Storms of rumors surround this “historic” day in Memphis, TN some 61 years ago. It is alleged, with some photographic evidence (take the cover, for example), that during a Carl Perkins recording session at Sun Records, Jerry Lee Lewis (then a young-fresh-fellow on the brink of superstardom), Elvis Presley, and the Man in Black, Johnny Cash recorded 30+ minutes of (mainly gospel) material for what turned out to be dubbed, The Million Dollar Quartet. The recording is heavy Elvis, and sounds much more like an unscripted, haphazard practice session of studio musicians than anything resembling a million dollars ($9,068,492.65 today). Johnny Cash’s presence is all but nonexistent, which raises questions to the album photo’s legitimacy (the official Sun Records release from 1981 has Marilyn Evans, Elvis’ then girlfriend, removed from the photo altogether). This bootleg version was released a year earlier by OMD, and is the only known release by the unknown label. Regardless of the recording’s legitimacy, it’s an educational spin and a gem of a find. Take it with a grain of salt, but enjoy nonetheless.
Everyone knows the iconic cover to Elvis Presley’s debut LP, but what few may recognize, outside of those who own, is its subtle back cover. Released on RCA in 1956, I present to you, for the first time on this site, Elvis Presley’s debut self titled back cover art. Disregard the purple pen scribbles.
I’m more a fan of rock n’ roll history than I am of Elvis, generally speaking, so this late 70’s reissue of Elvis Presley’s 2nd studio album, Elvis, was a no-brainer at the $5 asking price. Having purchased a dilapidated copy of his debut, Elvis Presley, several years back for a cool $3, my Elvis budget, more or less, mirrors my toleration of the man, but for historical purposes, I was more than willing to fork over my Lincoln in exchange for this 1956 classic. Anyway, Elvis… he spins tonight.
The Memphis, Tennessee label Hi Records had a illustrious career (until its eventual sale to Cream Records in 1977), and during its tenure, it rubbed elbows with some of the biggest names in popular music at the time. Here is a very, very brief lineage of the label, a condensed version of the following Wikipedia page.
Former Sun Records producers Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch, along with a few other ambitious crazies started the label in 1957. Elvis Presley’s bass player, Bill Black started a combo (Bill Black’s Combo), and gave the label it’s first big hit with 1959’s Smokie Part 2. Bill Black’s saxophonist, Ace Cannon (a record we spun at the office just a few days ago) landed the label’s 2nd hit with 1961’s Tuff. By then, Quinton Claunch (remember, of Sun Records’ fame) had sold his share of the company to Jerry Lee Lewis’ cousin, shortly before Hi Records started churning out hit after hit with a little someone named Albert “Al” Green(e).
If you’ve never heard of the label, don’t worry. I just found out about it yesterday. Anyone wanna take a field trip to Memphis in the Spring?
Many thanks to the previous, and anonymous owner of my copy of the Sun Records released, The Million Dollar Quartet, for mummifying this 1986 magazine article, shining light upon, arguably, the most prolific, and storied combination of talented musicians the modern age has ever witnessed. Celebrated evening reading material, for sure. Perhaps I’ll transcribe it someday… perhaps.
Dead only a month after his final album’s release, Elvis Presley, and his insert to Moody Blue, serves as a bullet-pointed checklist of entertainment tombstones celebrating this legendary performer’s luxurious career. Not a fan per se, I acknowledge his esteemed importance throughout recorded music history, and although his music has never connected with me, appreciation and respect must be given.
From 1956 (left) to 1977 (right), he was king, and we were his kingdom. Coming up on 37 years from the day in which his highness fell (August 16), he is no less commanding now than he was 58 years ago. He was never a favorite of mine, but that didn’t stop me from giving him all the respect he deserves.
RIP Elvis Aaron Presley
We are all book judges, are we not? It’s in our instinctual nature to see something, say an album cover, and immediately send its contents through the legal systems of our minds and instantly give it a ruling, right? I mean, when I see an album cover of a cat sitting in a Christmas box (give the gift of cats, I always say) in front of a 1950s decorated Christmas tree, I’m not thinking smooth jazz, you see what I’m saying? (The aforementioned Christmas Cat album will unveil itself during the month of December, along with the rest of my “holiday groove music.” So I’ll see the lot of you in January!)
So much (and this is painfully obvious) time and consideration is put into any given album cover, but I wonder if the guy / gal / team designing any given cover (it’s like Any Given Sunday, but with records) considers the longevity of their work. For example, let’s take a look at Elvis Presley’s 1956 debut for RCA Victor Records appropriately titled, Elvis Presley. It’s about as iconic as apple pie (“Why, is that apple pie I smell?” – A little KITH humor… really, I’m just pleasing myself at this point) and for good reason. Had the King’s (“I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.” – MP) groundbreaking album (to put it lightly) instead displayed the man say, in a Christmas box in front of a 1950s decorated Christmas tree, pop culture may have turned out a little different. Do you see what I’m saying? Or, typing, rather… man, I’m falling out of the tangent tree and hitting every branch today it seems.
Without Mr. Blue Suede Shoes’ album looking exactly the way it does (actually, Mr. Blue Suede Shoes should probably refer to Carl Perkins, so let’s call Elvis, Mr. Tutti Frutti instead, shall we? Well, wouldn’t Mr. Tutti Frutti be the moniker for Little Richard? Good point. Let’s just call Elvis, Elvis then. There is no fun in that, but fine… whatever.), the equally iconic face of The Clash’s London Calling may have looked like say, a photo of Paul Simonon sitting in a Christmas box in front of a 1950s decorated Christmas tree. Are you picking up what I’m throwing down here? Nobody knows (Spaceballs…) the impact of anything, or rather, nobody can predict what sticks to the wall, and what is used for kindling in the living room fireplace. Only time, oh, that sweet, lactating mother of all, will tell.
Also, there is a house music comp based on the cover of London Calling which was based on the cover of Elvis Presley, and my prediction is, it won’t stop there.
1958 was a riveting year for RCA Victor Records, and this (Moon juiced) insert proves that the late 50s were a swinging, boisterous time for the 2nd oldest recording company in the United States. This prolific insert promotes everything from Frank Sinatra & Tommy Dorsey, to Perry Como, to the twins… you know the twins, Jim and John Cunningham (apparently Teenagers Love the Twins… who knew?), to the King, Elvis Presley, to a personal favorite, Glenn Miller, and finally to a little album called, My Favorite Hits, which is simply described as, “Mickey Mantle picks his favorites.” This last little number just made my Discogs Wantlist.
It’s enthralling to write about (barely touch upon) 1958 while listening to 1987’s Love an Adventure by Pseudo Echo, but things need to be kept into perspective, am I right?
In conclusion, here’s a little Thursday, mid-morning (or Friday, early morning in Australia) mind-melting math for you to digest:
Love an Adventure: 1987 – (minus) My Favorite Hits: 1958 = 29 year gap
Present Day: 2013 – (minus) Love an Adventure: 1987 = 26 year gap
If you’re like me, and you remember the Funkytown residing Pseudo Echo, than you, my friend, are old… you’re welcome.