1935-1957: Page 2
June 3, 1953
Elvis graduates from Humes High School.
Elvis works at Parker Machinists Shop right after graduation. That summer, he drops by The Memphis Recording Service, home of the Sun label, and makes a demo acetate of "My Happiness" and "That’s When Your Heartaches Begin" for a cost of about $4.00. (The studio came to be known as Sun Studio, though it was never officially named that until many years later. For simplicity, this text uses the name Sun Studio.) The studio owner isn’t in, so his assistant, Marion Keisker, handles the session. Elvis wants to see what his voice sounds like on a record and he has aspirations to become a professional singer. He takes the acetate home and reportedly gives it to his mother as a much-belated extra birthday present. By the fall, he is working at Precision Tool Company.
Elvis makes another demo acetate at Sun. Sam Phillips, the owner, is in this time and, like Marion Keisker, is intrigued by this unusual looking and sounding young man.
April 20, 1954
Elvis changes jobs again, going to work for Crown Electric Company. At Crown, he does various jobs, including driving a delivery truck and delivering supplies to job sites. He also goes to night school and studies to be an apprentice electrician.
June 6, 1954
At Marion Keisker’s suggestion, Sam Phillips calls Elvis into the studio to try singing a song Sam hopes to put out on record. The song is "Without You" and Elvis does not sing it to Sam’s satisfaction. Sam asks Elvis what he can sing and Elvis runs through a number of popular tunes. Sam is impressed enough to team Elvis up with local musicians Scotty Moore (guitar) and Bill Black (bass) to see if they together can come up with something worthwhile.
July 4, 1954
Elvis meets Scotty and Bill, but nothing really clicks until July 5, when after a tedious session, Elvis and the guys break into a sped-up version of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's "That's All Right." This song, backed with “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” becomes the first of five singles Elvis will release on the Sun label.
Elvis, Scotty, and Bill start performing together, with Scotty acting as the group’s manager. Elvis continues to work at Crown Electric as the group starts to play small clubs and other smalltime gigs locally and throughout the South, enjoying moderate success with the records and personal appearances.
October 2, 1954
Elvis’ one appearance on the “Grand Ole Opry” doesn’t go over particularly well, with one of the Opry officials reportedly suggesting that Elvis go back to driving a truck. The Opry is very important at this time. This is a painful disappointment in Elvis' early career.
Elvis, Scotty and Bill continue to record and to travel. They quit their day jobs in mid-October 1954.
October 16, 1954
They appear for the first time on the ”Louisiana Hayride,” a live, Saturday night, country music radio show originating in Shreveport, Louisiana, broadcast over KWKH Radio. The show is the “Grand Ole Opry's” chief competitor, carried by 190 stations in thirteen states. This leads to regular appearances on the Hayride. In November, Elvis signs a one year contract for 52 Saturday night appearances. This is a great break, but as Elvis’ popularity grows, his commitment to the Hayride prevents him from traveling much outside the South to further his career on a larger scale.