Story of a Rising Sun

Elvis_Presley_first_national_television_appearance_1956

Gareth Murphy’s recounting of Elvis Presley’s entrance into the world of music is, to my mind, an inspiring tale of persistence; and a sign that anything can happen at anytime, so don’t get discouraged and never give up.

***

[O]ne Saturday afternoon in August 1953, a strange-looking [eighteen-year-old] kid walked in off the street to record a ballad for his mother.
“What’s your name?”
“Elvis Presley”
Over the next ten months, Presley kept dropping by [Sun Records studio], almost making a nuisance of himself but remaining sufficiently polite – almost pitiful…

Then one day in May 1954, while [Sun Records founder Sam] Phillips was visiting a Nashville prison, a black inmate presented him with a ballad that made him think of Elvis [who] literally ran across Memphis [to the studio]. The ensuring experiment didn’t gel but Phillips was curious to see what Elvis had in his belly.

It proved to be Sam Phillips’s conversations over coffee with [local electric guitarist] Scotty Moore than led to the eureka moment. Moore got curious and invited Elvis to a jam.
Moore called Phillips to give him his thumbs down, but Phillips persuaded Moore and bassist Bill Black to try Elvis out in a proper audition at Sun.
One Monday evening in July 1954, the three musicians arrived.
The session began with the Bing Crosby ballad they had been jamming at Moore’s apartment. Feeling they were stuck corny in territory, Phillips stopped the session…

Beginning to loosen up, Elvis suddenly began goofing around in a very unfamiliar direction, strumming into a jiving version of an old blues song, “That’s alright mama, that’s alright with me…”
Black perked up at the bouncing energy and joined in.
Scotty followed with some darting riffs in the Bill Haley style.

Phillips was amazed that Elvis even knew the 1946 number.
“What are you doing?” asked Phillips excitedly.
“We don’t know,” the musicians laughed back.

***

This is a condensed version of Murphy’s words in his book Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry (London: Serpent’s Tail, 2015), pp. 92-4.

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