On a bill that includes both seventeen--year--old Tommy Sands, who began his recording career four years earlier under the guidance of Colonel Parker and Tom Diskin, and George Jones, among others, the show is hosted for radio broadcast by Biff Collie.
Elvis' new managerial contract with Bob Neal goes into effect on this date, with a smiling picture of Elvis, Neal, and Sam Phillips that commemorates the occasion appearing in various periodicals and fan magazines over the next couple of months.
A note in Billboard indicates that Elvis may have remained and performed in the Houston area through Tuesday, January 4.
"Alvis Presley" tops the bill at a show in this 1,855--seat auditorium, where hundreds of teenaged girls rush the stage for autographs. Hayride artists Billy Walker and Jimmy and Johnny and country comic Peach Seed Jones complete the lineup.
This may be the date of a much--remembered show by Elvis, Billy Walker, and Jimmy and Johnny, at which future country star (and sometime bass player with Buddy Holly) Waylon Jennings recalls having met the young "hillbilly cat." In Jennings' recollection, Elvis declared that his next record would be "Tweedlee Dee," by rhythm--and--blues star LaVern Baker, which is just picking up steam, hitting the rhythm--and--blues charts on January 15, 1955.
On this same date, or else upon his return to Lubbock on February 13, Elvis records his version of two r & b hits, "Fool, Fool, Fool" by the Clovers, and "Shake, Rattle and Roll" by Big Joe Turner, at local radio station KDAV, as a promotion for the evening's show.
Elvis appears with other top Louisiana Hayride stars before a crowd of more than 1,600.
Elvis is introduced as the "Memphis Flash" and described to the radio audience by announcer Frank Page as wearing crocodile--skin shoes with pink socks. He performs "That's All Right," "Hearts of Stone," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and "Fool, Fool, Fool." The bill includes rising country star Johnny Horton, known as "The Singing Fisherman," who will have a huge pop hit four years later with "The Battle of New Orleans."
This is the most likely date for a show that Elvis definitely played. From this appearance till the end of the month, Elvis' band is augmented by piano player Leon Post and steel guitarist Sonny Trammell, members of the Hayride's staff band. The show is hosted by Texarkana, Arkansas, DJ Uncle Dudley (Ernest Hackworth), and it is most likely Hackworth's report of the crowd's reaction to the young "hillbilly cat" that prompts Colonel Tom Parker and Tom Diskin's first interest in Elvis.
This marks the known beginning of two weeks of touring with Jim Ed and Maxine Brown. Bob Neal has booked the tour and appears as MC at all the shows. The Browns are a highly polished brother--and--sister country act and in many locations attract a majority of the crowd.
In a strange coincidence of timing, Tom Diskin's Chicago office replies to Scotty Moore's December 13 letter soliciting Chicago dates. There are "few outlets for hillbilly entertainers" in the Chicago area, Scotty is informed in a stock letter of rejection, which has obviously been composed without any knowledge of the New Boston show.
Although no advertisements for this engagement have been found, there is persuasive evidence that Elvis did play here on a Friday in early 1955, the day after playing Helena.
Elvis sports a rust--colored suit, black--dotted purple tie, and pink socks and performs "Hearts of Stone," "That's All Right," and "Tweedlee Dee."
Colonel Tom Parker and Tom Diskin arrive in Shreveport and register at the Captain Shreve Hotel. This is almost certainly the first time either of them has seen Elvis Presley perform, and the Colonel takes steps to forge a link with Bob Neal after the show.
The Booneville Banner carries a front--page story declaring that "the fastest rising country music star in the nation will be performing in his own top--notch manner." Elvis visits local radio station WBIP for an interview with DJ Lynn McDowell to support airplay of his records.
Bob Neal writes to Ed McLemore of the Big "D" Jamboree to let him know that Colonel Parker will be doing bookings for him and Elvis, "just like MCA or William Morris or any other agency." According to Neal, Parker is attempting to get a booking at "one of the big resort hotels in Nevada" and is "negotiating a deal that is terrific, to say the least."
The local paper reports that Elvis' appearance on this Louisiana Hayride package show is one of the most successful dates ever at the center.
Elvis performs "Money Honey," "I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and "That's All Right."
Colonel Parker informs Bob Neal by letter that he has booked Elvis on the Hank Snow Tour from February 14 to 18, sending both a contract and a check made out to Elvis Presley for $425, a 50 percent advance on what he can expect to earn for the tour.
This week's shows, and others in the oil fields area of east Texas, are presented by Gladewater disc jockey Tom Perryman.
At this time the Colonel and Tom Diskin begin spreading Elvis' name throughout their world of show--business acquaintances. Diskin writes to a booking agent in Chicago looking for a TV spot for a "new boy" who he believes will be one of the "biggest things in the business." He goes on to explain that Elvis gets the girls as excited as Frank Sinatra used to, as well as being "as good looking as all heck."
By Scotty Moore's meticulous accounting, Elvis, Scotty, and Bill have grossed $2,083.63 from their last month of touring. Half goes to Elvis, 25 percent each to Scotty and Bill, after expenses have been paid.
Elvis begins a week of Bob Neal bookings, appearing with local singer Bud Deckelman of "Daydreamin'" fame.
The newspaper ad for the show pictures Elvis, Scotty, and Bill ("The Blue Moon Boys") still dressed in their western shirts. This photograph will continue to be used for some months in newspapers throughout the South, though Scotty and Bill have by now stopped wearing the cowboy--styled outfits that are a carryover from their Starlite Wrangler days.
Most likely, Elvis, Scotty, and Bill take time to work on new songs in the studio during this week. On February 5 a posed photograph appears in the Memphis Press--Scimitar showing the three of them at Sun, with Sam Phillips at the console. During this time they record "Baby Let's Play House," which will be the A--side of their next single, along with still--unreleased (and undiscovered as of 1999) versions of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" and "Trying to Get to You." After the session Stan Kesler, a steel guitarist who works primarily on Sun's hillbilly sides, goes home and writes what will become the B--side, "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone," based on the melody of the Campbell's Soup commercial.
During this week the trio also appear at school programs at Messick High School and Messick Junior High to help Sonny Neal, Bob's son, in his campaign for the student council.
Elvis appears with Ann Raye, daughter of Biloxi promoter Yankie Barhanovich. He is late for an appearance at radio station WWEZ to promote the show.
Wearing pink pants and tie with a charcoal jacket, Elvis performs "That's All Right," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Tweedlee Dee," and "Money Honey."
A four--column story in the Memphis Press--Scimitar announces, "Through the Patience of Sam Phillips Suddenly Singing Elvis Presley Zooms into Recording Stardom," noting that "a white man's voice singing Negro rhythms with a rural flavor [has] changed life overnight for Elvis Presley."
Colonel Parker sends Elvis a second check for $550 as a deposit for additional dates on the upcoming Hank Snow tour.
For all of his local eminence, Elvis is listed down on the bill, below such established stars as Hayride graduate Faron Young, Ferlin Huskey, and "Beautiful Gospel Singer" Martha Carson, whose signature tune, "Satisfied," is one of Elvis' favorites.
Between shows Bob Neal arranges a meeting between Sun Records president Sam Phillips and Colonel Tom Parker and Tom Diskin at Palumbo's Restaurant across the street from the auditorium. The ostensible purpose of the meeting is to discuss the future of the young performer in whom they are all so interested. Neal is very much encouraged by the Colonel's enthusiasm, but the meeting does not go well, as Parker explains to Sam Phillips that Elvis is going nowhere on a small--time label like Sun and that he has already made overtures to RCA to buy the contract. Phillips does not react well to this piece of information, and Parker silently revises his plan without ever retreating.
Harry Kalcheim, an agent with the powerful William Morris Talent Agency office in New York, writes to Colonel Parker that he has mislaid the picture of Presley that Parker has sent him but agrees that he sounds promising with "a very special type of voice."
Cash Box reports that Bob Neal, Elvis' new manager, has opened a booking office at 160 Union Avenue in Memphis.
"Elvis Presley, The Be--Bop Western Star of the Louisiana Hayride, returns to Lubbock" reads the advertisement, with "Big 'D' [Dallas] Jamboree" regular Charlene Arthur and Jimmie Rodgers Snow, Hank Snow's nineteen--year--old son and an RCA recording artist in his own right. This is the first booking that Neal has obtained directly through Colonel Parker, and the group receives $350 for their matinee performance. A young Buddy Holly appears at the bottom of this bill as half of the country--and--western duo Buddy and Bob.
Tom Parker has instructed Elvis to meet Tom Diskin at Roswell, New Mexico's, "leading hotel" no later than 3:00 p.m. in order to do radio promotion and get the schedule for his first appearance this evening on the already--in--progess Hank Snow Jamboree tour.
North Junior High School Auditorium, Roswell, at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. (sponsored by the Fire Department)
Elvis "and his Bop Band" are advertised below headliner Hank Snow and popular hillbilly comedian the Duke of Paducah, with Charlene Arthur and Jimmie Rodgers Snow completing the lineup.
On February 10, Colonel Parker has had Tom Diskin inform Steve Sholes, RCA's head of A & R in the company's country--and--western division (A & R stands for "artists and repertoire" and encompasses everything to do with recording, from renting the studio to finding the songs to producing the session) that Elvis Presley "is pretty securely tied up" at Sun while simultaneously trying to convince Sholes to sign Tommy Sands instead. Sholes replies on this date that "the last I heard from the Colonel seemed quite favorable toward our signing Elvis Presley so naturally your comments with respect to Presley were a little surprising." His letter does not indicate that he feels Tommy Sands is a suitable replacement.
The shows in Odessa attract more than 4,000 people, including local singer Roy Orbison, who later comments, "His energy was incredible, his instinct was just amazing." It is swiftly becoming apparent that any other act has trouble following him.
The end of the Hank Snow tour.
Elvis begins another Jamboree Attractions tour, this one billed as a "WSM Grand Ole Opry" show and headlined as an Extra Added Attraction by the Duke of Paducah and country music legends Mother Maybelle (Carter) and her daughters, the Carter Sisters. As a specially advertised feature attraction, however, with billing throughout the tour as big as the Duke of Paducah's (the tickets for Little Rock actually advertise "The Elvis Presley Show"), Elvis, Scotty, and Bill receive $350 for these two shows instead of their usual $200 per day.
Seeking bookings for Elvis all over the country, the Colonel contacts A. V. "Bam" Bamford, an influential promoter who first gained prominence in Nashville by booking Hank Williams in the early fifties, now located in California. Parker informs Bamford that Elvis is "a great artist but will need lots of buildup before he's a good investment."
The last show of this second Jamboree Attractions tour. This package has proven far less of a draw than the Hank Snow show, and Jamboree Attractions loses money on the tour.
Elvis, Scotty, and Bill drive to Cleveland with Bob Neal to play their first date outside the South. They make stops at various radio stations along the way, in hopes of getting subsequent airplay.
Colonel Parker writes to Harry Kalcheim at the William Morris Agency office in New York, once again soliciting Kalcheim's opinion of "this ELVIS PRESLEY BOY" at the end of his letter. The Colonel adds his own opinion that Elvis can succeed if he is "exploited properly." It should be noted here that, as a master promoter, the Colonel saw proper "exploitation" as his calling card, with no element of opprobrium attached.
Hosted by WERE disc jockey Tommy Edwards, the weekly show attracts country music fans living in the city, including a number who have first been exposed to Elvis' records through Edwards' broadcasts (Sun distribution does not effectively reach as far as Cleveland). After the show, Elvis meets top WERE jock Bill Randle, who has just returned from his nationally syndicated Saturday--afternoon CBS show in New York. Randle suggests to Bob Neal that he has "a big artist on his way" and gives Neal the name of a contact for Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, which Randle thinks would be the perfect vehicle for national exposure.
When the group totals up its income at the end of February, earnings have doubled to over $4,000. Bookings will peak the following month, bringing in over $5,000, then return to approximately $1,000 a week through September. Out of this sum, the band pays for its own expenses (gas and automobile maintenance, hotel bills, booking and promotion commissions) before making the agreed-upon 50-25-25 split.
During the early part of March, Elvis returns to Sun and records "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" both as a slow blues and in the up--tempo country form in which it was written. The faster version incorporates drums, which are played by Memphis teenager Jimmie Lott, the first non--Blue Moon boy to play on an Elvis Presley record.
These and all of Elvis' other performances during the month will be booked by Bob Neal, who continues to push the Colonel for another Hank Snow tour.
Elvis, Scotty, and Bill are now the headliners on a show made up for the most part of lesser--known artists like Betty Amos, Onie Wheeler, and Jimmy Work.
William Morris agent Harry Kalcheim telegrams Colonel Parker to inquire if Elvis can audition for Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, the same show that Bill Randle has recommended so enthusiastically just a short time before. Parker replies blusteringly that he is willing to pay for the trip to New York only if Neal and Elvis agree to give the Colonel the right to represent Elvis on "any bookings that may arise [from] the appearance."
In a letter to his associate, Tom Diskin, the Colonel complains once again that they can't waste time and money on Presley without being assured of exclusive control on certain dates and places. He does not want Neal or any other promoter benefiting from the effort and expense he puts into opening up new territory for the young singer.
Harry Kalcheim cables the Colonel that he has set up the Godfrey audition for March 23, and should Elvis win first place, he will appear on Godfrey's morning TV show for the following three weeks.
The Colonel agrees to pay for the trip to the Arthur Godfrey show after securing Neal's promise to protect the Colonel's interest in any bookings that may arise from the tryout.
Elvis signs an amended one--year agreement with Bob Neal from which Neal will receive a 15 percent management fee.
Most likely this is the date on which Elvis plays a "small time Grand Ole Opry"--type show, promoted by theater owner Jack Sallee ("You're a Heartbreaker") and the local radio station. It seems likely that he returns to the area to play the Tipton County Fair later in the year.
Sometime in March, Bill Black wrecks the Lincoln under a hay truck in Arkansas. Elvis borrows the family car from Jim Ed and Maxine Brown for a brief Texas tour that may have included dates not yet identified.
Elvis "Pressley" tops a bill that includes both Hoot Gibson, the western movie star, and Tommy Sands, with Biff Collie once again master of ceremonies. Live recordings of "Good Rockin' Tonight," "Baby Let's Play House," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "I Got a Woman," and "That's All Right" have surfaced on various bootlegs over the years.
In what is almost certainly Elvis' first airplane flight, he travels to New York City with Scotty, Bill, and Bob Neal. The Arthur Godfrey audition takes place at 2:30 p.m. on the fourteenth floor at 501 Madison Avenue. The Talent Scouts show no interest whatsoever.
The Colonel voices his concern to Bob Neal once again about Sun Records. It is very difficult, he says, to interest promoters outside of the small range of Sun's distribution in the young singer. He asks Neal to find out from Sam Phillips where the records are selling so that he can seek out promoters in those areas.
Elvis, Scotty, and Bill, plus Hayride piano player Floyd Cramer and "a local boy on drums," draw 850 paid admissions "for a rockin' and rollin' dance for teenagers," according to Odessa record shop owner Cecil Holifield in the June 4 edition of Billboard.
Elvis appears on a Hayride remote broadcast with Slim Whitman, Hoot and Curley, Johnny Horton, Tibby Edwards, Floyd Cramer, and others. He performs "Little Mama," "That's All Right," "You're a Heartbreaker," and "Shake, Rattle and Roll." Billboard reports on June 4 that 2,000 people were turned away from this performance and that Elvis and Slim Whitman both tore the house down.
Elvis is stopped for speeding outside of Shreveport in the 1954 four--door pink--and--white Cadillac that he has bought since Bill wrecked the Lincoln. He posts $25 bond and is notified to appear for arraignment on Tuesday, April 5.
Bob Neal reports to the Colonel that he is unable to fulfill the Colonel's request that he find out where Elvis' records are selling. Meanwhile, the Colonel and Tom Diskin continue to try to drum up interest in Elvis from promoters throughout the South.
Presenting "that Country Music Star" Elvis Presley.
Elvis performs "That's All Right," "I Got a Woman," and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" on a show that also includes Johnny Horton, Hoot and Curley, and Jim Reeves.
Elvis sings "That's All Right," "I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine," "Tweedlee Dee," and ends with "Blue Moon of Kentucky." The paper reports that many of the young women "swooned with his every appearance on stage." It is also noted that more than one man is overheard saying: "I'd like to meet him out behind the bar," or "I'd better not see any girlfriend of mine going up after an autograph from that singer."
Elvis leaves Breckenridge in the morning behind the wheel of his pink--and--white Cadillac, sporting pink slacks and an orchid--colored shirt.
Owl Park, Gainesville, Texas
Largely unknown in Gainesville, Elvis draws only a handful of people. He appears shaken by the small turnout but promises that he will return and make up for it. He never does.
Elvis tops a bill that includes rising country star Sonny James, veteran Hayride performer Hank Locklin, Charlene Arthur, and many others. Tickets are $.60 for adults, $.30 for children. Like the Grand Ole Opry and the Louisiana Hayride, Ed McLemore's Big "D" Jamboree in Dallas is a live Saturday--night show broadcast over a prominent local radio station with a strong signal. It serves as an important vehicle to expose Elvis to listeners across Texas, and Bob Neal arranges for four appearances on the show, despite the fact that Elvis will have to pay a substantial penalty for missed Hayride shows. At this time Neal also commits Elvis to do two Beaumont, Texas, shows in June with the same promoter.
Another remote, with Hayride regulars Slim Whitman, Jim Reeves, Jim Ed and Maxine Brown, and Jimmy "C" Newman, among others. Billboard reports that the show draws 5,000 people, one of the largest crowds ever seen in this venue. "Making it great with the Cen[tral] Texans were Elvis Pressley [sic] and J. E. and Maxine Brown."
Cook's Hoedown Club, Houston, Texas, in the evening
There is good circumstantial evidence to suggest that Elvis played both these clubs on this date, but no confirming advertisements or paperwork have been found.
Elvis begins a five--day tour with artists from TNT Records, the San Antonio label that is sponsoring the show. The M--B Corral poster proclaims "Elvis 'That's All Right Mama' Prestley" as the headliner. As each artist finishes his performance, he leaves for Seymour, Texas, an hour away, where a second gig has been booked. Elvis doesn't arrive in Seymour until after midnight, because he runs out of gas (and money) along the way. In addition to TNT's Chuck Lee and Gene Kay, Capitol recording artist Dub Dickerson ("Mama Laid the Law Down, Boy") is on the bill. According to Doug Dixon, one of the "hardcore Elvis fans" who remained, when Elvis finally took the stage in Seymour, he was wearing "a fire--engine red sport coat, bow tie, white shirt and blue trousers . . . about two sizes too large so he could make his moves without ripping something. . . . For a long moment he stood there with half--closed eyelids, not saying a word. Scotty stepped up behind Elvis and pretended to wind him up," as if he were a windup toy. With that, "Elvis suddenly grabbed his guitar . . . and the show was on."
The ad promises "LOTS OF CLEAN FUN AND HEAPS OF MUSIC."
Elvis' performance of "Tweedlee Dee" is recorded at this remote broadcast.
Elvis begins a new three--week tour as a "Special Added Attraction" on Hank Snow's All Star Jamboree, with Faron Young, the Wilburn Brothers, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, the Davis Sisters (Davis Sister Skeeter will go on to have a successful solo career), Jimmie Rodgers Snow, and Onie Wheeler. This tour will take Elvis into new territory as he travels to Florida and the Southeast, requiring the Colonel to work hard to get his recordings in the hands of local DJs and promoters.
For one night the Jamboree splits into two units, with Elvis joining a group headlined by Faron Young, and Hank Snow playing Jennings, Louisiana.
The tour reunites in Mobile, Alabama, where Elvis and the others participate in radio interviews.
A pack of girls chases Elvis across the football field.
The show, including Scotty and Bill but not Elvis, plays Birmingham, Alabama. Elvis returns to Memphis to attend Dixie Locke's junior prom, where he double--dates with his cousin Gene Smith and Bessie Wolverton, one of Dixie's best friends.
Colonel Parker is back in home territory in Florida. A resident of Tampa for almost fifteen years, Parker began promoting shows in the mid--1930s and is well known to local promoters and DJs. Jacksonville schoolteacher and sometime songwriter Mae Boren Axton, who has done promotion work for the Colonel in the past, works as a publicist on at least some of these dates.
In Faron Young's recollection, the audience calls for Elvis when Hank Snow takes the stage. The announcer tries to restore order by telling the crowd that Elvis is out back signing autographs, and the auditorium empties.
At the conclusion of his performance, Elvis announces to a good portion of the audience of 14,000: "Girls, I'll see you backstage." The response is a full--scale riot, with fans pursuing Elvis into the dressing room and tearing off his clothes and shoes. In the opinion of the Colonel's advance man, Oscar Davis, this was the point at which Colonel Parker was irrevocably sold on the growth potential of Elvis Presley.
RCA field representative Brad McCuen (responsible for east Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas) and country--and--western promotion manager Chick Crumpacker are in the audience to check out some of their acts. Crumpacker remembers being bowled over. "What really got the listeners was his energy and the way he sang the songs. The effect was galvanic." Subsequently Crumpacker makes a point of taking all of Elvis' records back to New York to give to his boss, Steve Sholes, who, unbeknownst to him, is already well aware of the new act.
This is Elvis' last show on the tour.
The show plays Chattanooga, Tennessee, but Elvis does not appear. He may have played at the Municipal Auditorium in Texarkana, Arkansas, on this night.
Elvis plays this outdoor venue in the afternoon and very likely appears at Cook's Hoedown, a Houston club, in the evening.
Elvis attends the third annual Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Celebration honoring the universally acknowledged "Father of Country Music" in his hometown. An afternoon barbecue attracts 10,000 people with Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, and many other current country--and--western stars in attendance, while the evening's shows are divided among five different venues in town. "Music will be provided by Elvis Pressley and his orchestra" at the American Legion hall, according to the Meridian Star. The September issue of Country Song Roundup reports that Elvis was called back for encore after encore, performing "Baby Let's Play House," "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone," "Milkcow Blues Boogie," and "You're a Heartbreaker," among others.
The Jimmie Rodgers celebration continues with a noontime parade that attracts a crowd of 60,000. All the performers ride in the parade, including Elvis, and he subsequently does a show at the Junior College Stadium. Some of the other celebrities on hand are Louisiana's ex--"singing governor," Jimmie Davis, Tennessee governor Frank Clement, Red Foley, Slim Whitman, Webb Pierce, and Faron Young. Also present are RCA promotion manager Chick Crumpacker and Grelun Landon, a representative of country--and--western song publisher Hill and Range, who initiates discussions with Elvis about a song folio, a kind of promotional publicity bio with pictures built around the sheet music for some of Elvis' songs.
On this same day Colonel Parker writes a long letter to Bob Neal outlining all that he has done for Presley and offering to work more closely with Neal in promoting career of the young singer. "If ever you wish to tie in with me closely and let me carry the ball," he declares in somewhat disingenuous fashion, "I will be happy to sit down with both of you and try to work it out."
Bob Neal books this week's tour with Ferlin Huskey, the Carlisles, and Martha Carson. According to a notice in Billboard, the tour is scheduled to open tonight at the Fair Park Auditorium in Abilene, Texas, but no notices for that show have been found.
Sometime roughly within the past month, the Presleys have moved out of their apartment on Alabama into a rented single--family brick home at 2414 Lamar.
Fourteen-year-old Mac Davis attends the car-dealer show and is knocked out by Elvis' performance. Elvis will later record such Davis compositions as "Memories," "In the Ghetto," and "Don't Cry Daddy."
Cecil Holifield reports in Billboard that his record shops in Midland and Odessa, Texas, show sales on Presley's four singles that "beat any individual artist in our eight years in the record business."
After the show Elvis sets off for Texarkana with a girl from that town, while Scotty and Bill ride with other friends. About halfway to Texarkana, in Fulton, Arkansas, Elvis' pink--and--white Cadillac catches on fire and burns. Elvis' mother, Gladys, will always recall how she was awakened out of a sound sleep at home by the feeling that something was wrong. Others recall Elvis sitting by the side of the road, looking desolate as he watched his dreams go up in smoke. From Texarkana Scotty returns to Memphis to get the new pink--and--white Ford Crown Victoria that Elvis has recently purchased for his parents, while Elvis and Bill fly on to Texas.
MGM Records telegrams Sam Phillips to inquire if Elvis' contract is for sale. Both Phillips and Bob Neal begin at this time to receive unsolicited offers from other major record labels as well.
Either tonight or Tuesday, June 7, is the most likely date of an appearance in Andrews, Texas, booked in conjunction with the Breckenridge appearance on the tenth.
Elvis appears tonight and tomorrow night with Onie Wheeler and the Miller Sisters, a recently signed Sun act. Elvis is paid $450, one quarter of the admissions, and the remaining profit helps the class of 1956 travel to Washington, D.C.
Colonel Parker writes to Tom Diskin concerning his feelings about Bob Neal's inability to handle Elvis and book him properly. He stresses that it will take patience and skill to build up Elvis' popularity before sending him into new territory. "Let's go slow," he concludes, "and watch Neal on Elvis."
Parker writes to Neal on the same day, suggesting that perhaps with great salesmanship he can get Elvis a Las Vegas booking, but that since he is still an unknown performer he will have to really "prove his worth" once he gets there.
DJ Bobby Ritter recalls that in order to get into the building without being mobbed, Elvis has to crawl through a back window, ripping the seat of his pants, which have to be held together with a safety pin during his performance.
Bob Neal travels to see the Colonel at his headquarters in Madison, Tennessee, where the two men arrive at the basis of the understanding that the Colonel has been seeking all along. Neal will remain Elvis' manager, but from July 24 all booking and long--term planning will be handled by the Colonel's office, including a concerted effort to move the singer off Sun Records and onto a major label.
Over two days Elvis appears in five shows, organized by Ed McLemore, to benefit the Beaumont Police.
From Beaumont Bob Neal wires the Colonel that he has been unsuccessful so far in his efforts to convince Elvis of the wisdom of leaving Sun, and he feels the Colonel should speak to him.
The 2,400--seat auditorium has been filled for all five shows.
From Beaumont, Bob Neal wires the Colonel once again to inform him that Elvis continues to be ambivalent on the matter of leaving Sun. Neal thinks it would be best to wait until he is home before pursuing the matter any further. On the same day the Colonel informs Steve Sholes at RCA of his new business arrangement with Neal and Presley, and invites Sholes to make a bid to acquire the singer.
Billboard lists a date in Vernon, Texas, on this night, though no supporting documentation has been found.
Elvis arrives in his parents' 1955 Crown Victoria, Bill's bass strapped to the roof. He headlines a bill with "8 big stars," including Leon Payne, the blind composer of "I Love You Because," and TNT Records' Chuck Lee, for both tonight's and tomorrow night's shows.
Elvis, Scotty, and Bill open the new air--conditioned club to a sellout crowd.
Local girl June Juanico attends with a friend who saw the Slavonian Lodge performance and has told June that Elvis Presley is "the most gorgeous man I've ever seen in my life." Elvis picks June out of the crowd and spends the rest of the evening with her.
The group receives $600 for its three nights in the Biloxi area. All shows are booked by Yankie Barhanovich, whom Elvis met in February when he shared the bill with Barhanovich's daughter, Ann Raye, in New Orleans. Ann recalls Elvis' mother, Gladys, being at Keesler to see at least one of the shows.
Elvis, Scotty, and Bill appear with Curtis Gordon's Radio Ranch Boys for two nights.
Cash Box announces that Elvis Presley has been voted number one "Up--and--Coming Male Vocalist" by country music disc jockeys.
Elvis participates at these two all--day events approximately twenty miles apart, the first a family picnic put on by gospel promoter W. D. Nowlin, the second an indoor "jamboree" with pretty much the same lineup. Influenced by the presence of two of his favorite gospel quartets, the Statesmen and the Blackwood Brothers, Elvis sings nothing but gospel music in De Leon, getting a very poor reception, but does his regular show both in Stephenville and in Brownwood later that evening.
Memorial Hall, Brownwood Texas, at 8:00 p.m.
This is a regularly scheduled dance that Elvis plays with local star Slim Willet (composer of the standard "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes," a #1 country hit for him in 1952) and the Farren Twins, both of whom were also on the show in Stephenville.
Elvis returns to Memphis for a two--week vacation. During this week his next--door neighbor, fifteen--year--old Jackson Baker, recalls hearing Elvis rehearse the song "Mystery Train," and then, after recording it, listen to the acetate over and over again.
Scotty Moore trades his Gibson ES 295 guitar for a Gibson L5 at O.K. Houck Piano Company. The new guitar will go with the custom--built Echosonic amplifier he purchased for $495 in May, which he is currently paying off in installments.
It is most likely at around this same time that Elvis, too, purchases a new guitar, a Martin D--28, which will be seen in pictures taken in Tampa on July 31. The new guitar has a tooled leather cover which, in addition to its decorative qualities, prevents the back of the instrument from being scratched during performances by Elvis' belt buckle.
Elvis also buys a pink 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty with a black top to replace the Cadillac that has burned. A removable wooden roof rack is used for the band's instruments.
Elvis successfully records three new songs at Sun. They are: "I Forgot to Remember to Forget," an original composition written for him once again by Stan Kesler; Little Junior Parker's "Mystery Train," which Sam Phillips originally produced on Parker in 1953; and a number by the Washington, D.C., r & b group the Eagles, "Trying to Get to You." Memphis drummer Johnny Bernero plays on all but "Mystery Train," and the first two songs will become the next single.
"Baby Let's Play House" enters Cash Box's Country and Western chart at #15, marking Elvis' debut on the national charts.
Elvis headlines a two--day package featuring seventeen--year--old country singer Wanda Jackson, Bud Deckelman, and others on a show that promises "FUN! MUSIC! JOKES!" In the course of the engagement Elvis converts Jackson to the rockabilly cause, of which she becomes one of the most prominent, and convincing, female progenitors.
The Colonel by now is gearing up for full representation, instructing Tom Diskin not to mail the Presley "poop sheet" all over the country at once but instead to send batches to one geographic area at a time. This will mean that resulting bookings will not be spaced so far apart. "Let's not plug Sun records for this time," he adjures Diskin. "Sun is doing nothing for us."
In a conference call, Colonel Parker, Bob Neal, Hank Snow, and Tom Diskin continue the discussion about moving Presley to a major label as well as booking him on a proposed Hank Snow weekly television show. At this point Parker and Snow (in partnership as Hank Snow Attractions, producers of the Jamboree Attractions tours), agree to put up $10,000 in cash to buy Elvis' release from Sun Records. In exchange they would expect a 2 percent share of Elvis' record royalties, calculating that he will receive a standard 5 percent and will presumably be satisfied with the 3 percent that he has been getting from Sun all along.
On this same day, in a clearly related development, RCA makes an offer of "either a flat $12,000 toward settlement and delivery of Presley to RCA," or a $5,000 nonrefundable bonus to Presley plus $20,000 recoupable from future record royalties. The offer includes the guarantee of an appearance on network television within sixty days of signing and can be presumed to be in response to terms demanded by the Colonel.
As of this date, Elvis Presley will be exclusively represented by Colonel Parker/Hank Snow Attractions, though he continues to be managed by Bob Neal.
Popular hillbilly comic "Deacon" Andy Griffith, who will star in the 1957 Elia Kazan film A Face in the Crowd (which chronicles the rise of a performer very much like Elvis Presley), before going on to greater television fame, headlines a show with Grand Ole Opry stars. At the bottom of the bill, boldface letters announce: "EXTRA EXTRA By Popular Demand ELVIS PRESLEY with Scotty and Bill." This is the start of a seven--day tour, the first under the new regime. Once again Mae Boren Axton works as a publicist and interviews Elvis at the beginning of the tour.
Again, there is a near riot when Elvis performs.
At the Colonel's behest, well--known celebrity photographer Popsie (William S. Randolph) takes a series of action shots, including the tonsil--revealing portrait that is used for the cover of Elvis' first album the following year.
Webb Pierce is the headliner on this new four--day tour set up by Bob Neal in June and featuring Wanda Jackson, Bud Deckelman, the Miller Sisters, and others. Also included is Charlie Feathers, a twenty--three--year--old incipient rockabilly recording for Sun subsidiary Flip. This is Elvis' first performance in Tupelo since his appearance at age ten in the singing competition at these same fairgrounds, and it is held before a crowd of about 3,000.
Elvis steals the show from headliner Webb Pierce, with Sun newcomer Johnny Cash added to the bill.
Tom Diskin writes Colonel Parker that Bob Neal is still trying to get Elvis to commit himself to a switch to a major label and hopes to have him "pinned down" soon.
Colonel Parker is furious when he learns for the first time of the Hill and Range song folio originally discussed in Meridian. He sees this as one more example of Bob Neal's lack of foresight.
Bob Neal's eighth annual Country Music Jamboree, prominently featuring Elvis Presley, includes Webb Pierce, Sonny James, and Johnny Cash, drawing an audience of over 4,000 to the open--air amphitheater where Elvis began his professional career.
Elvis' appearance at this "12th Annual White River Carnival" elicits an indignant letter from local promoter Ed Lyon, who writes to the Colonel that Elvis was guilty of unprofessional behavior, told off--color jokes, and "stormed off stage" after singing just four songs, thereby "ruin[ing]" the show. Lyon demands an "adjustment," and the Colonel swiftly complies with a refund of $50, writing Bob Neal a scathing letter on August 22 about the necessity of establishing professional standards. Elvis is "young, inexperienced, and it takes a lot more than a couple of hot records in a certain territory to become a big--name artist," the Colonel lectures Neal, whom he blames both implicitly and explicitly for this foul--up in the education of a young artist.
Cook's Hoedown, Houston
Elvis begins a weeklong Tom Perryman tour with Jim Ed and Maxine Brown. Hayride drummer D. J. Fontana, who has played with the group occasionally both in Shreveport and on Hayride tours, joins Elvis for the first time on a regular basis, but unlike Scotty and Bill he is not a percentage participant but a salaried member of the band.
"This cat came out," recalled future country star Bob Luman in later years, "[he was] wearing red pants and a green coat with pink shirt and socks, and he had this sneer on his face and stood behind the mike for about five minutes, I'll bet, before he made a move." Then the girls started screaming, and Luman, a high school student at the time, felt cold chills run up his back, as he knew his life's course was set.
Meanwhile, the Colonel, frustrated by what he sees as Bob Neal's incompetence and not above capitalizing on it, writes directly to Vernon Presley, because, he explains, he has been unable to reach Neal and wants Vernon to know right away that he has a "very good deal" pending.
Elvis attends Jim Ed and Maxine Brown's parents' twenty--fifth wedding anniversary party in Gladewater, Texas. A photograph of the group includes 1955 Humes High School graduate Red West, who has been going out with the group occasionally throughout the year, and Elvis' sometime accompanists, piano player Floyd Cramer and steel guitarist Jimmy Day.
Elvis attends a meeting in Memphis with the Colonel, Bob Neal, and Vernon Presley, at which a new contract is signed that names Colonel Parker as "special advisor," with control of virtually every aspect of the operation.
Meanwhile, the Colonel's pal, booking agent A. V. "Bam" Bamford, remains dubious about Elvis' future, conceding in a letter to the Colonel that he may be "hotter than a firecracker," but reminding Parker that this is true only in certain areas. Bamford says he will consider booking Elvis into new territories if he can pair those bookings with ones in established towns. He mentions that KXLA, the only country--and--western station in L.A., doesn't play Presley at all.
In a letter to Julian Aberbach of Hill and Range, the Colonel explains that he now has a three--year representation deal with Elvis and Vernon and is close to making a deal with a major label. Through reliable sources he has learned that Elvis' 1955 record sales are a little more than 100,000 copies. This letter appears to be a follow--up to an earlier request by the Colonel for financial support from the Aberbachs in purchasing Elvis' contract from Sun--which may in turn have been a follow--up to his expressed outrage about the folio.
Live recordings of "Baby Let's Play House," "Maybellene," and "That's All Right" are available from this date.
Sometime during the summer Elvis appears in Mount Pleasant, Texas, at the American Legion Hall, very likely on this date, or a week later.
Elvis begins a weeklong tour with Hayride artists Johnny Horton and Betty Amos. While in Wichita Falls Elvis visits DJ/promoter/bandleader Bill Mack's newborn daughter in the hospital.
A stage is created on the football field by parking two flatbed trucks side by side. Elvis trips and hits his head as he bounds up the makeshift steps but goes right on with his performance.
"The Fireball Star of Records and the famous Louisiana Hayride" is featured on this Hillbilly Jamboree honoring local DJ Red Smith, together with a 1955 "Miss Hillbilly Dumplin'" competition, in front of a crowd of 20,000 people.
Fifteen miles south of Texarkana, Arkansas, Scotty Moore drives the pink--and--black Cadillac Fleetwood into an oncoming vehicle that is in the process of passing a pickup truck. Scotty recalls the Cadillac as requiring approximately $1,000 worth of repairs.
Arkansas Municipal Auditorium, Texarkana, Arkansas
Elvis is late to the show because of the accident, so local high school student Carl "Cheesie" Nelson entertains the audience until he shows up. Also on the show are Johnny Cash and Charlene Arthur.
At some point early in September, new addition D. J. Fontana becomes ill and will miss well over a month before rejoining the group.
The Round-Up Club, Dallas (later in the evening)
Elvis is the headliner on a new five--day tour featuring Johnny Cash, Bud Deckelman, Floyd Cramer, and Eddie Bond. It was Bond for whom Elvis unsuccessfully auditioned at the Hi-- Hat on May 15, 1954.
A local musician, Ollie Warren, a high school student at the time, recalls meeting Gladys Presley at this show as she sat in the Crown Victoria parked behind the flatbed trailer on which Elvis was performing.
After returning to Memphis for the night, the band travels to Bono eighty miles to the northwest, where attendance is so great that the floor gives way in the middle of the show, but fortunately no one is injured.
Jimmy Day remembers Elvis showing off a newly purchased yellow 1954 Cadillac Eldorado convertible at this date.
Bob Neal complains to the Colonel that Elvis' fee is too low and receives a scathing telegram in return. The Colonel informs Neal in no uncertain terms that he can either accept the older man's expertise or go his own way. It might be possible, he lectures Neal, to get $500 for certain scattered dates, but it is impossible to get this sum every night of a two--week tour. The Colonel is paying Elvis $250 in locations that he has already played and can be counted on to draw a crowd, and $175 for shows in new territory. "I would like to have a telegram from you immediately," the Colonel concludes, "which way do you want it to go: your way, the way Elvis wants it, or the way I have set it up? It is immaterial to me."
The Colonel writes Tom Diskin to tell him to remind Elvis how difficult it is to get enough dates to make up a good tour. In a second letter the Colonel tells his lieutenant to be sure to "talk to Presley alone, take him to lunch or get him in your room," so as to convey two linked ideas: first, that the Colonel is doing more for Elvis than he would for anyone else, unless he was being paid "big dough"; and second, that while "we are going ahead with great plans . . . if we are to be checked every time, we better work out a finish."
Elvis joins the Hank Snow Jamboree for two days, this time as coheadliner. Other performers include country star Cowboy Copas and popular gospel--based brother act the Louvin Brothers.
The tour goes on without Hank Snow.
In order to be certain that Elvis and the band are fully covered (and Sun Records does not suffer any undue liability exposure), Sam Phillips takes out an insurance policy on the yellow '54 Eldorado that Elvis purchased earlier in the month. Phillips lists himself as "named insured" and 2414 Lamar (the Presley residence) as the principal place of garaging, though within a matter of weeks the Presleys will move around the corner, to 1414 Getwell, where they will pay $85 a month in rent.
Although all decisions with respect to Elvis' career must by contract go through the Colonel's office, Bob Neal negotiates a new one--year contract with the Hayride, at $200 a performance, a raise of over 1000 percent. Vernon signs the agreement, which goes into effect November 11, 1955, and carries a penalty of $400 for each missed performance beyond the one every two months allowed. One can only surmise that this represents one last attempt by Neal to assert his independence and that it is endorsed by Vernon out of an ingrained hunger for financial security and an almost desperate uncertainty about the future.
The bickering between Colonel Parker and Bob Neal continues. After being pushed mercilessly by the Colonel, Neal pulls out of their joint arrangement, terming his withdrawal a "pleasant parting." The Colonel immediately sends copies of the correspondence to Elvis, expressing the hope that they will be able to work together again in future and concluding somewhat disingenuously, "Sincerely, Your Pal, The Colonel."
The end of the tour.
Back home in Memphis, Elvis attends an All-Night Singing put on by the Blackwood Brothers at Ellis Auditorium. When James Blackwood discovers that Elvis has purchased his own ticket to get in, he sends his apologies along with a refund check.
The newspaper advertisement now lists Elvis at the top of the bill.
Elvis begins another tour booked by Bob Neal in familiar territory. It is possible that Elvis played Houlka, Mississippi, during this week.
Elvis may have appeared at the H Aubrey, Arkansas, High School with the Louvin Brothers on a show MCed by Bob Neal.
Actor James Dean is killed, and Bonnie Brown (Jim Ed and Maxine's sister, who sometimes performed with her siblings) recalls Elvis crying in a Gladewater hotel when he heard the news.
The group's gross income for September is $3,300, with Elvis still getting only 50 percent of the net, and Scotty and Bill 25 percent--after the new drummer has been paid. This is the last month that this arrangement will remain in effect. At the Colonel's instigation, as of October 1 Scotty and Bill are put on a fixed salary of $200 a week when they are working, with a retainer of $100 when they are not.
The beginning of a four--day tour with other Hayride acts.
With no Friday--night booking, Elvis and promoter Tillman Franks take a bus to Houston to see "Western Swing" king Bob Wills at Cook's Hoedown Club. According to Franks, neither Elvis nor Wills is particularly impressed with the other.
The first show in a weeklong tour with Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson, and fledgling country star Porter Wagoner.
The advertisement refers to Elvis as "the king of western bop," but notes that "his wardrobe runs to the 'cool cat' type of dress rather than western apparel."
Cotton Club, Lubbock (later in the evening)
For one night Elvis joins yet another Hank Snow tour, this one costarring Bill Haley, whose "Rock Around the Clock" is in its fifth month at the top of the charts. The phenomenal success of Haley's 1954 record, re--released when the song was used over the credits of the hit film The Blackboard Jungle, in some ways certifies the success of the new music and validates its name once and for all as "rock 'n' roll." In subsequent weeks Billboard will note the clever strategy of "Col Tom Parker of Jamboree Attractions, one of the nation's major bookers and promoters of country & western talent, [who] instituted a new policy when he presented a combination of popular and country & western music on a recent one--nighter tour." It might further be noted that Haley and Elvis are advertised on the top half of the poster, above Hank Snow.
Elvis, Scotty, and Bill appear after a "Big Free Hillbilly Amateur Show."
Elvis returns to Cleveland as an "extra added attraction" on a show headlined by Grand Ole Opry stars Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells.
This is a show put together by Cleveland DJ Bill Randle, who, in his October 22 column in the Cleveland Press, describes the film to be made from it, a Universal picture in which Randle will be "supported by Pat Boone, the Four Lads, Bill Haley and his Comets, and the phenomenal Elvis Presley. Called 'Top Jock' [or "A Day in the Life of a Famous Disc Jockey"], the film will run about 15 minutes when it hits your movie house." It never did, and it never has--though the show by all accounts sounds fabulous. Whether it was the Colonel or union problems that blocked its release, in subsequent years the footage has never been located, though some stills survive.
St. Michael's Hall, Cleveland, at 8:00 p.m.
Hosted once again by Bill Randle, this show climaxed, according to Randle's later recollection, when Elvis broke the strings on his guitar and then smashed the guitar on the floor. "It was mass hysteria," recounted the DJ. "We needed police to get him out of the hall."
In what will turn out to be the penultimate act of the long struggle of wills between Bob Neal and Colonel Parker, Gladys and Vernon Presley sign a telegram provided by Tom Diskin granting the Colonel "sole and exclusive" representation of their son with respect to "all negotiations" for a new recording contract. Diskin's accompanying message seeks to reassure the Presleys that they are in the "most competent hands."
The Grand Ole Opry tour with Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells continues for three more days.
Elvis is scheduled to open the 2:00 p.m. show but arrives late, saying that he was searching for his wallet. As a result of his tardiness, he is not permitted to perform and, with the Colonel's approval, is docked $125 pay.
Elvis is booked with local rockabilly Sonny Burgess, who will start recording for Sun himself the following year. The newspaper advertisement promises: "If you like GOOD Western Music (and who doesn't) You'll enjoy Elvis Presley and the Moonlighters singing and playing your favorite western tunes." Show time is "9 til ?"
Colonel Parker telegrams Sam Phillips from the Warwick Hotel in New York to inform him that he has been authorized by Elvis' parents to handle all negotiations for the sale of Elvis' Sun Records contract. Putting the horse somewhat after the cart, Parker asks Phillips to name his price.
On this date, Elvis most likely appeared at the Armory, Houston, Mississippi.
After thirty minutes the school principal stops the show when Elvis tells an off--color joke about "milking through the fence."
Greater Gulf States Fair, Prichard, Alabama, at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m.
National Guard Armory, Jackson, Alabama
Bob Neal learns for the first time (from Sam Phillips and the Presleys virtually simultaneously) that the Colonel is in the midst of selling Elvis' contract and writes to Parker, demanding a meeting to straighten things out.
Bill Bullock, manager of the single records division of RCA Records, wires Colonel Parker in Madison, Tennessee, that $25,000 is as high as RCA can go for the acquisition of Presley's contract. This is a reiteration of what Steve Sholes has written to Parker the day before.
Colonel Parker drives to Memphis to meet with Sam Phillips and hammer out the terms of an option agreement. It will take effect on October 31 and give Parker until November 15 to put down a nonrefundable deposit of $5,000 against the $35,000 purchase price for Elvis' recording contract.
Harry Kalcheim of William Morris suggests to the Colonel that Elvis would make a good subject for a Hollywood short, but Parker remains unimpressed by Kalcheim's New York vision, informing him that he is in the middle of making a deal.
Elvis returns to his new home on Getwell.
During the week Elvis goes into the Sun studio one last time to record a B--side for "Trying to Get to You." There appears to be some mix--up in communications, because the session breaks off in the middle after several attempts at "When It Rains It Really Pours," a Billy "the Kid" Emerson blues, and drummer Johnny Bernero comes away with the clear impression that this is because Elvis' contract is about to be sold.
The latest single, "I Forgot to Remember to Forget"/"Mystery Train," appears on three of Billboard's national charts, representing country music sales, jukebox, and radio play.
Elvis attends the fourth annual Country Music Disc Jockey Convention in Nashville, where he tells everyone he meets of his imminent switch to RCA, although the Colonel has yet to finalize the deal. In his room at the Andrew Jackson Hotel, Mae Boren Axton plays him a demo of a new song she has written with Tommy Durden called "Heartbreak Hotel."
After a second day of meeting DJs at the convention, Elvis flies home to Memphis.
Elvis appears at the opening of the new mill with other Hayride performers.
Louisiana Hayride, Municipal Auditorium, Shreveport
Billboard's Annual Disc Jockey Poll names Elvis the "Most Promising C&W Artist."
This "Western Swing Jamboree," dedicated to departing KWEM DJ Texas Bill Strength, who is bound for Minneapolis, and featuring Texas--born, Princeton--educated, star of western swing and honky tonk Hank Thompson, top country act Carl Smith, Charlene Arthur, and Sun artist Carl Perkins (just a few weeks away from recording his first hit, "Blue Suede Shoes"), marks the beginning of a six--day tour.
Undoubtedly in response to Harry Kalcheim's suggestion of two weeks before, and despite the fact that the deal with RCA has yet to come together, the Colonel informs the William Morris agent that he would be "interested in making a picture with this boy. However, we must be very careful to expose him in a manner befitting his personality, which is something like the James Dean situation." Two days later he will elaborate further, wondering if Warner Brothers may have shelved plans for any James Dean pictures for which his boy might be suited. "Believe me," he informs Kalcheim, "if you ever follow one of my hunches, follow up on this one and you won't go wrong." He adds that he already has three tentative coast--to--coast television appearances for Elvis--which would appear, on the evidence, to have been tentative indeed.
Colonel Parker finally wears down RCA after a barrage of phone calls and telegrams. On the last day of the option Bill Bullock agrees to Sam Phillips' price of $35,000, an unheard--of amount, and Parker sends Phillips the $5,000 earnest via airmail, special delivery. Several days later he receives a refund from RCA, but he will always point to the fact that it was his money that secured Presley's contract, his money that was at risk.
Johnny Cash joins the show for this performance and is amazed to see Elvis take time to carefully hand-wash his car after driving it through the rain and mud on his way to Texarkana.
Elvis performs "Baby Let's Play House," "That's All Right," and Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock."
Elvis flies back to Memphis.
RCA executives Steve Sholes and Coleman Tily, along with song publisher Hill and Range's lawyer Ben Starr, Hank Snow, Tom Diskin, and the Colonel, all converge on the tiny Sun studio, where the sale of Elvis' contract and all of his Sun masters is formally executed and signed by Tily for RCA, Phillips for Sun, Elvis, Vernon, the Colonel, and Bob Neal, with Gladys Presley proudly looking on. Elvis' contract with RCA of the same date calls for a minimum of eight sides per year, two one--year options, and a 5 percent royalty, with the purchase price of the contract recoupable from one half of that royalty and a $5,000 nonrecoupable bonus going to the artist. Back in the Colonel's room at the Hotel Peabody, a further sum of $1,000 is conveyed from Hill and Range, with whom a contract has been worked out to handle song publishing via a 50--50 partnership with Elvis. Elvis and Vernon sign for receipt of $4,500, with the Colonel taking his 25 percent commission on the full $6,000.
Telegram from Elvis Presley to Colonel Parker:
Dear Colonel, Words can never tell you how my folks and I appreciate what you did for me. I've always known and now my folks are assured that you are the best, most wonderful person I could ever hope to work with. Believe me when I say I will stick with you through thick and thin and do everything I can to uphold your faith in me. Again, I say thanks and I love you like a father. Elvis Presley
The Colonel writes to Harry Kalcheim at William Morris that he now has things tied up in such a way that "I can expect 100% protection and cooperation." He wants Kalcheim to work out a deal for a short motion picture with both Elvis and Hank Snow, still his nominal partner.
Kalcheim pitches Presley to NBC--TV, describing him as a young singer along the lines of former teen idol Johnnie Ray.
Meanwhile, Elvis has gone shopping in Memphis, where he spends over $600 at Ed's Camera Shop.
Kalcheim pressures Parker to have Elvis play dates in New York and New Jersey in order to increase his exposure. The Colonel, for his part, adamantly ignores the suggestions of a man he feels is missing the point, resisting the pressure to pursue any other tactics but his own.
This is Elvis' first performance after signing his RCA contract. The group is paid $350.
The Colonel writes to Neal, who will remain Elvis' personal manager by contract for another four months, to be sure that Elvis reports to all his shows on time. He advises Neal once again to remind Elvis to cut out the comedy during the shows and make sure the band does as well.
Back home in Memphis, Elvis spends $61.29 at Wells Clothing Store.
Elvis appears at this company show with the Hank Snow All Star Jamboree.
Elvis and the Colonel fly to New York, where they register at the Hotel Victoria on Fifty--first Street.
In New York Elvis and the Colonel meet with RCA executives, including president Larry Kanaga and publicity director Anne Fulchino. A photo shoot has been arranged and pictures of Elvis and the Colonel, Elvis and Steve Sholes, and Elvis and fellow RCA artist Eddy Arnold, who happens to be in New York for a session, are taken in RCA's Twenty--fourth Street studio, along with posed action shots that will be used on the back of Elvis' first album.
Elvis appears before a small crowd and is paid $300.
Talent Contest Final, followed by a show that includes Roy Acuff, Kitty Wells, and others. Elvis is paid $400.
Billboard announces that Elvis, "one of the most sought--after warblers this year, signed two big--time contracts," one with RCA and one with Hill and Range, the music publishing company under which newly formed BMI company Elvis Presley Music will operate. The story points out that RCA plans to push Elvis' "platters in all three fields--pop, r.&b., and c.&w. However, RCA . . . plans to cut the warbler with the same backing--electric guitar, bass fiddle, drums and Presley himself on rhythm guitar--featured on his previous Sun waxings."
The start of a four--day booking with the Hank Snow show that includes country comedian Rod Brasfield and the Carter family and advertises Elvis as an "extra added" attraction.
While in Indianapolis, Elvis and Anita Carter take a tour of the RCA manufacturing plant.
Elvis and the group get $1,000 for the four shows.
Tom Diskin reports to the Colonel from Indianapolis that Elvis has done better and better, getting the kids "all hopped up" each night--but he still needs to work on pacing his act.
Elvis appears with Hank Snow on another show for Philip Morris Company employees.
Elvis appears with Johnny Cash.
B&I Club, Swifton, Arkansas (later in the evening)
In B&I Club owner Bob King's recollection, Elvis sings "Heartbreak Hotel" and declares, "It's gonna be my first hit."
Elvis appears with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins on a show in Amory either this night or the next.
Harry Kalcheim is furious when he learns that Colonel Parker has booked Elvis for four consecutive weeks in January on CBS's Saturday--night variety show, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey's Stage Show, through another agent, Steve Yates.
As a follow--up to the Stage Show booking, CBS requests a list of Elvis' songs, from which a selection will be made with input from the show's producer at the dress rehearsal. Elvis is to be paid $1,250 for each appearance, with an option for two more weeks at $1,500 each.
All five hundred tickets for this show with Carl Perkins are sold two days in advance.
The Colonel responds unrepentantly to Harry Kalcheim, reprimanding him for failing to work hard enough to get Elvis on television. He lectures the agent that it is not enough just to send out letters and sit and wait for a reply. An agent must pitch his artist "full force." If he himself were simply to depend on people calling him back, the Colonel concludes, "I would have to start selling candy apples again. Nuff said."
Elvis performs six songs, including Tennessee Ernie Ford's huge hit on Merle Travis' parable of the coal mines, "Sixteen Tons"; the Platters' doo--wop classic "Only You"; and Little Richard's debut (and definitive) rocker, "Tutti Frutti." The crowd does not want to let him leave the stage.
The Colonel sends Bob Neal the Stage Show contract for Elvis to sign, pointing out that there must be no "ad libs or gestures" on the show other than those the producer recommends.
Elvis goes shopping in Memphis, spending $39.04 at Harry Levitch's jewelry store in the Peabody and $50 at Lansky Brothers on Beale, around the corner. Later in the week he spends $691.28 at Ed's Camera Shop.
In the evening Elvis attends a Memphis charity show at Ellis Auditorium that features an all--star wrestling program.
A & R head Steve Sholes sends Elvis demonstration records of ten songs he would like him to consider for his first RCA recording session, scheduled for January in Nashville. Elvis will eventually record two, "I'm Counting on You" and "I Was the One," both ballads.
Elvis remains at home over Christmas. He does not appear on the Louisiana Hayride show this week.
On his 1955 income tax return Elvis reports a total income of $25,240.15.
Showtimes for all tour dates throughout the book are presumed to be one performance at normal evening hours (or, at a club, a number of sets) unless otherwise specified.
April Record Release
Single: "Baby Let's Play House"/"I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" (Sun 217). April 10, 1955, is generally cited as the release date for Elvis' fourth single. Cash Box reviews the single in May, saying: "The polished style of 'I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone' comes over in true fashion on an intriguing and forceful item with a solid beat." About "Baby Let's Play House" the reviewer opines, "[This] is a real different, fast--paced piece on which Presley sparkles."
August Record Release
Single: "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" /"Mystery Train" (Sun 223). Elvis' fifth and last Sun single is released sometime in August, the by--now--classic mix of country and blues. It premieres on Cash Box's regional charts in Ocala, Florida; Memphis; and Gladewater, Texas, where local DJs play both sides of the record.
December Record Release
Singles: RCA re-releases Elvis' latest Sun single, "I Forgot to Remember to Forget"/"Mystery Train," on December 2, while it is still high on the national country--and--western charts.
On December 20, RCA re--releases the four earlier Sun singles: "That's All Right"/"Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Good Rockin' Tonight"/"I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine," "Milkcow Blues Boogie"/"You're a Heartbreaker," and "Baby Let's Play House"/"I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone."