Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
Produced by Sam Phillips (Sun Recordings) and Steve Sholes (RCA Recordings)
Released 23rd March 1956
US Album Chart #1
UK Album Chart #1*
*released in the UK as Elvis Presley Rock 'n' Roll
Yesterday we spotlighted The Beatles debut album and said that it was the album that changed Pop Music in the UK forever. But a few years before that album and only two before The Beatles first got together as a group there was the debut album from Elvis Aaron Presley. This album took Rock 'n' Roll to the masses!
Now, I'm not really a huge fan of Elvis but as someone who loves music there is absolutely no denying hhe has a place at the very top of rock 'n' roll's tree! I actually really love a lot of stuff he did when he was at Sun Records and then once he signed with RCA a lot of his charm wore off on me with songs that personally I couldn't care tuppence for (see many of those terrible songs that turned up on his movie soundtracks if you want proof!). But this debut album is a thing of wonder in and of itself.
Five of the songs on the album were originally recorded for Sun Records and produced by Sam Phillips. Basically what had happened was that the young Mr Presley had begun to get a lot of attention with his singles breaking into the Country and Western Charts and his manager Colonel Tom Parker managed to get Steve Sholes (the head of the Country and Western and Rhythm and blues division at RCA) to buy his contract from Sun Records for what I'm sure in those days was big money, $35,000. It was a big risk for a label like RCA because Rock 'n' Roll was quite untested but a #1 single straight off the bat with Heartbreak Hotel and then this album peaking at the top spot (and staying there for 10 weeks) surely calmed any nerves they had regarding signing such an unknown entity. It was the first Rock 'n' Roll album to top the charts and it would be RCA's first album ever to sell more than a million copies in that genre and earn them more than $1,000,000!
Heartbreak Hotel was not included on the album as it was the practice back then that the best songs be reserved to be released as singles and songs of a lesser quality be put on an album. But RCA took the decision to release all the tracks as singles (6 A-Sides, 6 B-Sides) and thus blew the chance for Elvis to have a hit record with Shake Rattle and Roll backed by Lawdy Miss Clawdy. And we all moan if a band we like these days releases more than two songs off an album as singles!
Blue Suede Shoes of course seemed like a natural single to release but it was held off (by agreement between Sun and RCA) being released for a further 6 months as Sun Records were still promoting the Carl Perkins version (Perkins of course is the writer of the song) even though the song had been released on the first day of the year in 1956 (it was still gaining momentum on Radio and in sales even when the debut album by Elvis was released. At one point it was selling as many as 20,000 copies a day!).
On the 17th March 1956 Perkins had reached #3 on the Rhythm and Blues Chart (the first Country artist to do so) and on that night he played it on TV for the first time as he appeared on ABC TV's Ozark Jubilee (I couldn't find this performance but here's Carl playing it on 26th May 1956 on The Perry Como Show). On the same night over on rival channel CBS Elvis was on Stage Show performing the same song for the 2nd time on TV! (I couldn't find the Stage Show performance but here's the third time he performed it on the Milton Berle Show on 3rd April 1956).
Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!