Posts Tagged ‘Elvis’
Long time readers will know of your correspondent’s fascination with Sun Records, it’s presiding spirit, Sam Phillips (c.f., “So you wanna be a rock and roll star…“), and the acts–a pantheon of early rockers– that Sun birthed (c.f., “Collecting is my passion“). Turns out, there was a very particular method to the madness…
If rock and roll is a religion, then Sun Studio is one of its holiest temples. The walls of this garage-turned-recording-studio in Memphis reverberate with the echoes of the past. This is where Elvis became king, Cash walked the line, and Perkins put on his blue suede shoes. This is where Roy Orbison, B.B. King, Ike Turner, and Jerry Lee Lewis all got their start. This is where rock and roll was born.
Behind every guitar riff, drum beat, and lyrical innuendo, there was the man in the control room who engineered it all. Sam Phillips helped turn poor boys, sharecroppers’ sons, and ex-servicemen into legends, icons, and superstars. “He was always trying to invent sound,” says Sam’s son, Jerry Phillips, “He felt the studio was his laboratory.”
The inside story: “How Sam Phillips Invented the Sound of Rock and Roll.”
As we swivel our hips, we might sing a doleful birthday ditty to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup; he was born on this date in 1905 (though some sources give the date as August 24). A Delta blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Crudup is probably best known today as the writer of “That’s All Right (Mama),” the A side of Elvis Presley’s first single (recorded, of course, by Sam Phillips at Sun), and for “My Baby Left Me” and “So Glad You’re Mine,” also covered by Elvis (and many others).
Southeastern Louisiana University rock historian Joseph Burns suggests that “That’s All Right (Mama)” is the world’s oldest rock and roll song, and notes that it contains (what is probably) the first ever guitar solo break.
The story has been repeated thousands of times, with minor variations, in magazines, books, blogs and documentaries. In some versions, the heartbroken man shoots himself; in others, he leaps to his death from a hotel window. There are occasional references to a failed romance and to the destruction of all traces of identification before the fatal act. There’s always a one-line suicide note: “I walk a lonely street.”
But there’s never a name. For 60 years, the true identity of the man whose death inspired “Heartbreak Hotel” has remained a mystery. Florida songwriters Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton always claimed the creative spark for Elvis Presley‘s first-ever Number One hit was a 1955 newspaper story about an anonymous man’s suicide and his cryptic note about that “lonely street.” (The paper cited is usually The Miami Herald.) And yet, no one has ever turned up the article, or even provided much clarifying detail.
This is surprising, considering that “Heartbreak Hotel” had a colossal impact – both on Elvis’ career and on rock & roll history. It was Elvis’ first nationwide hit after a string of regional successes, and it changed the lives of countless future stars – John Lennon, George Harrison, Keith Richards and Robert Plant have all proclaimed its transformative effect. Elton John, recalling the day he first heard the song, said, “That weekend, my mum came home with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and that changed my life. … Elvis Presley changed everyone’s life. I mean, there would be no Beatles, there would be no Hendrix. There would be no Dylan.” Paul McCartney once declared it nothing less than the most important artistic creation of the modern era…
Finally, the full story at: “Solving the Mystery of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.”
* From “Heartbreak Hotel,” written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton.
As we walk down a lonely street, we might recall that it was on this this date in 1961 that Bill Harry’s pioneering English music paper, Mersey Beat, announced that the Beat Brothers had signed a recording contract. The Beat Brothers? They had performed with another British musician, Tony Sheridan, in Hamburg for several months earlier that year; but while the partnership worked, Sheridan chose to remain in Germany when the quartet returned to Liverpool. We know the group better by the name they soon after adopted: The Beatles. Two years later, on this very day, they would go to No. 1 on the U.K. album chart for the first time.
Unlike sex or hunger, music doesn’t seem absolutely necessary to everyday survival – yet our musical self was forged deep in human history, in the crucible of evolution by the adaptive pressure of the natural world. That’s an insight that has inspired Chris Chafe, Director of Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (or CCRMA, stylishly pronounced karma).
In his intensive, data-driven endeavour, Chafe takes the unnoticed rhythms of the natural world and ‘sonifies’ them, turning them into music – all the better to see how nature resonates with the music inside us. By pulling music out of the strangest places – from tomato plants, economic stats, even dirty air – he enables listeners to perceive phenomena viscerally, adding a new dimension of understanding to otherwise barely noticeable aspects of the world…
Read more– and hear some of Chafe’s work– at “Sonifying the World.”
* John Cage
As we muse of the music of the spheres, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that Sam Phillips‘ Sun Records released the first single by Elvis Presley, “That’s All Right (Mama)”/”Blue Moon of Kentucky.”
The tracks were covers that clued early listeners to the influences that Presley would marry with such power as he rose to royalty: “That’s All Right” is a blues song by Arthur “Big Boy” Cruddup, while “Blue Moon of Kentucky” is a bluegrass ballad by Bill Monroe.
But that stardom was still in the distance; while Presley’s renditions became instant hits in Memphis, hometown of both Elvis and Sun, the 45 received mixed reviews in the rest of what would become Presley’s kingdom.
See other prandial pennants at Marvelous. [Grateful TotH to reader @krasney]
Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we can enjoy theirs. It is not strange; for tastes are made, not born. I might glorify my bill of fare until I was tired; but after all, the Scotchman would shake his head and say, ‘Where’s your haggis?’ and the Fijan would sigh and say, ‘Where’s your missionary?’
-Mark Twain, Roughing It
* Clementine Paddleford (quoted in Charles Wysocki’s Americana Cookbook)
As we ask for extra mayonnaise, we might recall that it was on this date in 1960 that Elvis Presley was honorably discharged after two years in the U.S. Army; he left with the rank of sergeant. Presley, whose career had been carefully stoked with banked material during his service, went right back to work: within a month he recorded and released a single, “Stuck on You,” that went straight to Number One, the ballads “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, and the rest of Elvis Is Back!, which went straight to Number Two on the album chart. And he hit the sound stage as well, making G.I. Blues in time to release it that summer– and watch it climb to Number Two on Variety‘s box office chart.
In 1980 American Express teamed up with John DeLorean for a Christmas promotion, offering a limited edition of 100 24-karat gold-plated DeLoreans for $85,000 each. The response to the promotion, as to the car itself, was underwhelming: only two were sold– though a third gold-plated car was assembled in 1983 with spare parts that were required by American Express in case one of the other two that were built were damaged.
But in fact there was a fourth golden DeLorean. Michael Feldman, who’d paid $28,000 (including an early delivery premium) to get the first production model, decided that he’d do the plating himself. He found an electro-brushing facility and had his car gold-plated, panel by panel, to a 24-karat luster. The process cost him an additional $8,000– not chump change, but a comparative bargain. Still, a golden car wasn’t the most practical vehicle in the world; Feldman sold it in 1981 to the first a series of subsequent owners.
As we keep our eyes peeled for Doc and Marty, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that “Heartbeak Hotel” earned Elvis Presley his first Gold Record. Presley’s first million-seller (and his first release on RCA, after moving from Sun), the record sat at number one on Billboard‘s Top 100 chart for seven weeks, topped the Country and Western chart, and reached number five on the R&B chart. It continued to sell– it was eventually certified Double Platinum– and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1995.
A selection of entries from Music History in GIFs…
As we tap our toes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1946– on his 11th birthday– that Elvis Presley received his first guitar. Elvis had coveted a bicycle or a rifle, but his protective mother (“She never let me out of her sight,” Elvis later said) took him to the Tupelo Hardware Store and convinced him to accept a $7.75 Kay guitar instead. The rest is, as they say, history.
Girls on Donkeys #0117
The collector: Lisa Wood, artist and jewellery designer, San Francisco.
The collection: Photo postcards of girls on donkeys.
The story behind the collection…
This collection started about 5 years ago when I came across my first photo postcard of a young girl on a donkey taken around 1910. She was clothed in a beautiful dress, a big bow in her hair and shiny black boots that buttoned up the side. I loved the juxtaposition of the girl dressed in her Sunday best on a seemingly stinky old donkey…
One of the many labors of love on display at Obsessionistas, a showcase for unique and evocative collections.
We believe that in a world of homogeneous ‘me too’ lifestyles, products and brands, individuality can at least in part be expressed through our particular obsessions and what we seek out, keep and collect.
More on Ms. Wood’s collection here.
* Ursula Andress
As we dust our shelves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that serendipity yielded one of the coolest collectibles ever: rockabilly legend Carl “Blue Suede Shoes” Perkins was recording at Sam Phillips’ Sun Records in Memphis; Perkin’s buddy Johnny Cash, a Sun artist and a country star by virtue of his recent hits “I Walk The Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” was hanging out in the booth; and soon-to-be-famous Jerry Lee Lewis was playing piano (for a $15 dollar session fee– “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” was set for release a few weeks later).
A couple of years earlier, Phillips had launched Elvis Presley with “It’s Alright Mama”; but in 1955, as Elvis’ career exploded, Phillips had sold his contract to RCA, and Elvis moved on. But The King was back in Memphis that fateful day; he stopped by Sun to say hello… and an impromptu jam ensued. Phillips had the presence of mind to order his engineer, Jack Clement, to roll tape– a tape that was promptly shelved, forgotten, and unheard for 20 years. The recordings of what was arguably the first “supergroup” were found in 1976 and finally released in 1981… since when, they’ve been treasured by fans– a new crop of which has emerged with the success of the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet.