No one should ever profess that rock and roll began or was founded with the advent of Elvis Presley onto the musical scene but in the day it would have certainly been fair to say that with the appearance of Elvis onto the scene, we now had the rising genre of rock and roll on steroids.
In retrospect it seems that July is surely a landmark month when it comes time to discuss Elvis Presley and the earliest beginnings of his career. After all, it was on July 18th of 1953 when Elvis made his way through the front door of Sun Records and recorded his first two songs. Sixty-one years ago on this month after walking through that front door he plunked down $3.98 and recorded a acetate demo of two songs; “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”. The seed had been sown…
Then in 1954, one year later during the month of July a combination of events would occur setting in motion a force that would elevate the relatively new genre of Rock & Roll to unprecedented levels driven by the talents of one young man….
July 4th – Elvis was trying to find a band to sing with and so Sam Phillips who just happened to be owner and producer of Sun Records and simply trying to be a nice guy and help the young kid out, arranged for Scotty Moore and Bill Black, two local Memphis musicians to audition Elvis to see if there might be some possibilities there for a band. Elvis got together with Scotty and Bill at Scotty’s house on July 4, 1954 but neither musician was particularly impressed with what Elvis had to offer. But they did agree to meet at Sun Records the next day and have Sam Phillips oversee a studio session to explore any uncovered potential.
July 5th – The three met the next day at the studio along with Phillips and rehearsed and recorded a few selective songs but nothing that made any impressions on anyone. During a break Elvis picked up a guitar and began playing around and singing “That’s All Right”. Phillips had Moore and Black join in and they all got their first real taste of the talent that lay beneath the skin of the young man. They recorded four songs during that session but the two standouts were “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon Over Kentucky”.
July 8th – After the session on the 5th Sam pressed a few acetate records and took them to a local station in Memphis, WHBQ, and it was on this day the songs hit the airways to test the waters and see what, if any, public reaction might reveal. A week later Sun Records had received some 6,000 advanced orders for the record.
July 19th – And so it was that on this day, the 19th, in 1954 that Sun Records releases the first Elvis Presley record containing “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “That’s All Right”. It should be noted that the song “That’s All Right” was considered the A-side of the record while “Blue Moon of Kentucky” the B-side. From its early release however through early December, “Blue Moon of Kentucky” was consistently higher on the local charts but then quickly after that both songs began to hit the charts across the South.
At the time I was nearing my 14th birthday and ready to start the 8th grade. Given my hometown’s (Little Rock, Arkansas) proximity to Memphis we were certainly aware of this shape shifting, hip-shaking rock and roller making a name for himself but were not aware of what was to follow. But… if you loved music as I surely did, it was a hell of a time to be a kid and taking it all in… believe you me!
If you check out the “Featured Music Selection” for this week you’ll see I have posted a selection titled “Birth of Rock and Roll”. The song was released on an album in 1985 titled “Class of ’55′” and features another one of those Sun Records artists from those days days of renown with lyrics actually chronicling Elvis and those early Sun Record days. That artist being none other than Carl Perkins who was another of the great talents to emerge from the Sun’s record label.