On 19 July 1954 Elvis Presley’s first commercial recording was released by Sun Records.
Elvis was a 18-year-old truck driver when he first went to that recording studio in Memphis. It was a Saturday night in the summer of 1953 and he paid $3.98 plus tax to record a song as a birthday present to his mother
Producer Sam Phillips’ assistant was so impressed by that young man that she repeatedly brought his name up to Phillips over the next year, as a white singer who could sing “black” rhythm and blues.
On 5 July 1954, Phillips finally sent two of his favourite session musicians, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, to meet Elvis. The first hours of that session did not convince the producer that Elvis was the singer he was looking for.
When he gave a break between recordings, Elvis did not join his fellow musicians for a breath of fresh air, but began to mess around on the guitar, playing and singing “That’s All Right,” twice as fast as the original.
That song had been written and recorded by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup in 1946 and contained some verses taken from traditional blues lyrics
Elvis’s uptempo variation was so appealing in that fast, innovative style, that Black and Moore joined in, creating what some music historians consider the first rock song.
Through an open door in the control room, Phillips heard that unfamiliar rendition of a familiar blues number and asked the three of them to start again so he could record it.
Two days later the song was released to a Memphis radio station and it aroused so much interest that it was played 14 times and over 40 telephone calls arrived from enthusiastic listeners who wanted to know more about that new black singer. So, Presley was invited to the station for an on-air interview. That same night he answered a few questions, including one about the high school he had attended: it was an indirect way of informing the audience about Presley’s race without actually asking the question.
On 12 July Elvis Presley signed a recording contract with Sun Records: Phillips had finally found the singer who could bridge the gap between white and black performances.
… to be continued …