Mean Old Frisco Blues", recorded April 15, 1942.
Released: - July 19, 1954
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single SUN 209-A mono
Reissued - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801 DI-3-11 mono

When Elvis Presley transferred to RCA, the company received a tape referred to in Steve Shole's notes as "That's All Right, plus two other selections"; it is unclear whether these "other selections" were Presley recordings. 

Delighted with Elvis Presley's uptempo performance of "That's All Right", Sam Phillips suggested they continue the session. Two of the takes of "That's All Right" were strong enough to release into the growing rock and roll market; now Phillips had to come up with a b-side for Presley's record. This song had to be a country one, Sam Phillips reasoned, to carry Presley's music in the Memphis market. A quick decision was needed, and Sam Phillips urged Elvis Presley to consider recording a song by a well-known country artist. 

As a result, Bill Monroe's 1946 country hit "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" was selected as the ideal companion tune to "That's All Right". Elvis Presley didn't feel comfortable recording the song, however, so he asked Sam Phillips to wait until the next recording session to do it. 

One in particular, "I Don't Know It", became the model for Elvis Presley's version of "That's All Right". Original recorded in Chicago on April 9, 1947, "I Don't Know It" was the first song Crudup recorded after "That's All Right". Elvis Presley simply copied the arrangement and musical direction of "I Don't Know It". It was Crudup's backup musicians, Ranson Knowling on bass and either Jump Jackson or Judge Riley on drums, who most caught Elvis Presley's attention. 

"The first time Sam played it back, we couldn't believe it was us", said Bill Black. "It just sounded sort of raw and ragged", said Scotty Moore. "We thought it was exciting, but what was it? It was just so completely different. But it just really flipped Sam, he felt it really had something. We just sort of shook our heads and said, 'Well, that's fine, but good God, they'll run us out of town!". 

Elvis Presley's first two singles featured only "Scotty and Bill" (as labels read), but later Sun recordings often included drums (on the 'country' sides more frequently than on the 'rhythm' sides, interestingly enough. The was Johnny Bernero, leader of a local show band (see Malcolm Yelvington/Johnny Bernero, Memphis Rockin' Country, P-Vine 330, Japan), though forget the title for Bernero's side; Bernero soon vanished into oblivion, where he is no doubt trading tales of what might have been with Jimmy Nicol, who replaced an ailing Ringo Starr when the Beatles toured Australia in 1964.

* - "TIGER MAN" - B.M.I.
Composer: - Joe Hill Lewis-Sam Burns (pseudonym Sam Phillips)
Burns is the maiden name of Phillips' wife, Becky (Rebecca)
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Probably Tape Lost
Recorded: - July 5, 1954
Released: - Sun Unissued

(*) In 1968 when Elvis Presley filmed his comeback 68' TV Special ''Elvis'', he revived ''Tiger Man'', replicating Joe Hill Louis's guitar licks as closely he could. It was dropped from the show and the accompanying LP, but soon appeared on a budget LP. The likeliest scenario is that Phillips had given to to him in 1954 or 1955, suggesting that he might like to cover it for Sun. Introducing the song on-stage in 1970, Elvis said, ''This was my second record, 'cept no one got to hear it''. Joe Hill Louis would have benefitted if Elvis had revived it in 1954 (he might even have made enough for the tetanus shot that would have saved his life), but he wasn't around to collect his share of the 1970s bounty.

"Maybe it was something we might have run through a few times.. because that was from Rufus", recalled Scotty Moore. "That's where Elvis got it from. We didn't record it - if we did then it got erased. I guess Sam didn't want to spend that money on tape". Eventually, though, they came up with a song even more improbable than "That's All Right", and just as promising.

Composer: - Jimmy Wakely
Publisher: - Elvis Presley Music Incorporated - Sundance Music
Matrix number: - None - Tape Box 12
Recorded: - July 5, 1954 - Probably Uncompleted Alternate Take
Released: - Sun Unissued

The July 5 session continued for yet another two hours, however. There were two attempts to record "I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')". Between these two cuts Elvis Presley sang a minute-long version of the gospel song "Satisfied". By this time, though, Elvis Presley was tired, and these final cuts were also laboured ones. Sam Phillips set up another recording session for the following night to cut the songs that Elvis Presley hadn't completed.

No permanent written record of this sessions exists. Not only did Sam Phillips not keep precise records, but he was very casual about dating his sessions. When Sam Phillips collected the evening's recordings, he placed them in Scotch magnetic tape boxes. There were no numbers on the boxes, and they were simply stacked next to the production board. After Sam Phillips shipped the tapes to RCA in November 1955, it was Steve Sholes who numbered the boxes; the songs from this session are probably from boxes 2, 12, 13, and 15.

Composer: - Martha Lou Carson
Publisher: - Copyright Martha Carson
Matrix number: - None - Tape Box 12 - Probably Tape Lost
Recorded: - July 5, 1954 - Fragmented - Probably Uncompleted Rehearsal Version
Released: - Sun Unissued

Composer: - Jimmy Wakely
Publisher: - Elvis Presley Music Incorporated - Sundance Music
Matrix number: - None - Tape Box 12 - Probably Tape Lost
Recorded: - July 5, 1954 - Probably Uncompleted Rehearsal Version
Released: - Sun Unissued

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Elvis Presley - Vocal and Acoustic Rhythm Guitar (Martin Dreadnought 18)
Scotty Moore - Electric Lead Guitar (Gibson ES 295)
Bill Black - Acoustic Upright Bass (Kay Maestro M-1)

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


ARTHUR WILLIAM CRUDUP - Also known as "Big Boy, Percy Lee Crudup, Art Crudux, Arthur Crump, Elmer James, but The Father of Rock And Roll was a Delta blues musician, Crudup recorded for RCA's Bluebird label. In 1944, "Rock Me Mama" set the standard for postwar blues tunes. It started back on the farm where he was born on August 24, 1905, about a mile from Forest, Scott County, Mississippi. His mother, Minnie Crudup was a musician. Crudup was interested in music at the early age and sang in gospel choirs and gospel quartets at the age of 10. Crudup grew up there with his mother parents. Arthur Crudup, his mother, and sister moved to Indianapolis in 1916. When his mother became ill shortly thereafter, he left school to go to work.

At thirteen he was dumping molds in a foundry; at fourteen he was carrying iron. In 1916 the family moved back to Forest to around 1926, and Crudup started farming and got married. Then he and his wife separated and he began in 1926 to circa 1935 "running up and down the highway". Crudup hit the juke houses in the little Mississippi towns: Belzoni, Drew, Indianola, Sunflower, Yazoo City.

Arthur Crudup heard musicians like Charlie Patton, drank moonshine whisky for thirty-five cents a half-pint, ate barbecue sandwiches, and danced till daylight. In 1939, Crudup worked on local parties in the Clarksdale area.

Later Crudup packet his clothes in a cardboard box and caught a midnight train to Chicago to join his girl friend. He joined the Harmonizing Four Gospel Quartet and worked at churches in Chicago, Illinois in 1940. Frequently, Crudup worked outside music with the street and house party gigs in Chicago from 1940.

Crudup was on the corner at Forty-third and Hawthorne when he first met Lester Melrose, who recruited talent for Vocalion, Brunswick-Balke-Collender's race recording label, as well as for RCA Victor's Bluebird. Three days later, he recorded his first four sides, "That's All Right" (Victor 20-2205, September 6, 1946), "Who Been Fooling You", "Death Valley Blues", and "If I'd Git Lucky" with Judge Riley on drums and Ranson Knowling on bass, in 1940 after his discovery by talent hunter Lester Melrose on a Chicago street corner, Crudup worked at various times in Chicago as a thirty-six-old delivery boy, as a tire capper at Firestone, and as a night cook in a restaurant on the tough South Side in Chicago.

Arthur Crudup frequently returned to work outside music in Forest, Mississippi from circa 1942; recorded US Armed Forces Radio Service transcription (AFRS) in early 1940s. In 1945, Arthur Crudup recorded for the Bluebird label in Chicago, Illinois and than returned to Mississippi, went back to his wife, and started farming again, making only occasional trips to record with Melrose in Chicago. Worked at the Indiana Theater in Chicago in 1945 and recorded for the Victor label in Chicago, Illinois. Crudup moved his family back to Forest. He worked for the city, farmed some, played Saturday night dances - anything to take care of his wife and 2 children.

Arthur Crudup also appeared on the King Biscuit Time for KFFA-radio in Helena, Arkansas in the mid-1940s and frequently worked outside music with local gigs with Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alex Miller) and worked with Elmore James in small juke joints in the South in the late 1940s. In 1952 Arthur Crudup recorded for the Victor label in Atlanta, Georgia and recorded for the Trumpet/Checker labels in Jackson, Mississippi in 1952; for the Champion label in Jackson, Mississippi in 1952; and for the Ace label in Jackson, Mississippi in 1953; recorded for the Groove/Victor labels in Atlanta in 1953-1954.

In 1954 That's All Right" became the first of the blue-suede-blues hits for Elvis Presley, who later came out with Crudup's "My Baby Left Me" (Victor 130-284, November 8, 1950), and "So Glad You're Mine", accompanying himself on guitar with Armand Jackson on drums (Victor 20-1949, February 22, 1946) were Crudup tunes that Elvis Presley covered. Crudup himself never enjoyed the fruits of his success. In addition to his real name, Crudup recorded under the names Perry Lee Crudup and Elmer James. It was during this time that rock and roll caught hold, and as Crudup heard Presley's version of "That's All Right" over and over on radio and jukebox, he began to wonder about royalties. He wrote Melrose but never was satisfied with the answers he received.

"Elton John, he made my numbers and they's paying that money right now. That money's just piling up there and they ain't giving it to me and so there you are. People ask me about Elvis Presley, how do I feel about him. Ought to be mad with him, they say. For what? I said I don't even know the man. I said I know he's from Memphis, Tennessee, all right enough, but I've never met him. I didn't give him the songs. And he didn't steal them because I didn't write them on paper. I realize that man have paid his royalty statement that I was supposed to get whether I got it or not. All of this here money that I done made and you tell me, "It's yours, Arthur, you made it, it's yours", but it's hung up there and they won't pay me off".

In fact, each of those Crudup's songs is so similar to Elvis' recorded version that there is no doubt he mimicked Crudup's style. In Crudup's music there is a blues direction that is infused with a hillbilly tone. The songs that Crudup recorded for RCA from 1941 until he left the label in 1954 are significant influences upon Elvis Presley. In 1955, Crudup moved to Florida where he drove a tractor one season and then bought a truck to haul his family and some of the other itinerant workers to Birdnest, Virginia, near Exmore, where they harvested potatoes, beans, and cucumbers. Until his health failed, they continued to alternate between Florida and Virginia, six months each place, following the work.

In 1959, Arthur Crudup to work mostly outside the music with occasional gigs with the Malibus Family group at local country dances and he recorded for the Fire label in Nashville, Tennessee circa 1959.

In 1960, Crudup had little to do with the music business until Dick Waterman - a Massachusetts attorney, promoter, and friend of many blues men - talked him into taking a booking at the University of Chicago in 1968. Crudup worked at the 50 Grand Club in Detroit, Michigan in 1965; at the Ark in Boston, Massachusetts in 1966; the Electric Circus in New York City, New York in 1966.

After Waterman coaxed him back to the blues scene, Crudup traveled back and forth across the United States as well as to Australia and to Europe; performed at the Avant Garde Coffeehouse in Milwaukee in Wisconsin in 1967; at Central Park Music Festival in New York City in 1967; the Philadelphia Folk Festival in

Schwenksville, Pennsylvania in 1967; recorded for Delmark label in Chicago, Illinois in 1967, appeared on the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1969; appeared at the University of California in Berkeley, California in 1969; performed at the Ash Groove in Los Angeles, California in 1969; toured in England on club, concert and TV dates in 1970-1971; appeared on the Late Night Line-Up TV show on BBC-2-TV in London, England in 1970; recorded for Liberty Records in London, England in 1970.

In 1970, Arthur Crudup appeared at the Festival Of American Folklife in Washington, D.C.; and toured with the American Blues Festival and working on concert dates through Australia in 1972; appeared in the French film "Out Of The Blacks Into The Blues" in 1972; worked at the University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont in 1972; at the Siena College in Memphis, Tennessee in 1972, appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival, Philharmonic Hall in New York City, New York in 1973 (portion released on the Buddah label); at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Toronto, Canada in 1973.

In later years Elvis Presley financed Crudup's recording sessions with Fire Records, though the two never did meet. In 1973 a TV special called "Arthur Crudup: Born In The Blues" aired on WETA-TV in Washington, D,C. (also released as film).

In 1974, Arthur Crudup toured with Bonnie Raitt and working on concert dates through Virginia and worked at the Hunter College in New York City, New York in 1974. But touring took its toll. The death of Melrose complicated Waterman's efforts to recover Crudup's royalties. Arthur Crudup died of a stroke at the Northhampton Accomac Memorial Hospital in Nassawadox, Virginia, on March 28, 1974, still unpaid but not unsung. Arthur Crudup is buried at the Bethel Baptist Cemetery in Franktown, Virginia. Arthur William Crudup is influenced by Bill Broonzy and Papa Floyd. He influenced artists like Ray Charles, Eddie Kirkland, J.B. Lenoir, Elvis Presley, Doc Ross, James "Son" Thomas. As a singer he was superb and many of his songs have become classics, he was one of the most popular blues singers of the 1940s and one of the finest blues songwriters ever. "He bridged the space between", say Tommy McGlenman and Lightnin' Hopkins.

FIRE RECORDS - New York-based record label for which Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup recorded while being financed by Elvis Presley in the 1960s. Elvis Presley had always been a Crudup fan and was aware that Crudup received little of the royalties that were rightfully due him as both a composer and recording artist. The two records that Crudup recorded for the label were "Rock Me Mama"/"Mean Ole Frisco Blues" (Fire 1501) and "Katie Mae"/"Dig Myself A Hole" (Fire 1502). Arthur Crudup also recorded his classics "So Glad You're Mine" and "That's All Right" (Fire 103).

Fire Records was one of several labels (Fury, Holiday, Everest, Red Robin, Fling, Vest, and Enjoy) founded by Bobby and Danny Robinson. Buster Brown and Bobby Marchan (previously a member of Huey (piano) "Smith Clowns") recorded for the label. Don Gardner and Dee Dee Ford recorded "TCB" (Taking Care Of Business) on the Fire Records label (Fire 517).

JOE HILL LOUIS - Also known as "Chicago Sunny Boy", "Johnny Lewis", "Little Joe", Joe was born Lester (or possibly Leslie) Hill, September 23, 1921, one of four children (3 boys and a girl) in Froggy Bottom, out from Grant's Corner, near where Whitehaven, Tennessee is now, just a few miles south of Memphis, and lived there until about a year after his mother died.

His father was Robert Hill and his mother was Mary Wilson. Joe Hill Louis learned some harmonica and the guitar from Will Shade in his youth in the early 1930s. At the age of 14, after frequent beating by his step-mother, he ran away from home to work outside the music with frequent work in streets and dives in Robinsonville, Mississippi area from circa 1935, and fell in with Billy and Drew Canale, the younger members of a well-to-do Memphis family. The Canales cook welcomed the responsibility of looking after the young lad and he continued to live with and work for the Canales in one household position after another for the rest of his short life.

Early in his lifelong stay with the Canales he was put up to fighting a local ruffian named "Prince Henry" and came out the better, a victory which inspired the Canale boys to name him after the then heavyweight champ. Henry the moniker which was to serve him well and stick with him to the end.

Joe Hill Louis' natural musical aptitude was first manifest itself upon the jew's harp, which eventually was replaced by the harmonica, his primary and dominant instrument. The guitar and drums were added in the course of time but not without a great deal of ear-shattering displeasure from the Canales and their friends. At first, of course, his manipulation of the three was very uncoordinated, but he eventually got it all together to the amazement of his friends and the consternation of would-be accompanying guitarists and drummers. Rufus Thomas, the well-known record star and disc jockey reported that Joe was envied by many local musicians for his ability to earn the same amount of money that it would have taken three or four other musicians of singular talents to make. Joe could make all that money by himself; he didn't need anyone else.

Joe Hill Louis worked outside the music at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee in the late 1930s and frequently worked with Eddie Taylor, Willie Borum, Will Shade, Lockhart Hill and others in gambling houses, the streets in Memphis and West Memphis, Arkansas area and frequently worked as one man band in Memphis, Tennessee. He also frequently hoboed through the Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi on working in dances, suppers, ballgame intermissions in the late 1940s into the early 1950s. He recorded for Columbia Records in New York City in 1949.

Through his appearances on street corners and in Handy Park in Memphis and in juke joints and roadhouses in the surrounding countryside, Joe Hill Louis became a popular entertainer in the mod-south area in the late 1940s and it eventually opened the doors of WDIA-Memphis, the local black radio station, for a 15-minute show for a patent medicine called Pepti-con (from B.B. King) on which he was knowns as the Pep-ti-con Boy. This appellation was later replaced by "The Be-Bop Boy", as indicated by the accompanying photograph.

Though, by an informal union, Joe is reported to have a son named Leslie Hill who was living in Chicago, Joe Hill Louis married his only wife, the former Dorothy "Ruthy" Mae Pearson, on July 25, 1952 and the following year their son was born. Named Robert, he later took Louis as a surname for himself and took name "Joe Louis" in honour of the boxing champion. His brother was Lockhart Hill and was also an great musician. Despite Dorothy's statement that they lived together until Joe died, the marriage may not have been one of constant satisfaction for Joe, for he was soon back with the Canales, who always had a need for a chauffeur or a houseboy, or a bartender at their frequent gatherings. He also worked intermittently for Drew in his vending machine business, packing pennies in cigarette packages by day and playing music in the countryside juke joints and roadhouses at night.

Drew Canale, who was to become Tennessee state senator from Shelby County (Memphis and its environs) (1966-1970), was dabbling in recording in the late 1940s and claimed to have been the first to recorded Joe, a session which, if ever issued, has yet to be identified. Surprisingly, it was Columbia Records, that was the first to release recordings by Joe Hill Louis.

Over a period of more than three years, between March 31, 1952 and September 9, 1953, Joe Hill Louis recorded a number of sessions for Sam Phillips, alone and with accompanists, which reached release on Modern and Checker as well as on his own labels and Sun Records. He was the first artist recorded on Sam Phillips and Dewey Phillips for Phillips Record label, with "Gotta Let You Go" (Phillips 9001). On November 17, 1952, Louis recorded the original version of "Tiger man", which he and Sam Burns (Sam Phillips' wife) had written and which Elvis Presley would recorded in 1968 for his '68 Comeback special.

Sometimes during the mid-1950s, Drew Canale produced a rather curious solitary release on his own Vendor Record label. The vocal was credited to Les Vendor Keyboards and contained a spoken introduction by Canale, who later confirmed that the artist was indeed Joe Hill Louis. Made exclusively for use in Canale's own jukebox and vending machine distribution business, no more than a couple of copies are known to exist today. It was reissued from the original stampers for collectors in the mid-1970s on the Mimisa label.

Canale recorded him again, however, but by that time, Joe Hill's recording career included sessions for Meteor, Big Town, Ace, Rockin' and House Of Sound and among them are some remarkable records, the Rockin' sides being especially notable. However, this later session for Canale is believed to be Joe Hill Louis' last. A number of attempts, different approaches, were made on a single tune, ironically entitled "Late Date" and though most of the session still exists on tape, it remains unissued to this day.

Joe Hill Louis worked for the Blue Light Club in Memphis; the Brown Jug in West Memphis, Arkansas; the Tennessee House in West Memphis, Arkansas in the early 1950s; recorded in 1950 for Modern Records; recorded for the Rockin' label in Memphis, Tennessee in 1952; recorded with Walter Horton for the Checker label in Chicago in 1952; recorded with Billy Love for the Sun label in Memphis; recorded for Meteor label in Chicago in 1953; recorded for Bigtown label in Memphis in 1954; recorded for the Ace label in West Memphis, Arkansas circa 1954; recorded for the House Of Sound label in Memphis in 1957.

Joe Hill Louis had a great sense of humor and was definitely a ladies' man. He had a different woman for every day in the week. His Sunday gal was Dorothy Houston who said Joe would take her to nice quiet places: church, nice restaurants, quiet bars. He wouldn't take her to gigs as he said they were rough places where the men didn't respect the woman. Perhaps for one of these 'dailies' Joe was doing yardwork when he badly cut his thumb and it became infected with fertilizer. Eventually he contracted tetanus infection with which he collapsed a few days later in his car on Beale Street, beyond help. He was taken to John Gaston Hospital in Memphis, where he died August 5, 1957, loved by his friends and fellow musicians, mourned by many woman, and admired much too belatedly by the music public around the world. Joe Hill Louis is buried at the Ford Chapel Cemetery in West Junction, Tennessee. From the late forties until 1956, Joe Hill Louis was among the most popular figures in Memphis and the rural areas of Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.


Lamar Fike first on meeting with Elvis Presley at the Sun studio this day. "I first met Elvis in 1954", recalled Lamar Fike. "Sam Phillips introduced us. I was learning how to be a disc jockey, Sam was teaching me. Sam was an engineer, and I'd hang around him, trying to pick up whatever crumbs of knowledge he'd share''.

''Then one night, Sam took me over to the Sun studio and said, 'I want you to hear something'. He played the demo that Elvis had made and asked me what I thought. Now I was a little green and I was kinda hedging my bets.

'I don't know for sure', I said, 'but to me it sounds really good'. And Sam said I should come over the afternoon and meet him. Which I did. They were working on "That's All Right". "It was Elvis' first professional recording session". "I watched all afternoon. And Sam asked me again what I thought. 'God almighty, he's different looking', I said. 'I like him. He's exciting. He sounds good'. Now, I didn't know a lot about the record business at the time, my opinion didn't mean diddley, but I sure liked what I heard. Simple as that".


Elvis Presley arrived at the Sun studio on Tuesday, July 6, at about seven-thirty in the evening. Already visibly nervous then he walked in, Elvis Presley was then hit with Sam Phillips' announcement that it was his intention to release Presley's record within the next few days. Sam Phillips looked over at Elvis and didn't like the unsettling twitch exhibited by his new singer. "That's All Right" was a sure hit, Sam Phillips bellowed, and he told Elvis Presley he couldn't wait to promote the record.

Ronald Smith, who worked as a sometime session guitarist for Sun, remembers the excitement over the proposed Presley release. "I think Sam knew that he had something good", Ronald Smith recalled. "Some of the other boys weren't so kind toward Elvis".




"We were all below-average musicians", says Scotty Moore. "Elvis didn't know all that many chords, but he had a great sense of rhythm. Sam used that. I don't think he did it consciously for effect. He treated Elvis as another instrument and he kept his voice closer to the music than was the norm at that time. If you listen to the records that were being played then, the singer's voice was way out front. If he left Elvis' voice way out front, it would have sounded empty because we only had three instruments. Elvis had great vocal control. He could do just about anything he wanted to. Sam mixed his voice closer to the music like it was an instrument".

Time for an other take of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", which turned out to be only one minute and fifty-nine-second version. In Elvis' hand, high lonesome with ants in its pants, however, it was this time turned into a strong rockabilly song, "country" enough for Phillips once on tape, and the perfect companion piece for the flip side of "That's All Right". "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" was completed in four takes, with Sam Phillips using a spoken bridge in one version. There was one breakdown, and one partially recorded version, leaving two complete takes that Sam Phillips listened to before deciding that the rockabilly "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" provided an excellent b-side.

Composer: - Bill Monroe
Publisher: - Unpublished
Matrix number: - None - Complete Take 1 - Tape Box 14
Recorded: - July 6(7), 1954
Released: - Sun Unissued - Probably Lost

Composer: - Bill Monroe
Publisher: - Unpublished
Matrix number: - None - Complete Take 2 - Tape Box 14
Recorded: - July 6(7), 1954
Released: - Sun Unissued - Probably Lost

"DIALOGUE" - B.M.I. - 0:20
Matrix number: - None - Tape Box 14
Recorded: - July 6(7), 1954 ''Too must fastly....''.
Released: - Sun Unissued

There was still the problem of selecting an acceptable song for the b-side of "That's All Right". Sam Phillips believed that "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" was the right tune for the country record buyer, especially since "That's All Right" was perfect for the hillbilly, teen, and blues markets. Sam Phillips reasoned that a country song was necessary for the b-side in order to broadly distribute and promote the record. As the July 6 session began, however, problems developed during the recording of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky". The first take of Bill Monroe's song only a minute long. Elvis' slow, laboured vocal was out of sync with the musical accompaniment. Surprisingly, at the conclusion of the short take of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", Sam Phillips hollered; "That's fine, hell that's different, that's a pop song, nearly 'bout". Laughter followed and Sam began another song.

> ''BLUE MOON OF KENTUCKY'' - B.M.I. - 1:05 <
Composer: - Bill Monroe
Publisher: - Peer International Music - Southern Music Publishing
Matrix number: - OPA1-4194 - LFS Take 3 - Tape Box 14
The recording engineer voice on this track is by of Sam Phillips. The take is first released on the bootleg LP "Good Rocking Tonight", Bopcat Records 33rpm LP 100 (1974), inclusive dialogue. After the slow version, Sam Phillips could be heard to remark "Fine, man! Hell, that's different. That's a pop song now, nearly ....''.
Recorded: - July 6(7), 1954
Released: - October 1984
First appearance: - RCA Victor (LP) 33rpm CPM6-5172 mono
Reissued: – August 3, 2012 FTD Records (CD) 500/200rpm 506020-975049-2-15 mono

"Blue Moon Of Kentucky" evolved from a slow, bluesy version in 4/4 time with tentative instrumentation and a rather ornate vocal into a high-spirited declaration of exuberant self-discovery, driven by Elvis Presley's rhythm guitar and a propulsive mix of Scotty Moore's chording riffs and single string filigree. For the first time Sam Phillips made extensive use of what he had come to call slapback, a kind of homemade echo device that was greated by running the original recording signal through a second Ampex recorder and thereby achieving an almost sibilant phased effect. This undoubtedly added not only to the presence but to the excitement of the recording, and, of course, echo had the capacity of covering up a multitude of sins.

"I do not remember how many days, night "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" it was done at night - after that, 'cause we had the one side then we had to start lookin' and goin' through other songs tryin' to find something' that we could adapt, somethin' somilar to...", recalled Scotty Moore. "I mean, we still didn't consider 'well, that's a style, that's what we gotta do', we just had to find sometin' similar. And this time Bill was the one. Again it was on a break, and Bill just started slappin' the bass and singin' and mocking Bill Monroe - more or less singin' in a high falsetto voice... and Elvis joined in with him. So basically the same thing happened on both of those tunes".

"We didn't know we were creating a sound. When we heard it played back it just sounded sorta raw and ragged, really - it didn't have much polish to it. But it felt good".

Steve Sholes Session Notes

Box 14
1. Blue Moon Of Kentucky (2:02) F2WB-8041
2. Blue Moon Of Kentucky (2:02) F2WB-8041
3. Blue Moon Of Kentucky (Breakdown) F2WB-8041
4. Blue Moon Of Kentucky (Last Part N.G.) F2WB-8041

> ''BLUE MOON OF KENTUCKY'' - B.M.I. - 2:02 <
Composer: - Bill Monroe
Publisher: - Peer International Music - Southern Music Publishing
Matrix number: - U-129 SUN - Single Master Take 4 - Tape Box 14 - F2WB-8041-NA
Recorded: - July 6(7), 1954
Released: - July 19, 1954
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single releases SUN 209-B mono
Reissued - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801 DI-3-12 mono

The Alternate Take of ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'', as it was first listed on the Dutch bootleg LP "Good Rocking Tonight", Bopcat Records LP 100, 1974, was recorded after two upbeat, new renderings of the Bill Monroe classic by Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore and Bill Black. By Scotty's recollection of the recording of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" in the book ''Blue Moon Boys - The Story of Elvis Presley's Band'', "We all of us knew we needed something... and things seemed hopeless after a while. Bill is the one who came up with 'Blue Moon Of Kentucky''.

''We're taking a little break and he starts beating on the bass and singing ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'', mocking Bill Monroe, singing the high falsetto voice. Elvis joins in with him, starts playing and singing along with him''.

They had discovered something they wanted to hold onto with the previous night's rendition of "That's All Right'', but the first couple of songs they tried weren't clicking. After several takes of this new version of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky'', they played the version on this acetate, to which producer Sam Phillips exclaimed, "That's fine, man. Hell that's different - that's a pop song now, nearly 'bout''! And was it ever. "That's All Right" reaps most of the historical references for those fateful July days in 1954, but "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (its B-side) was most likely played on the radio that same first night, was every bit the local hit record itself, and certainly deserves its place right beside "That's All Right" in the list of songs that launched Elvis on his path to legendary status .

If you don't think Elvis Presley's expropriation of country standards like this was as audacious as his blues reworkings, you haven't grasped the barricades the Nashville establishment can throw in the way of change to this very day. With its gutbucket bass and rocketing guitar solos and that relentless rattling - probably Elvis Presley banging on the body of his guitar "like it was the lid off a garbage can", as he once described it - "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" radically recasts one of the most sacrosanct numbers in all bluegrass.

And bluegrass, though actually the product of a synthesis that Bill Monroe pioneered with as much calculation as Sam Phillips did rockabilly, has such ancient roots that it is regarded in country circles as the untouchable or music. No wonder Nashville had to fight him off.

The moment Elvis broke through, the die was cast and in fact, the country market suffered far more in the face of white rock's onslaught than the rhythm and blues market ever did. Great country was being made in 1954, but to admit Elvis to the Country and Western charts was an acknowledgment that there was an essential vitality missing from all of it. Sure as the governor of Mississippi had to bar that schoolhouse door, country had to hold off the facts (and they're the same facts) as long as it could.

After Phillips had both sides of Elvis' first single on tape, he made a few demos and distributed them to Dewey Phillips of WHBQ, Dick "Uncle Richard" Stuart of WMPS radio and Sleepy-Eyed John Lepley of radio station WHHM. Its a tossup as to who first played "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" on the air. But it was probably Uncle Richard. In any case, the record was released on July 19. It did not chart nationally, but by September,"Blue Moon Of Kentucky" was the number one record in Memphis, Tennessee. Fewer than 20,000 copies were sold. Elvis sang the song on his only appearance on the "Grand Ole Opry" on October 2, 1956, as well as during his first appearance on the "Louisiana Hayride" on October 16, 1954. Bill Monroe's original version of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" was released after Elvis' release began getting airplay.

The country and western side of SUN 209, ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'' is one of the recordings where no master tape was turned over to RCA in the first place. A November 1955 RCA tape transfer of a SUN 78 RPM has been used up until now. ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'' is one of the worst recorded, mastered Sun masters with compression and overdone echo, but it isn't nearly as bad as the RCA tape implied. RCA compressed it further (to death actually) in November 1955. A manually cleaned up, new transfer from a selection of original SUN 78 RPM's has rectified the situation on ''Elvis at SUN'' and the improvement should be obvious. The released slow outtake of ''Blue Moon of Kentucky'' as released by RCA on releases before 2010 comes from a copy of the "Good Rockin' Tonight LP" (Bopcat 100) and not from the initially turned over Sun Box #14.

Elvis, excited over finally completing this song which all present agreed had the potential of being a hit, then attempted to record two more songs, he names of which have been lost with time. These songs might have included "Tennessee Saturday Night", which is unreleased to date.

Composer: - Billy Hughes
Publisher: - Hill and Range Music
Matrix number: - None - Sun Unissued - Probably Tape Lost
Recorded: - July 6(7), 1954 - Probably Uncompleted Version

In 1982 RCA said that Elvis Presley recorded "Tennessee Saturday Night" at Sun, they had session notes but couldn't find a tape; has often been mentioned in newspapers and other sources as being in the possession of collectors who will sell it for a huge amount of money.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Elvis Presley - Vocal and Acoustic Rhythm Guitar (Martin Dreadnought 18)
Scotty Moore - Electric Lead Guitar (Gibson ES 295)
Bill Black - Acoustic Upright Bass (Kay Maestro M-1)

After two days in the recording studio, Sam Phillips had the first Elvis Presley record. Phillips told everyone at Taylor's Cafe that Presley's rendering of Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right" and Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" was an unbeatable combination. He had worked with many performers, Phillips said, but he felt Elvis' vocal phrasing and timing was the best of any artist he had ever recorded at Sun Records. Sam Phillips was confident that he had brought out the sound he wanted from Elvis Presley. The raw, sexy inflection of "That's All Right" and the rockabilly drive of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" was a unique product.

The two sessions that Sam Phillips recorded with Elvis Presley were exciting ones. They also revealed how thoroughly Phillips was influenced in his decisions by past recordings. For example, he listened to a raw cut of Martha Carson's "Satisfied" during the July sessions, convincing him that Elvis Presley still had a way to go before he could record a commercial gospel tune. The original version of "I Love You Because" by Leon Payne was more soulful than Presley's cut, and Sam Phillips reasoned that Elvis' version would not be a completive song. During these sessions, Phillips had Elvis listen to Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen", but, although Elvis Presley loved the song, he couldn't complete an acceptable take of it.

To gauge the commercial appeal of the two songs he had settled on for Elvis' first release, Sam Phillips pressed two acetate dubs of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" in the studio, and a separate dub containing "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon Of Kentucky".


BILL MONROE - William Smith "Bill" Monroe, bluegrass musician, singer, instrumentalist, composer, performer, and recording artist, was born on September 13, 1911 on a farm near the small town of Rosine, Ohio County, in western Kentucky. Among the musicians connected with the evolutions of the bluegrass style, none is more prominent in stature and more influential in the contemporary musical field than Bill Monroe. Credited with its founding, Bill Monroe is commonly referred to as the "Father Of The Bluegrass Music".

The youngest of eight children, five brothers and two sisters, Monroe had extremely poor sight. He was a shy lad for whom his family's musical traditions afforded comfort and identity. His mother, who played old-time fiddle and was a well-versed singer of mountain songs, died when he was 10, and his father died, when he was 16. He lived for several years with his Uncle Pen (Pendleton Vandiver), a fiddler who strongly influenced his music and who was later immortalized in song by Monroe. He also learned much from a black country dance musician, guitarist and fiddler, Arnold Shultz, with whom he played at dances. Black musical stylings played a significant role in Monroe's personal approach to his art form, and blues artists - along with Jimmie Rodgers - made a decisive impact on his formative years as a musician. Another pervading influence in his youth was church singing, which provided a musical foundation for innumerable Southern musicians, both black and white. In 1929 he joined two older brothers, Birch and Charlie Monroe, at industrial jobs near Chicago. In 1932 the three became part of an exhibition square-dance team at the National Barn dance on Chicago radio station WLS. After working with the WLS, they received an offer to appear on WWAE in Hammond, Indiana, in 1930. They participated in a number of programs aired on midwestern radio stations, and, even today, Bill Monroe has strong musical ties with Indiana as owner of the Jamboree Park in Bean Blossom - the site of year round bluegrass music events (including the annual Bill Monroe Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival). In 1934 Bill and his brother Charlie became professional "hillbilly" radio singers, and switched their base of operations to the Carolinas, where they established themselves as one of the top performing acts in the region.

By 1938 their duets had become popular throughout the Southeast through their radio broadcasts in Iowa and the Carolinas, their personal appearances, with Birch now back at his regular job in the ill refineries, Bill and Charlie made their initial recordings on February 17, 1936, for RCA Victor, on the Bluebird label, as the Monroe Brothers (1936-19 38). Their first release was a sacred song which Bill Monroe had learned in church when he was fourteen, "What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul", backed up with "This World Is Not My Home". In the ensuing tree-year period, The Monroe Brothers produced a number of classic recordings, such as "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms" and "Nine Pound Hammer", among the sixty songs recorded for Bluebird. Their reputation spread widely as their music reached into both rural and urban homes, where radios or phonographs provided a rich source of entertainment and a learning tool for prospective musicians. Many of the fundamentalists of bluegrass music - vocal and instrumental - are found in the collaborative work of the Monroe Brothers.

In 1938 the brothers parted. Charlie Monroe continued his musical career, first with the Monroe Boys, a trio, and then with his famous band, the Kentucky Partners. Bill Monroe formed his own group, the Blue Grass Boys, which consisted originally of guitarist Cleo Davis, bassist Amos Garin, and fiddler Art Wooten. Over the years, the band's personal has changed many times, and some of country music's best-known artist have been members of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys at some point in their careers. For the first time in his career, Bill Monroe sang solo and lead vocals as the twenty-seven-year-old leader of the Blue Grass Boys.

In October 1939 he joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry on WSM (Monroe closed every Grand Ole Opry performance with the old minstrel piece "Watermelon On The Vine"), and he has been in Nashville ever since.

His recordings for Victor (1940-41), Columbia (1945-49) and Decca/MCA (since 1950) have sold consistently over long periods; many are still in print. His compositions include instrumentals, religious songs, and secular songs on a variety of topics.

In 1942 he starting touring, taken with him a large circus tent that he set up in every small town he played along the way. By 1945 his band had evolved as a distinctive musical entity created by the addition of Earl Scruggs, who developed a position of prominence for the five-string banjo in the traditional string band and provided the final ingredient for the modern bluegrass sound. Three years prior, David "Stringbean" Akeman had been hired by Monroe as the band's first banjoist, but the instrument was used solely to provide rhythm accompaniment. Earl Scruggs revolutionized the role of the five-string banjo as a string band instrument and became its foremost proponent in the United States. From 1945 to 1948 the Monroe style was perfected as the "original" bluegrass band, with Lester Flatt, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Howard (Cedric Rainwater) Watts, and Chubby Wise brought national prominence to the modern bluegrass sound. In the postwar years Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys became one of the most important groups in the entire history of country music, and countless numbers of country musicians became their imitators.

In 1948 Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs left the Monroe organization to form their own band, the Foggy Mountain Boys. Like many of the others who played with Bill Monroe and then struck out on their own - including Carter Stanley, Jimmy Martin, and Mac Wiseman - Flat and Scruggs played initially in the Monroe style. After a few years of recording with Columbia, Bill Monroe signed a contract with Decca (now incorporated, with Kapp and Uni, into MCA Records, Incorporated) in 1949. To date, he has recorded nineteen albums on the MCA label. Some of his best-known compositions include "Kentucky Waltz", "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", "Mule Skinner Blues", and "Uncle Pen". In 1970 the Country Music Association acknowledged Bill Monroe's influence by electing him to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

His national prominence was underscored in July 1982, when he was among the first recipients of the Annual National Heritage Fellowship Awards made by the Folks Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts. His award described him as "one of the few living American musicians who can justly claim to have created an entirely new musical style". William Smith "Bill" Monroe died on September 9, 1996 in Nashville, Tennessee on the age of 84.


Dewey Phillips was the first disc jockey in the world to play an Elvis Presley record (acetate) in the air? Later research and back-up interviews prove this wrong. Dewey was the second disc jockey to play an Elvis record on the air - runner-up by about four hours.

Marion Keisker was the first to tip to this in a lengthy conversation just six weeks before she died. "I believe, if you will check this out, you will find that Dewey was not the first to play Elvis on the air", Keisker said. "If you will dig a little deep, you will find that Fred Cook was the first to play an Elvis acetate on the air on WREC and that I had a little something to do with in".

Here is Fred Cook's memory of that day: "At the time, I was playing easy listening music at WREC Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Perry Como... really great singers. Marion was working full-time at the station, as Kitty Kelly on the air, and writing copy for us; and then she worked part-time for Sam Phillips at Memphis Recording Service. My show was a fifteen-minute show going on the air at 4 p.m.".

"When television began to attract a lot of people, the radio networks began pulling back on their programming. We were a CBS affiliate. When I joined the station in 1950, most of our programming came from CBS. Virtually all of it. Then they started dropping shows and that's when we started playing records. My fifteen-minute show was named "Your Popular Music by Hoyt Wooten" (the station's founder and owner). As the network receded, my show was lengthened. Eventually I would up with a three-hour show in the late fifties and early sixties".

"One afternoon, July 7, 1954, I was playing my regular selections - Count Basie, Bennie Goodman, and stuff - and Marion came running in, all excited. She said, 'I've got a record (it was a 45 Sun or acetate on the Sun label) that you've got to play!'. I liked Marion a great deal and I admired her taste and judgement. So, I took the record and looked at it. It was someone named Elvis Presley. I had never heard of this man, Elvis Presley. It was ''That's All Right with ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky''.

"To tell you the truth, I can't remember which side I played, but I put it on the air without listening to it. And after about thirty seconds, I had had enough! I faded it down, took it off the turntable and handed it back to her and said, 'Marion, that's the worst piece of shit I have ever heard!'. Those were my words. I knew nothing about him".

"Later, it would turn out he had tremendous charisma and all those things, but as far as being a singer, at first I was never impressed and I never changed my mind about that. Marion was quite upset with me. She couldn't understand. She thought I was wrong, except I really wasn't, because in the context of the music we were playing on WREC, it didn't fit, no more than if I had played the original version of "Hound Dog" by that back artist (Big Mama Thornton), which, I determined later, was a heck of a lot better than the "Hound Dog" that Elvis recorded".

"I understand a lot of what Elvis did. He made a lot that kind of music (black music) palatable to a larger, primarily white, audience. It was the same thing when I was in high school. The big bands, especially Benny Goodman, took music that had been primarily black music of the black bands - Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford and others - tightened it up, polished it up a little bit, and made it palatable to a larger white constituency. Elvis did exactly the same thing".

"But that's the story. I didn't play Elvis' records all the way through. This was the afternoon the record came off the presses. As long as I did a record show in which I had a choice in what was being played, I never played Elvis on the air again".

"If you'll recall, Tom Parker used to buy time on radio stations for special programs, like Mother's Day. He paid very well for it. It was all a pre-taped show and we used to air those because there was good money in it. But I never played an Elvis record again". "As I came to understand more about what he was doing - and I think a lot of real, true Elvis fans will agree - when he started singing ballads and things like that, he wasn't really very good. His voice was not very pleasant to hear doing ballads, like "Love Me Tender".

"He had a kind of strained vibrato sort of thing. Technically, I just didn't think he had a good voice for ballads. I mean, singing the rock things, he was very good at that, but we were never in a rock format. If we had that rock format, I guess we would have played him".

"I don't remember that Marion ever talked to me about Elvis Presley after that first record", said Fred Cook. Other old-timers at WREC Radio remember this story just as Marion Keisker and Fred Cook told it. Before Elvis, Cook had, at times, broadcast the big bands from the Skyway of the Peabody Hotel. His engineer had been Sam Phillips. Further, it make sense that Marion Keisker, being an employee of WREC, would offer her own station the first chance to play Elvis Presley first on the air. This doesn't change the influence Dewey Phillips had in making Elvis popular among Memphis teens.

FRED COOK - Frederick P. Cook was born on April 11, 1925 and came to Memphis in 1950 to work at radio station WREC as an announcer. He worked there for more than 2 decades, rising to management positions. Cook was also the first newscaster on WREC-TV (Channel 3, now WREG). While Cook's down to earth style associated him with serious broadcasting: news, information, a taste in music focused on standards and easy listening, he really captured his audience when he and fellow announcer John Powell kept WREC radio on the air by simplying talking to one another while a blaze in the basement of the Peabody Hotel, where WREC was located, was extinguished by firefighters.

The witty repartee between the two announcers lead to a regular program called "The Zero Hour" in which they mostly just talked to one another with thousands of radio listeners tuned in, essentially ease dropping on a very humorous conversation.

The radio program was so popular that hotel ballrooms to attend anniversary broadcasts. During this time, WREC mostly appealed to adults, but ''The Zero Hour'' bridged the generational gap. ''The Zero Hour'' continued for more than a decade. Cook is well remembered for another service he provided to the Memphis community, that of the public address announcer at Memphis State University home basketball games. As radio formats and station ownerships changed, Cook did commercials for both radio and TV, he also read for radio station WYPL-FM, which provides reading services for the visually handicapped.

Fred Cook, 83, radio and TV announcer and executive, and announcer for the Memphis State Tigers basketball games, had been diagnosed with lung cancer died on Monday December 8, 2008.


Dewey Phillips played at radio station WHBQ in Chisca Hotel the night "That's All Right" for the first time in his radio program "Red Hot and Blue". Elvis Presley went to the neighborhood theater, Suzore II, located at 279 North Main Street in Memphis, to see "The Best Years Of Our Lives" because he was too shy to hear his own record on the radio. The response was instantaneous.

Forty-seven phone calls, it was said, came in right away, along with fourteen telegrams, or was it 114 phone calls and forty-seven telegrams, Dewey Phillips played the record seven times in a row.

"I was scared to death", Elvis said. "I was shaking all over, I just couldn't believe it, but Dewey kept telling me to cool, it was really happening". "Sit down, I'm gone interview you", Dewey told Stanley Booth in 1967. "He said, "mr. Phillips, I don't know nothing about being interviewed". "Just don't say nothing dirty", I told him. He sat down, and I said I'd him know when we were ready to start. I had a couple of records cued up, and while they played we talked. I asked him where he went to high school, and he said, 'Humes". I wanted to get that out, because a lot of people listening had thought he was coloured. Finally I said, "All right, Elvis, thank you very much". "Arent't you gone interview me? he asked. I already have, " said. The mike's been open the whole time". He broke out in a cold sweat".

Wink Martindale was there in the WHBQ radio studio on the mezzanene of the Chisca Hotel that night. Wink knew Dewey's on-air antics, as well as Dewey's normal life, were, well, other than normal. "I had a morning show on WHBQ radio then and I was in the studio that night putting together my show for the next day", Wink Martindale recalls. "Dewey was in there doing his thing and suddenly the board lights up.

People are calling in responding to that record. Dewey had me call Elvis' house to get him to come to the studio. Gladys answered the phone, said he was at the Suzores, she would go and get him and send him down to the station".

"Had he known that, he would have been so nervous he couldn't talk. Dewey had a plan, to play black music for white kids", said Wink. "Elvis' song instantly became a regional hit. The next day I went out to Music Sales to pick up some promo records for the station and Bill Fitzgerald, the owner, said he had been flooded with calls from records stores for Elvis' record, but Sam Phillips had not pressed enough, so he would be two weeks getting all these orders filled".

Wink Martindale ruled the morning air waves on WHBQ radio with his Wink Martindale Mars Patrol. And while Dewey could get away with practically anything at night, Wink was bound by WHBQ's format. "We were still playing a lot of Perry Como and Eddie Fisher", the former commander of the Mars Patrol said, "About the wildest thing Mark Forrester, our program director, would let us play was some Sha-Boom stuff. "Dewey had a country music show on the air at 11:30-12:30, but that was because we were trying to compete with WMPS radio. Then Dewey would play his hot stuff at night", said Wink.

Elvis Presley playing football in and around Lauderdale Courts with Charlie Bramlett, had a smaller brother, John, a few years younger than himself and Elvis. "Charlie, Elvis and I had gone over to the Suzores Theater", recalled John Bramlett, "I don't remember what was on that night, probably a cowboy movie. Anyway, we were sitting there when Mr. and Mrs. Presley came in, looking in the dark, trying to find Elvis. When they spotted us, Mrs. Presley came over and said, 'Elvis, come on now. They want to talk to you down at the radio station'. Elvis said, 'Why, mama?'. She said, 'They said Mr. Phillips is playing your record on the air down at WHBQ. They said he wants to interview you on the air'. Elvis excused himself and left the Suzore with his mother and father".

WHBQ RADIO (AM 560) - Founded by Gordon Lawhead and owner of Memphis radio station (telephone: Jackson 6-5456), located in lobby of the Chisca Hotel at 272 South Main Street across Beale Street, is one of the city's key stations in the 1950s. The station's best-known disc jockey, the manic Dewey Phillips, hosted the "Red Hot and Blue" show, essential listening for Memphis' first generation of rock and roll aspirants. On July 7, 1954, Sun Records' Sam Phillips handed Dewey (no relation) a test pressing of Elvis Presley's first single, "That's All Right".

The disc jockey was so impressed he yelled, "Degawwhhh, it's a hit, it's a cotton pickin' hit!", right on air. Within minutes the switchboard was jammed, and he began playing the track over and over while desperately trying to get Elvis Presley in for an interview. Eventually the singer was found at a local Suzure II cinema and whisked into the studio.

Once Presley became a star, Dewey Phillips began calling everybody, including himself, Elvis - he'd even call up Atlantic Records VP Jerry Wexler and say, "Hi Elvis, this is Elvis". When Wexler and co-executive Ahmet Ertegun popped into the station one day in 1956 to plug records, Dewey told listeners he had a "couple of Yankee records thieves" with him. But after the show, he took the pair to meet Presley at a now-demolished club, where they unsuccessfully tried to buy out the future King's contract from Sun. Atlantic offered $30.000, which they could barely afford, but lost out to RCA Victor, which bid an extra $10.000. Elvis Presley didn't sing at the club that night, but Ertegun got up and did an impromptu version of Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man", which won over a sceptical Dewey Phillips to Atlantic's cause and convinced him to play the labels' New York records on WHBQ radio.

From the moment Dewey's life was intertwined with the rising career of Elvis Presley. Elvis joined him on the air several times, though every appearance was fraught with security problems. Once Dewey announced that Elvis Presley and the band were tuning up inside the radio station. Soon a crowd of teenagers rushed through the hotel entrance and up the stairs to the radio station on the mezzanine floor. Only a glass wall separated the musicians from the excited crowd, and the police were called to restore order. Elvis Presley and the band had to escape through a back exit.

Situated at the corner of Linden Avenue and South Main Street, the Hotel Chisca had two entrances. The disc jockey’s and musicians preferred to use the Linden Avenue, or side entrance, into the hotel lobby. They would walk up a flight of stairs to the mezzanine floor, turn left down the hallway, and walk through the two glass doors into the station. In the back left portion of the station was Dewey's small room, filled with records and the endangered equipment. The room usually was crowded during show time because of Dewey's large entourage. Visitors to Dewey's show would also gather at the gravel parking lot across Linden Avenue (now part of the Memphis Light Gas and Water Building).

Radio station WHBQ moved and now based in the suburbs to a new facility at 462 South Highland in 1962, the station features sports and talk, having abandoned music after disc jockey Rick Dees assaulted the pop world with his 1976 single, "Disco Duck". Today George Klein hosts his Elvis Hour radio show on WHBQ radio.

CHISCA HOTEL - Built in 1913 and located at 272 South Main Street, Memphis, across Beale Street, Sam Phillips delivered demos to key Memphis disc jockey’s: including Dewey Phillips at WHBQ radio. In 1954, the Chisca Hotel was home to radio station WHBQ and disc jockey Dewey Phillips' program "Red Hot And Blue". Phillips often played new releases from friend and business associate Sam Phillips' record label, Sun Records. On July 8, 1954, Dewey Phillips played the acetate SUN 209 over the airways, making him one of the first disc jockey’s to spin a professionally recorded Elvis Presley toward stardom.

He was so impressed with Elvis Presley's sound that he played "That's All Right" and the flip side, "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", repeatedly throughout his show.

The response to Elvis Presley was overwhelmingly positive. Dewey Phillips wanted Elvis Presley to come in that night for his first radio interview. Sam Phillips called the Presley's at their Alabama Street apartment, but Elvis Presley was no where to be found. Vernon Presley hunted him down, finding him hiding at the movie theater, Suzore II at 279 North Main Street, because he was too afraid to listen to himself on WHBQ radio.

That night Elvis Presley went to the Chisca Hotel where he was interviewed by Dewey Phillips. During the interview Phillips asked Elvis Presley which high school he attended. The racial climate at the time was so tense, and Elvis' sound so different from that of other white artists, that his racial background was unclear. Elvis Presley's response of "Humes High School, sir", affirmed to listeners that he was white.

Today, the stately Chisca Hotel still stands at the southwest corner of Main Street and Linden Avenue, and used as the headquarters of a church with the name "Church Of God In Christ", and is not open to the public.

On October 2012, the property appears to be on the verge of being saved. The private group has closed on the real estate contract purchasing the Hotel Chiska. It is expected renovation activity may begin during the summer of 2013.

On August 7, 2012, the Memphis City Council voted to conditionally provide $3-million toward the restoration of Hotel Chisca. An investment group reportedly now will proceed with the purchase. Thew group still must provide/obtain private funding for the purchase and millions in restoration costs.

(Above) The Suzore II opened as the Lincoln Theatre in 1927. A banner on an earliest photo of the building reads “7pm White Entry” which implies that the balcony of the Lincoln Theatre was segregated and had a separate entrance, which is possibly to the left of the canopy.

In 1932, it was bought by Fred Suzore and reopened as Suzore’s II theatre (his 1 theatre being on Jackson Avenue). It was located next to a fire station on North Main Street and a fire alarm was installed in the theatre in case firemen on a break happened to be inside the theatre.

The theatre was also involved in litigation after a shooting incident involving Fred Suzore and an alleged poacher on his farm property in 1952. Elvis Presley is said to have been fetched from the Suzore # 2 Theatre for his first interview, the night “That’s All Right'' first played on the radio. The building was demolished in 1967.

SUZORE II THEATER - Located at 279 North Main Street, Memphis, Tennessee. Unlike the opulent Loew's State Theater, the Suzore was threadbare operation. It had two old heaters down front in the winter, and in the summertime, two big fans didn't do much more than swirl the hot air.

The roof leaked, and according to Elvis' friend John Bramlett, "We always took along two sticks - one to hold up our seats, the other to beat off the rats". But what the Suzore lacked in atmosphere, it made up for in its selection of movies. This is where the teenagers went to watch their favorite cliff-hangers, the serials that continued with an episode every week.

Elvis Presley often to movies at this theater during and after high school every week, sometimes with a group of ten or twelve guys, sometimes with just a friend or two. John Bramlett remembers going there with his brothers, Charlie and Odell, and Elvis Presley. One night in particular stands out among the others.

While Elvis Presley was dating Dixie Locke, they would often see movies here, then go to Charlie's, a restaurant across the street. On July 7, 1954, the night Dewey Phillips played SUN 209, "That's All Right", Elvis Presley went to the Suzore II to see a movie. The decline of the Mid-America Mall, located at 7 North Main Street, let to the closing of Suzore and the demolition of the building which once housed it.

Later, John Bramlett talked about the significant change that Elvis Presley underwent that first night his music was played on the radio. "I knew he had been playing his guitar and singing on Alabama Street outside the Scotland Inn, a little beer joint. That first time people heard him and became excited by his voice was probably the last time anyone ever called a radio station to ask who he was".


After the radio program Elvis Presley escaped out in the hot night air. He walked back up Main Street to Third Street and then over to Alabama. Dewey Phillips wound up his show and called his wife, Dot. "I told him I loved it", Dot Phillips told the Trenton (Tennessee) Herald Gazette in 1978, ten years after Dewey's death. "He went on to say that he believed Elvis Presley had a hit... Dewey cherished that moment with Elvis. He would tell it time and time again".

Sam Phillips was at the studio that night. He didn't see Elvis, and he didn't see Dewey until after the show, but he knew what had happened. "They didn't give a fuck about classifying him, in Memphis, Tennessee, they liked what they heard".

Billie Chiles, a classmate of Elvis Presley at Humes High School who had never been exactly entranced by his music, was at a sock hop at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. "Sometime during the evening, a couple went upstairs and outside to the parking lot", Billie told former Press-Scimitar reporter Bill Burk thirty-five years later, "They sat in their car and turned their car radio on... They couldn't believe what they were hearing. They came running downstairs yelling. 'Come up here quick! You ain't going to believe what Dewey Phillips is playing on the radio! We all ran to the parking lot. We could hear right away it was Elvis singing "That's All Right Mama". "After the song ended, Dewey Phillips played it again and again. We couldn't believe it! ELVIS! On the radio".


Since 1952, Sam Phillips and Dewey Phillips, the most popular Memphis disc jockey, had worked together to promote promising artists. Every Saturday night Dewey Phillips' "Red, Hot, and Blue" show on WHBQ radio featured the best of new records. The audience, rock oriented high school students, was young and eager for new rhythm and blues records. Sam Phillips believed "That's All Right" was perfect for "Red, Hot and Blue". During the week, Sam Phillips had demonstration discs of "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" pressed (possibly on the Presto lathe at Sun Records which was used for making the custom records of the Memphis Recording Service). The other two disc jockey’s that Sam Phillips had close connections with were country-oriented. On radio station WMPS, Dick "Uncle Richard" Stuart was the first to play Elvis' record, spotlighting "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", and Sleepy-Eyed John on radio station WHHM. Consequently, these disc jockey’s were given only the copies of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky".

Jack Clement remembers hearing "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" on Sleepy Eyed John's show. One morning Jack awoke and turned on the radio by his bed. Sleepy Eyed John was doing his regular country show. As Jack rubbed the sleep from hid eyes, Sleepy Eyed John said, "Here's the record everyone is screaming about". Then he played "Blue Moon Of Kentucky". The song left Clement dazed. He had never heard anything like it.

In addition to being a popular disc jockey, Sleepy-Eyed John Lepley booked acts for the Eagle's Nest, so he was well aware of Elvis' talent. He envisioned a lucrative commercial future for Presley, possibly involving himself and his club, so he played "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" every hour on his radio show. He began to court Presley, going out of his way to become friendly with the younger singer. Sleepy-Eyed John had visions of managing Elvis Presley, and he finally urged Presley to sign a management contract. Personally uncomfortable around Lepley, Elvis Presley had no interest in singing with him. Elvis Presley believed that Sleepy-Eyed John exploited the musicians at the Eagle's Nest. Lepley persisted, however. The following week, Elvis Presley suggested that Scotty Moore sign him to a management contract. The agreement was not a real management deal; it was simply a means of keeping slick promoters like Lepley away.

WHAT IS THE TRUE STORY? - On July 8, 1954, Dewey Phillips went on the air at radio station WHBQ with his "Red, Hot and Blue" show. The 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. radio spot was a favourite of Memphis young set. Dewey Phillips played any song his listeners requested, and also slipped in his own favourites. A flamboyant radio figure, Dewey Phillips drank openly both while on the air and in local clubs. It was a common sight to see someone hand Dewey a bottle of whisky and a record through WHBQ's special booth at the Old Chisca Hotel on Main Street across Beale Street, from where the show originated.

A local wild man, Phillips' arrests for drunkenness were as legendary as his show business successes. He was, however, the only man who could make a record an instant local hit. Dewey Phillips' show was popular because he talked to his listeners on the air. He seemed to be one of them. Irreverent. Loud. Brash. The twenty-eight-year-old Phillips vigorously defended the new music. He had an ear for the songs that kids liked. When Sam Phillips showed up to play Elvis' record, there was one minor problem. Dewey Phillips preferred playing black music, and it was primarily the black Sun artists who had been previously featured on "Red, Hot and Blue". Sam Phillips explained that Presley had a black sound. After this brief exchange and a few sips of whisky, Dewey Phillips played the recording. The full impact of this night was immediately apparent to Elvis' friends. "We couldn't go anywhere with Elvis", Kenneth Herman remembered, "without someone hollering at us about his record".

At about 9:30 p.m., Dewey Phillips played "That's All Right", and the phones began to resonate with a torrent of calls. The listener response to Elvis' first song was instantaneous. Local callers flooded the station with requests for more Elvis Presley songs. It was common for Dewey Phillips' phone to ring like crazy for three hours anyway, but it was unprecedented for almost every caller to request another record by the same artist. Comically, a number of callers mispronounced Elvis' name. There were numerous black callers. Sam Phillips knew he had something special, and he convinced Dewey to an interview Elvis Presley on the air. Sam Phillips called Elvis' home to instruct him to come to the WHBQ studios on Main Street. Gladys Presley informed Sam Phillips that Elvis Presley had gone to the movies. He was at the Suzore II theater watching Red Skelton in "The Great Diamond Robbery" and Gene Autry in "Goldtown Ghost Riders", and had no idea how efficiently Sam Phillips had set the Sun Records promotional machine in motion.

The Old Chisca Hotel was a hotel with a part atmosphere. A grand ballroom, a fine restaurant, and a bar full of people who mingled in the 1950s social-sexual atmosphere made the Old Chisca a promenade spot. When Elvis Presley arrived at the studio on the second floor, Sam Phillips whispered that there had already been fourteen telegrams and forty-seven telephone calls requesting replays of "That's All Right". To make sure that listeners knew Elvis Presley was a white artist, Dewey Phillips asked him where he had attended high school. When Elvis Presley responded, "Humes High School, sir", the listeners knew that the new sound was not a black one.

Complementing the airplay on Phillips' popular "Red, Hot and Blue" show, Uncle Richard on radio station WMPS was the first Memphis disc jockey to play "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", followed by Sleepy-Eyed John Lepley at the Sterick Boulevard WHHM studio. Lepley also spent an inordinate amount of time telling the listeners that he had played with Elvis Presley at the Eagle's Nest. With the Presley phenomenon still a year away, Sleepy-Eyed John was already attempting to get on the bandwagon. The three radio stations together filled the air waves with Elvis Presley's music, and the next day local record stores were swamped with requests for the recording. The only problem was that it hadn't yet been pressed for commercial release. "That's All Right" was not officially released until July 19, 1954, to an immediate and growing demand for the record in Memphis.

There have been many descriptions of Elvis' interview with Dewey Phillips on the "Red, Hot and Blue" show. Dewey Phillips himself provided what is probably the best description of the interview: "He sat down, and I said I'd let him know when we were ready to start. I had a couple of records cued up, and while they played we talked". Since he had performed in local clubs for a year, Elvis Presley was at easy around Dewey Phillips and the people in the WHBQ studio. Elvis Presley didn't realize that the interview had started, thus accounting for his relaxed manner. Under the circumstances, Phillips had little trouble coaxing an excellent interview out of Elvis Presley. Listening to Presley, his ability to answer Phillips' questions demonstrated his early media charm, and there was no doubt that he had carefully planned his singing career.

Soon after the Elvis interview, Dewey Phillips began to be criticized by other local disc jockey’s for praising Presley's music. "You can't believe how much criticism I got from my friends in the music business", Phillips remarked. Memphis record moguls and disc jockey’s didn't like the way Elvis Presley interpreted country songs. The thought of a rockabilly Bill Monroe in the sacred shrine of country music song was too much for the purists. "Elvis is worse than the coloured singers", a country disc jockey remarked to Phillips. "He lacks ambition; Elvis doesn't want to learn the country music craft", a reporter for the Memphis Press Scimitar commented privately to Dewey. Elvis Presley was criticized for being too original. "It was then that I knew", Dewey Phillips recalled, "that young Elvis was a forerunner of a new sound".

In general, though, Memphis music critics were enthusiastic about Elvis' first record. One of the earliest critics to review Elvis' music was Jim Kingsley of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Kingsley called "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" the type of record that could "set the world afire". Dewey Phillips died of pneumonia on September 28, 1968, at the age of forty-two, while working at a small radio station in Millington, Tennessee.

The commotion over Elvis' talent may have persuaded another music legend to pursue a career recording for Sun Records. On July 5, 1954, Johnny Cash returned to Memphis from a stint in the air force. Cash was in town the weekend when Elvis Presley began his recording career. Like many other Southern musicians, Johnny Cash dreamed of becoming a singer, and Elvis' spectacular rise to prominence made it seem possible for any singer to walk into Sun Records and walk out with a hit record. Johnny Cash listened intently to "Red, Hot and Blue", and loved every second of Elvis' "That's All Right". The tuned into WMPA's Uncle Richard show and discovered "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" being played in the country music marketplace. Cash's reaction was typical of Memphis record buyers: they wanted Presley's single.

JULY 11, 1954 SUNDAY

Elvis Presley first met Jerry Schilling at the Dave Wells Community Center (also known as Guthrie Park) in July 1954. The community center is located at 915 Chelsea Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee. According to Jerry Schilling, ''The first time I heard Elvis was in the second week of July 1954. That Sunday, July 11, 1954, I go over to my local playground in North Memphis, a very poor neighborhood.

There were five older boys in and out of high school trying to get up a football game. That's how unpopular Elvis Presley was at that point''. ''Elvis was just starting out, and nobody knew who he was yet''.

''Red West, a friend of my older brother's, knew I played grade school football. He said, 'Jerry, do you want to play with us?' Little kids love to play with the big guys, so, of course, I said, 'Sure'. We get in the huddle, and I swear to God I saw the other guy and said, 'That's the boy from Hume High that sang that song I just heard on the radio'. His name was never mentioned'. ''We can never forget that rock and roll was born out of segregation. It was dangerous for us to go down to Beale Street to buy our records. Our parents would have grounded us forever if they found out. It was a totally segregated society. Beale Street was black. Main Street was white. In the middle of all of that, Dewey Phillips played a record called ''That's All Right'' by a boy from Humes High School. He had to say Humes High School, because the audience would then know that he was white. Dewey played predominately black music. When ''That's All Right'' came on the radio, it was so exciting. It rolled it into something to be a part of.'', said Jerry Schilling.

JERRY SCHILLING - Elvis Presley's personal aide and member of the Memphis Mafia from 1964 to 1976. Jerry Schilling was born on February 6, 1943, in Memphis. Elvis Presley gave Jerry Schilling the martial-arts nickname "The Cougar".

He bought him several automobiles over the years, and paid for his wedding to his first wife, Sandy. After he and Sandy split, Jerry Schilling dated singer Kathy Westmoreland. He eventually quit the Memphis Mafia to try his hand at film editing for Paramount Pictures.

Jerry Schilling helped edit Elvis On Tour. His first job in the management field was as tour manager for Billy Joel. In 1976, he became the Beach Boys' manager and later handled the Sweet Inspirations and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Jerry Schilling was named Creative Affairs Director of the Presley Estate in 1987. He served as co-producer of the "Elvis" TV series. From 1982 to 1987, Schilling was married to Myrna Smith of the Sweet Inspirations.

JULY 12, 1954 MONDAY

Elvis Presley signed a management deal with his lead guitarist, Scotty Moore. Scotty got 10 percent off the top, and the group would divide any income with a 50-25-25 split.

The original management contract between Scotty Moore and Elvis Presley reads:

WHEREAS, W.S. Moore, III, is a band leader and a booking agent, and Elvis Presley, a minor, age 19 years, is a singer of reputation and renown, and possesses bright promise of large success, it is the desire of both parties to enter into this personal management contract for the best interests of both parties.

This contract is joined in and approved by the Father and Mother of Elvis Presley, Vernon Presley, and Miss Vernon Presley, Presley.

IT IS AGREED that W.S. Moore, III, will take over the complete management of the professional affairs of the said Elvis Presley, book him professionally for all appearances that can be secured for him, and to promote him, generally, in his professional endeavors. The said W.S. Moore, III, is to receive, as his compensation for his service, ten (10%) percent of all earnings from engagements, appearances, and bookings made by him for Elvis Presley.

IT IS UNDERSTOOD AND AGREED that this is an exclusive contract and the said Elvis Presley agrees not to sign any other contract pertaining to his professional work nor make any appearances at any time for any other person or manager or booking agent, for a period of one (1) year.

Now, we, Vernon Presley and Miss Vernon Presley, father and mother of Elvis Presley, join in this contract for and in his behalf, confirm and approve all of its terms and his execution of same and our signatures are affixed thereto.

The said W.S. Moore, III, agrees to give his best efforts to the promotion and success of the said Elvis Presley professionally.

SIGNED AND EXECUTED on this 12th day of July 1954.

W.S. Moore, III
Elvis Presley
Father of Elvis Presley
Mother of Elvis Presley

It was a move designed to discourage Sleepy-Eyed John Lepley and a number of other slick management types, something recommended by Sam Phillips as an interim measure until a more experienced agent could be found. Sam Phillips however, in the background as a friend, advising Elvis Presley on his future. Although Sam Phillips could have organized a management firm to promote Elvis Presley's career, he preferred to concentrate upon producing Elvis' records.

Scotty Moore received a ten percent booking fee. On all future concert dates, Elvis Presley would receive fifty percent of the guarantee, with Scotty Moore and Bill Black splitting the remaining money. In reality, the money was quite inadequate all around; the long drives and the low-paying concerts in barns, honky-tonk bars, and grange halls barely with expenses. To promote Presley's records, though, Sam Phillips urged that Elvis Presley play anywhere, anytime, for any sum of money. This let to a series of high school gym engagements, honky-tonk bars, VFW halls, and country-western clubs where audiences were critical and demanding. The uncomfortable drives to such shows, the unpredictable circumstances, and the haphazard working conditions did have a beneficial side to them, however, the rigors of the road helped developed Elvis Presley's musical discipline and style. He also learned to deal first-hand with small-time promoters who hoped to make a quick buck from the emerging Presley phenomena.

On this day, Scotty Moore took the contract to Vernon and Gladys Presley to sign as Elvis' guardians. The four (Scotty, Elvis, Vernon and Gladys) of them signed the contract and dated it. After the singing, Gladys told Scotty she expected him to look after her son. That same night, Scotty, Elvis, and Bill met at Carney Moore's Dry Cleaners to build up a playlist. Tammy Wynette remembers the rehearsals with fondness. Just getting to the dry cleaners from her house or from school was always an adventure in itself. "The day I remember the most was the one when they were coming down the stairs and Auzella looked up and said, 'My, my, my, Look at the stairs'", says Tammy. "Elvis was nothing then, but he looked at her with that little smile of his and he said, 'Auzella, one of these days I'll wrap you up in hundred dollar bills'".

At this point, Elvis Presley, ragged and tired-looking during the first month of his professional career, continued to work a day job at Crown Electric. It was a dull, tedious job, and he was eager to quit. As Ronald Smith suggested, "Crown Electric had a rapid turnover in labor-type jobs". Despite the pressure of his schedule, Elvis Presley also did whatever he could to promote his first Sun single. By playing local clubs, he created a demand for his record. He also spent time between shows convincing the audience to purchase "That's All Right" - walking up to the bar, buying drinks for the locals, all the while pushing his first Sun single.


As a result of the demand for Presley's record, Sam Phillips drove over to Plastic Products Incorporated, the manufacturer of phonograph records and allied products, located at 1746 Chelsea Avenue in Memphis, to place an order for the Presley single. Sam Phillips ordered a thousand 45s and 78s of "That's All Right" b/w "Blue Moon Of Kentucky".

The demand was so great for Presley's record in Memphis, Sun Records recouped its costs immediately. Poplar Tunes on Poplar Avenue ran the first ad for Elvis Presley's single in Memphis, and the small record shop did a continuous business.

On this day, Elvis Presley to the Blue Light Studio at 130 Beale Street, north west corner Beale and Second Streets, Memphis, for an photo session and was made by employee Margaret Sutton. The Blue Light Studio is owned by Terry Garner, and is now located at 247 South Cooper Street, Memphis, Tennessee.


Since all three men were working regular daytime jobs at this time, their first appearances were limited to venues in and around Memphis. Over the next few weeks, Elvis Presley would make several unadvertised guest appearances, usually on weekend nights, as an added attraction with the Starlite Wranglers at the Bon Air Night Club.

He also joined the Wrangles when they played the Bel-Air Night Club, which was adjacent to the Bel-Air Motel, located at 1850 South Bellevue Boulevard in Memphis.

On at least one occasion, Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black entertained a gathering at the Firestone Worker's Union Hall in Memphis.

Clyde Rush, the rhythm guitar player with the Wranglers recalled that Elvis Presley's intermission spots quickly became the hit of the Wrangler's show, even in such unlike venues as the Firestone Workers Union Hall in Memphis.

Johnny Cash, who lived across the Mississippi River in Dyess, Arkansas, remembers, in July 1954, that about this time he first saw Elvis Presley perform at a ballroom in East Memphis.

(Above) This rare photograph of Elvis Presley was discovered in the Presley-Archive of the European Art Foundation Berlin. It shows the 19-year old guy in 1954. "At this age, I wanted to look always a bit older", Presley commented about this later. He believed that his "milky face" looked too soft. And because of this, people would not take him seriously.

The photograph was used in 1955 by his label Sun Records studios in Memphis, in a promotion campaign. The stylist gave Elvis a dreamy make-up, with dark eyelashes. The makeup artist further worked out his erotic lips by slight dash of dark red lipstick. The PR-photograph was distributed in black and white only. On a coloured version he looked according to what is known to girlish. Elvis can be seen wearing a bow tie, like the one on the photo on February 25, 1955, Texarkana Municipal Auditorium. It is reported that Elvis flung his tie into the crowd on this date, and to keep up with demand, he bought a box of bow ties at his favourite clothing store in Memphis and hire a West Texas girl to sign his name on the, her payment was a kiss and a bow tie, authentically signed.


Sam Phillips carried Elvis Presley out for the first time to the Bon Air Night Club, located at 4862 Summer Avenue, Memphis, across Mendenhall Road, to execute the first part of the plan that he and Scotty Moore had devised. Elvis Presley sang with the Starlite Wranglers "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon Of Kentucky". The steel guitar whined, the fiddle hemmed and hawed, and the Wranglers began injecting a good time into their crowd.

They wore matching outfits, they told a few jokes, and they had a good time on stage, all of which kept the crowd smiling, dancing, and drinking. When their first set ended, there was a little confusion about the new kid.

When Elvis Presley took the stage, a murmur went through the crowd. This youngster with greasy hair and sideburns, the funny-fitting clothes, wasn't part of the usual act, and the unexpected made this audience uneasy. Bassist Bill Black thrilled to the tension that began creeping across the stage. He looked over at Scotty Moore, who was grinning nervously as he anticipated the crowd's reaction to something they'd never heard, and then he looked at Elvis Presley. It was time to start, but Elvis Presley was short of breath. He turned to Scotty Moore, then to Bill Black, who grinned back widely. That put him at ease, and then he performed the only two songs his trio knew.

It wasn't that the crowd responded poorly, but Elvis Presley was already anticipating the riots that were soon to greet him. When they applauded after "That's All Right", then after "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", and though they moved their heads in time to the beat, and though some danced and several seemed immensely pleased - Elvis Presley, when they didn't react wildly, felt like he'd failed.

"This was Elvis' first appearance, period, and he was absolutely mortified. Now look, this was a small club, and it was all rednecks, and I don't mean any bad connotation by that, but you had better be careful looking like Elvis Presley did in a redneck joint and not singing hillbilly songs and you want to live. You got a bunch of people drinking, and then you try to come on with some music, untried, unproved, you're unknown. I swear, he just came off real good". "He said, 'Mr. Phillips, I just feel like... I failed'. I said, 'Elvis, are you kidding? You were really good" I didn't say great, I said, The only thing that could have been better would have been if you had enjoyed it on stage". You see, I was honest with him, I didn't feed him a line of bullshit, and he couldn't shoot any holes in that", recalled Sam Phillips.

"As for the Wranglers, there was friction", Scotty Moore said, "right from the start. To begin with, they hadn't realized they wouldn't all be backing Elvis uh, though, of course, that wouldn't have worked".

In the same week that Elvis’ first single was released, a certain person by the name of Tom Parker bought himself 7 ponies. This ‘Colonel’ will soon meet up with the boy from Tupelo, and together they will change the face of entertainment forever.




Some people in Memphis have indicated that this concert is recorded, but that has not yet been proved. Elvis Presley made an advertised appearance. When Elvis appeared with the Starlite Wranglers, according to Poindexter, there was a great deal of petty bickering. The other musicians didn't seem to understand Elvis' music, and they were miffed over his popularity in the local clubs. ''The other musicians were jealous of Elvis'', Poindexter remarked. ''It wasn't just that the girls liked Elvis; some of the musicians couldn't accept his new direction''.

It was Scotty Moore, Poindexter suggested, who made Elvis' sound so strong. But it was the rockabilly sound bursting out all over Memphis that really developed Elvis' talent. Poindexter believe that rockabilly music was a catalyst to Elvis' popularity. ''There were a lot of musicians who had the sound Elvis later popularized'', Poindexter remarked. Even the big name musicians felt threatened by Elvis. Poindexter laughed about the number of commercially successful show business figures who predicted so success for Elvis. ''I could tell that boy was a good one'', Poindexter concluded. ''He knew how to move a crowd''.

Composer: - Arthur Crudup
Publisher: - Crudup Music
Matrix number: - None
Recorded: - July 17, 1954 - Probably

Composer: - Bill Monroe
Publisher: - Peer International Music
Matrix number: - None
Recorded: - July 17, 1954 - Probably

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Elvis Presley - Vocal and Acoustic Rhythm Guitar (Martin Dreadnought 18)
Scotty Moore - Electric Lead Guitar (Gibson ES 295)
Bill Black - Acoustic Upright Bass (Kay Maestro M-1)
Doug Poindexter - Acoustic Rhythm Guitar
Millard Yeow - Steel Guitar
Tommy Seals - Fiddle
Clyde Rush - Guitar


THE STARLITE WRANGLERS - Country band, headed by Doug Poindexter, who appeared in the local clubs in Memphis and who cut a few records for the Sun label. Poindexter was born in Vandale, Arkansas and developed a liking for country music sometime before he moved to Memphis in the 1940s.

Like many people at that time, Doug's inspiration was Hank Williams. Inspired by Hank, he formed a band with fiddle player Tommy Seals, guitarist Clyde Rush and steel player Millard Yeow. Poindexter played acoustic guitar and sang. Sometimes in 1953 Doug named his band the Starlite Wranglers and booked them into local night clubs - the Bel Air and the Beaufort Inn in Memphis, are all he can now remember - and out on the road around the mid-South.

The next logical development was to make a record, so the band went over to see Bill Fitzgerald at Music Sales, the local record distributor. "Bill was the main record salesman in town at that time", Doug recalled. "told him I wanted to record for MGM, just like Hank had done. Well, Bill didn't exactly laugh out loud at us, but he was amused. In the end, he sent us down to see Sam Phillips. Sam listened to us and said he liked what we were doing. But he said he wanted something a little different from the Hank style".

In 1952, Scotty Moore, a regular player from Humbolt, Tennessee had got out of Army and moved to Memphis. He had contacted Sam Phillips and had been asked to scout around town for musical talent to work with. Whether it was Scotty Moore who approached Poindexter or Sam who put the two together is now unclear, but the result was that Scotty and his friend bass player Bill Black, joined the Starlite Wranglers. The band worked out a new sound while they played a residency at Eagle's Nest on Lamar Avenue in Memphis.

In 1952 Johnny Burnette occasionally sang with the band. Scotty Moore recalls, "Sam had told us he was looking for something new. He encouraged me to try things out. So I developed a mixture of finger-picking and a harder, rhythm and blues method. We tried it out on Doug's record and Sam liked it".

The Starlite Wranglers, including Scotty Moore and Bill Black, went on the road promoting his new single (SUN 202) at Sun, and Doug recalls playing a large country music show at Overton Park Shell in Memphis. After a month or so on the road, the band was contacted by Sam Phillips who asked that a new singer, Elvis Presley, be allowed to go along. He also asked Scotty and Bill to work up some songs for Elvis Presley to record. The result was that Doug Poindexter's band included Scotty and Bill and Elvis for local gigs at the Eagle's Nest on Lamar Avenue. Out of town dates were normally met without the three newcomers.

"The time they recorded Elvis' first record", Doug Poindexter remembered, "I was out of town with the band and Scotty and Bill had been left behind so they could record. Then when Elvis started to be in demand, Sam offered us all a regular gig in Shreveport. At the time, records was in funny state of business and I wasn't sure I wanted to go with in. I had a pretty good job and frankly I thought the boy Elvis would starve to death. Anyhow, Scotty and Bill wanted to go ahead and they did, but I stayed in Memphis. Shortly after that I decided to quit. I've never regretted it because I knew there were professional musicians out there who were better than I was, and they were starving. There was no way to foretell what would happen to Elvis. As far as recordings, well Sam never came up with the right song for me and I guess he soon forgot about me, maybe it was just as well. What he did want me to do was to open a country radio station in town with him - he talked to me about becoming a disc jockey, but I didn't know anything about it so I said 'no!'".

When Sam Phillips originally considered having the Starlite Wranglers back Elvis Presley, but when two of the band's members, Bill Black and Scotty Moore, first began backing Elvis Presley, the sound they created filled the bill. An agreement was reached among Elvis Presley, Bill Black and Scotty Moore that Elvis would get 50 percent of future earnings, with Bill Black and Scotty Moore each getting 25 percent. Later, when Colonel Tom Parker entered the picture, they were paid a flat fee.


The King Of The Road: Elvis Live 1954-1977
by Robert Gordon, St. Martin's Press (1996)

Saturday, July 17, 1954, marked the professional debut of Sun recording artist Elvis Presley. Scotty and Bill, while making history with Elvis, were also playing a regular weekend gig. The Starlite Wranglers were a country swing band, and their jazzy feel made them easy to dance to – therefore popular. With Elvis exhibiting such talent, there was talk of making him a, gosh, regular part of the Wranglers' show.

The Bon Air Club was on Highway 70, the outskirts of town, rural, walking distance to cotton fields. Its clientele was tough, and on Saturday nights they were as friendly with Jack Daniels and Jim Beam as they were with Jesus on Sunday. Step outside and say that, mah frien'. The steel guitar whined, the fiddle hemmed and hawed, and the Wranglers began injecting a good time into their crowd. They wore matching outfits, they told a few jokes, and they had a good time on stage, all of which kept the crowd smiling, dancing, and drinking. When their first set ended, there was a little confusion about the new kid. Scotty Moore, who was now managing him, had to get a little stern when he insisted that only he and Bill return on stage with the intermission act.


When Elvis took the stage, a murmur went through the crowd. This youngster with greasy hair and sideburns, the funny-fitting clothes, wasn't part of the usual act, and the unexpected made this audience uneasy. Bassist Bill Black thrilled to the tension that began creeping across the stage. He looked over at Scotty, who was grinning nervously as he anticipated the crowd's reaction to something they'd never heard, and then he looked at Elvis. It was time to start, but Elvis was short of breath. He turned to Scotty, then Bill, who grinned back widely. That put him at ease, and then he performed the only two songs his trio knew.

It wasn't that the crowd responded poorly, but Elvis was already anticipating the riots that were soon to greet him. When they applauded after the first song, then again after the second, and though they moved their heads in time to the beat, and though some danced and several seemed immensely pleased – Elvis, when they didn't react wildly, felt like he'd failed.

What he came to realize what how much he'd learned in just one night. When he returned the next week he was looser, more the prankster, and the fact that he was clearly starting to enjoy himself on stage allowed the audience to enjoy him more. When this performance was done, someone even WHOOPED, and in a place like the Bon Air, there was no higher sign of adulation. He quickly thanked Scotty and Bill, agreed to talk with them the next day because they had to get right back out on stage with the Wranglers, and with his head feeling a little light, he found the front door and drove home a few inches off the ground. He forgot his jacket and, too wired to be tired, returned. Inside, a few patrons recognized him and began to shout. Others turned and saw who it was, applause began to ripple through the club, and as if it was happening to someone else, Elvis found himself back on stage for a command performance. Delighted and more than a little dazed, he said something corny, stuttering a bit in his shy way, and the audience hooted because, having seen him a time or two already, he was still different but now they could relate to him. One-two-three-four, and the trio cranked it up, whipping through those same two songs and thinking sooner or later they'd better learn another one.


The record was released on July 19, the Monday between Bon Air gigs. The crowd's response and the record's reception earned Elvis a slot just before the headliner. Scotty and Bill may have been used to performing, but never in an open-air venue like the Overton Park Band Shell. The stage was as big as some of the clubs they played, and they were nervous. If they had the jitters, Elvis was an earthquake. But when the time came, they took their place, waited for Elvis to strike that first chord, and then tore into their thing.

When Elvis began swinging his whole body into the music – giving the audience a brand new image for their brand new soundtrack – they roared with approval. Bill began his own dance, a clownish version of Elvis' movements. Scotty dipped his head and looked at the floor and grinned, keeping the rhythm with his foot.

THE BON AIR NIGHT CLUB - Located at 4862 Summer Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, the club was a small, nondescript place located at the edge of town on the highway to Nashville. Inside were tables and chairs for maybe fifty patrons, a bar, and a platform for the musicians. Elvis Presley performed here several other times in the few weeks following the release of his first single release of "That's All Right" as a guest artist of Doug Poindexter's Starlite Wranglers. Scotty Moore and Bill Black, members of the Starlite Wranglers, had convinced the group to let Elvis Presley perform a few songs. The other musicians would step aside while Scotty and Bill backed Elvis Presley. Nonetheless, at that first performance at the Bon Air Night Club, Elvis Presley danced with a few of the ladies and visited with some of his friends who had come to support him. The Tiplers, Elvis' employers, were there to cheer him on. The Bon Air Night Club has since been demolished.

JULY 18, 1954 SUNDAY

As word spread among his acquaintances, Elvis Presley became a minor celebrity at the diners and bars where he spent his time. People who had barely given him the time of day before were suddenly going out of their way to say hello or buy him a drink. That initial rush of overt self-importance went over better in the bars than it did at home with his family. He was leaving to go bar hopping when his mother Gladys asked what time he'd be home - as she did every night. "When I feel like it, that's when", he answered.

"I don' care how many records you got playin', you better learn respect", she said. "I ain't one of your bar whores and don' like bein' treated like one. You talk to me in that tone again, I'll slap that attitude outta you and don' think I won't. I was 'fraid you'd pick up bad habits hangin' out in bars filled with loose women and loafers. Don't make me sorry you're my boy, Jesse wouldn't treat his mama in a bad way, and I 'spect you to be the same", she said.

Having the nights off from performing, Elvis Presley cruised the bars that had become his home away from home, intent on finding a women to dominate and control, needing to regain the potency his mother had sucked out of him. It didn't take him long to find a willing partner, and just like other similar encounters, he left feeling superior, but empty.

Late in the evening, the Locke family returns from their Florida vacation, and while driving into Memphis Dixie hears "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" on the car radio. Dixie Locke said, ''I knew what was going on, but neither he nor I had any idea of the magnitude of it. I got telegram from him saying, 'They're playing my records on the radio'. He was ecstatic over it. It was almost like disbelief that the disc jockey would even play''.

JULY 1954

In the beginning, Scotty served as Elvis' manager. He worked with Phillips for about six weeks before turning over the business of obtaining bookings to Bob Neal's Stars Incorporated, located at 160 Union Avenue (now Holiday Convention Center), a popular disc jockey on WMPS radio in Memphis. In 1955, Bob Neal formed Elvis Presley Enterprises in conjunction with Special Products, Incorporated.

"I think about a week, I became Elvis' manager", recalled Scotty Moore, "but it was real shortly because as soon as the record started doin' stuff around Memphis, three or four different... I won't say unscrupulous... but of undoubtful intent started converging on him, for this, that and the other... and he didn't know what to tell 'em, so Sam said, 'I tell you what - sign a contract with him. That way you can tell them you're already under contract and that'll be the end of that'. So really that was all the contract was intended for".

BOB NEAL - Music agent born Robert Neal Hopgood in the Belgian Congo in 1917. His family moved to the United States in 1930. Bob Neal became a disc jockey for radio station WMPS in Memphis during the 1940s. He had his own program called "The Bob Neal Farm Show", on which he played the ukulele and told jokes. Neal was also the owner of the Bob Neal Record Shop on Main Street in Memphis. In addition, Neal hosted a fifteen minute afternoon radio show called "The High Noon Roundup" before a studio audience of which Elvis Presley was sometimes a member, especially when Neal featured the local Blackwood Brothers.

In 1952 Bob Neal became a promoter, establishing the Memphis Promotions Agency at 160 Union Avenue (now Holiday Convention Center)). From January 1, 1955, to March 15, 1956, he served as Elvis Presley's manager, collecting 15 percent of Elvis' earnings off the top, after which Colonel Tom Parker sneaked into the picture, taking over from Bob Neal. Even after Elvis Presley signed his first contract with Colonel Tom Parker on August 15, 1955, he was still contracted to Neal. Elvis Presley in essence agreed to pay Neal his 15 percent in addition to 25 percent to Parker. In 1956, with the partnership of Sam Phillips, Bob Neal founded Stars Incorporated (Suite 1916 in Memphis Sterick Building, located at 165 Madison Avenue), to handle recording artists. In 1958 Bob Neal became Johnny Cash's first manager. Neal also has handled Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty, Warren Smith, Sonny James, Lynn Anderson, Stonewall Jackson, Bobby Helms, Nat Stuckey, and others. Unfortunately, Bob Neal let his most promising artist, Elvis Presley, slip through his fingers in 1956 because he lacked the connections that Colonel Tom Parker could provide.

When Neal's wife, Helen, first saw Elvis Presley perform at the Overton Park Shell in Memphis, she remarked to Bob, "This isn't just another singer, this boy's different". In the book The Maid, The Man And The Fans: Elvis Is The Man, by Nancy Rooks and Mae Gutter, they erroneously claimed that Elvis Presley's first public appearance was for his friend Sonny Neal, the son of Bob Neal. Sonny Neal was running for class president at the time.

Robert Neal Hopgood died on May 9, 1983 in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 65.

ELVIS PRESLEY ENTERPRISES - Company formed in conjunction with Special Products, Incorporated, to market more than 180 Elvis-related items in 1955, located at 160 Union Avenue in Memphis. The items included statues, wastebaskets, books, dolls, mittens, lipstick, scarves, sneakers, record cases, shirts, jeans, bracelets, photo wallets, polo shirts, pyjamas, belts, belt buckles, handkerchiefs, billfolds, handbags, medallions, necklaces, charm bracelets, perfume, wristwatches, and hats. The company was formed by Elvis Presley and Bob Neal when Neal managed Elvis Presley. It was dissolved when Colonel Tom Parker became Elvis Presley's manager.

JULY 19, 1954 MONDAY

Elvis Presley's first single "That's All Right"/"Blue Moon Of Kentucky" (SUN 209) was delivered to Memphis record stores. Stanley Kesler delivered the first Elvis Presley singles to Charles Records on Main Street across the Suzore II Theater, and the fifteen-year-old Eldene Beard purchased a copy at 9:00 a.m., and was probably the first Elvis Presley record ever sold. Eldene Beard first heard the record on WHBQ radio and was the first in line when the store opened on the day of the record's release. She told Stanley Kesler that she had been waiting for the record since it was first played on Dewey Phillips' program. Miss Beard was typical of the young fans reacting to the new music.

When the record came out officially less than two weeks after Elvis' first session and from the start sold like nothing else Sam Phillips had ever released. Like nothing else, in fact, that Memphis had ever experienced. ''May we please call your attention to our new Sun release 209, ''That's All Right'' and ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'' by Elvis Presley'', Sam wrote to Billboard writer Bob Rolontz, who penned the rhythm and blues column. ''This record was put on the air here in Memphis last Friday, July 16, and sales have been phenomenal... According to our local distributor, it is being bought by practically every operator with all types of locations... and retail purchasers range from teenage white kids to dyed-in-the-wool Negro blues enthusiasts on the ''THAT'S ALL RIGHT'' side, while the hillbilly set young and old are setting the pace on the ''BLUE MOON'' side. Ruben Cherry, owner of ''Home Of The Blues'' record store on Beale Street, says, ''The potential of this record is unlimited because of its apparently universal appeal. I've never seen anything like it''''.

JULY 19, 1954 MONDAY

Ed Leek, a Humes High School classmate who was premed at Memphis State, described going down to the plant and watching on Chelsea Avenue, the first records come off the press with Elvis Presley. Precise sales figures are hard to come by, but we do know that "That's All Right" sold 6,300 copies during its first three weeks on the market. By November it had probably sold over 25,000. Later, "Good Rockin' Tonight" probably sold less than 20,000 copies during its first few months on the market.

JULY 23, 1954 FRIDAY

Since Presley quickly had an undeniable Memphis hit, Sam Phillips switched his concentration to opening up other Southern markets. Phillips single-handedly merchandised "That's All Right"/"Blue Moon Of Kentucky" in the areas outside of Memphis. Climbing into his car, Sam Phillips drove through Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi placing Elvis' record in small record stores, taverns, shoe shine stands, and radio stations. In Tennessee and Mississippi, the one-stop distributors were not convinced that Presley's record was strong enough to attract large orders from record stores. This forced Sam Phillips to use direct sales techniques. He drove as far as Texas and Florida to drink whisky with the one-stop distributors and convince them to take two to three hundred copies of "That's All Right" on consignment. Before he approached the one-stop wholesalers, however, Phillips spent three days stopping at radio stations. The ever present bottle of whisky, a few words of praise about the station, and a promise to share the profits brought Elvis' record airplay. Soon "That's All Right" was on the Florida and Texas airwaves. Sam Phillips quickly alerted distributors in the other Southern states to Presley's popularity; one-stop distributors couldn't resist ordering a record that was being played on the radio, and they ordered by the boxful. On July 23, 1954, Alta Hayes of Big State Record Distributors in Dallas, Texas, placed the first large wholesale order for Sun Record (SUN 209). Dallas airplay was the reason that Presley's music broke throughout the Lone Star state, and it was not long before Elvis Presley performed in Texas.

In late July, 1953, when Webb Pierce made an unadvertised appearance at the Eagle's Nest, Lamar Avenue in Memphis. Pierce was on the way to Nashville, and he dropped into the Eagle's Nest to watch a bill featuring Doug Poindexter and the Starlite Wranglers. The special intermission act was Elvis Presley. "I remember that Elvis went up and was going to shake hands with Webb Pierce, and Pierce called him a son of a bitch. He told him (Elvis) that he would never appear with a singer who performed like Elvis", Poindexter continued. "I couldn't figure, it didn't make sense to me".


Elvis Presley plays for the second time with the Starlite Wranglers again at the Bon Air Club (8pm), but Dixie Locke cannot attend because she is underage. The Bon Air nightspot with an alcohol-fuelled redneck clientele unlikely to be endeared by Elvis Presley's music or dress code. Regardless, it was arranged that Elvis could come in as a guest singer and do his two numbers. Sam Phillips was there, encouraging him, as Elvis suffered a bad case of stage fright. Bobbie Moore came along too and she said, ''There wasn't a big crowd in there. They didn't go wild or anything. He'd get up and sing a song or two and later he would do it again''. Mr. and Mrs. Tiplers, Elvis' employers at Crown Electric, cheered on their deliveryman as well''.

Sam Phillips was encouraged enough to call Bob Neal, who, aside from his morning show at the radio, booked and promoted concerts locally. Sam talked Neal into letting Elvis appear on the big ''Slim Whitman Show'' to be held at the Overton Park Shell later that month. Bob Neal insisted that Elvis Presley join the union to be able to participate.

JULY 25, 1954 SUNDAY

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis,
July 25, 1954
Hillbilly Hoedown Features
Popular Music Favorites

Favorite folk ballads in a sylvan setting are on the entertainment bill this week as Slim Whitman, one of the top-ranking rural rhythm experts, brings his troupe here for a show at 8 pm.

Friday at the Overton Park Shell. Whitman is based with the Louisiana Hayride group at Shreveport, La., and is currently hitting the top with a variety of rustic records.

His left handed style with the guitar is as unusual as his style of singing. Also featured will be Billy Walker, a tall Texan, "Sugar-Foot" Collins, "Sonny Harvelle, Tinker Fry, and "Curly" Harris along fit the laughs. Advance tickets go on sale tomorrow at Walgreen's Main and Union, Bob Neal, WMPS radio disc jockey and impresario of the Friday show, said yesterday.

In Person The Sensational Radio-Recording Star
Slim Whitman with Billy Walker, Ellis Presley and many others
Add. reserved seats today at Walgreen's Main and Union $1.00
Tonight at Shell. $1.25 reserved. Kids 75c. General admission $1.00


JULY 26, 1954 MONDAY

Sam Phillips persuades Bob Neal the WMPS disc jockey whose noontime hillbilly and gospel show Elvis Presley frequently attended, to add the young singer to his upcoming "hillbilly hoedown", a package show starring Louisiana Hayride performer Slim Whitman and Billy Walker, to be held this Friday at Memphis Overton Park Shell

On this same day Elvis Presley signs a formal contract with Sun Records, which must be countersigned once again by his parents. It is for a minimum of eight sides over a period of two years, with the contract renewable at the record company's option for a second period of two years. The royalty rate is 3 percent of the wholesale price.


At lunchtime Marion Keisker took Elvis Presley at Crown Electric just down the street to the Press-Scimitar Building at 495 Union Avenue. Memphis Press-Scimitar staffer, reporter Edwin Howard, the editors' son, interviewed Elvis Presley during his lunch break at Crown Electric Company on 475 North Dunlap on July 27, 1954.
Elvis Presley told Howard that he felt he needed only a minor break to become a mainstream musical act. Howard was intrigued by Elvis Presley and wrote the next day glowingly about his music.

In 1956, Elvis Presley told Carlton Brown: "When my first record came out I was a little leery of it. I thought everybody would laugh".

There was no laughter in Memphis, however; after a few hours of airplay, Elvis Presley was an instant star. The article was headed "In A Spin" and led off with: "Elvis Presley can be forgiven for going round and round in more ways than one these days. A 19-year-old Humes High graduate, he has just signed a recording contract with Sun Records Company of Memphis, and already has a disk out that promise to be the biggest hit that Sun has ever pressed... "The odd thing about it", says Marion Keisker of the Sun office, "is that both sides seem to be equally popular on popular, folk, and race record programs. This boy has something that seems to appeal to everybody. We've just gotten the sample records out to the disk jockey’s and distributors in other cities, but we got big orders yesterday from Dallas and Atlanta".

Memphis Press-Scimitar Photographer Jim Reid recalls:
My first meeting with Elvis was in 1954 when he had just recorded his first songs at Sun, which was just up the street from the Press- Scimitar. The lady that worked there, Marion Keisker, she brought him down one afternoon.

That week I was working night shift - 3pm till 11.30am. At that time we used the big old speed-rapids, the 4x5's - which are now obsolete in news work, but all of our work was done with those cameras then. You had to load up all your holders before you went out on an assignment, and consequently you had two shots to a holder - one on each side. You didn't like to waste your shots because you hated to load holders. So as I was about to go out on assignment, one of our reporters dropped this young man down at our studio and said, "Jim, I need you to take a picture. This is Elvis Presley - he's a singer"

At the time, I was 24-year-old... I looked at this individual and I had to turn away from him! I'd never heard the name Elvis before, and he was dressed in the most nondescript clothes you could imagine. His head was down and he was quite shy, and he looked like he wanted to run! I thought Elvis Presley? This guy's a singer? I had to turn to the wall and mentally say "Sure he is!" I sat him down and took two pictures - that's all. I asked him, "Raise your chin up" and he raised it. I shot the picture and flipped the holder over… and again his chin was back down. He was a very shy individual - very shy. I shot the second picture* then he went back over to the reporter's desk...and that was my first encounter with Elvis''.


Elvis Presley receives his weekly paycheck of $46 from Crown Electric Company, representing forty hours at $1 an hour and four of overtime.

Billboard magazine reviewed "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon Of Kentucky". The review called Presley a "potent new chanter who can sock over a tune from either the country or the rhythm and blues markets". The review concluded with praise for "a strong new talent".

On the same day, the Memphis Press-Scimitar published an interview with Elvis by Edwin Howard in his "The Front Row" column titled "Overnight Sensation".

The article reported that Elvis' first single was "getting an amazing number of plays on all Memphis radio stations". Accompanying the story was a photo of Elvis Presley sporting a longish flat-top haircut with sideburns and a ducktail. He was wearing a plaid, western-style suit and a bow tie. The Press-Scimitar also published the first ad for an appearance by Elvis Presley. He was listed as one of the performers on the July 30th Slim Whitman show in Memphis.

"The morning of July 27, 1954, Marion Keisker phoned me from Sun Records, where she was Sam Phillips right arm, and asked if she might bring a promising young Sun artist in to see me", recalled Edwin Howard. "Marion thought he had something. He had first come to Sun months before to use the studio's rental facilities to make a record for his mother on her birthday. Phillips had been intrigued and eventually recorded the boy commercially.

They would have to come in on the boy's lunch hour", Marion said, "because he was still driving a truck for Crown Electric Company. I said, 'I'd be glad to see them, and shortly after noon they got off the elevator on the fifth floor of The Press-Scimitar and came over to my desk.

The boy's hair looked as if it had been cut by a lawn mower, but the trademarks were already there - flat top, duck tail and sideburns. He was shy and, except for 'Yes sir' and 'No sir', let Marion do all the talking".

Here is the item that ran the next day in The Front Row - the first 'interview' ever done with Elvis Presley:

IN A SPIN - Elvis Presley can be forgiven for going round and round in more ways than one these days. A 19-year-old Humes High graduate, he has just signed a recording contract with Sun Records Company of Memphis, and already has a disc out that promises to be the biggest hit that Sun has ever pressed.

It all started when Elvis dropped into Sun's studios one day to cut a personal record at his own expense. Sam Phillips, president of the company, monitored the session and was so impressed with the unusual quality in the young man's voice that he jotted down his name and address.

Some time later, Phillips came across a ballad which he thought might be right for Presley's voice. They recorded it; it didn't click. But they tried again; this time with "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", a folk standard, backed by "That's All Right".

Just now reaching dealers' shelves, the record is getting an amazing number of plays on all Memphis radio stations "The odd thing about it", says Marion Keisker of the Sun office, "is that both sides seem to be equally popular on popular, folk and race record programs. This boy has something that seems to appeal to everybody".

"We've just gotten the sample records out to the disc jockey’s and distributors in other cities", she said, "but we got big orders yesterday from Dallas and Atlanta". Sun started by Sam Phillips, former WREC engineer, several years ago, has 40 distributors from coast to coast, so there's a good chance of a big national sale.

Elvis, son of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Presley, 462 Alabama Street, is a truck driver for Crown Electric Company. He has been singing and playing the guitar since he was about 13 - just, picket it up himself. The home folks who have been hearing him on records so often during the past few weeks can see Elvis in person when he's presented by disc jockey Bob Neal in a hillbilly show at Overton Park Shell Friday night along with veteran entertainers from the "Louisiana Hayride".

EDWIN HOWARD - Since 1942, Edwin Howard had been the entertainment columnist and subsequently Amusement editor at the Memphis Press-Scimitar. On July 27, 1954, at Marion Keisker’s suggestion, Howard became the first reporter to interview Elvis Presley for his column, "The Front Row".

Born on Grand island, Florida, on July 26, 1924, Howard didn't inhabit the hardscrabble world of the honky tonks; instead, he frequented the best restaurants and clubs and counted himself on good terms with the Memphis' grandees. He was, among other things, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and co-founder of the Memphis Shakespeare Festival.

In early January 1959, Howard thought he'd try something a little different. He convinced Sam Phillips to let him cut a record at Sun Records ("More Pretty Girls Than One"/"Forty Leven Times" Phillips International 3540), which he would then turn into a feature piece for the local newspaper.

After the demise on the Memphis Press-Scimitar in 1983, Howard resurfaced as the lifestyles columnist at The Memphis Business Journal. In 1992, Edwin Howard moved to Washington DC., but continued to write for the Memphis Business Journal until the paper dropped its arts and leisure features in 1998.

JULY 1954

In July 1954, as Dewey Phillips plugged the upcoming country music concert that was to take place in late July at the Overton Park Shell, he gave Elvis Presley's career yet another lift. Like a carnival showman, Dewey Phillips urged his Memphis listeners to come out and see the new local sensation - Elvis Presley. "That boy's talent is wonderful", Phillips screamed at his listeners.

Publicity for the Overton show had at first featured Slim Whitman in an outdoor concert, and early posters didn't even list Elvis' name. There proved to be so much interest in Presley's music that his name was soon added to the bill. Ads in the Memphis Press Scimitar displayed Ellis Presley on one occasion. When his name finally appeared, it was due largely to Dewey Phillips' publicity and influence.


Again, Elvis Presley plays for the third time with the Starlite Wranglers at the Bon Air Club (8pm).

On this day, Sam Phillips of Sun Record Company send a letter of two pages to Philadelphia, created three days after Elvis signs with Sun. This letter to Sam Hodge of Paramount Record Manufacturing in Philadelphia, PA is devoted entirely to Sun 209. Phillips fairly pleads with Hodge to ''please get on this record up there… both sides are hitting, and in every category: Pop, Rhythm and blues and Hillbilly… this record has the potential to sell in any territory in the country… it is definitely going to be one of the biggest records of the year, and you know we can use the business''.

What’s hilarious and remarkable about this particular letter is that nowhere, not once in this two-page letter, does Phillips mention the words ''Elvis'', ''Presley'', ''That's All Right'' or ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky''! That’s because Elvis was a total nobody, an absolute zero at this point, so why bother mentioning him? Phillips just kept calling it ''this record'' and ''209''. How funny and historic is that?

Sun Records office manager Marion Keisker added a customary ''SCP:mk'' at the very end of this one (meaning, of course, dictated by Sam C. Phillips, typed by Marion Keisker).


Elvis Presley appeared for the third time with Doug Poindexter and The Starlite Wranglers at the Bon Air Night Club, and his band expressed some concern about the upcoming Overton Park Shell show. Scotty Moore and Bill Black suggested that Elvis Presley concentrate upon country songs.

The audience would be a traditional country music crowd, and it would be good practice to perform some old country standards. At the Bon Air Night Club that evening Elvis Presley sang his favourite, "Old Shep", followed with "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", and ending his brief set with "That's When Your Heartaches Begin".

The Bon Air crowd was not particular about which songs he sang, giving him an opportunity to practice and get comfortable with the idea of doing only country tunes the next day. Backstage, Bill Black tried to further calm Elvis Presley down about the Overton Park Shell show; Elvis Presley was excited but also anxious about playing such a large arena.


When Elvis Presley returned to the Bon Air Night Club, he was looser, more the prankster, and the fact that he was clearly starting to enjoy himself on stage allowed the audience to enjoy him more. When this performance was done, some even whooped, there was no higher sign of adulation. He quickly thanked Scotty Moore and Bill Black, agreed to talk with them the next day because they had to get right back out on stage with the Wranglers, and with his head feeling a little light, he found the front door and drove home a few inches off the ground. He forgot his jacked and, too wired to be tired, returned. Inside, a few patrons recognized him and began to shout. Others turned and saw who it was, applause began to ripple through the club, and as if it was happening to someone else, Elvis Presley himself back on stage for a command performance. Delighted and more than a little dazed, he said something corny, stuttering a bit in his shy way, and the audience hooted because, having seen him a time or two already, he was still different but now they could relate to him. One two-three-four, and the trio cranked it up, whipping through those same two songs and thinking sooner or later they'd better learn another one.

Composer: - Red Foley-Willis Arthur
Publisher: - L. Writh Music Limited
Elvis performance: - July 29, 1954
Recorded: - Unknown

Composer: - Arthur Crudup
Publisher: - Crudup Music
Elvis performance: - July 29, 1954
Recorded: - Unknown

Composer: - Bill Monroe
Publisher: - Peer International Music - Southern Music Publishing
Elvis performance: - July 29, 1954
Recorded: - Unknown
Composer: - William J. Raskin-***Roy Brown-Fred Fisher
Publisher: - Fisher Music Corporation
Elvis performance: - July 29, 1954
Recorded: - Unknown

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Elvis Presley - Vocal and Acoustic Rhythm Guitar (Martin Dreadnought 18)
Scotty Moore - Electric Lead Guitar (Gibson ES 295)
Bill Black - Acoustic Upright Bass (Kay Maestro M-1)
Doug Poindexter - Acoustic Rhythm Guitar
Millard Yeow - Steel Guitar
Tommy Seals - Fiddle
Clyde Rush – Guitar



Sam Phillips send a letter to Nate Duroff, manager of the Monarch Record Manufacturing Company in Los Angeles, California and that read:

Dear Nate,

''We have instructed Steve Shaw to send you a new set of 78 mothers on Sun 209. The numbers on these are U 128-2 and U 129-2. We had a few complaints on the other set of stampers here on the record and rather than take any chances on it we have recut the masters and ordered new matrix on both sides of this number''.

''I think it is safe for you to go ahead and press from the stampers that you now have, because the number of complaints was few, but since the record looks like it is going to be a tremendously big one we just didn't want to take any chances on it''.

''As soon as you get the mothers on these please have stampers made and discontinue pressing from the 78 stampers that you are presently using''.

''Nate, please get on this record out there. It is the BIGGER record - bar one - that has ever hit the Memphis territory. Both sides are hitting, and in every category: pop, R&B and hillbilly. Out Memphis distributor in eight days has sold more than four thousand on it, and I am sure that, although tastes may be a lot different on the West Coast, this record has the necessary potential to sell in any territory in the country. I know you will do what you can, but I just want to urge you not to miss a bet on it because it is definitely going to be one of the biggest records of the year and you know we can use the business''.



Alta Hayes of Dallas-based Big State Records Distributors, who had placed the first large order of Elvis' record, wrote to Sam Phillips and asked what Elvis' group was called. Sam Phillips ignored the letter, but Elvis Presley saw it and began thinking about a name for Scotty Moore and Bill Black. By late July 1954, Elvis' group was billed as the Blue Moon Boys, a tactic that allowed the group to advertise themselves as two acts. The general consensus was that Elvis Presley's early Sun sound was the result of a large backup band. Sam Phillips didn't attempt to dissuade anyone from entertaining this idea because he felt that once anyone saw Elvis Presley and his two backup musicians, they would be doubly impressed with what could only be a very special and unique musical aggregate.

As July 1954 progressed, "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" received continuous airplay on four Memphis radio stations. Bob Neal, at radio station WMPS, was one of Elvis' earliest admorers. Each day on his "High Noon Roundup", Neal played "Blue Moon Of Kentucky". Invariably, a telephone call would come in asking why he wasn't also playing "That's All Right". Neal realized that his predominantly country music audience apparently loved anything Elvis Presley sang, and this intensified his interest in young Presley. Soon he was frequently the Eagle's Nest to scout Elvis Presley's act.

It was as a result of watching Elvis Presley tear up the crowd at the Eagle's Nest that Bob Neal finally approached Elvis Presley about a management contract. Not only did Elvis fill the cavernous Eagle's Nest, but he elected a special response from the audience. "I'd never seen anything like it", Neal confessed to Dewey Phillips. Not one to keep a secret, Dewey Phillips told his "Red, Hot and Blue" radio audience that promoter Bob Neal was scouting Elvis Presley.

JULY 30, 1954 FRIDAY


Advertised as a Hillbilly Hoedown, appearing in addition to Slim Whitman and Billy Walker were 'Sugarfoot' Collins, 'Sonny' Harvelle, Tinker Fry and 'Curly' Harris. The show began at 8:00 on the night of July, 30, 1954, and they started with Elvis, Scotty and Bill performing 'That's Alright Mama'.

Elvis was so nervous he stood up on the balls of his feet and shook his leg in time with the music, a move he sometimes used in the studio. To his shock and horror the young girls in the audience went crazy, yelling and applauding. Scotty said, "We didn't know what was going on when all those people started screaming and hollering."

Next they did 'Blue Moon of Kentucky' and when Elvis got offstage he asked why people were yelling at him. Someone told him it was because he was shaking his leg, which with the baggy pleated pants created a wild gyrating effect in time with the music. Later in the show they returned and did the same two numbers along with 'I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin)', a new song they had been working on. The following year they returned to the Shell for the second and last time for Bob Neal's eighth annual Country Music Jamboree.



JULY 30, 1954 FRIDAY

Some have indicated that this concert is recorded, but that has not yet been proved.

Before Elvis Presley, with Sam Phillips, Dixie Locke and his parents, on stage, Charlie Torian Sr. enjoyed backstage being a Memphis Fire Department lieutenant. For one, he could drive his own blazing red car instead of riding on the back of a pumper unit. For another, under the guise of inspecting for safety, Torian could gain access to just about any place in Memphis, including the Overton Park Shell.

Even backstage, Charlie Torian Sr. often brought his son, Charlie Junior, along to these 'inspections' were a concert was involved. On the evening of July 30, 1954, the two Charlies found themselves backstage. Charlie Senior wanted to photograph his son with a country music star.

Slim Whitman would be fine, but in a pinch, any star would do. Backstage area was more or less deserved as they entered. Over in the corner, a young man stood quietly, looking nervous. The Torians approached the young man and this conversation followed: "Are you one of the singers?". "Yes, sir". "What's your name, son". "Elvis". "Elvis what?". "Elvis Presley, sir". "Are you famous, son?". "No, sir, not yet".

Torian asked Elvis if he would pose with four-year-old Charlie Torian Junior. Elvis obliged. Torian Jr. remembered Elvis' coat was frayed, that someone, perhaps Gladys, had done a sort of haphazard job of sewing loose ends of the collar back together - obvious up close, but not noticed from the audience.

Elvis Presley made his first advertised appearance. Depending on the newspaper ad, he was listed either second or third on the bill behind Slim Whitman and Billy Walker on the 8:00 p.m. show at Memphis' outdoor Overton Park Municipal Shell. Also appearing were comedians "Curly" Harris, "Sonny" Harvelle, "Sugarfoot" Collins, and Tinker Fry. Of the several ads for this event, on July 28 in the Press-Scimitar, misspelled his name "Ellis Presley".

Although not known for certain, Elvis Presley most likely sang both sides of his first single, although some recall that he also sang an encore, repeating "Blue Moon Of Kentucky". Tickets for the show went on sale Monday, July 26, and cost $1.00 in advance and $1.25 the night of the show. The concert was promoted by Bob Neal.

Composer: - Arthur Crudup
Publisher: - Crudup Music
Recorded: - July 30, 1954 - Probably

When Elvis Presley came out on stage at the Overton Park Shell shortly after eight o'clock on July 30, 1954, he was to create a signal moment in rock and roll history. With Scotty Moore standing to Elvis' right and Bill Black behind him to his left, he burst into "That's All Right". After a few moments of silence, the young girls in the audience began clapping and screaming. As indication of Elvis' indefinable appeal, this wasn't the first time that Elvis' young fans had gone crazy. This time, however, it was on the largest scale he'd experienced. As Elvis Presley recalled, "I came out, and I was doing a fast-type tune, one of my first records, and everybody was hollering and I didn't know what they were hollering at". This comment was typical of Elvis Presley in 1954; he had no idea that his actions were creating a group of young rock and roll enthusiasts. "You'd see this frenzied reaction, particularly from the young girls", Bob Neal recalled. "We hadn't gone out and arranged for anybody to squeal and scream. For Elvis they just did it automatically". Dewey Phillips recalled, "I introduced him and stayed on stage while he sang. He went to "That's All Right" and started to shake and that damned auditorium just blew apart. He was nobody, didn't even have his name on the posters, but the people wouldn't let him leave".

Composer: - Bill Monroe
Publisher: - Peer International Music - Southern Music Publishing
Recorded: - July 30, 1954 - Probably

Composer: - Bill Monroe
Publisher: - Peer International Music - Southern Music Publishing
Recorded: - July 30, 1954 - Probably

Malcolm Yelvington, another Sun Record artist, commented that the Overton Park Shell show firmly established Elvis' performing skills, Yelvington remembered that Elvis stole the evening from Slim Whitman. When Whitman walked off stage, Yelvington asked him what he thought about Elvis Presley: "Well, if that young man keeps going someday he might make it".

Later the show, Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black returned to the stage and repeated the same first two songs. Marion Keisker remembers that they also did a new song they were working on, "I'll Never Let You Go". "Now I'm a restrained person, in public anyway, and I heard somebody screaming, and I discovered it was me - the staid mother of a young son", say Marion. "I was standing out there screeching like I'd lost me total stupid mind. The rest of the audience reacted the same way".

Composer: - Jimmy Wakely - Arranged by Elvis Presley
Publisher: - Gordon Music Company - Peter Maurice Music
Recorded: - July 30, 1954 - Probably

Scotty Moore recalls, "We were all scared to death. Here we come with two little funky instruments and a whole park full of people, and Elvis, instead of just standing flat-footed and tapping his foot, well, he was kind of joggling. That was just his way of tapping his foot. Plus I think with those old loose britches that we wore - they weren't pegged, they had lots of material and pleated fronts - you shook your leg, and it made it look like all hell was going on under there".

"See, standing up and playing rhythm guitar, he had the tendency to rise up on the balls of his feet... where most people would stand flat-footed and either tap their foot or heel, well he'd kinda come up on the balls of his feet and just kinda'... quiver! And back then remember they had the old big-legged pants, and of course it made it look like he was doin' four times what he really was!".

And there was several little girls started squealin' and carrin' on - we didn't know what in the world was goin' on, and he didn't either. When he came off stage, Bob Neal and Sam said, 'What's wrong with them?'. I mean, that wasn't an acceptable thing, really, at that point in time. And somebody told him that they were screamin' and hollerin' because of his shakin'. He said, 'Hmm, okay!'. And, or course, from there he just gradually built that up".

Felton Jarvis was another important observer at Elvis' Overton Shell show, It was the first time Jarvis had seen Elvis Presley perform, and he was intrigued by Presley's ability to manipulate the audience. The crowd came alive during Elvis' spontaneous performance, one in which a simple nervous knee jerk excited young girls to fever pitch. In later years, Felton Jarvis produced more than hundred of Elvis' records.

Marion Keisker remembered talking with a woman in the audience before Elvis' show. "Who did you come to hear?", the woman asked. "Elvis Presley", Marion answered. "Who?", the woman said. "After this show you won't ask me again", Marion confidently replied.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Elvis Presley - Vocal and Acoustic Rhythm Guitar (Martin Dreadnought 18)
Scotty Moore - Electric Lead Guitar (Gibson ES 295)
Bill Black - Acoustic Upright Bass (Kay Maestro M-1)

"I put him on a show with Slim Whitman at the Overton Park Shell", recalled Sam Phillips, "and I was late gettin' out there. He was gonna go on... 'course he preceded Slim and Billy Walker, and I was a little late getting there and there was a crowd of people so I parked my car...''

''I was real busy and Elvis met me and his hands were clammy and he said, 'Mr. Phillips, I've never done this before, I am scared to death!'. Now before that I had taken him out to a little club, it's up here about six or eight blocks, and that was the first experience that the guy ever made".

"Overton Park Shell was the first public appearance and I said, 'Elvis, man, you're gonna be okay'. See, Slim was hot, I mean he had "Indian Love Call" and this guy could sing like a mockingbird. For what he was, Slim Whiteman was a hell of a singer, let's face it. And Slim was big and Elvis was scared to death and he was just afraid that Slim Whiteman and Billy Walker fans just wasn't his and he might get booed off the stage". "I told him not to worry. He went out and was still nervous - Elvis Presley was one of the most nervous people on stage that ever was, until the day he died".

The giant country music extravaganzas at the Overton Shell were greeted with great anticipations in Memphis. "We loved those shows", Kenneth Herman remarked, "because we got to see the new musicians". The concerts also gave the country music moguls a chance to scout new singers. Bob Neal was one of the local promoters involved in the show, and it was he who signed Elvis Presley for a special appearance with headliner Slim Whitman. Before placing Elvis Presley on the Overton Shell show, however, Neal went over to Sun Records and talked with Sam Phillips.

It was clear that Neal's questions were directed toward a possible management contract. He asked Sam Phillips which distributors were selling Elvis' record. Phillips responded that one-stop wholesalers in Dallas and Atlanta had placed orders for 250 records based on the radio play of "That's All Right". Sam Phillips convinced Neal that "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" was making inroads in the country market. In order to test Elvis' popularity further, though, Bob Neal booked him into the Overton Shell. Bob Neal was interested in managing Elvis Presley, but he wanted to make sure that young Elvis Presley was not a passing fad.

By the time the two o'clock show approached on the afternoon of July 30, 1954, Elvis Presley had become even more nervous than usual. Ready to go on stage, a large man from the musician's union suddenly confronted him. Elvis Presley was told that he could not perform unless he joined the musicians union. After borrowing some money, Elvis Presley quickly filled out a union card. The incident only served to further unnerve him; he perspired profusely, and felt sick to his stomach.

Although stiff and nervous throughout the afternoon show, Elvis Presley made it through a performance, which was a virtual repeat of the previous night's effort at the Bon Air Night Club. He left the stage to an indifferent scattering of applause, depressed about his performance.

"My very first appearance after I started recording... was on a show in Memphis as an extra added single at an outdoor auditorium", Elvis Presley remarked in 1956. "I came on stage and I was scared stiff". Throughout his career, Elvis Presley never fully overcame his pre-performance fears. Although he was a master showman, Elvis Presley was always as nervous as an amateur prior to going on stage. Following the first show, Elvis Presley quickly left the Overton Shell.

Before Elvis Presley performed during the evening show, Elvis Presley had time to eat dinner. Depressed, he ate only one cheeseburger and drank half of his shake at a nearby truck stop restaurant. "You knew Elvis was upset when he couldn't eat", Ronald Smith remarked. Bill Black kidded Elvis Presley about his loss of appetite. Excusing himself from Bill Black and Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley took a long walk around the Overton Park. Chet Atkins attended the evening show at the Overton Shell, watching in amazement as Elvis Presley brought the crowd to its feet. "He moved different", Atkins remarked. "Instead of stomping his foot... when he'd sing, he'd wiggle his leg or his hip". Offstage, Marty Robbins watched Elvis from the wings; when he congratulated Elvis Presley on a good show, he winked and told Elvis Presley he was going to work up a version of Presley's record. Although not the first to cover the song, Robbins recorded "That's All Right" on December 7, 1954. A few weeks before, Smiley Maxedon had recorded it for Columbia Records.


OVERTON PARK BAND SHELL - Located at Overton Park, 2080 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, with 4,000 seats, opened his doors on 7:30 Sunday, September 1936 of Mayor Watkins Overton in his dedication speech: "We are not satisfied to made Memphis a great commercial center. We want to make Memphis the cultural and musical center of the Mid- South as well".

The trademark, pastel-coloured rainbow speaks of happy times and momentous events. The Depression's effect on Memphis was in part responsible for the creation of the $11.933 Shell.

The Public Works Administration arrived in Memphis in 1934 and expended almost $9 million for large-scale construction projects. Memphians went to work painting, building, repairing streets, and resurfacing sidewalks - from which the Shell evolved quite naturally in 1936.

As the Depression era waned, the Shell continued as a popular entertainment outlet. The Memphis Open Air Theater (MOAT), which evolved from local thespians performing their magic on an impromptu dirt stage in 1932, began its premiere season of five shows in 1938. Led by the original producers, Mt. and Mrs. Ralph Dunbar, MOAT traversed a 14-year, 89-production roller coaster ride through budget highs and lows. New York's Metropolitan Opera acquired several vocalists from the playlists of MOAT, one of whom remains a Memphis favorite: Marguerite Piazza. She debuted with MOAT in 1950 playing the lead in Rose Marie and went on to become a MOAT star as well as one of the Shell's most beloved regulars.

Peaking at season attendance highs of 105,000 during 1946-1948, MOAT's days in the sun faded in 1951 as it sank under the weight of continuing deficits and sagging attendance, caused in part by the advent of air conditioning and television.

Resiliently, the Shell revived again in the 1950s with Music Under The Stars, a Tuesday evening series led by Noel Gilbert and the Memphis Concert Orchestra. These programs marked a significant change for Shell attendees: free admission. That Tuesday tradition continued for over 30 years, funded by a partnership of the Park Commission and National Federation of Musicians.

It was also in the 1950s that the Shell unwittingly became the launching pad for a uniquely American form of music: rock and roll. Elvis Presley made his first major concert appearance in Memphis at the Overton Park Band Shell on July 30, 1954 as the opening act for Slim Whitman marked the "coming out party" for rock music at the Shell. Less than two weeks later, on August 10, 1954, Elvis Presley performed two show at the Overton Park Band Shell. One year later, on August 5, 1955, Elvis Presley was the headline act at Overton Park. Opening for Elvis Presley, and making their first concert appearance were Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two. By this time Elvis' popularity was well established; he was pushed farther into fame with every hysterical scream from the crowd.

Following his performances, Elvis Presley's work at the Shell fuelled public recognition, and his career skyrocketed, igniting national enthusiasm - and disdain - for this new music phenomenon. Whether viewed as a gift of a curse, rock and roll was here to stay.

The Shell played host to other rock and roll pioneers - many were artists for Memphis' Sun Record label: Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Warren Smith, Roy Orbison, Eddie Bond, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Then showcase rambles joined hometown favourites from the rhythm and blues sector. Booker T. and the MGs, Rufus Thomas, Furry Lewis, and Isaac Hayes helped give Memphis a musical signature from the legendary Shell stage. But by the late 1960s, many in the community considered it a "white elephant", and, in 1965, it became the target of the Memphis Little Theater, which wanted to replace the Shell with an indoor theater.

A reprieve came when the Memphis Park Commission decided to find another site for the popular Music Under The Stars before destroying the structure. The grim reaper came around again in 1966 when the Park Commission placed the Shell's destiny in the hands of the Memphis Arts Council, which had plans for a $2 million performing arts complex in Overton Park. Once more, the Shell faced extinction. This time, conductor Noel Gilbert became the saviour who defied the bell's toll, gathering enough protest signature to force the Park Commission to reconsider.

Ironically, rock and roll posed the next threat to the Shell's survival. Although the performances that audiences had enjoyed continued in their diverse variety through the early 1970s, rock and roll had undergone significant changes resulting in younger audiences.

Rock's voice had become more influential than ever, issuing a clarion call to young people. Nationally, this incurred the wrath of more hidebound elders, who were appalled and irritated at the social and more changes assaulting their social equilibrium. Long hair, drugs use, and the rebellious, freestyle attitudes of the "hippie generation" arrived in Memphis, flaunting openly and unabashedly in Overton Park. A collision between youth and the establishment was inevitable.

Local Newspapers covered the Shell in depth, focusing on the peculiarities of the patrons. Run-ins with the police were common, and headlines trumpeted these confrontations. Noise level complaints from area residents and clashes with security brought out a virtual army of police. Concert promoters and the Park Commission shared the steep cost of these security measures.

Then the Park Commission suddenly changed the ground rules. Where rental of the Shell had been an affordable $300 an additional $2,000 deposit was now required. Adding insult to injury, the entire cost for the additional security would be borne solely by the promoters instead of being shared. Outraged, promoters struck back vocally, and antagonism coloured the relationships.

Though loud and crude, these rock concerts remain some of the best-attended events in Shell history. Over 50 concerts were scheduled in 1971, drawing 8,000 to 9,000 spectators listening to popular groups that included the Allman Brothers, the James Gang, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, ZZ Top, Jimi Hendrix, and Poco.

Rock's last gasp at the Shell in this era occurred after a 1975 Seals and Crotts concert, which drew 21,000 people. For an arena designed to seat only 4,000, this scene of potential disaster was remarkably incident-free. Regardless, the Shell afterwards settled into a formula of showcasing free events by local artists. Notably absent were regular rock and roll performances.

September 1982 saw this outdoor facility dedicated with a new name: Raoul Wallenberg/Overton Park Shell. Wallenberg, Sweden's ambassador to Austria during World War II, was credited with saving over 100,000 Jews from Nazi concentration camps, and a plaque was erected in his honour.

In light of this celebration and the lack of any other controversies, Shell supporters became cautiously optimistic for a secure, if somewhat subdued, future. But a new threat now came from its next door neighbor, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Their expansion plans called for a parking lot and the Shell's demise. It was April, 1984, and the old amphitheater was drawing its last breath.

With demolition already underway, John Vincent Hanrahan, an environmentalist who grew up attending Shell events, begged for permission to intervene before the historic arena completely disappeared. This time, Hanrahan was the Shell's saviour, arriving at more realistic cost estimates to repair the Shell by relying heavily on volunteer labor and donated materials.

Only in 1985 was the Shell dark and empty as bureaucratic indecision left its continuity in limbo. Finally, then-mayor Dick Hackett committed to the Shell's refurbishing if a private group would coordinate an ongoing arts program for it. Hope glimmered briefly, then was snuffed out again when Hanrahan was killed in an on-the-job accident.

Yet when Hanrahan's brother, Michael, brought a wreath to the Shell stage the day after his brother's funeral, family members and friends gathered and began sprucing up the dilapidated setting. That day marked the inception of today's Save Our Shell (SOS).

Volunteer labor, donated materials, community support, and SOS' first president, David Leonard, ensured the Shell's half-century celebration on September 13, 1986 - 50 years to the day after its premiere. The phoenix-like Shell was reborn in an atmosphere welcoming home old friends, as a capacity crowd of over 4,000 watched hundreds of multicolored balloons drift upwards, signalling the start of the evening's entertainment.

Since that night in 1986, the all volunteer SOS has preserved the Shell from extinction by tirelessly scheduling hundreds of events and continuous upgrading. Today, the Overton Park Band Shell is still stands today, and even though the stage and rows of wooden seats have a new coat of white paint, the feeling of the place vintage 1954 remains. Stand on the stage and look out into the rows of seats; it is not difficult to imagine a nineteen-year old Elvis Presley standing on the same stage, or to imagine what he felt when he began to sing. The stage that first showcased rock and roll and gave extensive exposure to blues recording artists has contributed to fulfilling Overton's vision "to make Memphis the musical center of the Mid-South".

The Shell has been preserved from demolition by a "Save the Shell" committee "Sedroc", located at 1725 B Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 by secretary Joel Hurley. We are fortunate to have this priceless bit of place history today.

SLIM WHITMAN - Country singer born Otis Dewey Whitman Jr. in Tampa, Florida, on January 20, 1924. After the service in the Navy after World War II, Whitman worked at a shipyard in Tampa, Florida, and played baseball in the Orange Belt League. In 1948, Whitman worked for the local radio station and performed at the Louisiana Hayride.

Whitman was on the same bill with Elvis Presley in Elvis' first stage appearance, on July 30, 1954, at Memphis' Overton Park Shell, before a crowd of 2,000. Slim Whitman, who was managed for a short time by Colonel Tom Parker, was the first country entertainer to perform at the London Paladium.

The Jordanaires, who seem to have backed almost every country singer at one time or another, sang backup on some of Whitman's recordings. In 1957 Whitman recorded "A Fool Such As I" (Imperial 8322), which Elvis Presley would recorded in 1958. The only song that Whitman ever charted on Billboard's Hot 100 chart was "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" (Imperial 1310) in 1957, a song that Elvis Presley would record in 1971.

In 1979, Whitman produced a TV commercial to support Suffolk Marketing's release of a greatest hits compilation titled All My Best, which went on to be the best-selling TV marketed record in music history, with almost 1.5 million units sold. Just For You (also under the Suffolk umbrella), followed in 1980, with a commercial that claimed Whitman "was number one in England longer than Elvis and The Beatles''.

The Best followed in 1982, with Whitman concluding his TV marketing with Best Loved Favorites in 1989 and 20 Precious Memories in 1991. During this time he toured Europe and Australia with moderate success.

In late January 2008, a false rumor of his death spread through the Internet, believed to have been started by an erroneous report posted on the Web site of the Nashville Tennessean newspaper. Country singer George Hamilton IV even dedicated and sang a hymn in Whitman's honor at a concert appearance. In February 2009, his wife of sixty-seven years, Alma Geraldine (Jerry) Crist, died of kidney failure complications. She had been on dialysis. Whitman has a daughter, Sharon, and a son, Byron K. Whitman, who is also a performer and has toured and recorded with Whitman on numerous occasions.

Since 1957 Whitman has lived at Woodpecker Paradise, in Middleburg, Florida, a suburb of Jacksonville.

In 2009, Whitman's wife of 67 years, Alma Geraldine "Jerry" Crist Whitman, born in Kansas, died at the age of 84. She was a songwriter and embroiderer as well as the daughter of a church minister, A.D. Crist, founder of the Church of the Brethren. Whitman and his wife had a daughter, Sharron Beagle; and a son, Byron K. Whitman, who is also a performer and music producer who has released a number of recordings and who toured and recorded with his father on numerous occasions. They had two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Slim Whitman died of heart failure on June 19, 2013, at age 90, surrounded by family at Orange Park Medical Center in Orange Park, Florida.

CHARLIE TORIAN JUNIOR - August 1977. Elvis had died on August 16, 1977, his body was placed in the entrance hall of Graceland and an estimated ninety thousand people all tried to catch one last glimpse of him lying in state on August 17 before his funeral the next day.

At Elvis Presley's request, a military honour guard from the 164th Air Transport Group of the Tennessee Air National Guard stood at attention in white gloves and leggings and polished silver helmets while surrounding the casket.

Also on hand was a Memphis Police Department honour guard from the nearby South Precinct. And one of the Memphis Police Department sergeants in that honour guard was that little boy backstage at the Overton Park Shell on July 30, 1954, now all grown up, Charlie Torian Junior.

JULY 31, 1954 SUNDAY

Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black performed at Bon Air Night Club (8:00pm), 4862 Summer Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee. This gives Dixie Locke the opportunity to see where Elvis has been playing when they go back to pick it up.

"We quickly had to learn two or three other tunes that would kinda fall into the pattern", recalled Scotty Moore, "Tweedlee Dee" was one, and I think we did "Shake, Rattle And Roll" a lot before we ever recorded it. There were a couple of others, I can't recall them right off hand. We probably got it up to where we had about four of five songs".

"Most of it was up-tempo. "Maybellene" was another one. They would have other bands on - so we'd only do two or three songs or so. We didn't have any kind of repertoire at that time. We were lucky if we were getting a hundred dollars a night between us".


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