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.
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.
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.
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.
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''.
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