“This was as startling a debut record as any ever made, representing every side of Elvis’ musical influences except gospel – rockabilly, blues, R&B, country, and pop were all here in an explosive and seductive combination” (Eder).
“By the second half of 1955, singles on Sun Records by Presley began making the national country and western singles chart…Colonel Tom Parker, the new manager of Presley, had extensive dealings with RCA through his previous client, singer Eddy Arnold, especially with the head of the Country and Western and Rhythm and Blues division, Steve Sholes. At the urging of Parker, on November 21, 1955, Sholes bought Presley’s contract from Sam Phillips, the head of Sun Records and Studio, for the unprecedented sum of $35,000. Presley and rock and roll were still untested properties for the major labels in the music business, but this album…proved the selling power of both” (Wikipedia.org) – it was “the first rock & roll album to reach the number one spot on the national charts, and RCA’s first million dollar-earning pop album” (Eder).
At the time, there was nothing “in the history of popular music up to that time to hint that Elvis Presley was going to be anything other than ‘Steve Sholes’ folly,’ which was what rival executives were already whispering. So a lot was unsettled and untried at the first of two groups of sessions that produced the Elvis Presley album – it wasn’t even certain that there was any reason for a rock & roll artist to cut an album, because teenagers bought 45s, not LPs” (Eder).
“The first of Elvis’ RCA sides yielded one song, Heartbreak Hotel, that seemed a potential single, but which no one thought would sell, and a few tracks that would be good enough for an album, if there were one. But no one involved knew anything for sure about this music. Seventeen days later, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ was released [on January 27th], and for about a month it did nothing – then it began to move” (Eder).
That move was due, in part, to Elvis’ “appearances in four consecutive weeks on the Dorsey Brothers television program Stage Show in early 1956, on January 28, February 4, February 11, and February 18” (Wikipedia.org). The ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ single finally entered the charts on March 3.
Now “RCA wanted an album in the stores fast to capitalize both on the nationwide TV exposure and the success of the…single” (Wikipedia.org). By the end of Elvis’ Dorsey stint, there had been only two groups of recording sessions for RCA – “January 10 and January 11 at RCA recording studios in Nashville, Tennessee, and on January 30 and January 31 at RCA studios in New York” (Wikipedia.org).
“Collectively, those sessions “yielded an additional eleven tracks, almost enough to fill an entire LP, although some tracks had singles potential. In the 1950s, general practice dictated tracks having greater commercial potential to be released as singles, with tracks of lesser appeal placed on albums; as such, RCA neither took all eleven tracks and simply made an album, nor placed the already released and briskly-selling ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ on it” (Wikipedia.org).
“The rights to the Sun Studio tapes had transferred to RCA with the sale of his contract, so five previously unreleased Sun songs, I Love You Because, Just Because, Trying to Get to You, I’ll Never Let You Go (Lil’ Darlin’), and Blue Moon were added to seven of the RCA sessions tracks to bring the running time of the album up to an acceptable length” (Wikipedia.org). These songs came “from sessions at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, on July 5, August 19 and September 10 of 1954, and on July 11, 1955” (Wikipedia.org). “Phillips produced the sessions at Sun, and no producer was officially listed for the RCA sessions, leading to the belief that Presley himself produced them” (Wikipedia.org).
“As the Sun tracks were mostly country-styled, Elvis and RCA leavened the selections with covers of recent rhythm and blues songs. Two of these, Money Honey by Jesse Stone, known to Elvis from a version by Clyde McPhatter, and Ray Charles’ 1955 hit I Got a Woman, had been in Presley’s live act for a year. A third was the frenetic announcement to the world of the existence of Little Richard in 1955, Tutti Frutti. A rockabilly number that was believed to be a potential hit and could hold its own with the R&B material, Blue Suede Shoes, was not initially released as a single from a promise by Sholes to Sam Phillips to protect the career of another Sun artist, Carl Perkins, the author of the song. Instead, it was diverted into being the opening track on the album” (Wikipedia.org).
“On August 31, 1956, RCA took the unusual step of releasing the entire album as singles in tandem with a new Presley 45, which undoubtedly kept the new single, Shake, Rattle & Roll backed with Lawdy Miss Clawdy, from reaching the charts. However, ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ released in single form as a part of this experiment by RCA, kept the promise to Phillips and Perkins by waiting over eight months since the song’s release on Sun, and made it to #20 on the singles chart” (Wikipedia).