His first recordings are now history, but the music lives on even today.
In August 1953, Elvis Presley walked into the offices of Sun Records. He aimed to pay for a few minutes of studio time to record a two-sided acetate disc: “My Happiness”and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”. He would later claim that he intended the record as a gift for his mother, or that he was merely interested in what he “sounded like”, although there was a much cheaper, amateur record-making service at a nearby general store.
Asked by receptionist Marion Keisker what kind of singer he was, Presley responded, “I sing all kinds.” When she pressed him on who he sounded like, he repeatedly answered, “I don’t sound like nobody.”
After he recorded, Sun boss Sam Phillips asked Keisker to note down the young man’s name, which she did along with her own commentary: “Good ballad singer. Hold.”
In January 1954, Presley cut a second acetate at Sun Records—”I’ll Never Stand In Your Way” and “It Wouldn’t Be the Same Without You”—but again nothing came of it.
Not long after, he failed an audition for a local vocal quartet, the Songfellows. He explained to his father, “They told me I couldn’t sing.”
In April, Presley began working for the Crown Electric company as a truck driver. His friend Ronnie Smith, after playing a few local gigs with him, suggested he contact Eddie Bond, leader of Smith’s professional band, which had an opening for a vocalist.
Bond rejected him after a tryout, advising Presley to stick to truck driving “because you’re never going to make it as a singer”.
Phillips, meanwhile, was always on the lookout for someone who could bring to a broader audience the sound of the black musicians on whom Sun focused. As Keisker reported, “Over and over I remember Sam saying, ‘If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.”
In June, he acquired a demo recording of a ballad, “Without You”, that he thought might suit the teenage singer. Presley came by the studio, but was unable to do it justice. Despite this, Phillips asked Presley to sing as many numbers as he knew. He was sufficiently affected by what he heard to invite two local musicians, guitarist Winfield “Scotty” Moore and upright bass player Bill Black, to work something up with Presley for a recording session.
The session, held the evening of July 5, 1954, proved entirely unfruitful until late in the night. As they were about to give up and go home, Presley took his guitar and launched into a 1946 blues number, Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right”.
Moore recalled, “All of a sudden, Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass, and he started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them. Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open … he stuck his head out and said, ‘What are you doing?’ And we said, ‘We don’t know.’ ‘Well, back up,’ he said, ‘try to find a place to start, and do it again.”
Phillips quickly began taping; this was the sound he had been looking for.
Three days later, popular Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips played “That’s All Right” on his Red, Hot, and Blue show. Listeners began phoning in, eager to find out who the singer was. The interest was such that Phillips played the record repeatedly during the last two hours of his show.
Interviewing Presley on-air, Phillips asked him what high school he attended in order to clarify his color for the many callers who had assumed he was black.
During the next few days, the trio recorded a bluegrass number, Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, again in a distinctive style and employing a jury-rigged echo effect that Sam Phillips dubbed “slapback”. A single was pressed with “That’s All Right” on the A side and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on the reverse.
Presley transformed not only the sound but the emotion of the song, turning what had been written as a “lament for a lost love into a satisfied declaration of independence!”
Elvis Presley was on his way, not only in the music industry but into the history books as well.
Elvis Aaron Presley passed away on Aug. 16, 1977. He is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, often referred to as “the King of Rock and Roll”, or simply, “the King”.
Elvis fans continue to this day, so much so that tribute artists across the globe keep the music of Elvis alive and well.
On July 17, 18 and 19, 2015, an impressive lineup of world class tribute artists will be gathering in Barriere, B.C., for the Canadian Bluemoon Elvis Festival. The weekend event features a number of top of the line Elvis tribute artists including:
Darrell Douglas who now resides in the Similkameen Valley. Darrell has performed with “The Imperials”, “The Stamps Quartet” and recording artist “Ronnie McDowell”. Darrell has thrilled audiences in numerous cities in Canada, USA, Mexico, the Caribbean, and one day hopes to tour Europe. Darrell has been blessed with a gift and is thankful to God and all the loyal Elvis fans for giving him the opportunity to share his gift with them. Darrell’s hope is to provide a most memorable concert experience for the fans, to bring back some wonderful memories and to create a feeling that, “Elvis Is Still In The Building”.
Paul Ellis (Ellis “Forever” Elvis). Paul’s hometown is Abbotsford, B.C., and he has been singing Elvis songs since he was a little boy. He has been competing at the Elvis Festival in Penticton since 2005. In 2010 Paul came in first in the Amateur Division and now competes in the Professional Division. Paul has performed at Elvis Rocks the Canyon in Hells Gate, B.C., Busby, Alberta, and throughout the lower mainland as well as many private events.
Also in the entertainment lineup is Canadian crooner Ron Boudreau, providing tributes to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Al LeBlanc’s tribute to Roy Orbison, and Aaron Halliday with Almost Alan.
Sunday’s show is not to be missed, especially with the Elvis Gospel show drawing plenty of interest.
The whole weekend celebrates ‘The Golden Years of Rock and Roll’, with funds raised from the event going to support the charities of The Canadian Hemophilia Society, BC Chapter; and the Wounded Warriors Weekend Foundation.
Weekend passes for the Canadian Bluemoon Elvis Festival can be purchased at the North Thompson Star/Journal, or go online to: www.thecdnbluemoon.ca for individual show tickets and information.
Elvis Presley information courtesy of Wikipedia.