One of Three Elvis Presley Sun Records Master Recordings from 1954, Plus Other Elvis items, will be Auctioned Sept. 29th
Rock ‘n’ roll history will hit the auction block on Thursday, September 29th, when three early items pertaining to Elvis Presley – including one of three original master recordings from his first-ever recording session in 1954 for Sun Records – will be offered by Weiss Auctions. Music will be a key part of the 500-lot, online-only Iconic and Eclectic auction.
The acetate recording, with That’s All Right on one side and Blue Moon of Kentucky on the other side, is considered one of rock’s true Holy Grail items, as it was the record that launched Elvis’s career and changed American popular music forever. John Lennon once said, “Before Elvis there was nothing.” Three acetates were cut in that first session; one of the three will come up for bid.
Also sold will be an acetate recording of Blue Suede Shoes, also with Elvis on vocals. The song would become a huge hit in 1955 for Carl Perkins, before Presley recorded his own version the following year. Both records were chart-toppers. Elvis ordered an actual pair of blue suede shoes and wore them when he performed the song. The shoes were sold at auction in 2013 for $80,000.
The third item is a large version of the famous photo showing the four members of the “Million Dollar Quartet” – Presley, Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis – signed and inscribed by all four to Marion Keisker MacInnes, who worked at Sun Records and was a key contributor to Elvis’s early development. The photograph was taken at the Sun Records studio in Memphis.
Additional items from Ms, Kesiker MacInnes’s collection of Sun Records memorabilia will also be in the sale, as will other music industry items, including a Beatles autographed picture, signed by all four band members; a ticket from the Beatles performance at RFK Stadium in Aug. 1966; and an archive of material relating to Barbra Streisand, including letters, postcards and records.
That’s All Right and Blue Moon of Kentucky weren’t the very first songs recorded by Presley at Sun Records. On Saturday, July 18, 1953, the then 18-year-old strolled into the studio (at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis) on his lunch hour and plunked down four dollars to create an acetate record as a belated birthday present for his mother, Gladys. Marion Keisker MacInnes met him at the door.
Marion asked him, “What kind of singer are you?” Presley replied, “I sing all kinds.” She asked, “Who do you sound like?” To which he replied, “I don’t sound like nobody.” He then recorded two songs – My Happiness and That’s When Your Heartaches Begin (the latter song being an eventual hit record). Marion, impressed, wrote in her studio records, “Good ballad singer. Hold.”
A full year would pass between that session and the one that produced That’s All Right and Blue Moon of Kentucky. According to Ms. Keisker MacInnes, Sam Phillips, her boss at Sun Records and the owner of the fledgling studio, told her he was looking for an artist who was “white but sounded black” for a song he had in mind called Without You. It was Marion who suggested Elvis Presley.
They called him in for a jam session with two other musicians: guitarist Scotty Moore (who became Elvis’s first manager) and bassist Bill Black. A couple hours into the jam, Phillips was not impressed and suggested wrapping things up. Elvis, on a whim, grabbed his guitar and started singing That’s All Right (originally done by blues singer Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup).
But Elvis, who was loose and relaxed at that point, thinking the jam was essentially over, gave the song his own spin, injecting a bright, melodic feel into what was a traditional blues number. Sam Phillips, sensing something special was happening, stopped the group mid-verse, told them to start again and hit the record button on his tape recorder. Thus, rock ‘n’ roll history was made.
For the record’s “B” side, again it was Elvis to the rescue. From his nights listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio, Presley was a fan of the bluegrass group Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys (a far cry from Crudup’s That’s All Right). He suggested Blue Moon of Kentucky, only instead of a waltz tempo he punched it up to 4/4 time. Phillips loved it and a “B” side was born.
Phillips, wasting no time, rushed a reference record to Memphis’s top DJ, Dewey Phillips (no relation to Sam), who played it on his “Red, Hot and Blue” show. The station’s switchboard lit up with callers wanting more Elvis and, on the strength of that record, specifically That’s All Right, the band (which had never appeared in public) was booked at Memphis’s Bon Air Club.
Soon afterward, Presley was added to the bottom of a bill headlined by Slim Whitman on Memphis DJ Bob Neal’s “Folk Music Show” at the Overton Park Shell. A flurry of publicity ensued, capped by a picture and an article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Soon the name Elvis Presley was known to everyone in Memphis and, eventually, the country and the world.
Meanwhile, Marion Keisker MacInnes, who helped guide Sun Records in every aspect of its creative and commercial direction, and who played a pivotal role in helping to market and promoted Elvis Presley and the music vision he represented, had a falling out of sorts with Sam Phillips and she left the company to join the Air Force in 1957. She was offered a direct commission as captain.
While stationed in Germany, Keisker MacInnes was named Commander of the largest Armed Forces television facility in the world. In 1960, then-Army private Elvis Presley was in Germany, doing a press conference, when he spotted Captain Keisker MacInnes. Stopping to say hello, he said to her, “I don’t know whether to kiss you or salute.” Dryly, she responded with, “Both – in that order.”
Remarkably, a senior officer began reprimanding her for being overly friendly with a lowly private, but Elvis came to her defense, saying, “We wouldn’t be having a press conference if it weren’t for this lady.” Both Presley and Phillips publicly expressed gratitude to Marion Keisker MacInnes. Elvis said more than once she was a pivotal figure in his career; Philips repeatedly said he couldn’t have done it without her.
As for that acetate recording from 1953, the Elvis made for his mother as a birthday present, the disc was put up for auction in 2015, at Graceland. Rock musician and Nashville recording studio owner Jack White paid $300,000 for it. The seller was the family of Ed Leek, a classmate of Presley’s who’d given Elvis the money to make the record. Presley later gave the disc to Leek.
Internet bidding will be provided by LiveAuctioneers.com and Invaluable.com. Phone and absentee bids will also be accepted. For more information about Weiss Auctions and the Iconic and Eclectic auction slated for Thursday, September 29th, visit www.WeissAuctions.com.