The historical significance of the 1956 Elvis Presley debut album

The self-titled LP remains a favorite and best seller of Presley’s

The historical significance of the 1956 Elvis Presley debut album

Elvis Presley’s debut album, self-titled “Elvis Presley”, it’s one of Rock music’s seminal albums, it defined Rock as a serious music genre when it was still highly seen as a fad, though partially, the fact Elvis was white, played a big role on the initial success of the album as the U.S society was separated immensely between whites and blacks due to the segregation at the time, and, despite the undoubted talent of Elvis and the quality of the songs in the album, the fact is that he achieved something in 1956 that neither Chuck Berry or Little Richard could due to their ethnicity, which was, to have the first rock and roll album ever to make it to the top of the charts and the first million-selling Rock album. However, he covers Little Richard’s song “Tutti Frutti” on the album, a strategy music executives back then did to try to get the songs from black Rockers to reach the white audiences and play on general radio stations, most of the time, unsuccessfully as the original versions remained more popular among early Rock fans and the covers by white artists many times fell into the ridiculously attempts to sound as good and hip. But Elvis cover of “Tutti Frutti” is different, he was able to make a good cover of the song and was even back then accused of what now is called, “cultural appropriation”, because he was able to approach the quality of the original by Little Richard. He also recorded “I Got A Woman” by Ray Charles, no doubt that it’s a good cover, but lacks the authenticity of Charles version. The album opens with one of Elvis Presley’s signature songs, “Blue Suede Shoes”, originally recorded and released by his former Sun Records fellow musician Carl Perkins, but Elvis version of the song ends up becoming the most popular and to this day the most remembered, it’s notable by being one of the first Rock music covers that distances positively from the original. features also a selection of songs that were recorded and produced between 1954 and 1956, the 1954 and 1955 tracks were originally recorded for Sun Records, before Sam Phillips sold Elvis contract to RCA, “I Love You Because”, a soft ballad, “Just Because”, a shakin’country feeling track, “I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’)”, the haunting ballad written by Jimmy Wakely and one of the album’s finest cuts, and, “Blue Moon”, undoubtedly one of the most popular songs featured on the album to this day. All these 1954-1955 tracks were also produced by Sam Phillips, and are an early document of Elvis’s voice soon after he was discovered by Phillips. The last track on the album is “Money Honey”, one of the highlights in this debut, originally recorded and released by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters in 1953 and written by Jesse Stone (“Shake, Rattle And Roll”). Together with the LP release, RCA also released the single “Heartbreak Hotel” (in January 1956), a song left out of the album line up, it proven to be one of the strongest tracks released by Presley and one of his best selling singles ever. This was a time where the single format was still under a sort of trial, and Rock music proved to be the strongest vehicle to popularize the format when on August 31, 1956, RCA Victor took the unusual step of releasing the entire album as singles, which undoubtedly kept the new single released simultaneously, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” backed with “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” from reaching the charts. The artwork of Elvis Presley’s debut became iconic and it’s considered and viewed as one of the most famous album covers ever. Visually, it’s one of the earliest and most popular examples of Pop Art or Rock music album artwork. The live photograph of Elvis Presley in the front cover was taken at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 1955. Initially, it was thought that Popsie Randolph took the image featured on the front cover, due to the fact that the album only credited one photographer. However, in August 2002, Joseph A. Tunzi documented that the actual photographer was William V. “Red” Robertson of Robertson & Fresch. The Popsie credit attributed to the album only applied to a series of photos featured on the back cover, taken in New York City in early December 1955, shortly after Presley had signed with RCA Victor. The Clash paid tribute to this iconic cover on their 1979 album “London Calling” by emulating the same design. Overall, “Elvis Presley” it’s a solid Rock N’ Roll album that is able to reach more than what it was supposed to back in the 1950’s. A full consistent album of Rock songs wasn’t as easy as it was in later decades, yes, it was not merely just the music, it was all the image marketing made around Presley’s young appeal, but, without the music, we wouldn’t be writing these words today. It remains one of Elvis Presley’s favorite albums, essential for any Rock music fan or music fan in general to understand the origin of the Elvis phenomenon, and best sellers 68 years after it’s original release, on this day, March 23, 1956.

Side A
1 “Blue Suede Shoes” Carl Perkins
2 “I’m Counting on You” Don Robertson
3 “I Got a Woman” Ray Charles, Renald Richard
4 “One Sided Love Affair” Bill Campbell
5 “I Love You Because” Leon Payne
6 “Just Because” Bob Shelton, Joe Shelton, Sydney Robin

Side B
1 “Tutti Frutti” Dorothy LaBostrie, Richard Wayne Penniman
2 “Tryin’ to Get to You” Rose Marie McCoy, Charles Singleton
3 “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)” Howard Biggs, Joe Thomas
4 “I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’)” Jimmy Wakely
5 “Blue Moon” Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart
6 “Money Honey” Jesse Stone

Elvis Presley: vocals, acoustic guitar, piano (on “Tryin’ To Get to You”)
Scotty Moore: electric guitar
Chet Atkins: acoustic guitar on “I’m Counting on You” and “Money Honey”
Floyd Cramer: piano
Shorty Long: piano
Bill Black: bass
D. J. Fontana: drums except “I Love You Because,” “Just Because,” “Tryin’ to Get to You,” “I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’),” and “Blue Moon”
Johnny Bernero: :drums (on “Tryin’ to Get to You”)
Gordon Stoker: backing vocals
Ben Speer: backing vocals
Brock Speer: backing vocals
Doug Poindexter: percussion/guitar on “Just Because”

Produced by:Sam Phillips (Sun recordings) and Steve Sholes (RCA recordings)
Recorded during: July 1954 to January 1956 Sun Records, Memphis, Tennessee, RCA Victor recording studios, Nashville, Tennessee, RCA Victor studios in New York
Released: March 23, 1956
Label: RCA Victor

“I Got a Woman” Released: 1956
“I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’)” Released: August 1956
“Tryin’ to Get to You” Released: August 1956
“Blue Suede Shoes” Released: September 8, 1956
“Blue Moon” Released: 1956
“Money Honey” Released: 1956

Strongest tracks:
“Blue Suede Shoes”, “Tutti Frutti”, “Blue Moon”, “Money Honey”, “I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’)”

Watch Elvis Presley performing the opening track of the album “Blue Suede Shoes” in 1956

Listen to the album “Elvis Presley” on Spotify

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