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We couldn't help falling in love with king of rock 'n' roll; The world was all shook up 40 years ago when Elvis Presley died. MARION MCMULLEN goes back to the early days to discover how a fledgling singer became an international star, capturing the hearts of millions worldwide.


IT COST Elvis Presley the grand sum of $3.98 to record his first song back in 1953. He went along to Sun Records at Union Avenue in Memphis home to the Memphis Recording Service.

They offered people the chance to record a two-sided record of their own performance and the teen Elvis chose a chart hit called My Happiness and That's When Your Heartaches Begin by American singing group The Ink Spots.

He went back the next year and recorded and played guitars on ballads I'll Never Stand In Your Way and It Wouldn't Be The Same (Without You). But breaking into the music business was tough and Elvis faced a lot of rejections as he tried to make his mark.

He auditioned to be a replacement singer for a group called The Songfellows but was turned down and was then offered the chance to sing with Memphis bandleader Eddie Bond and his band at the Hi-Hat Club, but after a few songs done to his own accompaniment, the club's owner had heard enough and Elvis was not invited back.

Elvis backstage Hayride, October courtesy of His first recording for record producer and music executive Sam Phillips - a song called Without You - failed to impress, but Sam then allowed him to sing everything he knew and his raw talent shone through.

Guitarist Scotty Moore and bass player Bill Black worked with the young Elvis and remember their first meeting with him in 1954 when he turned up wearing pink slacks with a guitar in his hand.

Scotty later said: "Well, he's got a good voice, good singer, if we can find the right material."

The early recordings from Elvis can be heard on new release Elvis Presley - A Boy From Tupelo, which covers the years from 1953 to 1955 and includes every known Sun Records master and out-take, live performances and radio recordings, Elvis's self-financed first acetates and a newly discovered previously unreleased recording.

Elvis grew up surrounded by music. His parents bought him his first guitar when he was 11 and his mother Gladys later wrote to a fan telling how she carried him to church every Sunday when he was little.

She said: "He would slide off my lap, run down the aisle, and scramble up to the platform of the church. He would stand looking at the choir and try and sing with them. He was too little to know the words, but he could carry the tune."

It was the first step on the road to success for Elvis and in 1955 he signed a three-year deal with RSC with two additional one-year options.

The new management contract gave his manager Colonel Parker 25 per cent of the gross income on all Elvis's activities.

Elvis later sent a telegram to Colonel Parker saying: "Dear Colonel. Words can never tell you how my folks and I appreciate what you did for me. I have always known and now my folks are assured that you are the best and most wonderful person I could ever hope to work with. Believe me when I say I will stick with you thru (sic) thick and thin and do everything I can to uphold your faith in me. Again I say thanks and I love you like a father."

Elvis was just 42 when he died 40 years ago, in 1977. It is estimated that he sold more than one billion records worldwide during his career.

Combined with his acting work, Las Vegas residency, countless music awards and TV specials, he was undoubtedly the biggest music star the world had ever seen.

Tennessee's most celebrated son rose from the poor streets of Tupelo to record hit after hit from Heartbreak Hotel, Blue Suede Shoes and Hound Dog to Jailhouse Rock, It's Now Or Never, Are You Lonesome Tonight and Viva Las Vegas.

As he once told secretary Marion Keisker, who worked for Sam Phillips, "I sing all kinds... I don't sound like nobody."

| A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings and A Boy From Tupelo: The Sun Masters from RCA/Legacy are released on July 28, see smarturl. it/ElvisTupelo. Elvis Presley The 50 Greatest Hits is released by Sony Music on August 11, see


Elvis on December 27, 1954. Photo by William "PoPsie"Randolph courtesy of Sony Music Archives

Elvis Presley at RCA Studios, December 1955. Photo by William "PoPsie"Randolph courtesy Sony Music Archives

Elvis backstage at the Louisiana Hayride, October 16, 1954. Photo courtesy of Michell/The Magic Collection

Elvis, American guitarist Scotty Moore and bass player Bill Black in the parking lot of Katz Drug Store, September 9, 1954. Photo courtesy of Opal Walker

Bill Black and Elvis in front of a steam train, May 26, 1955. Photo courtesy of The Magic Collection

Colonel Parker, labelmate Eddy Arnold, Elvis and Steve Sholes at RCA Studios. December 1, 1955. Photo by William "PoPsie"Randolph courtesy of Sony Music Archives

Elvis backstage in Tyler, January 25, 1955. Photo courtesy of Michell/The Magic Collection

Elvis in front of the S&S Drug Store on Poplar Avenue in Memphis, 1949. Elvis and his family lived a little further down the street at a rooming house at 572 Poplar Avenue. Photo courtesy of Wade Jones
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:1U6TN
Date:Jul 29, 2017
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