Elvis Presley's first recording for Sun Records, "That's All Right," seemed to come about almost by accident. When Sun's owner and operator Sam Phillips, needed a singer to record a ballad called "Without You," he remembered a young kid named Elvis Presley. Elvis had cut a couple of acetates at Phillips' Memphis Recording Service, and Phillips' assistant, Marion Keisker, had taped him for future reference. Phillips decided to let Elvis record "Without You," but the inexperienced singer wasn't able to master the new song.
Elvis sang several other tunes for Phillips, who was sufficiently impressed to put him together with guitarist Scotty Moore for some seasoning. Moore, Elvis, and bass player Bill Black were working together at Sun on the evening of July 5,1954, trying to find a sound that clicked. Nothing seemed to be working. During a break, Elvis began fooling around with Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's country blues tune "That's All Right," singing it in a fast-paced, almost casual style. When Moore and Black jumped in, Phillips' voice boomed out from the control booth, "What are you doing?"
“That’s All Right,” was Elvis Presley’s first recording for Sun Records. Though it
did not reach the charts, it sent Elvis on his way to become a recording legend.
Phillips was excited by the trio's sound and recognized its potential. He recorded "That's All Right" that night and backed it a few days later with the bluegrass classic "Blue Moon of Kentucky." Elvis' approach to both songs differed from the originals. He used a more relaxed vocal style and higher key for "That's All Right" than Crudup had. He sped up the tempo for "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and omitted the high-pitched bluegrass singing style. Two elements were added to both songs that would make Elvis famous -- syncopation and a "slapback" (electronically delayed) echo effect. Elvis' Sun style became the epitome of rockabilly.
"That's All Right" received extended airplay on Dewey Phillips' Red Hot and Blue radio program on WHBQ, and it was released as a single on July 19, 1954.The single did not chart nationally, but it launched the recording career of the most famous singer of the 20th century.
Sam Phillips, The Producer of "That's All Right"
Born and raised just outside Florence, Alabama in 1923, Sam Cornelius Phillips was greatly influenced by his rural Southern roots. Working in the cotton fields with African-Americans, Phillips was exposed to gospel and blues music, and he experienced the poverty and hard life of many Depression-era Southern families. As a record producer, he would draw on those experiences to shape a new musical aesthetic -- a purely Southern sound that combined black rhythm and blues and white country-western with a hardscrabble philosophy born of bad times. The new music that emerged -- a Dixie-fried sound called rockabilly -- would emanate from Phillips' Sun Records in the mid-1950s and Influence all of rock 'n' roll.
Phillips' genius was recognizing talented singers and musicians -- black and white -- who could convey the aesthetic he envisioned. Of his desire to record Southern based music, Phillips mused, "I just knew this was culture, and it was so embedded in these people because of hardship...Generation after generation, these [Southern] people have been overlooked -- black and white!" For his contributions in shaping modern music, Phillips was one of the first to be inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
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