Gotta Find My Baby!

May 04, 2022

Radio Recordings and Parker's Arrival: January 1955

Elvis during a performance at the Booneville Junior College Auditorium in Mississippi; January 17, 1955


With the rise of Elvis' name on the Southern US charts and the start of national rumors, The Blue Moon Boys thrived like never before.

With Scotty Moore as Sun Studio's new star's agent, in a contract signed on July 12, 1954, the trio played 52 concerts that year with Elvis receiving 50% of the proceeds and Scotty and Bill Black splitting the other half. Moore was even able to cast Elvis as one of the stars at a New Year's Eve concert in New Boston, Texas.

But while Sam Phillips trusted Scotty to get the best possible deals on concerts in the region, it still took someone with enough knowledge to propel Elvis' career into a wider medium like radio.

For that, Bob Neal was contacted by Phillips and put in charge of the promotional appearances of the singer sensation of the moment in southern stations with national reach. By the end of December 1954, Neal already had some important dates booked.

Elvis e Bob Neal; 1955
On January 6, 1955, Neal arranged an interview/show for Elvis on KDAV radio, the most well-known broadcaster in the Lubbock, Texas area. That month's tour was to be done with Texas group Bill Strength & the Browns and provided a great opportunity to introduce Elvis to audiences more used to country hits.

In addition, Sam Phillips took advantage of the venture to launch his secondary label, Flip, which would focus on recording singers and bands of the style.

At the performance, Elvis sang two songs that were recorded on acetate by KDAV and later used as promotional content. They weren't Sun songs, but hits of the moment in the South, which gave Elvis a bigger audience and put him on the lips of the people as a whole.

One of the songs, "Shake, Rattle and Roll", was very successful in concerts and remained one of the most requested. In fact, RCA would release a milder version (the original had contradictory verses) with Elvis in 1956, although the original lyrics were recorded as well (but only released in 1992).

The other song was "Fool, Fool, Fool", another classic of their regional performances. This one, however, did not attract much attention outside the South and did not arouse RCA's desire to record it. Regional successes or not, the important thing is that Elvis' name was now hitting the airwaves.


Making it official with RCA; November 21, 1955, Sun Studio. PICS:
ABOVE: Bob Neal, Sam Phillips, Coleman Tily (RCA), Elvis and Parker.
BELOW: Parker, Gladys, Elvis, Vernon, Coleman Tily and Bob Neal.
As soon as he started to manage Elvis, Bob Neal had big projects in mind and saw that it would be too much of a task to accompany the young singer. With that, he put an experienced executive from his agency to take care of Elvis, a man who from an early age focused on making money as easily and quickly as possible, named Andreas Cornelius van Kuijk - or simply Colonel Thomas Parker.

Later that month, Sam Phillips arranged with a friend from his hometown - Florence, Alabama - another short interview with Elvis. Joe T. VanSandt had owned a local radio station, WJOI, since 1946 and was excited by his friend's offer about a new artist named Elvis Presley who was promoting a concert at the Sheffield Community Center.

Elvis would appear on his show three times in 1955, and during one of them, on January 19, VanSandt asked the future King of Rock if he would sing a song. Elvis agreed, and sang "Shake, Rattle and Roll" accompanied by his guitar. Seeing that here was someone who would make history, VanSandt pressed the record button and put the song straight onto an acetate.

Now everyone knew about the Rock star who was in town. Cheerleaders who were at the station when Elvis arrived had spread the word about how handsome the new singer was. The next time he arrived at the station, a crowd of teenagers was there to greet him.

Elvis was only a few years older than VanSandt's son, and like most youngsters, they had little money. They both went to lunch at a restaurant, where they pooled their change to close two dollars and share a bowl of beans.

Soon, thanks to the contract with RCA arranged by the Colonel, Elvis would be on the way to national stardom and an extraordinary life change.
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