Rock n’ roll won’t last… Labels don’t make money on long play albums… No single artist is worth $35,000…
That’s what the majority of record executives believed when Elvis Presley signed on RCA’s dotted line and released his debut self-titled album in March of 1956. The bulk of RCA ’s rock n’ roll gamble was recorded in Nashville and augmented with a few previously unreleased Sun selections to round out the platter. I could argue that the chemistry between Elvis, guitarist Scotty Moore, and bassist Bill Black was put through the washin’ machine once the Blue Moon Boys went to RCA– but I’d probably lose the debate.
Even for hardcore rockabilly enthusiasts who consider Sun the alpha and omega, it’s hard to fault the version of “Money Honey” that featured Chet Atkins on guitar and Floyd Cramer on the ivories. And even if I wanted to lambast the album’s cover of “Tutti Frutti” (not even the King beats the Peach), that bunch o’ hillbillies make a compelling case with Ray Charles’ iconic “I Got A Woman”.
The crown jewel of the album is the lead track, “Blue Suede Shoes”. At the time, Sam Phillips and Sun Records were rakin’ it in from Carl Perkins’ original cut, and legend has it that Elvis himself requested that RCA not release his version as a single so as not to interfere with his friend’s success. Sure enough, Perkins would sell over a million copies of “Blue Suede Shoes” making it the first Sun single to do so– but a horrible and deadly car accident would derail Perkins’ trajectory.
Elvis Presley became the first rock n’ roll album to sell a million copies. It shattered industry notions, established Elvis as the genre’s first megastar, and for good or ill, changed popular music forever after.