"Baby Let's Play House," Elvis Presley's fourth single for Sun Records, recorded on February 5, 1955, was Presley’s effort to chart nationally. Backed by "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" on the flip side, the song stayed on Billboard's country chart for ten weeks, reaching number ten.
Rhythm-and-blues singer Arthur Gunter had written and recorded the song in 1954, basing it on country singer Eddy Arnold's 1951 hit, "I Want to Play House with You." Being a rhythm-and-blues reworking of a country-western song, "Baby Let's Play House" was perfect for Elvis' rockabilly repertoire. Gunter himself had been influenced by rockabilly artists, and he made a good model for Elvis, who had purchased a copy of Gunter's version the previous December at the House of Records in
Elvis made the song his own with the inclusion of the syncopated phrasing "babe-babe-baby" in the verse. He also tinkered with the lyrics, changing "You may have religion" to "You may drive a pink Cadillac" -- a humorous foretelling of the car that he would come to be identified with.
Sam Phillips added drums to the recording session for the song, marking the first time drums were used on a Presley single. As the song received national exposure, it was called a country song in trade publications, and few connected it with the relatively unknown rhythm-and-blues artist who had inspired Elvis.
Elvis added "Baby Let's Play House" and "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone" to his act in the spring of 1955. About this time, his popularity was rapidly increasing because of his appearances on the Louisiana Hayride radio show and because of touring across the South with ever-larger country-western shows. Elvis sang "Baby Let's Play House" on his second appearance on Stage Show on February 4, 1956, just as his sensual performing style was beginning to create a national controversy.
If his hip-swinging performance on Stage Show raised eyebrows, then the lyrics to "Baby Let's Play House” added to the provocative connotation. Basically a proposition, the song is a plea from the singer to his girlfriend to return to him because he wants to "play house" with her, a slang term for an unmarried couple living or sleeping together. Despite the singer's plea, he takes a confrontational stance, telling his girl, "I'd rather see you dead than with another man."
Phillips had been recording such blues artists as Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Little Walter, Ike Turner, Little Junior Parker, and Bobby Blue Bland since 1950, but he leased those recordings to other labels, including Chess Records and RPM Records. Until Sun was established, there was no major place in the South for artists to record. After Phillips established Sun, he could release his artists on his own label.
Many know that the legendary producer recorded blues and R&B performers, but less familiar are the country singers that he began recording in 1953. He started out with the Ripley Cotton Choppers, then moved on to Doug Poindexter, Slim Rhodes, and Warren Smith.
After Elvis experienced success on the Sun label, others who would become rockabilly legends signed with Phillips, Including Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Conway Twitty, and Charlie Feathers. Phillips sold Sun in 1969.
To learn more about Elvis Presley, see:
- Elvis Presley
- Elvis Presley Pictures
- Elvis Presley Quotes
- Elvis Presley Collectibles
- Elvis Presley Albums
- Elvis Presley Biography
Presley's 1955 recording of "Baby Let's Play House" stayed on the Billboard
Top Ten for ten weeks.