June 2014

Celebrating 60 Years of Elvis

Elvis Presley with Scotty Moore and Bill BlackElvis Presley with Scotty Moore and Bill Black

Elvis Presley with Scotty Moore and Bill Black
Elvis (left) played many concerts with his band, the Blue Moon Boys, which featured Scotty Moore (center) on lead guitar and Bill Black (right) on upright bass.

Sixty years ago, on July 5, 1954, Elvis Presley recorded the song “That’s All Right” at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Just a few days later, on July 8, the song was played on the radio, and listeners couldn’t get enough of it. Some consider this event the beginning of rock and roll. Elvis certainly helped make the new kind music very popular. He quickly became one of rock and roll’s biggest stars. Today, nearly 40 years after his death, there are still millions of Elvis fans around the world.

This year, the Graceland museum is honoring Elvis’s start in rock and roll with special events and an exhibit, called “60 Years of Elvis.” Graceland was once Elvis’s Memphis home. Visitors can see the first five records he recorded at Sun Studio and many other personal artifacts. The exhibit will be open until February 2015. On July 5 this year, there will be a special celebration in Memphis to honor Elvis’s 60-year legacy.

In 1953, 18-year-old Elvis was working as a delivery truck driver. He visited Sun Studio to make a record as a birthday present for his mother. On that day, Sam Phillips, the studio’s owner, recorded Elvis singing two ballads, or slow songs. Phillips noticed something special about the shy truck driver. In early July 1954, Phillips arranged for guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black to meet Elvis. Moore and Black thought he had a good voice, but they were not that impressed with him at first. Still, Phillips decided to take a chance and booked Elvis for the July 5 recording session that made history.

At first, the session did not go well. Phillips wasn’t sure if Elvis was the person he was looking for. During a break, however, Elvis began playing his guitar and singing a blues song twice as fast as the original. Moore and Black quickly joined in. The song was “That’s All Right” by Arthur Crudup. Phillips was excited by what he heard. He urged them to start the song over, so he could record it. He then gave the recording to Memphis radio station WHBQ. DJ Dewey Phillips played the song, and people kept calling in, asking to hear it again. “That’s All Right” was released as a single two weeks later and became an instant hit. It set Elvis on his path to becoming “the King of Rock and Roll.”

Image credit: ©Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

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Question 1
When was “That’s All Right” recorded?

Question 2
Where is Sun Studio?

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