Elvis Presley's First Record and Early Gigs

By: For Elvis Fans Only
Source: Elvis Australia
March 26, 2005 - 1:37:00 PM
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Elvis Presley
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On Monday, July 19, 1954, hot off the presses at Buster Williams' Plastic Products plant on Chelsea Ave. in Memphis, came the release of Elvis Presley's first record. It was Sun record number 209 - 'That's All Right' backed with 'Blue Moon of Kentucky'. Producer/Sun Records owner Sam Phillips already had 6,000 local orders. Peter Guralnick in his book 'Last Train To Memphis' said', Ed Leek, a Humes classmate who was premed at Memphis State, described going down to the plant and watching the first records come off the press with Elvis, who was 'like a little kid at Christmas'.
do Scotty Moore and Bill Black were the musicians who backed Elvis and they were members of a band called the Starlite Wranglers. They regularly played on weekends at the Bon Air club on Summer Avenue in east Memphis. The Bon Air was a bit rowdy and the clientele were hard drinking lovers of hillbilly music. Elvis neither looked the part nor sounded like anything they were used to. Elvis and the boys played their two songs at the Bon Air a couple of weekends that July. However, that didn't last long. The Wranglers didn't take to Scotty and Bill's involvement with Elvis' act, not only because his music wasn't like their own, but because this act didn't include them. Scotty and Bill soon left the Wranglers. By August 1954 and continuing through October, Elvis and the boys were a regular part of the weekend entertainment at a club on Lamar and Winchester called The Eagle's Nest.

The Eagle's Nest was a part of the Clearpool Entertainment complex that included a large swimming pool, ballroom, and restaurant owned by the Joe and Doris Pieraccini family who also owned the Rainbow Lake amusement complex down the street, where Elvis' beloved Rainbow Roller Skating Rink was located. Memphis country music dee-jay 'Sleepy Eyed' John Lepley and his band, fronted by Jack Clement, played the main sets of western swing with Elvis, Scotty and Bill as the intermission act. It was said that the young people hanging out at the pool would rush in to hear Elvis and then go back outside when the main act came back on.

Often in the audience would be Elvis' parents Vernon and Gladys, Gladys' sister Clettes and her husband Vester (Vernon's brother), as well as Elvis' bosses from Crown Electric James and Gladys Tipler.

All were proud of Elvis and his newfound success.

The Louisiana Hayride

The week after Elvis' October 2, 1954 appearance on 'The Grand Ole Opry', his record producer Sam Phillips arranged for Elvis to appear on the Opry's main competition', The Louisiana Hayride'. This radio program began on April 3, 1948 and was broadcast by KWKH from the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana. Admission to the audience was 60� for adults and 30� for children and the show ran three hours. All of it aired in the region while parts of the show aired nationally on CBS Radio and overseas on Armed Forces Radio.

Known as 'The Cradle of the Stars', the Hayride was the springboard to fame for many country music stars including Hank Williams, Slim Whitman, Webb Pierce, Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton, Faron Young, Floyd Cramer, Kitty Wells, Johnny Cash and George Jones to name just a few. Many of the Hayride regulars toured around the region in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas.

Elvis first performed on the Hayride on October 16, 1954. On November 6, 1954 he returned with his parents and, still being underage, they signed his contract with the show to appear weekly for one year. Elvis would receive $18 per show with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black each receiving $12. Through the rest of 1954 and through 1955, Elvis would have to race back to Shreveport each Saturday night from whereever he was touring to fulfill this commitment. In October 1955 the contract was renewed for another year at a $200 per show fee. By the spring of 1956 Elvis' fame had skyrocketed and the constraints of his weekly appearances on the Hayride made it very difficult to schedule Elvis elsewhere. With the filming of his first movie pending and the need to be in California, Colonel Tom Parker (who got involved with Elvis' career in 1955 and officially became his manager in 1956) was able to buy Elvis out of his contract for $10,000 and the promise to appear on the special Hayride charity show on December 15, 1956.

Elvis' last regular weekly appearance on the Hayride was March 31, 1956.

It was on the Hayride that he did his only product commercial. It was a radio spot for one of the show's sponsors Southern Made Doughnuts. Joseph D. Kent, owner of the surviving tapes of the show said in a 2002 interview that although he has a recording of Johnny Cash's doughnut commercial, he doesn't have the one of Elvis' as many of the tapes were reused and many others were eventually thrown away. These commercial spots in the program were not like modern commercials. Kent went on to explain that a fresh hot box of doughnuts would be delivered to the announcer on stage, who would open it in front of the audience, and the announcer would ask whichever act was setting up to perform next to offer their opinion of the product. The performer would then step up to the microphone and ad lib a testimonial of how good they were. Kent said about the Cash commercial', ...in this case they said 'Johnny Cash knows about Southern Maid Doughnuts don't you Johnny?' And he stepped up to the microphone and said', Yeah man, they're the best in the world, you just dunk 'em and slurp 'em, man they're fine, I think they're just the best'.

Elvis' endorsement would have been somewhat similar in nature.

James Burton, who played lead guitar for Elvis from 1969 to 1977, is a Shreveport native. In August 2005 he held the James Burton International Guitar Festival at the Municipal Auditorium, former home of 'The Louisiana Hayride'. The festival featuring many well known guitarists was to help raise money for Burton's foundation dedicated to providing musical scholarships and instruments to children and young adults.

James appeared on the Hayride in the 1950s. On August 21, 2005, James's 66th birthday and the last day of his festival, a statue honoring him was unveiled in front of the auditorium. It stands next to the statue there of Elvis. Although the Hayride program stopped in 1960, the Municipal Auditorium is still the venue for various live entertainment events in Shreveport.

Elvis at the Louisiana Hayride

From 1955 to 1956 Elvis made a series of appearances at the Louisiana Hayride show.

October 16 , 1954 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
November 6 , 1954 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
November 13 , 1954 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
November 20 , 1954 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
December 4 , 1954 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
December 11 , 1954 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
December 18 , 1954 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
January 8 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
January 15 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
January 22 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
January 29 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
February 5 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
February 19 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
March 5 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
March 12 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
March 26 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
April 2 , 1955 City Auditorium Houston Texas
April 9 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
April 23 , 1955 Heart O'Texas Arena Waco Texas
April 30 , 1955 High School Gladewater Texas
May 21 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
June 4 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
June 11 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
June 25 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
July 2 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
July 16 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
August 13 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
August 20 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
August 27 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
September 10 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
September 24 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
October 1 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
October 8 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
October 29 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
November 5 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
November 12 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
November 19 , 1955 High School Gladewater Texas
November 26 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
December 10 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
December 17 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
December 31 , 1955 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
January 7 , 1956 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
January 14 , 1956 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
January 21 , 1956 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
February 25 , 1956 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
March 3 , 1956 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
March 10 , 1956 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
March 31 , 1956 Municipal Auditorium Shreveport Louisana
December 15 , 1956 Hirsch Youth Center Shreveport Louisana

- Johnny Cash Remembers Elvis at the Eagles Nest
- Print Ad for Elvis Presley's Louisiana Hayride Performance April 23, 1955
- Print Ad for Elvis Presley's Louisiana Hayride Performance August 27, 1955
- Photos - Elvis Presley on the Louisiana Hayride


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