THE ELVIS CONTROVERSY - Peter Guralnick’s book ''Lost Highway'' first alerted fans to Feathers’ more sensationalclaims about rockabilly
music and his alleged role in Presley’s success. Feathers told Guralnick he arranged all of Presley’s Sun material and gave Jerry Lee Lewis the idea for his "pumpin' piano" sound. They are among many claims Feathers made throughout his lifetime
which are difficult to disprove or believe, though testimony exists on both sides.
Stan Kesler, who played on dozens of Sun sessions, told contemporary musicians, "I
never saw him work in the studio with Elvis at all. I really don’t think that's true, to tell you the truth''. He grudgingly allowed, "He might’ve worked with him when I wasn't looking''. Presley's 1950-1960s drummer D.J. Fontana was asked by contemporary
musicians if Elvis ever talked about Feathers during their many long hours on the road together. "He never mentioned him one time, at no time'', later adding, "If his name had come up I would've remembered it because I was familiar with him and a lot of other
I never heard Elvis say anything about learning from anybody. He just sang what he felt like singing and that was the end of it''. In Craig Morrison’s book
''Go Cat Go! Rockabilly Music and Its Makers'', Presley sideman Scotty Moore stated that Feathers was constantly in and out of the studio but was not a factor on Presley's sessions.
Jimmy M. Van Eaton and Roland Janes arrived at Sun after Charlie Feathers left, but played on all of Jerry Lee Lewis’s most important sessions. As with all of Feathers' associates contacted by contemporary musicians, they admire Feathers' talent and
believe he knew what rockabilly was all about, but are hesitant to believe his claims, including former Sun rockabilly artist Sonny Burgess. It’s important to note that author Guralnick himself barely referred to Feathers in his exhaustively researched,
best-selling biographies on the life of Elvis Presley.
Yet Feathers’ wife Rosemary has related clear memories of the early days to her daughter, Wanda Vanzant.
"We were living on Pauline Street here in Memphis and Elvis would come by in an old black pick-up truck and pick my dad up and they would go to the studio and stay all day'', Wanda Vanzant told Contemporary Musicians. "We did not have a car and my mother had
to catch the bus to go to her job downtown and she would always catch the bus back and get off in front of the studio at 9:00 p.m. just about every night, and she and my dad would walk home together. Sometimes she would have to wait on him to finish whatever
they were doing in the studio. Sometimes when (Elvis) would pick my dad up they would go to the fan club house. Shirley, president of my dad’s fan club, has told me that Elvis had a little crush on a girl that was living across from them''.
Further, in the liner notes for Norton's ''Uh Huh Honey'' CD, no less a figure than country legend Johnny Cash recalls Charley Feathers running the board during Elvis Presley's "Baby Let's
Play House" session. More controversially, in ''Rockabilly - A Forty Year Journey'' author Billy Poore claims that he has heard Feathers' private collection of Sun session tapes featuring the distinct voices of Charley Feathers, Elvis Presley, and Sam Phillips
working together. In a stranger twist, Wanda Vanzant reports that no Sun studio tapes exist in her late father’s archives. With so many conflicting stories, it’s unlikely that there will be a definitive explanation of what Feathers did or didn’t
do at the Sun studio.
FEBRUARY 3, 1955 THURSDAY
Carl Smith recorded ''Wicked Lies'', ''Old Lonesome Times'',
''I've Changed'' and ''There She Goes'' during the evening at the Tulane Hotel's Castle Studio in Nashville.
FEBRUARY 4, 1955 FRIDAY
Rhythm and blues vocalist Al Hibbler recorded ''Unchained Melody''. The pop hit is destined to reach hit status in country twice, in the hands of Elvis Presley and LeAnn Rimes.
FEBRUARY 5, 1955 SATURDAY
Elvis Presley recorded ''Baby, Let's Play House'' at Memphis' Sun Recording Studio.
FEBRUARY 6, 1955 SUNDAY
Back in Memphis, Elvis Presley performed two shows, at 3:00 and 8:00 p.m.
at Ellis Auditorium's North Hall in a show "Five Star" bill, with headlined by Faron Young.
The concert also featured "Beautiful Gospel Singer" Martha Carson making her
Memphis debut, Ferlin Husky (who dropped the "e" in his last name a year later), the Browns, the Hushpuppies Doyle and Teddy, Floyd Tillman, and the Wilburn Brothers. Admission was $1.00 for general admission seats to $1.25 for the best seats.
The first show went fine. Elvis Presley sang his new song, "Milkcow Blues Boogie" and "You're A Heartbreaker", as well as "That's All Right" and "Good Rockin' Tonight". Elvis Presley was
fascinated, too, with the performance of Martha Carson, a spectacular redhead who looked like a movie star and sang and moved like Sister Rosetta Tharpe when she performed her trademark hit, "Satisfied" and a host of traditional "coloured" spirituals. She
broke several strings, danced ecstatically at the end of a long guitar chord, and in general created the kind of smouldering intensity and infectious enthusiasm that Elvis sought to achieve in his own performance. He asked Miss Carson afterward if she knew
a particular Statesmen number, and he made it clear that "He knew the words to every song that I had ever had out", Martha Carson. "He was very complimentary and very interest in what I did. I could feel this was sincere, it was from the heart, it wasn't just
someone saying this, he just really idolized me, and I could feel it".
Elvis Presley meets for the first time with Colonel Tom Parker at Palumbo's, across the street
from Memphis' Ellis Auditorium, where he performs two shows with Faron Young, Martha Carson, Ferlin Husky and The Wilburn Brothers.
The meeting at Palumbo's did not get
off to an auspicious start. The tension in the air was already make when Elvis Presley and Scotty Moore walked in. Colonel Tom Parker was sitting there with a big cigar, his jaw thrust out, and a pugnacious expression on his face, as Diskin tried to explain
to Sam Phillips that the Colonel didn't really mean anything against the Sun label in particular, that he was just trying to point out the shortcoming that would attach to any small record label, which necessarily lacked the kind of distribution that a major
company like RCA, with which the Colonel had been associated for many years through both Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow, could offer.
Later in the week, Tom Diskin, among
others subjects, wrote RCA's head of Artists of Repertoire, Steve Sholes, to report that ''Elvis Presley is pretty securely tied up''. The off-handed remark took Sholes by surprise, as the Colonel had given him the impression that it was likely they could
sign him to RCA.
FEBRUARY 7, 1955 MONDAY
The Maddox Brothers and Rose recorded
''A Rusty Old Halo''. The song become a hit for Hoyt Axton two dozen years later.
Columbia released Carl Smith's ''Wait A Little Longer Please, Jesus''.