Monday, February 11, 2013

The little record that could....and did...prove Elvis' appeal

On Sept. 9, 1954, a young rockabilly singer played at the grand opening of a shopping center; he was paid $10 to perform on a flat-bed truck parked in front of the Katz Drug Store. The next day he began a long session of recording at a local studio. He worked for hours on several song covers which were never released.

Finally things fell into place while he and the studio group were covering the 1948 r&b hit "Good Rockin' Tonight." Later that day, or maybe the next day, he recorded a pop tune he had heard in a movie, "I don't care if the sun don't shine."
These two sides became Sun 210, released on Sept. 25, 1954.
That night, Elvis appeared at the Eagle's Nest Club with the Tiny Dixon Band. The single record release, Elvis' second, would not hit big. But artistically, this Sun single represents one of the best performances of Elvis' career.

This is the original Sun 210 single. There's something special about owning it.
As life neatly arranges itself into archives with the help of computers, this unmistakable artifact reminds us of the mechanical and agricultural age when popular music started to rock and roll, as if creating a vulgar secular church.
Condition of the grooves in this Sun rarity is very good, and both sides play through nicely, with all the excitement of early Elvis on wax.
The label has some ring wear but no markings. There's a slight smudge on the author credit of "Good Rockin' Tonight"-- the word "Brown" can be read but not the word "Roy." (Both Roy Brown and Wynonie Harris had previous hits with this song). The artist credit is Elvis Presley Scotty and Bill.
From the earliest days of "big hole" 45 rpms-- innovated by RCA Victor as a game changer in the competition against Columbia (which invented the LP album)-- there were two "flip" sides. More often than not, the record would have a fast song on one side and a slower song on the other. It was also assumed that only one of the songs could be promoted enough to get wide radio airplay.
The term "rhythm and blues" is said to have been concocted because a 45 rpm might have a "rhythm" tune on one side and a "blues" on the other. Often these records contained music that would not be heard on radio. There would have to be strong encouragement to play a song on the radio if the artist was perhaps not caucasian. A few pioneering DJs were up to the task, especially if they had black listeners. The rest of the radio community needed an umbrella concept that was as lily-white as their baby boomer audiences. The concept became known as "rock 'n roll." The packaging of this idea coincided with television stagings such as "American Bandstand" and record promotions such as the ones pioneered by Alan Freed and other DJs. Almost as soon as the term "rock 'n roll" (originally a black coinage) was applied to the music, "rhythm and blues" became "oldies but goodies" or just "oldies." Many rhythm and blues records were exported to England to help create the "British Invasion" sound of the 1960s. British youth did not see the racial baggage in the music that the parents of their American counterparts saw. When Paul McCartney was making girls swoon by imitating LittleRichard, no American artist could pull off the same thing. White American kids needed their black music safe.... Motown and Berry Gordy accommodated this need.
Elvis Presley was not only a caucasian, he was an equal opportunity offender. He appropriated music from the rural country and from race "rhythm and blues" artists and became one of the top pop artists of all time. He was one of the "white boys" who could carry "rhythm and blues" into the white community under the moniker of "rock 'n roll." His touring throughout the South in the mid-1950s also helped pioneer the development of rockabilly music, which reached popularity later with artists such as Buddy Holly.
The example of Sun 210 is historically perfect in showing the "flip side" numerology of the 2 sided 45 rpm. The songs on this record are one side "rhythm (and blues)" and the other side "pop country." Elvis Presley could do genuine versions of each, adding his own touches. The 45 rpm was the perfect medium for him. This was his 2nd 45 rpm record with Sam Phillips for the Sun label.
The round punch marks on the label, for juke boxes, are present in this Sun 210, distinguishing it as an original. Trail-off numbers in the deadwax are U-130-45-72. The record is in a plain white sleeve. It is worth well over a thousand dollars. It plays well and is in VG condition.

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