ELVIS SUN 1955 (7)
July 1, 1955 to July 31, 1955

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Live Broadcast Recordings for Elvis Presley, July 2, 1955
Studio Session for Elvis Presley, July 11, 1955

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Elvis Presley's Sun recordings can be heard on the playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <



"Elvis Prestley", as he was advertised, pushed on with Scotty Moore and Bill Black as they made an appearance at the Casino Club in Plaquemine, a small Louisiana town southwest of Baton Rouge. Elvis Presley performed from 8:30 to 1:00 p.m. Admission was $1.50. Appearing with Elvis Presley was the club's owner, Lou Millet and his Melody Makers.

After the show, Elvis Presley drove to Waco, Texas, for a radio interview. The music industry weekly Cash Box had just selected Elvis Presley as the best "Up and Coming Male Vocalist" in the country music field. Elvis wearing a red sports coat that night at the Casino Club.

According to Shirley Fleniken, ''I'd known for a few weeks that Elvis was coming back to our area, to a nightclub near Baton Rouge, called the Casino Club. It was in Plaquemine, about twenty miles away from Baton Rouge, where I lived.

About two months earlier, I had started going steady with a boy, Donald, and we were still dating. I wanted badly to see Elvis again, and for Donald to see him also, even though Donald was a bit jealous of Elvis, since he'd seen his picture on the wall in my room, and he knew I played his records all the time''.

''July 1st came at last, but the unthinkable happened, I woke up that morning sick as could be, with a very hot fever. I felt miserable. But I KNEW I had to get better, because I just had to go see Elvis that night. My mother knew how much it meant to me. She called the doctor and had him come to the house. He gave me a penicillin shot. Within a few hours, I was feeling better. My mother let me go. I was so happy that I wouldn't have to miss seeing Elvis! Donald and I rode in his light blue '39 Ford Coupe to the Casino Club. The Casino was a large dance hall, with tables on both sides of it, and a bar in the front. There was a fairly large crowd. Elvis, Scotty, and Bill played atop a low stage at the back of the hall. None of us dances, we surrounded the stage and watched, screaming, yelling, and clapping, we just couldn't get enjoyed it. Elvis put on a great show, as usual. He sand all the records he had out, plus some other rhythm and blues songs. The band took a short intermission. i noticed Elvis standing alone, leaning up against a wall in the back of the hall. he seemed a little bit downhearted, or maybe in deep thought, there was a faraway look in his eyes. I went up to him and started talking to him. He was very nice and friendly. I told him about us seeing him in New Orleans, and he said, 'I remember you and your sister. Y'all were driving a red Pontiac'. I said, 'It wasn't a Mercury, it was a Lincoln'. I couldn't believe he remembered meeting Gayle and me on the highway. I told him how much we were enjoying the show. He asked me if that was my boyfriend. I said yes, and Elvis said, 'He's got a nice set of ducks'. Later I told Donald what Elvis said, and he wasn't as jealous of Elvis after that. A girl walked up and asked Elvis to dance. He said, Í can't dance'. A guy came up and said, 'Elvis, can I buy you a drink'? He said, 'I don't drink'''.

Melvin Seneca says, ''The Casino Club was the most popular club around in the mid-fifties. When you walked in, there was a bar, and on each end of the bar were doors to walk into the dance hall. There were restrooms on either side of the stage. On each side of the room you had tables and chairs where you could sit, and there was dancing in the middle''.

Theresa Rome says, ''My brother went up to the stage and got Elvis. He came over and said, 'How y'all doing, folks'? He shook hands with everybody, and you would have though he was everybody's friend. Everybody stood up and screamed when he started his song. The club was packed. There were cars parked along the highway. He played requests, and some songs he played over and over''. Anonymous female attendee say, ''I didn't care if I ever saw Elvis again. I was disgusted when I saw him. I couldn't even look at him. He didn't act normal by standards''.

According to Orney Hebert, ''He brought his guitar out to his car, and we followed him. In general conversation he invited us to sit in the car and told us, 'I'm going to play something for y'all'. I can't remember being in the backseat, think there were fife of us, and Elvis sat up front on the passenger seat with his guitar. Elvis sang parts of five or six songs he was fixing to come out with. He told us he was going to change his style. We were in his car about 10 to 15 minutes, I think during the first intermission. There were people standing outside all around the car''.

And Dealis Vaughn says, ''Elvis was at Alexander's Drive-In. I had a 1955 Ford Victoria that was pink and white. Elvis asked whose car that was, and I told him it was mine. That's how we started talking. Elvis told me he had one also. He said his was the same color but was a Crown Victoria. Those sold for a little more''.

LOU MILLET - was a Columbia recording artist whose first two records included the similarly titled "Weary, Worried And Blue" and "Worried, Lonesome And Blue". Lou Millet was born in 1926 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He learned to play the guitar when was 16 years old and soon formed his own band called "The Melody Ramblers". That band stayed together for about four years and appeared on several radio stations in the area including WLCS and WJBO as well as WLBR in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Lefty Frizzell gave him his first big break and in 1953, he was still associated with Lefty, by fronting the band during one of Lefty's tours. Lou was with the Standard Oil Company for seven years before getting into the entertainment business.

Previous his Go release, pressed in 1961 by Rite Records, Lou Millet recorded for Feature in 1951), Columbia (1952-1954), Ace (1955), Ekko (1956) and Republic (1956). His ''Uncle Earl;; is a tribute to Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long (1895-1960). ''Uncle'' Earl Long was committed to a mental institution following his scandalous involvement with Bourbon Street stripper Blaze Starr and an “incoherent and irrational public outburst” where he denounced opponents and shouted obscenities.


Cash Box, another national music trade weekly, voted Elvis Presley the "Up and Coming Male Vocalist" in country music. Elvis placed an ad in the magazine thanking all of the disc jockey’s for voting for him while plugging his latest release, "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone"/"Baby Let's Play House". Elvis Presley made his weekly visit to the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.

Elvis Presley had been on the road constantly since Christmas, and Bob Neal arranged for him to take a break in early July. Besides, Neal needed time with Elvis to discuss the issue of his record company, and the record company needed a new single for August 1955.

Elvis himself had to get a new car. He bought a brand new black 1955 Cadillac, requesting that it be re-painted pink. Scotty Moore bought a new guitar, replacing his Gibson ES 295, while Elvis picked up a custom-made leather cover for his guitar, to protect it from getting scratched by his belt buckle.

JULY 1955

"House Of Sin"/"Are You Ashamed Of Me?" (SUN 225) by Slim Rhodes is released at about this time.


Elvis Presley purchased the mirror in a Memphis store one day after watching Lowell Fulson use a backstage mirror to perfect his moves in the Club Handy, located at 195 Hernando Street, Memphis, Tennessee.


Elvis Presley and his group performed in Wichita Falls, Texas. Reliable witnesses recall a show by Elvis Presley at Cotote Stadium the football field for a local High School. Elvis Presley performed at mid-field on a stage constructed from what may have been an oil-field flatbed truck. No known performance by Elvis Presley in Wichita Falls took place at a school.


A turning point occurred for Elvis Presley on July 16, 1955. This was a special day because it marked a significant step forward in his career. His fourth single, ''Baby Let's Play House'', had entered the Cash Box's country and western chart at number 15. This marked Elvis appearance on the National charts, as opposed to the State charts he had been in previously.

This National appearance coincided with an evening Hayride performance and in celebration of his national hit; he sang the flip side of the single to his Hayride audience ''I'm Left, Your Right, She's Gone''.



Composer: - Stanley Kesler-Bill Taylor
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - FRA1-8152 - Acetate courtesy of Joe Kent, Louisiana Hayride (1:50)
Recorded: - July 2, 1955
Released: - February 5, 1999
First appearance: - February 5, 1999 RCA BMG (CD) 500/200rpm 07863 67675 2-2-14 mono
Reissued: - November 2011 Memphis Recording Service (CD) 500/200rpm MRS 30001256-12 mono

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)



Elvis Presley appeared from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Hoedown Club a t 4320 South Lexington Boulevard in Corpus Christi, which is now South Padre Island Drive. In fact the site where the Hoedown was is a strip mall today home to a furniture store, between Weber and Everhart on SPID.

Advertising mentioned his trio and "stars of the Louisiana". Tickets priced at $1.50 in advance and $1.75 at the door, were available a both locations of Kelly's Music Stores. That would be at least three sets. There were other performers on the show that day that were not listed in the ads. It's reasonable to think that Elvis stretched his show a bit to accommodate the requirements of the gig. In fact there are reports that he did at least two songs that were not in his usual set list, ''Born To Lose'', originally done by Ted Daffin's Texans and ''Do The Mess Around'' which was an rhythm and blues hit for Ray Charles in 1953.

According to travel companion and bodyguard, Red West, remembers an incident in Corpus Christi, ''I couldn't play the drums worth a shit. That was before D.J., and there's a set of drums on stage. Elvis says, 'Get up there and keep a back-beat'. Shit, I can't play drums, I play trumpet. 'Well, just keep a back-beat', Elvis says. I played that whole song with one stick, ''Maybellene'', why can't you be true''.

This concert was a warm up for the gospel jubilee the following day.


Still in Texas, Elvis Presley played his one-and-only "triple header". The first pair shows, in Stephenville and nearby De Leon, were billed collectively as the Battle Of The Songs, an annual event promoted by W.B. Nowlin, Mayor of De Leon. Each year the Battle offered the finest in country music and Southern gospel singing. A $1.00 ticket was good for a full day of music at either venue.

Elvis Presley began his day with a 10.00 a.m. appearance at the City Recreation Hall in Stephenville. He performed his regular rockabilly routine and was followed by Slim Willit, with whom he worked in Abilene the previous February. The remainder of the morning show was an all-gospel review featuring the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, R.W. Blackwood, Jr., and the Statesmen Quartet. The Stephenville show was stage-managed by Raymond Carter, W.B. Nowlin's son-in-law.

Also at 10:00 a.m., on an outdoor stage at Hodges Park, just east of De Leon, another full day of country and gospel music got underway. Featured during the morning portion of this show were the Farren Twins, a country act, followed by three gospel acts, the Deep South Quartet, The Stamps Quartet and the Ozark Stamps Quartet. As each group finished their portion of the show, they would drive the 23 miles to Stephenville, to be replaced by the acts from Stephenville who were arriving in De Leon to play the afternoon performance. In show-biz jargon, this was known as "bicycling the talent".

When Elvis Presley arrived at Hodges Park he was driving a white Cadillac that he had recently purchased to replace the pink one that burned a couple of weeks earlier. Not only did he have Scotty Moore and Bill Black with him, but Vernon and Gladys as well. During the lunch break in De Leon, the entertainers and the Presley's took refuge from the summer heat in the Blackwoods' new air-conditioned bus.

By the time the Statesmen Quartet opened the second portion of the De Leon songfest the crowd numbered 5,000 at the Memorial Hall in Brownwood. The Blackwood Brothers Quartet followed, offering a touching tribute to the members who had died in a light plane crash a year earlier in Alabama, on a tour that was to have included a show in De Leon.

Elvis Presley was so moved by their performance, that he decided to perform only gospel music during his set. He sang "The Old Wooden Church", "Precious Memories", "Known Only To Him", and "Just A Closer Walk With Thee". Teenagers who had waited patiently through hours of gospel music for their first change to see Elvis Presley, the rock 'n' roller, were disappointed.

Slim Willet was scheduled to close the show, but his band failed to make it to De Leon because of car trouble. Scotty Moore and Bill Black tried their best to fill in, but after a song or two,Willet dismissed them and continued on, accompanied only by his guitar.

Even in 1955, there was some confusion surrounding these two shows. When it first began, the July Fourth Battle of Songs was held only in De Leon. However, for a few years before 1955, the shows had been all-day extravaganzas taking place in both De Leon and Stephenville. Advertisements in 1955 mentioned that, in the event of rain, there would only be the show in Stephenville, which could be held indoors at the City Recreation Hall. During June, De Leon was struck by a tornado and for three weeks prior to July Fourth the weather was terrible. Just a week before the show date, another severe storm stuck the area. Upon hearing this news, R.W. Blackwood, Jr., published a local notice that the De Leon portion of the day's events was cancelled. This was not the case.

Nowlin put together an estimated 5,000 gospel shows all across Texas from the 1940s into the late 1980s. Over those years, the only serious problem he had with his promotions was the time he booked Hank Williams for a July Fourth show in De Leon. Good Ol' Hank arrived four hours late, too drunk to go on stage.

Colonel Tom Parker was an old friend of Mayor W.B. Nowlin, dating from the first Battle of Songs in 1948. At that time, the Colonel managed Eddy Arnold, who was the featured performer. Hank Snow had also appeared at one of the Battle of Songs when he was managed by the Colonel. In July 1955, Parker visited with the Nowlin family for a day or two before the Fourth. It was on this trip that Colonel Parker hoped his contact with Elvis Presley parents would bring Elvis under his managerial wing. Mayor Nowlin, his daughter and his niece all remember seeing both Vernon and Gladys, but Cecil Blackwood, a friend of both Elvis and Gladys, recalled talkingto only Vernon while on the Blackwoods' bus.

Finally, at 8:00 p.m. that evening, Elvis Presley, the Farren Twins and Slim Willet performed at the Soldier's and Sailor's Memorial Hall in Brownwood in a benefit show for Engine Company No. 1 of the local Volunteer Fire Department. Tickets were $1.00 for adults and 50-cents for children. Although not listed in pre-show advertising, Wanda Jackson states that she also appeared on this show. It was the first time that she met Elvis Presley.

"When I started really getting to know him. I have some photographs with him were taken on this tour. It's strange that I didn't take too many pictures of Elvis because I took a lot of pictures in those days. I took photographs in school and I've always loved the subject. Maybe I was a little embarrassed because the opportunities".

"He was a southern gentlemen and my folks liked him a lot, so I figured that he must be all right! He was always a gentlemen and I flipped over him like a million other girls".

"Some photographs are from the Texas tour and I also have a couple that were taken in Missouri. One was taken by a poster and the other was taken by his car, his pink car, with a bass on top of it".

According to Red West, I remember Bob Neal booked him at an gospel show. Elvis didn't know it. He got there and saw Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen Quartet and said, 'What the hell has Bob Neal done'? Luckily Elvis was a great fan of gospel music, that's what he wanted to be in the first place, so he got up and sang three or four gospel songs, like the rest of them, and left. He didn't even sing one of his records''.

Following this show, Elvis Presley and his parents returned home to Memphis where Elvis scheduled for a two-week vacation. Elvis Presley was happy that Billboard had rated "Baby, Let's Play House" number 15 on the Country Best Selling In Stores chart. The record remained on the chart for ten weeks, peaking at number 10 in late July 1955, another sign that Elvis' hard work and constant touring was paying off. To capitalize on the Billboard listing, Colonel Tom Parker prepared a late summer, early fall booking schedule.

WANDA JACKSON - Female rockabilly singer of the 1950s born Wanda Lavonne Jackson in Maud, Oklahoma, on October 20, 1937. She was a High School senior in Oklahoma City where she had been discovered by Hank Thompson. She began recording for Decca Records in mid-1954.

A year later, her father contacted Bob Neal after seeing one of Neal's ads in Billboard. Neal thought it would be a good idea to add a female singer to Elvis Presley's tours. Wanda Jackson appeared on the same bill with Elvis Presley on the "Hank Snow Jamboree" in July and August 1955, and a two-week tour that travelled from Abilene, Texas, to St. Louis in October 1955 and again in early 1956.

Miss Jackson would be become known as a female rockabilly star after she switched to Capitol Records in 1956. In 1960 Wanda Jackson recorded a version of Elvis Presley's "Party" called "Let's Have A Party" (Capitol 4397). Her biggest hit was "Right Or Wrong" in 1961.


Elvis Presley returns to Memphis for a two-week vacation. During this week his next-door neighbor, fifteen-year-old Jackson Baker, recalls hearing Elvis rehearse the song ''Mystery Train''', and then, after recording it, listen to the acetate over and over again.


Scotty Moore trades his Gibson ES 295 guitar for a Gibson L5 at O.K. Houck Piano Company. The new guitar will go with the custom-built Echosonic amplifier he purchased for $495 in May, which he is currently paying off in installments.

It is most likely at around this same time that Elvis Presley, too purchases a new guitar, a Martin D-28, which will be seen in pictures taken in Tampa on July 31. The new guitar has a tooled leather cover which, in addition to its decorative qualities, prevents the back of the instrument from being scratched during performances by Elvis' belt buckle.

Elvis also buys a pink 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty with a black top to replace the Cadillac that has burned. A removable wooden roof rack is used for the band's instruments.

JULY 8, 1955

Before Elvis Presley signs Colonel Parker as his manager and before his Sun records contract is sold to RCA, Elvis signs an agreement with Hill and Range Songs, Inc. (which covered Hank Snow and other country musicians) for use of Elvis' name, likeness and biographical materials for the sum of 5 cents plus 10% royalties. Julian Aberbach, head of Hill and Range, was introduced to the talents of Elvis through Hank Snow and it was Julian who was instrumental in connecting Colonel Tom Parker with this new young talent.

This early signed agreement, dated July 8, 1955, was signed by a 20-year-old Elvis and his parents Vernon Presley and Gladys Presley. Judging by the terms of the agreement, it was evident that the nimble negotiator Colonel Parker was not yet crafting deals for who would become his number one client.

The two-page, typed contract addressed to Elvis simply in ''Memphis, Tennessee'' outlines the terms in nine numbered points, with the first set covering the meat of the agreement, and states in part, ''You hereby grant to us and our assigns the exclusive right and privilege throughout the world to use your name and likeness and biographical material concerning you on song folios and composite works for a period of three years from the date hereof''. The contract continues, ''In consideration of the above grant, we agree to pay you the sum of FIVE (5c) CENTS in respect to such song folios and composite works sold by us and paid for in the United States and Canada''. Hill and Range had access to a large stable of country music writers to supply songs for the young star, yet it also recognized that this new musician was capable of writing his own tunes as well so it included the terms, ''With reference to songs written by you and controlled by us and/or any of our subsidiary or affiliated companies, we shall pay you a royalty of TEN (10%) PER CENT pro rata of the net wholesale selling price pro rata as the composition(s) written by you and included in such song folios and composite works shall bear to the total number of all compositions and their respective writers published therein''. Hill and Range agrees to ship Elvis, free of charge, 2,000 copies of the first Elvis Presley song folio within sixty days after publication and royalties would not be paid on these copies or on any additional copies requested by Elvis, for which he would be required to pay 15 cents per copy. In 1956, the Elvis Presley song folio for Love Me Tender was released for sale and included words and music to four songs - ''Love Me Tender,'' ''Poor Boy,'' ''We’re Gonna Move,'' and ''Let Me'' -as well as several images and captions of Elvis.

HILL & RANGE - (originally "Hill and Range Songs, Inc.") is a music publishing company which was particularly responsible for much of the country music produced in the 1950s and 1960s, and had control over the material recorded by Elvis Presley over that period. It is today part of Carlin America. The company was founded in Los Angeles in 1945 by Austrian-born Julian Aberbach and his business partners Milton Blink and Gerald King, who owned Biltmore Music. Aberbach's brother Jean joined in the early 1950s after working for Chappell Music, and thereafter the two shared control of the company, with Jean Aberbach being based in the Brill Building in New York City. After initially finding success representing Spade Cooley and Bob Wills, the company became active in the country music industry, particularly in Nashville, and at one point were reportedly responsible for three-quarters of all the music produced in Nashville.

On July 8, 1955, the Aberbachs were responsible for setting up an unprecedented arrangement in which the publishing rights to all songs recorded by emerging star performer Elvis Presley were split 50-50 between the Hill & Range company and Presley and his management. The Aberbach brothers established their younger cousin, Freddy Bienstock, as head of Elvis Presley Music, in effect, a subsidiary of Hill & Range. It also employed writers (including Leiber and Stoller) to provide songs for Presley's films and albums. This arrangement effectively precluded Presley from recording material not licensed to Hill & Range, from the mid-1950s through to the early 1970s.

Hill & Range gradually expanded to become the largest independent music publishing company, with worldwide interests. The company employed many of the top pop songwriters of the day, including Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman, and Phil Spector, as well as Leiber and Stoller. In 1964, it bought Progressive Music, the publishing company operated by Atlantic Records. In 1973, Julian Aberbach suffered an incapacitating heart attack, and in 1975 his brother Jean sold much of the business to Chappell Music, then a subsidiary of the PolyGram organization, although it retained control of the companies connected to Presley. Chappell Music was in turn acquired in 1984 by Bienstock. Bienstock had earlier acquired Hill & Range's British subsidiary which he renamed Carlin Music.


Even though he was "officially" enjoying rest and recuperation, Elvis Presley honoured his contract with the Louisiana Hayride and made an appearance this evening.


Local residents remember that Elvis Presley performed in a tent in Shelbyville, Tennessee.

JULY 10-16 1955

SPEER PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO - Formerly located on 1330 Linden Avenue, William and Vancil Speer, professional Memphis photographers and founders of the Speer Photography Studio, took here Elvis Presley's first publicity stills in 1954 and July 1955, for Sun Records, at the studio.

In July 1954, Elvis Presley was a skinny kid with light brown hair and bright, star-filled blue eyes. His photo's was taken with a large format camera. In his younger days, William Speer dreamed of working with his camera in Hollywood. Speer was able to indulge his passion by making portraits of visiting entertainers.

One day, Elvis Presley came to Speer's shop, a few months later, with his then-manager, Bob Neal, wanted professional stills made to impress Hollywood studios. William's wife, Vancil, was attracted to Elvis Presley in a more feminine way.

Her role in the portrait shoot was wardrobe and set design. She persuaded Elvis Presley to take off his shirt for some of the portraits by convincing him the two shirts he had brought were not enough for the number of pictures they wanted to take. A sheepish Elvis complied to her request.

The memories of the Speer's: Speer's Elvis series includes a smiling Elvis, although, he says, "I don't usually take smiling jackass pictures. If you're looking at a person with a smile, all you see is the smile. The smile kills the whole thing. The picture is in the eyes''. "When he first stepped in front of the camera, I told him, 'You sure would make a wonderful actor''', says photographer William Speer of his most famous subject.

William Speer grew up as a fan of black-and-white movie glamour shots in the glass cases in theatre lobbies when he was a child. He used what he calls "Rembrandt lighting" with an overhead spotlight casting shadows downward. Before the photos were even developed, Speer and his wife, Vacil, knew there was something special going on: "It felt like an electrical charge in the room. You can tell the famous ones or the ones who are going to be famous. They stand out in a room without you even knowing who they are," says Vacil Speer. Speer remembers thinking Elvis "looked like Burt Lancaster. He could have played his brother in the movies''. When the photographs were developed, no one was disappointed. "He came off that dead film like dynamite. Either you've got it or you haven't'', says the photographer.

A few days after the sitting, at the Loew's Theatre in Memphis, Elvis ran into the Speers in the lobby and wanted to know how the pictures had turned out, but he was shy talking to Mr Speer. "You don't like me" he said nervously, "So I guess I better talk to your wife". When he looked at the proofs, he wrote a note on the back of each of the bare-chested ones, saying, "I don't want this one!" "I never photographed him again, but I used to see him later on, driving around Memphis on his motorcycle. You know when he got old and let his hair grow long, he looked like his mother''.

The Speers usually shot two or three portraits, but Vancil pushed for twelve. Perhaps, Elvis Presley was more relaxed knowing that the photographer was across the room from him, instead of at close range. Speer had to shoot at a distance because he used an unusually large camera for portraits - a rare German Goerzdader lens that weighed more than twenty pounds. Instead of f-stops, the camera had "waterhouse stops", where one drops different apertures into the lens. Because Elvis Presley moved around so much, William Speer shot him with the apertures wide open.

A few years later, Elvis brought Anita Wood to have her professional still made. This time Elvis was a distraction, not the subject. After Speer told him to be quit or go away, Elvis Presley stopped visiting their studio.

Ten years later, Priscilla Beaulieu, his future wife, was captured on fill with the same camera, her unmistakably "Presley" bouffant hairstyle primped to perfection. Nonetheless, the Speers, especially Vancil, remained fans of Elvis Presley. The couple is retired now and lives in one of the most unusual homes in Memphis, which is devoted to their artistry. The camera that once focused at the Speer Photography on Elvis is still on the other Blue Light Studio at 115 Union Avenue. For a reasonable fee, professionals at the Speer Photography Studio will photograph you using this camera. Photographer William Speer died on Sunday, December 4, 2006 in Memphis at the age of 89.

JULY 11, 1955 MONDAY

Elvis Presley went back into the Sun studio. In about a week he would be out on the road again, and it seemed like he had scarcely been home at all. He went around on Beale Street. Only in the studio were things still the same; Marion Keisker in the outer room, with the venetian blinds slanted to fight the heat, Sam Phillips in the control room, always ready for something to happen. For this session Sam Phillips had brought in another original number and another drummer. The song was, once again, a country composition by Stanley Kesler, the steel guitar player who had written "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone", and the drummer was Johnny Bernero, who played regularly with a number of different country bands and worked at the Memphis Light, Gas & Water Company across the street.


For the last few months of his time at Sun Records, Elvis Presley pumped his hormonal energy into country, blues, and just about anything else he felt like. With Scotty Moore on the same type of electric hollow-body guitar favored by jazz and country swing players, and Bill Black playing the same upright bass he used on his country gigs, Elvis Presley sang and beat out rhythm guitar on a worn 1943 Martin D-18. During Elvis' Sun tenure, drums and occasionally piano were added to his sound.

But it was Sam Phillips, creating modern record production at the same time Elvis was inventing rock and roll, who gave the band its really big beat, enlarging the group's sound electronically far beyond its three, four, or five instruments, adding echo and using distortion that made the records sound huge and fierce.

For the most part, those revolutionary early discs that set the style for rock and roll would be considered "unplugged" by today's standards. Elvis Presley's guitar style was strictly country rhythm, open chords with ringings strings strummed with a straight pick. Those who say Elvis Presley did nothing more than rip off black bluesmen need look no further than his guitar playing for proof to the contrary. No bluesmen ever played rhythm like that. Black slapped his instrument, rhythmically striking the fingerboard between each pluck of the strings, creating a stuttering percussive effect akin to a snare drum. It was a common comedic technique in the country bands that he'd performed in, often in vaudevillian "rube" costume complete with blacked-out teeth. For his bass to produce maximum slap. Bill Black tuned the E (string) down and let it slap against the neck. Scotty Moore played a bluesy, finger-picking style drawn from the work of Kentuckian Merle Travis, tossing in some dissonant Memphis blues licks and jazzy chords.

Put all those parts together in Sun's tiny one-room studio, and producer Sam Phillips got an ensemble sound on record much fuller than three pieces had any right to be. The repertoire of those Sun records was just as remarkable as the sound.

Along with the yin-yang of his Delta blues/Kentucky bluegrass first single, Presley crooned "Harbor Lights", "Blue Moon", belted out rhythm and blues "Good Rockin' Tonight", the Roy Brown/Wynomie Harris, and mixed things up even more with western swing//blues "Milkcow Blues Boogie", a straight blues by fellow Sun artist Little Junior Parker "Mystery Train", and even a country polka "Just Because".

A Memphis musician in the classic W.C. Handy tradition, Elvis Presley was nothing if not versatile, and that would remain the single defining constant in his career, as he drew inspiration from a dizzying array of musical sources.

He haunted the Home Of The Blues record shop on Beale Street, and made Joe Guoghi's Poplar Tunes store his second home and all together turned it into pure Elvis.



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

Elvis Presley spent part of his vacation at the Sun recording studio. He waxed "Mystery Train" and "I Forgot To Remember To Forget", which would be paired for his fifth and final Sun Records single. "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" would become his first Number One record, reaching the chart in February 1956 on Billboard's National Country Single chart. The song remained on the charts from October 1955 to June 1956, the longest of any of Elvis Presley's single records.

This side, is no less powerful in its own right. For once, Sam Phillips commissioned a first rate piece of original material for his new star. Again, everything works here to perfection: the lyric, the melody, Presley's sexy crooning, Scotty Moore's memorable solo. Perhaps the strongest element is Johnny Bernero's drumming which, more than anything else, defines this recording. Shifting effortlessly from his trademark shuffle to a heavy backbeat during the guitar so elevates this record to greatness.

Composer: - Charlie Feathers-Stanley Kesler
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U-157 SUN - F2WB-8000-NA RCA - Master (2:28)
Recorded: - July 11, 1955
Released: August 1, 1955
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single Sun 223-B mono
Reissued - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801 DI-4/10 mono

"He just didn't dig it at first. Maybe it was a little too country, the chord progression, and it was a slow song, too, recalled Sam Phillips, "but I loved the hook line, and I thought it was something we needed at that point to show a little more diversification. So I called Johnny, he was either in there that day, or I called him, 'cause he had played on some other things for me. And we got it going, and he was doing four-four on the beat, and I said, 'That don't help us worth a shit, Johnny'. I told him, 'What I want you to do is do your rim shot snare on the offbeat, but keep it four-four until we go into the chorus. Then you go in and go with the bass beat at two-four'. And by doing that, it sounds like "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" is twice as fast as it really is. And Elvis really loved it then".

Finally, Sam Phillips had his dream: a two-sided masterpiece by his great white hope, and with both sides owned by his publishing company, Phillips was ready to do battle. This single, Presley's last for Sun, eventually became his first #1 country hit.

Charlie Feathers remember, ''I didn't start the song. Stan Kessler came while we were working on a song 'I Been Deceived' where he played steel on. He had a song called ''You Believe Everyone But Me'' he wanted me to do and then take it up and try to get Elvis do the song.

At that time he mentioned a song he had started ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget''. There was something about that title I liked and said 'Man, that title you mentioned on that song is great.' I went over to his house the next day and we got in there and we played a little and I learned ''You Believe Everyone But Me'' but that song didn't move me too well. So I said, let's get in this thing here, ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget''. We finished it up right there. I put the melody to it and Stan put the biggest part of the words down.
I took it up, but Sam didn't think much of it and it stayed up there two or three months until he finally recorded it and it then turned out to be one of the best things he had done at the time. I was up there when they cut it and Elvis wasn't doing it right. He tried it several times, but Sam didn't think it was right. So we went downtown for lunch, came back and all the time I was sitting there. I'd hum the song, I was humming the song to Elvis and I was showing him that he actually did the song wrong. He was doing the bridge in the song wrong. I got out there and when he came to the bridge I motioned at him, kinda indicated and he did it that way and Sam said "Without a doubt, that's it!" He liked it then and that was it.

It won all kind of awards, it was the number one record at the time. Elvis had never had one in the top ten at that time, so it was his first. Also, ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'' was the first million-seller, but it was on Sun and RCA combined, you see. They re-released it when he went to RCA because they didn't know how to record him, they thought they had the wrong artist.

''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'' was real big and I've seen a check down there at Sun records for 2,000 dollars which rightly belonged to Stan Kessler and me. Stan might have got his, 'cause he stayed on there way after me, but I haven't seen one lousy cent yet!''.

According Stan Kesler in 1997, he wrote and produced the song while groping through a painful divorce. Although Charlie Feathers is listed as the co-writer, Kesler made it clear that he alone wrote the song. "Charlie did all the demo tapes and I thought it was only fair to give him the half song.

We had an agreement to pool our talents", Kesler remembered. Since Kesler didn't like to sing, he depended upon Feathers to make the demonstration tape. "I think we worked together pretty well", Kesler noted. "We all knew that Elvis was bigger than the local scene", Kesler concluded, "and it was only a matter of time before he was a star". Part of the magic that facilitated that stardom was provided for Elvis Presley by people like Stanley Kesler. At the July 11 session, Kesler, an accomplished country musician, persuaded Sam Phillips to augment Elvis' sound with a piano, and Frank Tolley, a member of Malcolm Yelvington's Star Rhythm Boys, was brought into the recording studio. Not only did Tolley's piano virtuosity provide a new energy for Elvis Presley's recording, it helped break them into the mainstream country market.

In July 11, 1955, Jack Earls stopped by the Sun studio to watch Presley cut ''Mystery Train'', Phillips originally released the song on Sun by blues singer Junior Parker (SUN 192). Phillips owned the song publishing rights, so he was very interested in seeing Presley record it.

Composer: - Herman Parker Jr.-Sam Phillips
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Memphis Music - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Take 1
Recorded: - July 11, 1955
Released: - Sun Unissued – Probably Tape Lost

"Train I ride fifteen coaches long...", "Hold it", the beat dies away. "Hey Elvis you got that wrong, should bin 'sixteen coaches'". "Uh, wall I dunno Mr. Phillips, sir, I kinda reckon it was fifteen". The argument goes on, suddenly one of the guys hanging around the studio ones up, "I got the Junior Parker record at home, Mr. Phillips". Sam Phillips leans towards the microphone and booms out his instruction; "Well go get it son, go get it". Jack Earls scampers out of 706 Union Avenue roars round to his house and rushes back with SUN 192, "Mystery Train" by Little Junior's Blue Flames. Perhaps it didn't happen exactly like that, but it is a fact that Jack Earls was at the studio in July 1955, when Elvis was cutting "Mystery Train", and he did go home to get a copy of the record so that Elvis could learn the words. Just one of several contributions made by Jack Earls to the annals of rockabilly music. 6 numbers of coaches in Elvis' song "Mystery Train". Ironically, there were sixteen limousines in Elvis' funeral procession.

After Elvis Presley, Sam Phillips, and Scotty Moore listened to Parker's version, they flipped it over and played the b-side, "Love My Baby". Scotty Moore listened intently to the instrumental virtuously of black guitarist Pat Hare, whose guitar work had more in common with Delta bluesmen than with country musicians. It took half-a dozen attempts before Scotty learned Hare's guitar licks from "Love My Baby". Moore used them on "Mystery Train", a re-combination of elements from the record that transformed Elvis' "Mystery Train" enough to make it popular among both country and rock music fans. Sam Phillips was tickled with the result. Revenge was also a motive for recording "Mystery Train".

"There was an extra bar of rhythm thrown in at one point", said Scotty Moore, "that if I sat down to play it myself right now, I couldn't, but with him singing it felt natural". "It was the greatest thing I ever did on Elvis", said Sam Phillips. "It was a feeling song that so many people had experienced, I mean, it was a big thing, to put a loved one on a train: are they leaving you forever?

Maybe they'll never back. 'Train I ride, sixteen coaches long', you can take it from the inside of the coach, or you can take it from the outside, standing looking in. Junior was going to make it fifty coaches, but I said, no, sixteen coaches is a helluva lot, that sounds like it's coming out of a small town. It was pure rhythm. And at the ens, Elvis was laughing, because he didn't think it was a take, but I'm sorry, it was a fucking masterpiece!".

"I wrote this thing with Junior Parker, but I really think "Mystery Train" is my personal Elvis Sun track", recalled Sam Phillips. "It's one of the most simple songs in the world, it's one of the greatest vamp beats. This was done, and the take that we used... if you'll notice on the end of that thing you'll hear Elvis laughin' cause he didn't think we had a take and he was laughin' at the end of it. He thought, hell, he'd screwed it up, and it's just fantastic. It's an incredible take to me".

On "Mystery Train", all you have is quintessential rockabilly: a confident, virile vocal, staccato revert lead guitar, audible rhythmic guitar strumming by Elvis Presley, and driving percussive bass. If anyone ever asks you what a slap bass sounds like, just play them this record. There is not much room for improvement here. Even the abortive fadeout, during which Elvis' "Wooooo" disintegrates into unselfconscious laughter, seems part of the magic. The distance between this track and Little Junior Parker's original (SUN 192) is immense, from the telling lyrical change (Parker's "It's gonna do it again" is transformed by Presley into "It never will again") to the tempo change from a sluggish freight to a runaway locomotive.

Both Junior Parker's 1953 original of "Mystery Train" and Elvis' astonishing rethink are perfect in their way. Like "Unchained Melody" and "Come Softly To Me", the title is mentioned nowhere in the song, compounding the enigma. Elvis Presley sets a tempo closer to "Love My Baby", the flip side of Junior's single. As he breaks up near the end, he is clearly thinking that this was a rehearsal. Sam Phillips knew better. "The greatest thing I ever did on Elvis", Sam Phillips insisted. No argument.

Composer: - Herman Parker Jr.-Sam Phillips
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Memphis Music - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U-156 SUN - F2WB-8001 RCA - Take 2 - Master 2:25)
Recorded: - July 11, 1955
Released: - U-156 August 1, 1955
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single Sun 223-A mono
Reissued - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801 DI-4/9 mono

In 1989, Elvis Presley is everywhere in the film "Mystery Train", directed by Jim Jarmush, of three separate but interlocking vignettes. A Japanese couple visit Graceland and Sun Studios, Elvis' ghost is seen, a sleazy hustler tries to sell an Italian widow what he says is Elvis' comb, every room in the Arcade Hotel, located at 540 South Main Street, has a portrait of Elvis Presley, and two Elvis songs are heard: "Mystery Train" and "Blue Moon".

''Mystery Train'' did not make pop charts. What's scary about the young Elvis Presley is his assurance, the complete ease with which he swings into action. Here, singing a song in which rhythm and blues singer Junior Parker reworked the folk images from country songs like the Carter Family's "Worried Man Blues", Elvis rides an urgent Scotty Moore guitar lick and propulsive Bill Black bass line with complete confidence: He owns the song and nothing within it is unknowable to him or could ever betray him. Which is pretty weird because he's singing about something close to a death ship, a "long black train got my baby and gone", which may also be looking to snatch him. By the end, he's persuaded himself - and you, too - that it's bringing her back.

The recording itself is a masterpiece, the sound virtually liquid as it hits the car, the legendary Sun echo fine tuned like a Ferrari. Junior Parker's version, a minor rhythm and blues hit in 1953, is spooky because it details what fate can do to a man. Elvis makes you want to defy all omens, he to the graveyard and dance fearlessly at midnight.

The last cut they did was the rhythm and blues number, "Tryin' To Get To You", that they had tried without success earlier in the year. This time it was as free and unfettered as anything they had ever done, even with the addition of Johnny Bernero on drums and Elvis to use a piano, which was probably played by Elvis himself, and like "Mystery Train" it aspired to a higher kind of, mystery, for want of a better word.

There was a floating sense of inner harmony mixed with a ferocious hunger, a desperate striving linked to a pure outpouring of joy, that seemed to just tumble out of the music. It was the very attainment of art and passion, the natural beauty of the instinctive soul that Sam Phillips had been searching for ever since he first started in music; and there was no question that Elvis Presley knew that he had achieved it.

Composer: - Margie C. Singleton-Rose Marie McCoy
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Hill and Range Songs Incorporated
Matrix number: - F2WB-8039-NA - Master (2:31)
Elvis' acoustic guitar drops out of the mix on this track, supporting the suggestion that
the piano part, barely audible in the track, may be his own.
Recorded: - July 11, 1955
Released: - March 13, 1956
First appearance: - RCA Victor (LP) 33rpm LPM-1254 mono
Reissued: - June 1992 RCA BMG (CD) 500/200rpm PD 90689(5)-5/1 mono

It's been reported in 1982 by RCA that Elvis Presley recorded "Oakie Boogie" while at Sun Records in late 1955, they had session notes but couldn't find a tape. He probably sang the song on the "Louisiana Hayride". Perhaps a transcription of one of those broadcast will someday surface. Included in the 1955 folio "The Elvis Presley Album of Jukebox Favourites".

Composer: - Billy Hughes
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - BOX 11 - Probably Slow Boogie Tempo
Recorded: - July 11, 1955
Released: - Sun Unissued - Probably Tape Lost

Composer: - Winfield Scott - Written in 1954
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Unichappell Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Acetate
Recorded: - July 11, 1955
Released: - Sun Unissued - Probably Tape Lost

No content with covering Etta James, Georgia Gibbs ripped of the great LaVern Baker not only on ''Tweedlee Dee'', but also with ''Tra La La'', which LaVern had performed before the cameras in ''Rock, Rock, Rock'' (Vanguard, 1957). LaVern Baker was one of the premier Atlantic (1955) artists during the label's early years, and re-surfaced in 1988 at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Concert in New York. British heart-throb Frankie Vaughan also had his fair share of recording other people's songs from across the Atlantic. Other recordings are Georgia Gibbs (Mercury, 1955); Frankie Vaughan (Philips, 1955); Little Jimmy Osmond (MGM, 1973); Pat Boone (dot); Vicky Young (Capitol); The Mirettes (MBA); Pee Wee King (RCA); Wanda Jackson (Capitol); Bill Haley and His Comets (Sonet); Elvis Presley (Louisiana Hayride/The Music Works).

Composer: - Ahmet Nugetre
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Unichappell Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Acetate
Recorded: - July 11, 1955
Released: – Sun Unissued - Probably Tape Lost

Composer: - Johnny Tyler
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Recorded: - July 11, 1955
Released: - Sun Unissued - Probably Tape Lost

Frank Tolley of Malcolm Yelvington's band has also been mentioned as the piano player. Backing Elvis were Scotty Moore on guitar, Bill Black on bass, and Johnny Bernero on drums.

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)
Johnny Bernero - Drums (Gretsch Round Badge Kit)
Probably Doug Poindexter - Acoustic Rhythm Guitar
Probably Smokey Joe Baugh or Frank Tolley - Piano
Probably Charlie Feathers - Unknown

Within days of the session Sam Phillips had shipped the tape off to be mastered by Bill Putnam at Universal Recording in Chicago with the words, ''Give me ''hot'' lever on both 78 and 45s and as much presence peak and bass as possible!'' written boldly on the Scotch Magnetic Tape box. There were two noteworthy aspects to this transaction. One was that up until now he had done all of his mastering himself, on his own Presto lathe. The other was that he should be willing to trust anyone to bring out the sound in what he recorded, given how much he knew you could lose in the mastering process. But this was Bill Putnam, universally acknowledged as the progenitor of modern studio recording and one of Sam Phillips' true heroes in the business. Bill Putnam not only had the kind of equipment that was needed to get the levels that Sam wanted for this record, Bill Putnam had the kind of ''feel'' necessary to bring out the excitement he felt.

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


THE ELVIS PRESLEY ALBUM OF JUKEBOX FAVOURITES - Folio of fifteen Hill and Range Songs, sold in end 1955 for one dollar. The four Elvis Presley songs were: "That's All Right", "You're A Heartbreaker", "I Forgot To Remember To Forget", and "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone". Hill and Range had no idea what frustration they would create over the years when they decided to "fill out" the book with eleven of their non-Elvis songs, leading to speculation that Elvis Presley recorded them at Sun Records but they were never released.

The filler songs were: "Rag Mop", "I Almost Lost My Mind", "Cryin' Heart Blues", "Blue Guitar", "Always Later (With Your Kisses)", Tennessee Saturday Night", "Gone", "I Need You So", "Give Me More, More, More (Of Your Kisses)", Oakie Boogie", and "That's The Stuff You Gotta Watch". Elvis Presley did attempt to perform "Rag Mop" at Sun, and would later record "I Need You So". The rest is still a mystery, but Elvis Presley may not have recorded them at all.

STANLEY KESLER - Perhaps the single, most underrate person at Sun Records, Kesler, quiet, professorial - type musician, is arranger and producer of great skill. As an assistant to Sam Phillips at Sun, Stanley Kesler was a behind-the-scenes genius, who helped to mould the Sun Sound.

As a steel and bass player, Stanley Kesler remains an outstanding musician, he played with Clyde Leoppard and the Snearly Ranch Boys and contributed some luminous steel guitar solos to early recordings by Charlie Feathers, the Miller Sisters, and play on Carl Perkins' first two Sun Records, and by many others artists.

Kesler also wrote some early material for Elvis Presley, including "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" and "Playing For Keep". Stanley Kesler travelling with Al Rogers throughout the South and Southwest during 1949-1951, and begun to write songs.

After the onslaught of rock and roll, Kesler learned the electric bass and worked countless sessions between 1956 and 1959, when he left to launch the Echo studio with Jack Clement and start up Crystal Records. Although Crystal didn't last long, Kesler eventually prospered during the Memphis recording boom of the mid-to-late 1960s, scoring big with Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, whom he cut at Sam Phillips' new studio on Madison Avenue.

In the 1960s, Stanley Kesler produced two albums for Jerry Lee Lewis and after a few years out of the music business, Kesler came back to roost at the Phillips studio, where he signed on as an engineer. His renewed involvement with the music business took a new turn when he dusted off his electric bass in 1986 to join Roland Janes and J.M. Van Eaton in the Sun Rhythm Section band. Section has been so successful at clubs and festivals in the past few years is that they capture the irrepressible joy of playing that the real Sun rhythm section caught in their day. Kesler today remains associated with studio work for Sam Phillips and his sons, Knox and Jerry.

"I met Elvis at Sun. At that time, he was just another guy, hanging out at the studio like a lot of others. He was just beginning to pick up steam with his first record, but he was just another of the guys. He was a cool cat, you might say; very calm, very congenial.

I didn't do any sessions with Elvis. I once came in just after he had recorded "I Forgot To Remember To Forget". I heard the playback on that one. He would do three more of my songs after he joined to RCA - "Playing For Keeps", "Thrill Of Your Love" and "If I'm A Fool". I remember the first time I heard Elvis sing. I was in the car, on my way to the Cotton Club. I would switch the station between Dewey Phillips and Sleepy Eyed John and I heard this song, "That's All Right", and, being a hillbilly, I thought, 'Man, what is this" What is this guy trying to do?

I liked it, but it just didn't sound right to me because I liked what Faron Young and Webb Pierce were doing at the time. This one was real foreign, but you couldn't help but like it. I had no idea that by the end of the year this guy, Elvis, would be recording one of my songs. It never entered my mind. But Sam took my songs to Elvis. They both agreed on it and went ahead and did it. It went gold over the years, but not then. Then, Sun didn't have the distribution that labels have now. Elvis was then more or less a "Southern thing".

"I heard Elvis' recording of my first song in the studio. I was thrilled to hear it. The way you write a song, you can always hear the way you think it should be done, but the way he did it, it was kind of away from the way I had pictured it. I had pictured it a little more smooth. If you could hear the outtake of that song they called it "My Baby Is Gone", it's been bootlegged in Holland; it's probably gold over there on the bootleg - it's a slowed down version. It's what they tried at first. That's kind of the way we wrote it. He kind of jazzed it up. He put a feel into it. It's indescribable. We loved it. He more or less did that with all of my songs that he recorded".

"On "I Forgot", he did it pretty close to the way I had the feel of it. Absolutely, Elvis put his own signature into most of what he did in the studio. I think he was unique in that way. Most singers have a certain sound. Elvis' sound was so pat, when you heard his records you couldn't help but know who he was when you heard the first line, even if you had never heard the song before. I didn't attend Elvis' recording sessions at Sun. For one thing, it was so small in there. Sometimes people get intimidated when they have an audience and they are trying to record; doing things different; trying different things. For another, the worst thing a writer can do is go to the session where his song is being recorded, because you hear different things and it frustrates you and sometimes you'll say, 'Man, I thought you ought to do it this way", and this is really bad because that's the producer's job. It causes friction. It's best to wait and hear the finished product".

"When I heard "I'm Left", I loved it. When the royalty checks started coming in, I loved it even more. It sounded a lot better when it was in the Top Ten. In those days, all recordings was strictly mono. You did everything live. If you made a mistake, at the end you went back to the top and started over. There wasn't any going back and punching in, overdubbing this, overdubbing that (like today). You made a mistake, you did the whole song over again. Or you'd let it go. Lots of times they'd just let it go if it weren't too out of kilter.

I know Elvis, Scotty and Bill did quite a lot of takes on some of their first songs. Now Jerry Lee Lewis was different. If Jerry Lee didn't get it in one or two takes, he'd lose interest. I only toured once with Elvis. I was backing some of the other country artists on a tour he was on. I never actually played behind Elvis Presley. This was the July 31-August 4, 1955 tour in Alabama and Arkansas, winding up here at Overton Park Shell in Memphis".

JULY 15, 1955 FRIDAY

Elvis Presley and Dewey Phillips visited the clubs on Beale Street, where Dewey was still hailed as a conquering hero and this white boy who sang the blues was readily accepted as yet another of Dewey's ideas. "Elvis had the feel of Beale Street", said Sam Phillips. "He was probably more at home there than he was on Main. You know, Elvis didn't walk into Lansky Brothers because someone suggested, 'Why don't you buy a chartreuse fucking shirt".

"We had a lot of fun with him", said WDIA's Professor Nat D. Williams, the unofficial ambassador of Beale. "Elvis Presley on Beale Street when he first started was a favorite man... Always he had that certain humanness about him that Negroes like to put in their songs".

JULY 1955

All went waterskiing on McKellar Lake together and picnicked out at Riverside Park; when Sonny Neal, Bob Neals' son, ran for student council in the spring, Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black appeared at the Messick High Chapel program in support of his campaign.

Elvis Presley often admired the Chris-Craft speedboat that Bob Neal had parked on a trailer in the driveway of the Neal residence. On more than one occasion, he had expressed a desire to try waterskiing, a favourite pastime of Bob Neal's family.

To avaid the crowds, Bob invited Elvis and his parents to joind them on a weekday afternoon for a picnic at McKellar Lake. It wasn't a natural lake, but rather a water channel built as part of the Memphis port area, and as muddy as the Mississippi river it was connected to. Without mother Gladys knowing about it, Elvis persuaded Bob to come back the next day and, bubbling with enthusiasm, he soon learned, under the auspices of Sonny Neal (son of Bob Neal), how to operate the skis. Bob brought a camera, and some of his shots later appeared in the first Presley song folio that Neal secured through publishers Hill and Range.


Elvis Presley had his first nationally ranked single as "Baby Let's Play House" entered the Billboard "Music Popularity Charts" at number 15 on the Country And Western Best Sellers In Stores list for the week ending July 6th.

The single stayed on the chart for fifteen weeks, reaching a high of number 10. The summer issue of Country Song Roundup, show a picture of Hank Snow on the cover, featured the story "Elvis Presley - Folk Music Fireball", following national features in Cowboy Songs and Country and Western Jamboree.

Elvis Presley appearance at the Louisiana Hayride, Municipal Auditorium, Shreveport, Louisiana.

TIME TO EXPAND THE BAND - This next tour marked the permanent expansion of Elvis Presley's backing musicians.

Up to now, Elvis was backed on his live appearances primarily by Scotty Moore on guitar and Bill Black on bass. In April 1955, the names of pianist Floyd Cramer and steel guitarist Jimmy Day began to appear occasionally in ads for Elvis Presley's shows. Cramer and Day were members of the house band during the Louisiana Hayride shows on Saturday night, and they were part of the Hayride tour packages on which Elvis appeared. Now they were working exclusively for Elvis Presley during the week. Cramer would remain Elvis' pianist of choice on tour until 1961 and in the recording studio in Nashville until the late 1960s, at which time Cramer was enjoying popularity on his own. Jimmy Day remained with Elvis Presley through most of 1955. As mentioned earlier, he later became a member of Ray Price's band, the Cherokee Cowboys.

Elvis only occasionally used a drummer either on tour or in the studio before August 1955. In April, he even hired a local drummer in Odessa. When it came time to make the position permanent, D. J. Fontana, the staff drummer of the Louisiana Hayride and a member of Hoot and Curley's band in Shreveport, was the musician chosen. D.J. has said that he played with Elvis Presley at least once at Shreveport's Lake Cliff Club, which may have been in November 1954. He may have also played shows with Elvis Presley in east Texas in early 1955. D.J. has often been quoted as stating that his first playdates with Elvis Presley outside of Shreveport were Lufkin, Longview, Kilgore and Tyler. Except for Lufkin, the upcoming tour is the only one that includes the three other towns. Interestingly, in the brief home movie taken during the Magnolia Gardens show that follows, a drum kit and the dim image of a drummer can be seen behind Elvis Presley off to stage left. D.J. remained under contract to Elvis Presley from 1955 to 1968, longer than any other musician. He worked recording sessions, appeared in movies, and played on tours.

While Elvis was accepting a few small gigs in preparation for his third appearance at the Big D Jamboree and, ultimately, two weeks of Tom Parker and Bob Neal arranged tours, Colonel Parker was monitoring mail sent to select area promoters. While settling the last details of the Andy Griffith tour, the Colonel had Tom Diskin work on the further exploitations of Elvis.

Tom Diskin was told to send materials out to new contacts, from Texas to all across the South, and up to North Carolina. But he also cautioned not to spread out the contacts too wide geographically, to avoid unmanageable driving distances with Sam Phillips and Sun Records was worded in his July 20 letter to Tom Diskin: ''Let's not plug Sun Records at this time. Sun is doing nothing for us''.

Two days later, Tom Parker arranged a conference call with partner Hank Snow and Bob Neal. Parker and Snow offered to buy the Sun contract for $10,000, indicating that Elvis could be on a proposed weekly Hank Snow TV show, The idea was that, instead of Elvis getting a higher record royalty than the three per cent he had with Sun, he would remain at the same percentage, but Parker and Snow would get two per cent for their contributions. Meanwhile, RCA Records came forward with an offer geared at Elvis, with a $5,000 singing bonus, and throwing Sun Records a choice of a flat payment of $12,500 or a $20,000 total buyout, recoupable from royalties.


His vacation over, it was time to get back on the road. En route to his show, he stopped off to visit Floyd Presley in Sikeston. Elvis Presley's first stop was a benefit in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Tickets were $1.00 for adults with children under twelve getting in for 50-cents. The show raised money for the Southeast Chapter of the United Cerebral Palsy Fund.

Prior to the ten o'clock concert, there was round and square dancing beginning at 8:30 p.m. Appearing with Elvis Presley at the Cape Arena Building were Wanda Jackson, Bob Neal, Bud Deckelman, "Little Willie" Bryan, and Johnny Daume and His Ozark Ridge Runners. Before Elvis Presley cane on stage, he teased the crowd by sticking his head out of the curtains, first on one side of the stage, then on the other. In the course of the engagement Elvis converts Wanda Jackson to the rockabilly cause, of which she becomes one of the most prominent and convincing, female progenitors.

Tom Parker by now is gearing up for full representation, instructing Tom Diskin not to mail the Presley ''poop sheet'' all over the country at once by instead to send bathches to one geographic area at a time. This will mean that resulting bookings will not be spaced so far apart. ''Let´s not plug Sun records for this time'', a adjures Diskin. ''Sun is doing nothing for us''.


Elvis Presley and his group appeared at the Silver Moon Club, located at 167 Highway in Newport, Arkansas. The Silver Moon was a large building able to hold about a thousand people. Also appearing with Elvis Presley was Porky Sellers and his Arkansas Playboys. Although not mentioned in the ad, is probably that this unit also performed late into the night at Seller's club, Porky's Rooftop.

"Betty Craft and some others had seen Elvis over at the country and western and the Silver Moon over in Newport", said Glen Swindle. "They were going to be seniors at Bono High School in September and they were looking for some fund raisers to sponsor the class trip to Florida. They asked Elvis Presley if he would be interested and he agreed".

According to Mike McGibbony remembers the Silver Moon, ''It was the greatest honky-tonk there ever was. It was a one-story building with a bar up front, opened up into a big room with tables and a dance floor down the bandstand. They had little glowing beer signs around the dance floor on the wall. They were lit up and would turn around and glow. The stage was about two feet tall, and at another level was the drummer''.

Alfred McCullar, manager of the Silver Moon says, ''The Silver Moon had a 1,250 capacity, and had a band about four nights a week. It would often be just a local band playing for a dance, but they were also able to bring in bigger names. We had heard about Elvis. He had been in Newport before at Porky's Rooftop, a smaller club, but I had never seen him. That night was a complete sell-out, and I thought that he was just a very nice young kid''.

JULY 22, 1955 FRIDAY

Elvis Presley performed in the "Pioneer Jamboree" in Odessa, Texas, with Ferlin Husky, the Browns, Tibby Edwards, and Sonny James. The show was booked by Lee Alexander of radio station KECK.

The predominantly country crowd continually hollered out for "Baby Let's Play House". Few people in the audience realized that a black singer was the source of Elvis Presley's latest hit.

The idea that Elvis Presley appeared in Odessa on this date was spawned by Billboard. An item in the July 23, 1955, edition mentioned that Elvis Presley, Ferlin Husky, the Browns, Tibby Edwards and Sonny James had stopped by Lee Alexander's KECK radio show "recently". Also mentioned in the article, but in a separate context, was Odessa's Friday Night Pioneer Jamboree. This has led researchers to the assumption that all the performers were part of a touring group that might have played Odessa on Friday, July 22. It didn't help that Elvis Presley unaccounted for on that date.

In checking, there was a Pioneer Jamboree on this date. However, the large advertisement in the Odessa American on the day of the show does not mention Elvis Presley. The actual performers were on July 22 were Johnny Horton, Betty Amos, Jimmy Day, Dalton and Lula Joe, and David Houston. Elvis Presley did tour with this package in August - but not July.

According to Peggy Cheshire Baldwin, Elvis Presley and his band performed at Minden, Louisiana, Joy Drive-In Theater on a flatbed truck from the local feed store. One of the things Elvis liked most about the performance was it was the first time he's seen his name in lights, compliments of her uncle, John Cobb, the drive-in's manager, and a Louisiana Hayride fan.


Elvis Presley returned to Dallas play the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, Texas, on this date instead of the Hayride. Oscar "The Baron" Davis, an advance man for Colonel Tom Parker, realized early on that the youthful crowd was there primarily to see Elvis Presley perform. Held at the Sport-auditorium, the admission for the show was sixty cents for adults and thirty cents for the kids.

The Dallas city government booked the Presley concert to promote a free bus ticket program for those who came by public transportation. A special newspaper ad read: "you get a FREE bus ticket home... if you COME by BUS" Elvis' show prompted a Dallas newspaper to remark that he was "one of the brightest new stars".) Johnny Burnette and his Rock And Roll Trio is practising for an appearance on the "Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour".

According to future Sun recording artist, Roy Orbison, ''I first saw Elvis line in '55. It was at the Big D Jamboree in Dalles and the first thing, he came out and spat on the stage. In fact, he spat out a piece of gum, but that was right away shocking! And he was this punk kid, a real weird-looking dude. Just a real cat, singing like a bird. I can't over-emphasize how shocking he looked and seemed to me that night. He had Floyd Cramer playing piano along with Scotty Moore and Bill Black too. Did ''Maybellene'', then the kids started shouting. There was pandemonium in the audience 'cause the girls took a shine to him and the guys were getting a little jealous. Plus he told some real bad, crude jokes, y'know, this dumb off-color humor, which weren't funny and his diction was real coarse like a truck driver's''.

JULY 24, 1955 SUNDAY

The night after the "Big D Jamboree", Elvis Presley appeared at the Round-Up Club at 2005 South Parkway in Dallas, Texas. A boisterous gathering of adult country music enthusiasts greeted Elvis Presley, who altered his song selection to include traditional country tunes. Elvis Presley was as readily accepted by the older, hard-drinking crowd as he had been by the kids at the Jamboree. The Round-Up Club, a typical Texas honky-tonk bar, forced an entertainer to meet its demands. If they didn't like your music, you couldn't be heard in the beer-bottle clanking atmosphere. Fistfights were common. If the crowd behaved, it meant you had probably established your musical reputation, and that people wanted to listen.

Colonel Tom Parker had been quick to bring Elvis back to Florida, this time supporting popular comedy and singer Andy Griffith, along with a group of other successful country acts. Tom Diskin had instructed Elvis to ''be on hand'' at Fort Myers radio station WMYR before 5:00 p/m., and not go to any other radio station without first checking with the Colonel.

Diskin says, ''The Colonel will advise you on the show line up at that time, because there are two shows scheduled for Daytona Beach in one evening, it will be necessary to cut a little bit from each act in order to shorten the show''.

JULY 25, 1955 MONDAY

"Back by popular demand", Elvis Presley began a tour of Florida in Fort Myers at the New City Auditorium, as an extra attraction on the same bill with Andy Griffith. America's favorite corn pone comedian. In 1954, Griffth's hilarious description of a backwoods country boy's first view of a football game sold a half million copies of the single, "What It Was Was Football". Sharing the spotlight with Griffith and Elvis were the duo of Marty Robbins and Jimmy Farmer; newcomer Tommy Collins, a popular West Coast country performer; Jimmie Rodgers Snow, who brought along his father's Rainbow Ranch Boys; Glenn Reeves; and Frank Evans and his Ranch Hands, who were regulars on WALT radio in Tampa. Also on the bill are Ferlin Husky with His Hush Puppies. At the bottom of each newspaper ad came Oscar Davis' tag line, "Don't You Dare Miss It".

The entertainment was sponsored by WYMR radio. Admission was $1.50 for adult general admission seating, $1.75 for reserved seats, and 75-cents for children. This tour was arranged through Colonel Tom Parker.

When the news got around that Elvis Presley would open in Tampa on Monday, July 25, 1955, at the 116th Field Artillery Armoury, there was considerable excitement. The ground swell of interest in Elvis Presley was not lost on the show's sponsor, the Seratoma Club. The organization flooded the Tampa area with attractive handbills advertising Presley's appearance, and as a result, the crowd was so large that the Armoury filled in less than an hour.

According to Joan Lacey, ''When Andy Griffith came, he was the star, and he grabbed me backstage and said, 'Joan, Joan, if you get Brad (her husband and local promoter), you tell him I'm not following Elvis. Put him on last'. And of course Andy was supposed to end the shows''.


Furlin Husky was added to the roster for the remainder of the Andy Griffith tour as it moved on to Orlando, Florida. Tickets for the 8:15 p.m. show each evening were scaled down from $1.50 at the Moses Phamacy Western Way Shopping Center. The concert at the Municipal Auditorium was promoted by WORZ radio located at 143 North Orange Avenue. Billboard reported that "Elvis stole the show". The Florida press also followed Elvis' appearances enthusiastically. Also on the bill, Simon Crum, Marty Robbins, Jimmy Farmer, Tommy Collins, Jim Reeves, Jimmy Rogers Snow and His Tennessee Playboys.


Momentum for Elvis Presley was building rapidly in Florida as the tour moved on to Jacksonville for shows in the New Baseball Stadium. Elvis Presley sing Rufus Thomas' "Juanita" in his concert repertoire. The doors opened each evening at 7:00 p.m., with the show beginning at 8:15 p.m. Seats each night were $1.25.

During the second day's show in Jacksonville, the crowd broke through the police barriers in a replay of the previous May's riot. By the time Elvis Presley could be rescued, he was barely wearing any clothes.

In a later interview, he said, "The kids took my watch, ring, coat, shirt, and shoes. I got out with my pants, but the cuffs were gone".

Two new promoters, WQIK disc jockey Marsshall Rowland and Mea Boren Axton, had brought the show to the Jacksonville minor league baseball park. They nervously watched the large throng milling around the small stadium. It was an awkward venue for the performers, who dressed in the baseball clubhouse and came on stage through the dugout.

Jimmy Rogers Snow recalls, ''I remember the girls in Jacksonville, I remember them chasing us across the football field, and we had to run for dear life to the rest room. There were hundreds of women chasing us, and when they couldn't get to him and if anybody else had been on-stage, they would have grabbed them too''.

Marty Robbins says, ''They say the first time Elvis was mobbed was in Jacksonville. I remember that well, because I couldn't believe it was happening. They chased him in the dressing room, and he was on top of the showers trying to get away from people, guys and girls alike. They were trying to grab a shoe, or anything. I was getting a big kick out of it. Nobody noticed me. I just stood there laughing. I knew then he was going to be big, because people didn't even know who Elvis Presley was, and they acted like this''.

The Cash Box, August 1955: ''Elvis Presley (Sun) recently was presented with a new sports coat by Colonel Parker, to replace the one torn apart by eager fans in Jacksonville, Florida. Elvis Presley, who creates panic and pandemonium among the female fans, got caught in the middle of a mob od screaming and swooning admirers in Jacksonville, Florida, and before he could get free was minus tie, handkerchief, belt, and a good portion of his coat and shirt, the gals grabbed for souvenirs. Presley has been the talk of the trades for weeks''.

According to Joyce Harols, ''We were in the bleachers, at Gator Bowl I think. They built a platform out there. We followed the crowd into the locker rooms. Elvis' clothes were taken off except his pants, they were pink, possible pink coat. Elvis' mother and father were there and me and my friend were talking to them. My friend remembers his pink Cadillac. Elvis' mother said that it hadn't happened before. She didn't seem scared''.

Zelma Story says, ''He came to the Gator Bowl, and he was behind a fence on a platform, but he was very close to us. He came out, and they started tearing his clothes off him, and we all went back to the locker room with him, they were holding him up above their heads. I went with his mother and father, and she was crying, tears were flowing, and she said, 'Oh, they are going to kill my son'. Her husband was standing beside her, but he didn't say anything. She wanted us to go and do something, but what could we do? He reached out for people, and I think he way of touched both of us. He had on a pink suit, and there was a pink Cadillac sitting outside right at the door''.

Johnny Tillotson, then a high school disc jockey on WWPF, wanted to interview Elvis Presley, as he had tried to do in May. When Tillotson arrived at the ball park, there was a great deal of excitement. Hundred of people were walking around under the baseball stands, and a crowd of about thirty people had surrounded Elvis Presley. As Tillotson pondered the strategy he'd need to get his interview, Elvis Presley began to walk toward the baseball dugout.

Realizing that he might not be able to get to Elvis Presley, Johnny Tillotson decided on a unique strategy. In order to get Elvis' attention, Tillotson began parroting Elvis' version of "Baby Let's Play House".

Elvis Presley, standing with Scotty Moore, Bill Black, and other musicians in the dugout, yelled out: "Hold it!. What's that?". Elvis Presley smiled and cast a quizzical glance at the diminutive high school student. "I introduced myself as a local singer that needed to interview him, because I had promised my listeners the interview", Tillotson remarked. "If I hadn't been able to complete the Presley interview, my listeners would have deserted me".

When Johnny Tillotson told Elvis Presley that his radio future depended upon an interview, Elvis smelled and sat down for a quick chat. The amiable Tillotson made Elvis Presley very comfortable, and they actually talked for quite some time.

Afterward, as Johnny Tillotson - who, in a few years, would score with hits of his own "Poetry In Motion", "It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin" - watched Elvis' show, he was impressed by Elvis' concert because of the broad cross section of people who attended it. He also picked up some subtle points about working a crowd. A number of accounts have described this night as one in which a riot ensued, but Johnny Tillotson doesn't remember a riot at any of Elvis' appearances in Jacksonville. "Riot isn't the correct adjective to describe the crowd's reaction to Elvis", Tillotson remarked. "The response to Elvis' music was a very positive, enthusiastic, totally spontaneous happening of the audience. They were simply leaving their seat to acknowledge Elvis' performance, there was no violence", Tillotson concluded. After the concert, Elvis Presley left for a local motel.

On Saturday, July 30, 1955, Johnny Tillotson aired the interview over WWPF, and it was an in-depth analysis of the reasons for Presley's success. A combination of high energy and a raucous blues musical style, Tillotson told his listeners, had made Elvis Presley a very special act, blues and rhythm and blues songs, Elvis Presley emphasized, were key to his musical appeal to a wide variety of young people.


The Florida tour with Andy Griffith rolled along with two performances in Daytona Beach. The shows, at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., were held at the Peabody Auditorium, and Elvis was ready to go back to the quick, backbreaking one-night stands. Tickets were $1.00 in advance and $1.25 the night of the show. Reserved seats were available for $1.50.

In the Daytone Beach News-Jounal, Peabody Auditorium manager Henry DeVerners says he needs 12 ushers. Six are needed for the first performance beginning at 7:30 and six for the second, beginning at 9:30. They will have to be dressed in hillbilly costume. And he said, volunteers may call Deverner at CL 2-1441 tomorrow or Monday.


Newspaper article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal with the headliner:
Any Griffith Show Slated At Peabody''

Andy Griffith who made his reputation on recordings of such numbers as ''What It Was, Was Football'', and ''Make Yourself Comfortable'' is coming to Daytona Beach next weekend.

His show, which will also include several country and western entertainers, is booked for two performances, at 7:30 and 9:30 p/m. Saturday at Peabody Auditorium.

Elvis Presley, young singer from the Louisiana Hayride Show, will be one of the personalities in the show. Presley, a singer who combines country music with bop, has made a name for himself with such records as ''That's All Right'', ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'', ''I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine'', and Good Rockin' Tonight''. He'll be accompanied by Scotty Moore, on the guitar, and Bill Black, bass.

A group of Grand Ole Opry artists will include Ferlin Husky, Simon Ceum, and Marty Robbins. Tommy Collins, of Hollywood, and Glenn Reeves are also scheduled to perform.

As a special attraction on the program there'll be Jimmie Rodgers Snow, son of the famous Hank Snow, and his Tennessee Playboys.

Griffith, star of the show, made his name in television on the show, ''No Time For Sergeants'' and will have a starring tole in the production when it opens on Broadway in September.

If the Colonel still had any doubts about Elvis' potential, the past week had certainly dismissed them completely.

Understandably, his frustrations escalated with the news that Bob Neal still had not managed to convince Elvis to leave Sun Records, and that Neal had also made a deal with Hill and Range for a song folio, without ever mentioning it to him. Tom Parker saw this as a betrayal, not only by Neal, but also by his long-time allies at Hill and Range.

In spite of all the discussions between Parker and Bob Neal, tour planning still fell through the cracks. At the end of the Florida tour, the Colonel realized that Elvis was still doing shows he didn't know of, including a Sunday August 7 appearance in Houston. However, nothing further was planned for the rest of August, as Bob Neal expected the Colonel to take care of all bookings, and consequently had done none himself. He informed the Colonel that the only two things left were the Houston date and a September 3 appearance at the Big D, shows that he owned local promoters from previous agreements made for these venues.

The Colonel blames Bob Neal, as usual, although he himself six weeks earlier had clearly stated that all bookings should go through his office.

JULY 31, 1955 SUNDAY

Elvis Presley and the Andy Griffith Show played at 2:30 p.m. matinée and an 8:15 evening performance at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armoury in Tampa, home of the 116th Field Artillery Headquarters Battery.

Appearing on this show was local favorite Ernie Lee. General admission tickets were $1.00 in advance, $1.25 at the door, with the reserved section costing $1.50; children under 12 were 50-cents. The show was sponsored by the Sertoma Club, a civic group.

Other performers on the show, Furlin Husky and His Hushpuppies, Simon Crum, Marty Robbins, Tommy Collins, Glenn Reeves, and Jimmie Farmer. Elvis is "by popular demand".

It was hot outside Fort Homer Hesterly Armory the night of July 31, 1955, when Leland Hawes saw nothing of Elvis Presley but a lot of the singer's Cadillac. Hawes, a Tampa Tribute reporter since 1952, was watching over Elvis' car as a member of the Tampa Sertoma Club, which sponsored the concert. Tom Parker had offered to help a club charity if its members would work as ushers and take in tickets. Hawes says, ''Tom Parker told the Sertoma Club that there was this young singer that was getting all this attention, and young girls were just following him madly, and he needed someone to guard his Cadillac, which was going to be parked at Fort Hesterly. He didn't want lipstick imprints all over the car''. So, Hawes and a couple of others stood inside the armory compound and kept the pink-and-black Fleetwood free of lipsticked love notes. Easy duty, as Hawes recalls, ''I don't really remember having to ward off swarms of women''. Hawes could hear the concert but couldn't see it. He wasn't impressed at the time with the rising star, ''Just sounded like a lot of howling to me''.

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