In June 1953, Elvis Presley walked into the offices of Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee and paid $3.25 to record two songs, “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”.
“I said, ‘What kind of singer are you?’” recalled receptionist Marion Keisker. “He said, ‘I sing all kinds.’ I said, ’Who do you sound like?’ He said, ‘I don’t sound like nobody.’”
He claimed he was recording the tunes as a gift for his mother and that he just wanted to know what he “sounded like”, but there was a much cheaper amateur recording service a few doors down.
According to biographer Peter Guralnick, Elvis chose Sun Records in the hope of being discovered – and discovered he was, just over a year later. Sam Phillips, the boss of the label, asked Keisker to note down Elvis’ name. She did, adding a little note underneath: “Good ballad singer. Hold.”
So, when that first acetate record went up for auction in 2015, collectors jumped at the opportunity to own a piece of music history. The winning bid went to 12-time Grammy winner Jack White (formerly of The White Stripes), who paid a staggering US$300,000.
White promptly visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, where he called upon archivist Alan Stoker to digitise the delicate record. He did just that, then White re-released it on vinyl, and now we can all hear the King’s first ever recording.
We can’t believe how different it sounds from the Elvis we know and love! But there’s no mistaking that iconic voice.
Keen for more? You can watch the restoration process in full here. Tell us in the comments below, what’s your all-time favourite Elvis song?