Elvis Presley: early hit recordings, 1954-1956 / selected live performances, 1956-1957 (needs repair)



That’s All Right (Arthur Crudup)*

Excerpts from the Wikipedia song profile:

During an uneventful recording session at Sun Studio on the evening of July 5, 1954, [Elvis] Presley, [Scotty] Moore, and [Bill] Black were taking a break between recordings when Presley started fooling around with an up-tempo version of Arthur Crudup’s song “That’s All Right, Mama”.[4] Black began joining in on his upright bass, and soon they were joined by Moore on guitar.[4] Producer Sam Phillips, taken aback by this sudden upbeat atmosphere, asked the three of them to start again so he could record it.[4]

Black’s bass and guitars from Presley and Moore provided the instrumentation. The recording contains no drums or additional instruments. The song was produced in the style of a “live” recording (all parts performed at once and recorded on a single track).[11] The following evening the trio recorded “Blue Moon of Kentucky” in a similar style, and it was selected as the B-side to “That’s All Right”.[4]

The recording session was Presley’s fifth visit to the Sun Studio.[12] His first two visits, the summer of 1953 and January 1954, had been private recordings, followed by two more visits in the summer of 1954.[12]

The A-side of the first Elvis single released by Sun Records was recorded on July 5, 1954. It was issued on Sun Records 209, on July 19, 1954, backed with “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

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According to CMT.com Elvis Presley released more than 80 singles which made Billboard’s country singles chart. Though his first several singles for Sun Records were very popular regionally, only one charted nationally, I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine (#74 on the Billboard pop chart). The first one to hit the country chart was Baby, Let’s Play House.


Baby, Let’s Play House (Arthur Gunter) — Recorded February 11, 1955, and issued on 25 April 1955 on Sun Records 217 as the B-side of “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone” — The B-side got more airplay and reached #5 on Billboard’s country chart

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(below) From Elvis’s second appearance on the Dorsey Brothers’ program Stage Show, 4 February 1956, a week after his first appearance

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I Forgot to Remember to Forget (Stan Kesler & Charlie Feathers) Recorded July 11, 1955. This song was Presley’s first #1 country hit, topping the charts in February 1956 after it was re-released by RCA Victor in December ’55.


Aside from the legendary Million Dollar Quartet session on December 4, 1956, Elvis did not record again for Sun after August ’55. Apparently months were spent in negotiations with three major labels before RCA Victor finally signed the 20 year old to a contract on November 20, 1955. On January 10, 1956, Presley made his first recordings for RCA in Nashville.


Heartbreak Hotel (Mae Boren Axton, Thomas Durden, and Elvis Presley) On the single recording, Presley (vocals and rhythm guitar) is supported by Scotty Moore (lead guitar) Bill Black (bass), D.J. Fontana (drums), Floyd Cramer (piano). Recorded January 1956 in Nashville, the song introduced Presley to the American national music consciousness. “Heartbreak Hotel” became the first No.1 pop record by Elvis and was the best selling single of 1956. – adapted from Wikipedia

February 11, 1956 appearance on CBS-TV’s Stage Show, hosted by the Dorsey brothers. On this occasion Elvis performed Blue Suede Shoes and Heartbreak Hotel. Elvis made six appearances on this program from 28 January to March 24, 1956. It was his earliest national television exposure.

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Elvis’s heavy touring schedule was interrupted by two appearances on the Milton Berle Show, April 3 and June 5, 1956.

Milton Berle show — April 3, 1956 on board the USS Hancock at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego

Elvis Australia says,

On April 3, 1956 the Milton Berle Show, one of the most popular programs of the Golden Age of Television was broadcast live from the deck of the USS Hancock on NBC while docked at the Naval Air Base in San Diego, California. The show starred the Esther Williams, Berle’s comedy sidekick, Arnold Stang and the Harry James Orchestra featuring Buddy Rich and featured Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ.


Tupelo Mississippi, September 26, 1956

Tupelo’s Own Elvis Presley, a DVD of concert footage, with sound, from the afternoon performance includes the following titles:

Heartbreak Hotel
Long Tall Sally
Presentation to the City
I Was The One
*I Want You, I Need You , I Love You
I Got a Woman
Don’t Be Cruel
*Hound Dog

*“available in parts as no [complete] footage exists”

Elvis Presley and band, backed by vocal group the Jordanaires, September 26, 1956. Elvis seems extraordinarily relaxed during these performances, toying with the audience and singing very loosely, often slurring words and phrases, especially in Heartbreak Hotel where he seems to feign drunkenness throughout the song. Now and then he momentarily breaks out in laughter. Sometimes he changes the original lines for comic effect, as when, near the end of I Was the One, he sings “she broke my leg” instead of “she broke my heart.” Also in I Was the One, at one point, immediately after cueing a bass part by one the Jordanaires, he puts a finger into an ear as some vocalists do at times, then decides it’s as good a time as any to clean the ear.


(below) selected individual songs from Elvis’s 1956 Tupelo concert, from the DVD Tupelo’s Own Elvis Presley

I Was the One (Aaron Schroeder, Claude DeMetrius, Hal Blair, Bill Peppers) B-side to Heartbreak Hotel, with the Jordanaires.


Don’t Be Cruel (Otis Blackwell) was released on July 13, 1956 with Hound Dog (which had been in Elvis’s live act since May) as the B-side. At Tupelo, Elvis introduces the song as follows: “Here are the Jordanaires, friends, to help us do this song that we did on Mr. Ed Sullivan’s show back in 1932.”


Heartbreak Hotel and Long Tall Sally

Long Tall Sally was a big hit for Little Richard in 1956, peaking at #6 on Billboard’s pop chart but spending 6 weeks at #1 on the R&B chart. The song was written by Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, Enotris Johnson and Richard Penniman (Little Richard).


I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Maurice Mysels and Ira Kosloff)

From the Wikipedia article:

In April 1956, RCA Victor producer Steve Sholes was looking for a strong single to follow up Elvis Presley’s colossal hit “Heartbreak Hotel”. Due to Elvis’s busy touring schedule, Sholes needed to get him into the studio as soon as possible. Elvis and his band chartered a small prop plane to Nashville for one day of recording between shows.

En route from Amarillo, the plane developed engine trouble and fell through the sky several times. Upon arrival in Nashville on April 14, Elvis and the band were shaken up. Elvis arrived at RCA Studios with no ideas for the recording session and therefore had no choice but to take Sholes’ suggestions, one of which was “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.”

Elvis wasn’t used to working during the day. Coupled with his traumatic experience during his overnight flight, the recording session was disastrous. Take after take was ruined for one reason or another. The band was stiff. Elvis, usually a very quick study with a song, couldn’t get the lyrics right. After 17 takes, Sholes decided Elvis and the band weren’t up for recording and sent them home.

After the session, Sholes listened to the takes again. He wasn’t happy with the results of what he considered to be an unprofessional and wasted session. He knew that with Elvis’s busy touring schedule, it could be months before RCA Victor got him back into the studio. Sholes was determined to get something out of the session.

Performing what was a very rare (and generally unsuccessful) procedure for the 1950s, Sholes took parts of two takes he liked (takes 14 and 17) and cut and spliced them together to come up with a take worthy of release. His cuts were so seamless, nobody at RCA Victor could tell it wasn’t from a single take.


Elvis performed “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” live on his second Milton Berle show appearance on June 5, 1956 and again when he did the Steve Allen show, July 1.


Hound Dog (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller)

a. Milton Berle Show, June 5, 1956


b. Ed Sullivan Show, September 9, 1956. Ed Sullivan, recovering from a recent car accident, is replaced by guest host Charles Loughton. Between songs, Elvis, sends a get well message to Sullivan on behalf of “all the boys and myself, and everybody out here.”

Elvis Presley: vocal and rhythm guitar, Scotty Moore: lead guitar, Bill Black: bass,  D.J. Fontana: drums, The Jordanaires — Gordon Stoker, Neal Matthews, Hoyt Hawkins and Hugh Jarrett: backup vocals

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c. Ed Sullivan Show, October 28, 1956


(click twice to fully enlarge)

Don’t Be Cruel (Otis Blackwell)

a. Ed Sullivan Show – September 9, 1956


b. September 26, 1956 – Elvis returned to Tupelo, Mississippi to perform two shows at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. Elvis was born in Tupelo and lived there until he was 13 when he and his mother moved to Memphis.

Though Elvis introduces Don’t Be Cruel by saying, “Here are the Jordanaires to help us do this song that we did on Mr. Ed Sullivan’s show back in 1932,” his first Sullivan appearance had been only 17 days earlier.



c. Elvis’s second Sullivan appearance, October 28, 1956.

d. The third and final Ed Sullivan show appearance on January 6, 1957 — See the focus on that show immediately below


January 6, 1957 final Sullivan show

For the third and final appearance on January 6, 1957, Presley performed a medley of “Hound Dog,” “Love Me Tender,” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” followed by a full version of “Don’t Be Cruel.” For a second set later in the show he did “Too Much” and “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again”. For his last set he sang “Peace in the Valley.” According to Sullivan’s co-producer Marlo Lewis, the rumor had it that “Elvis has been hanging a small soft-drink bottle from his groin underneath his pants, and when he wiggles his leg it looks as though his pecker reaches down to his knee!”[12] Therefore, it was decided to shoot the singer only from the waist up during his performance. Although much has been made of the fact that Elvis was shown only from the waist up, except for the short section of “Hound Dog,” all of the songs on this show were ballads. “Leaving behind the bland clothes he had worn on the first two shows,” Greil Marcus says, Elvis “stepped out in the outlandish costume of a pasha, if not a harem girl. From the make-up over his eyes, the hair falling in his face, the overwhelmingly sexual cast of his mouth, he was playing Rudolph Valentino in The Shiek, with all stops out. That he did so in front of the Jordanaires, who this night appeared as the four squarest-looking men on the planet, made the performance even more potent.”[13] Sullivan praised Elvis at the end of the show, saying “This is a real decent, fine boy. We’ve never had a pleasanter experience on our show with a big name than we’ve had with you…. You’re thoroughly all right.”[14] from Wikipedia (Ed Sullivan page)


 Heartbreak Hotel

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Don’t Be Cruel


Too Much (Bernard Weinman, Lee Rosenberg)

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When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again (Wiley Walker, Gene Sullivan)


Peace in the Valley (Thomas Andrew Dorsey)

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Love Me Tender (m. George R. Poulton, w. Ken Darby)

From Wikipedia:

The 1956 song “Love Me Tender” puts new words to a new musical adaptation of the Civil War song “Aura Lee,” published in 1861. “Aura Lee” had music by George R. Poulton and words by W. W. Fosdick. It later became popular with college glee clubs and barbershop quartets. It was also sung at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

The principal writer of the lyrics was Ken Darby, who also adapted Poulton’s Civil War tune, which was in the public domain. The song was published by Elvis Presley Music.[2] and credited to Presley and Darby’s wife Vera Matson. Presley received co-songwriting credit due to his Hill & Range publishing deal which demanded songwriters concede 50 percent of the credit of their song if they wanted Presley to record it; Presley had songwriting input on only a very small number of the many songs he recorded[3]

First Ed Sullivan Show appearance by Elvis, September 9, 1956.


Love Me (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) — recorded September 1, 1956 with vocal harmony by the Jordanaires.

the single


(below) Second Sullivan show, October 28, 1956


The first Stage Show (Dorsey Brothers) appearance — January 28, 1956. Introduced by DJ Bill Randall as a rising star who will with this evening’s performance “make television history,” Elvis performs Shake, Rattle, and Roll (Jesse Stone) and I Got a Woman (Ray Charles, Renald Richard).

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* That’s All Right / That’s All Right, Mama – Wikipedia excerpt:

The song was written by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, and originally recorded by him in Chicago on 6 September 1946, as “That’s All Right”. It was released as a single on RCA Victor 20-2205, but was less successful than some of Crudup’s previous recordings. At the same session, he recorded a virtually identical tune with different lyrics, “I Don’t Know It”, which was also released as a single (RCA Victor 20-2307). In early March 1949, the song was rereleased under the title, “That’s All Right, Mama” (RCA Victor 50-0000), which was issued as RCA’s first rhythm and blues record on their new 45 rpm single format[3][4], on bright orange vinyl.[5]

Arthur Crudup – recorded 1946 — Arthur Crudup: guitar, vocal; Ransom Knowling: upright bass, Lawrence “Judge” Riley: drums


I really love you baby, cross my heart


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tom Bowler
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 03:54:00

    Elvis was the best… a real original, singin’ and movin’. We danced to the Dorsey Brothers and Lake Compounce in Bristol CT in ’54.



  2. Trackback: LIFE AS A HUMAN – The Story of the Electric Guitar

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