50 years ago today....

Piers Beagley , 5 July 2004

What are you doing this Monday night?

Exactly 50 years ago today, on this same Monday night, while most Memphis folk were cooking up dinner Elvis, Scotty Moore, & Bill Black rolled into Sam Phillip's Sun Studios to kick around a few songs. Tuesday was another workday for them all, Elvis was at Crown Electric, so they had limited time and weren't even sure what they should be putting down on tape.

The fragile pleading of 'Harbour Lights', that they started out with, certainly wasn't anything special. However that accidental ground-breaking moment when Elvis 'stumbled' and managed to blend his subconcious knowledge of rythym & blues, country, hillbilly, gospel and pop into an old blues number of Arthur Crudup's was truly revolutionary.

One song, That moment, That foolin' around on his guitar, That burst of suppressed energy, That tape machine rolling in Sam's control room - 'That's All Right' - changed the very world that we live in. Rock 'n' Roll was born! While it is a valid argument that Jackie Brentson's 'Rocket 88' and even Bill Haley's 'Rock Around The Clock' came first but Rock 'n' Roll is more than just a song. Rock 'n' Roll is the sound of teenage rebellion, fast cars, hot girls, motorbikes, cool clothes, political rebellion, black meets white, freedom, sex, as well as being the soundtrack for the new generation. It is an all-encompassing & exciting kick against the boring establishment and with Elvis' astounding voice, gorgeous looks, sexual intensity, dress sense and intimate understanding of every type of music, no one else had a chance.

We of course mustn't also forget the importance of producer Sam Phillips, along with Scotty Moore's fine tuned guitar and Bill Black's exceptional bass work. In fact the back-beat & slap of Bill's double-bass is an essential element since even Arthur Crudup's original had a nice & simple drum line to it. However to break free from the cosy Dean Martin's sound of the time and the safe post-war era of "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?" there needed to be a dynamic focal point that would blow away all in its path, and that was Elvis Presley.

While 'That's All Right' was the key, you also need to hear the originals of 'Blue Moon of Kentucky' by Bill Monroe, 'Good Rockin' Tonight' by Wynonie Harris or 'Mystery Train' by Little Junior Parker to truly comprehend what an extraordinary leap this musical revolution was. What Elvis imparted and added to these originals is astounding - and it wasn't the big band shuffle of 'Rock Around The Clock'! This was dangerous 'race music' (as the R&B chart was called in those days) and Elvis meant every word… When he sang.. "I'm gonna' hold my baby tight as I can, Tonight she'll know I'm a mighty, mighty man" … we all knew exactly what he meant & it sure sounded exciting! While it is fine to be there for the birth (and if Elvis recorded nothing else after his 'Sun Sessions' they would still be a seminal rock 'n' roll work) Elvis' genius was to see that child grow.

After the magic of 'That's All Right', the invitation of 'Baby Let's Play House' would follow eventually leading to the musical explosion created by the unknown soulful moodiness of 'Heartbreak Hotel' to the shear dynamite of 'Hound Dog', 'Don't Be Cruel', 'One Night' and everything else that followed. Nothing would ever be the same again. When asked in 1956 how long he thought Rock 'n' Roll would last, Elvis replied. "I wish I knew… It is very hot now and I like it. I enjoy rock and roll. .. As long as it lasts, as long as it sells, I'll continue doing it, as long as that's what people want. And if they change, if it dies out, I'll try to do somethin' else. And if that doesn't work, I'll just say, 'Well I had my day' !"

50 years ago today Elvis Presley changed the world we live in and has been enriching all of our lives ever since. Take a moment to think about it, crank up that juke-box and celebrate! Why not celebrate this fantastic day with the following Elvis feast?

'That's All Right' - Don't miss out on the new 3 track CD single.

'Elvis At Sun'. The exceptional new BMG remastered CD of Elvis' Sun Sessions'

'The Sun Story' (Rhino Records) - Let's not forget the all-important part played by Sam Phillips. This compile features Sam's great work with Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis etc, as well as the original 'Mystery Train'.

'Early Elvis - The Sun Years' by Bill E. Burk. This fascinating book captures some insightful truths about Elvis & Memphis at the time.

'Elvis '56' (BMG) - The history of Elvis' musical revolution continues and has recently been Remastered in fabulous sound quality.

'Flashback' (FTD) - A collector's treat of hundreds of rare photos plus 25 unreleased Elvis tracks all from 1955-1958. A must have.

'68 Comeback' DVD - Sensational. Elvis regains his crown after all those wasted years by once again revisiting the glory of 'That's All Right' and his rock 'n' roll roots.

Click to comment on this article