Sun Recordings

In the summer of 1953, most likely inspired by a July article in the local paper on the Memphis Recording Service and Sam Phillips's recording of the Prisonaires, a group of prisoners from the state penitentiary, Elvis ventured into 706 Union Avenue and asked to record his voice for the very first time.  There he made a two-sided acetate at his own expense and accompanying himself on guitar.  The songs he recorded were:


This song was written in 1933 by Betty Peterson and Borney Bergantine.  It was recorded in 1948 by John and Sandra Steele, whose release went to #3 on the Billboard Singles Chart.  Others to record it in 1948 were The Pied  Pipers with Paul Weston Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald, The Song Spinners, and The Marlin Sisters.  In 1953 the Mulcays, a harmonica group, released it as an instrumental.  In 1959 a version by Connie Francis hit #2 on  the Hot 100 Chart.


This song was written in 1940 by William J. Raskin, Billy Hill and Fred Fisher.  The Ink Spots recorded it in 1950.  In 1951, a recording by Bob Lamb was released.  In 1952 Billy Bunn and His Buddies released a version of it.  Elvis re-recorded it for RCA on January 13, 1957 at Radio Recorders.  This version was the B side to the single "All Shook Up" and it peaked at #58 on the Hot 100 Chart.

Elvis's world was changing rapidly.  His first single "That's All Right"/"Blue Moon Of Kentucky" was beginning to take off and by the middle of August 1954, both sides would be on the Billboard Chart for the Memphis area.  He returned to Sun Studio on August 19, 1954 wanting to record again.


"Blue Moon" was the song Elvis chose to lay down that night.  The song was written in 1933 by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart.  It was originally written under a different title for a project with actress Jean Harlow.  Mr. Hart later changed the lyrics and changed the  title to "The Bad In Every Man" for the 1934  Clark Gable film "Manhattan Melodrama".  The lyrics and title changed again  to "Blue Moon."  It was recorded by Frankie Trumbauer & Band in 1934 and Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Band in 1935.  The Benny Goodman Orchestra with Helen Ward also released it that year.  Many other artists over the years have recorded this song,  Elvis's version for Sun was not be released until 1956 when it appeared on his first album for RCA, "Elvis Presley."


This song was written in 1939 by Sam Caslow and Will Grosz, and recorded that same year by Horace Heidt and his orchestra The Heidt-Lights.  It was released again in 1948 by Lonnie Johnson and in late 1954 by LaVern Baker.  In 1965 RCA recorded new backing tracks and overdubbed Elvis's original vocal track to release it on the album "Elvis For Everyone."  An edited version was released on "The Complete Sun Sessions" and this original version was released in 1992 on "The King of Rock 'n' Roll."


This song was written and recorded by Martha Cardson in 1952.  In 1953 Johnnie Ray recorded it and it has since been released by a number of artists including Barbara Mandrell and Bill Gaither and The Gaither Vocal Band.  Records indicate that Elvis definitely recorded one take of this song but the tape has yet to surface.


Cowboy crooner Jimmy Wakely wrote and recorded this song in 1943.  Other versions were released by Jimmy Liggins and Hank Snow.  Elvis' version was released by RCA on his first album "Elvis Presley" in 1956.


This song was written by Mack David in 1949 for the Disney film "Cinderella," but it was not used.  In 1950 Patti Page released a version, as did LeRoy Homes and Dean Martin, who was one of Elvis's favorite singers.  Martin's version was used in the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis movie "Scared Stiff".  The story goes that Marion Keisker , who worked for producer Sam Phillips and had brought Elvis to his attention, actually helped write additional lyrics for the song for Elvis, but signed away any rights at the insistence of the song's publisher.  It was released as the B side of Elvis's second single "Good Rockin' Tonight."


Bob and Joe Shelton along with Sid Robin are credited with the writing and recording of this song in 1937 - a hit for them.  There is some controversy that it comes from a much earlier song by a group called Nelstone's Hawaiians.  Others who have recorded it include Brenda Lee, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, Bobby Vinton, Lawrence Welk, Rosemary Clooney, Duane Eddy, Rick Nelson and Paul McCartney.  Frankie Yankovic's 1948 polka version was very popular.


This song, written and recorded in 1947 by Roy Brown, reached the top 20 on the R&B Chart.  It was recorded by Wynonie Harris in 1948 and it reached #1 on the R&B chart.  It was Elvis's second single.  Later, in 1959, Pat Boone's version peaked on the Hot 100 Chart at #49.  In 1956 Jean Chapel recorded an "answer song" called "I Won't Be Rockin' Tonight."


Written and recorded by James "Kokomo" Arnold in 1935, this song was recorded in 1938 by Bob Crosby and in 1941 by Johnny Lee Wills.  Moon Mullican recorded it in 1946 under the title "New MilkCow Blues."  Also in 1946, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys recorded it under the title "Brain Cloudy Blues."   In 1961 Ricky Nelson's version hit #79 on the Hot 100 Chart.  Elvis's version was released in January 1955 as a single with "You're A Heartbreaker" as the other side.


This song was written in 1953 by Charles "Jack"  Sallee, who was a friend of Sam Phillips.  Jimmy Heap recorded it in 1953 as did the Ray Anthony Orchestra with Jo Ann Greer.  In January 1955, this song, along with "Milkcow Blues Boogie" as the other side, became Elvis's third single released on the Sun label in January 1955.  In the January 29, 1955 issue of "The Billboard" magazine, this single was reviewed:

"Presley continues to impress with each release as one of the slickest talents to come up in the country field in a long, long time.  Item here is based on some of the best folk blues.  The guy sells all the way."

By February 1955, Elvis's regional popularity was growing by leaps and bounds. He had released three singles for Sun Records, he was a regular on the "Louisiana Hayride," and he was performing on whirlwind tours through Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Sometime in the first week of February he squeezed in another recording session at Sun.


Written and recorded by Ray Charles in 1954, the song was derived from the tune of a gospel song by Alex Brown called "I've Got A Savior (Across Town). Mr. Charles's version was a hit and reached #2 on the R&B Chart. Elvis's version for Sun was lost, however, he can be heard to singing it live in concert recordings from those early days. He would record it again at his first session for RCA in 1956 and it would be a staple of his concerts throughout his life. Others who have recorded this song include Ricky Nelson.


Written by Rose Marie McCoy and Charles Singleton in 1954, this song was a hit for the Washington, D.C. group The Eagles that same year. Elvis tried one take of this song in February 1955 and created the final master on July 11, 1955. This particular track was lost.


This song was written and recorded by Arthur Gunter in 1954. It would become Elvis's fourth single along with "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone". In an interview, Elvis's mother Gladys said this song was one of her favorites he'd recorded thus far. It peaked at #5 on the national Billboard Country Chart.


Producer Sam Phillips was looking to have Elvis record another song that could back the "Baby, Let's Play House" single. Another Sun hopeful, steel guitarist Stan Kesler, along with Bill Taylor, had written this song. The session didn't go well at first. Elvis and the band tried the song at a slow beat. Sam then brought in a young drummer, Jimmie Lott, who was the first percussionist to work an Elvis Presley recording session. The song was then reworked and recorded again.


This song was written by Sun artists Stan Kesler and Charlie Feathers. This time Johnny Bernero was on drums. Elvis wasn't really interested in the song, but it was Mr. Bernero's drumming that helped him warm up to it. Released along with "Mystery Train" as Elvis's last Sun single, this song would become Elvis's first number one hit on a national chart. It spent a total of 39 weeks on the Billboard Country Chart, with five of the those weeks at the #1 spot.


Written and recorded in 1953 by Sun artist Herman "Little Junior" Parker. Elvis's version was released as the B-side of "I Forgot To Remember To Forget". It peaked at #11 on the national Billboard Country Chart.


On this date Elvis tried again and finally got a successful take of this song. It would be released on his first album for RCA "Elvis Presley" in 1956.


This song, written by Sun artist, William "Billy the Kid" Emerson, was the last one Elvis recorded for Sun Records. The session was never completed. Negotiations had begun on the sale of Elvis's contract to RCA. This song would eventually be released in 1983 on the album "Elvis: A Legendary Performer, Volume 4."

By the week ending June 29, 1955, Elvis's Sun singles were on Billboard's Territorial Country Charts in Memphis ("I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" - #5), New Orleans ("Baby, Let's Play House" - #7), Richmond, VA ("Baby Let's Play House" - #6), and St. Louis ("Baby Let's Play House" - #8).

In the review section of the August 20, 1955 issue of Billboard magazine, "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" was spotlighted: "This sound is certain to get strong initial exposure. Presley is currently on the best selling charts with "Baby, Let's Play House" and the wide acceptance of this side should ease the way for the new disk. Flip "Mystery Train" is a splendid coupling, with the guitar outstanding."

By September 3, 1955 Elvis had also hit the Territorial Charts in Charlotte, NC and Dallas/Ft. Worth for the first time with "Baby Let's Play House". By the end of the year, Elvis had his first national #1 hit (country chart) with "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" and RCA finalized the purchase of his Sun recording contract. The sound of Elvis Presley's recorded voice first captured at that tiny studio on Union Avenue in Memphis would soon be heard throughout the world. It still is today, 50 years after his career began.

On July 5, 2004 things came full circle with an event billed as "A Global Moment in Time." Scotty Moore, the only surviving member of the original group, pushed a button at Sun Studio and played the original recording of "That's All Right" for a global satellite feed to radio stations in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Elvis's first single and the start of his career.