Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

By the time Elvis Presley released his self-titled debut album in early 1956, the Tupelo, Mississippi native already had a chart-topping country record to his name—“I Forgot to Remember to Forget”—with another single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” climbing the pop charts. A few months earlier, RCA Victor had paid a then-grandiose sum of $40,000 to buy out Presley’s contract with Sun Records—a deal encouraged by Presley’s money-minded manager, Colonel Tom Parker. RCA was determined to cash in on its investment, and waged with a full-fledged promotional campaign in the hopes of turning Elvis Presley (and Elvis Presley) into a phenomenon. Needless to say, the payoff was almost instantaneous: Five of the nearly two dozen Presley songs that RCA released as singles in 1956 would hit No. 1. By year’s end, the country kid was a household name, sparking riotous crowds and breathless controversy wherever he went and every time he flaunted his scandalous dance moves on TV—the energy of which is captured on Elvis Presley’s iconic cover. The decision to release an album that contained none of Presley’s massively successful early RCA singles spoke to the label’s confidence in him. Instead of a greatest-hits collection, contemporary listeners of Elvis Presley get a guide to the R&B, rock, and country sounds that Presley combined in such an intoxicating (and pop-molding) fashion. Many of Presley’s groundbreaking early hits are collected here, from “Blue Suede Shoes” to “Blue Moon.” And while there are tunes from Nashville songwriters Jimmy Wakely and Don Robertson, Presley also covers songs made famous by iconic Black artists like Little Richard, Ray Charles, and Clyde McPhatter—a violation of the long-running segregation at the heart of American popular music, and a move that fanned the flames of Presley’s provocative image. The first rock album ever to top the Billboard charts, Elvis Presley remains a document of a transformative moment in pop history, as the myth of genre was being melted and reimagined—one rockabilly song at a time.

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