The esteemed “King of Rock and Roll” flew strong onto the scene in 1956, not without a few failures from around 1953 before he finally landed somewhere. Starting at Sun Records, where he paid for a few minutes of studio time, time he would use to record “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”. He insisted that the record was to be a gift for his mother, and that he simply wished to know how he sounded. Though an amateur, local record-making service nearby suspected he only chose Sun Records in attempts of being noticed.
1954 was the year that Presley’s singles finally hit the radio, and he garnered a lot of attention for “sounding” black despite not being so. His breakthrough had begun and he’d finally gotten his name into people’s ears.
1956 saw the releases of several successful singles under RCA Victor, as well as Presley’s official debut album, the self-titled “Elvis Presley”. It solidified his place in the industry as a master of rock and roll, as well as someone who had a power to add his own instrumentation, voice and charm on top of genres like R&B. This record became the first rock and roll album to top the charts at its time.
With an eventful year of live shows, Presley’s second RCA Victor album came to fruition, “Elvis”. It being the first time Presley had played piano with the studio, and it smashing the charts as his debut album had. With songs like “That’s All Right”, “Old Shep” and more, it’s not a stretch to say that this album paved the way for rock and roll as we know it today.
1957 saw the singles “Too Much”, “All Shook Up” and “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear)” top the charts unchallenged as each of them came out. In the same year, he recorded the soundtrack for his upcoming and second appearance in film, “Loving You”. The album itself, for the third time in a row topped the charts.
Moving into 1958, “Jailhouse Rock”’s EP of the same name once again, hit number one in the charts.
“Elvis’ Christmas Album” continued Presley’s seemingly endless reign at the top of the charts. It soon became the best selling Christmas album in the US and eventually sold 20 million copies all over the world.
For the year to come, Presley was drafted into military service. However RCA Victor prepared carefully for this, putting out unreleased material to keep Presley’s name in everyone’s minds while he couldn’t record new songs. “A Big Hunk o’ Love” in 1959 topped the charts as a single. Album releases came from unreleased material at this time too, notably the successful “Elvis’ Golden Records” in 1958, hitting three on the LP chart.
1960 saw the end of Presley’s military service and the opportunity to record new material. The single “Stuck on You” was rushed to release, though still found success as yet another number one hit for Presley. “Elvis is Back!” dropped literal days after it had been recorded, but thanks to big singles like “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, it found its place at number two on the charts.
However, this decade did start the fall of all this massive success.
Presley was pushed into an intense schedule of movies as well as continuing to produce their soundtracks. His movies were commonly scrutinised but they usually found financial success. However three movies a year began to show, as Presley’s music lost the flavour it had made itself known for.
The soundtrack formula for the movies, which is all he could do at the time, became predictable. The song writing took a large hit in quality, to the point where Presley himself started to dislike the songs chosen for his films. He would often retreat from the studio and microphone, his reputation in shambles.
“Crying in the Chapel” 1965 became the only song to achieve a top ten in the charts for five years from 1964. As for non-film related records, “Pot Luck” 1962 would be a beacon of hope for Presley’s comeback, followed by “How Great Thou Art” 1967, a gospel album that won Presley his first Grammy Award.
1968 saw Presley’s big comeback come to be. Initially being the "‘68 Comeback Special", a staged studio production shown to a small audience. Presley would rock the show with tight leather outfits and had found the passion he had previously lost. “If I Can Dream”, a single written for the special, found itself climbing the charts in 1969. Followed by the album itself, which came strongly into the top ten. “Elvis” saw a rejuvenated Elvis Presley, an Elvis Presley that had finally found his feet after a rough set of years on him and his career.
1969 also returned Presley to a non-film related record. “From Elvis in Memphis” found roaring success and gave fans everything they needed. Presley got on top of trends that he’d missed during his movie work in the genres of pop, country, blues… He returned to form, with several singles from the record hitting the charts once more.
The double album “From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis” also released in 1969. The first being a compilation of live performances from the International, and the other being made up of cuts from the American Sound sessions. “Suspicious Minds” climbed to the top of the charts as a result.
“That’s The Way It Is” 1970 accompanied the documentary of the same name. It definitely hit a different mark in terms of sound. Gone were the blues, country and R&B influences of the past, now present were a series of much more classy pop than he had previously established himself with.
1971 saw the release of not one, but three new records under Presley’s belt. “Elvis Country” found the most success among critics. It held a particular focus of genre standards, which resonated well with critics at the time. “Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas” sold the best, Presley’s next massive success with a Christmas LP. “Love Letters From Elvis” performed decently, though critics were harder on it than the other releases of this year.
In 1972, “He Touched Me”, another gospel album, earned Presley his second Grammy Award. Following its success, a tour was put in place and on July 10th 1972, the session was recorded and then released as an LP after the tour. “Aloha From Hawaii” was a globally streamed, live performance which caught perhaps millions of viewers at the time. The accompanying double album was released in February 1973, and rocketed for first in the charts.
A little after this, and a concerning consideration for the death of Mike Stone, Presley’s health took a major turn for the worse due to depending on prescribed drugs to hold him together. This was the period of his life that saw him bloated, his speech slurred, him being too weak and disinterested to record in the studio.
“Elvis Recorded Life on Stage in Memphis” in 1974 released to success, especially with a version of “How Great Thou Art” earning Presley his third and final Grammy Award.
Only one more recording session found success in 1974, as RCA had to send a mobile recording unit over to Presley’s home in hopes of getting anything out of him. Even in his own home, his health continued to diminish. He struggled to record.
Managing to record “Promised Land” 1975, “From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee”, he had fallen off the pop charts but these albums and some of their singles found success in other charts, such as adult contemporary.
“Way Down” 1977 was the last single Presley ever recorded. The following months would be where he unfortunately passed away, to this day people are still asking questions about his death.
Whether it be for their amazing music, their extravagant covers or just what they did for both Presley and the genre of rock and roll, we’ve done some digging to show you a small selection of Elvis Presley records that you should definitely think about picking up.
There’s no way you can go wrong with his debut record. This LP consists of a mixture of Sun and RCA records, though most of anyone, especially a casual listener, wouldn’t hear the difference at all. “Blue Suede Shoes” is a high energy rendition of Carl Perkin’s original song, Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” and “Blue Moon” being just a select few of incredible songs on the LP, this album gives us a taste of Presley’s energy, his years of being a sex-bomb, and his influences from music like country, R&B, blues, all seamlessly woven into his rock and roll.
The iconography of the cover is legendary and often still sees references made to it today. The energetic shot of Presley playing his guitar, singing his heart out, what we knew as rock and roll would be changed forever.
Another record that can be seen as a beginning for Presley, this one being the first album recorded after he came back from serving in the army. While it does have some energetic pop to celebrate, such as “Dirty Dirty Feeling”, this album predominantly consists of blues songs. “It Feels So Right” and “Fever” are knockout examples. While none of the singles of this record hit the charts on their own at the time, the record itself re-introduced the world to Elvis Presley with roaring success, seeing Presley seamlessly transition from rock and roll to pop charts.
All the cover needed to grab the eyes of the people was Elvis’ picture against a silky, smooth blue curtain. The bust shot giving a full show of his famous expression, and in big and bright lettering, “ELVIS IS BACK!”
What many of us see as the resurgence of Presley’s career after what can only be described as a depressing set of years from Presley’s plunge into the endless sea of lack luster movies. This special brought him back as we knew him- Gritty, naughty, energetic and confident. There are parts of the performance that spark life back into Presley’s shows, such as the band encouraging the small audience to “play it dirty”. With clever improvising regarding Presley’s lip, and an on-the-spot rewrite of “Love Me Tender” which even gets a giggle out of Presley himself, the record is a journey of what he was once best at, and returning to form. “If I Can Dream” is a powerful gospel song that has a harder hit to it than most of his others.
The cover shows us the name Elvis as a backdrop written in flashy red lights, reflecting strongly on the black, glossy floor beneath it. This with the man himself stood ahead of it, dressed in a gorgeous white suit with his hair slicked back and shining bright. The shot captured here is one of passion. This record meant a lot to many people, but it meant even more to Elvis Presley.
Riding on the success of the NBC Special, Presley continued to return to what fans loved him for the most. His spontaneous energy from the special returned strongly, as well as him finally getting to thrive on his own material rather than being weighed down by the corporate needs of his movie years. While “In the Ghetto” was certainly the most successful single to spawn from this record, each song holds its own and has a place in the funky rebirth of Elvis Presley. “Suspicious Minds” would also catch on as a golden single.
The cover is again a black floor with red lighting in the back, though this time the red is cleverly filled by deep silhouettes that capture several of Presley’s iconic poses, with him playing his guitar at the front. Donning a leather jacket once more, his iconic, bad boy look continued well into his career.
Even before his debut album in 1955, Presley made his entrance to music and recording by paying Sun Records for use of their recording studio to create his first record, the one he claimed would be a gift for his mother. That demo led Sun founder Sam Phillips to pick Presley up and produce a number of singles. “That’s All Right”, “Mystery Train”, the singles mostly consisted of upbeat and energetic covers of big country hits. With impeccable play of his acoustic guitar, Presley set his mark on the world. At the time as an unimaginable fusion of two divided cultures, and now as the birth of rock and roll as we know it. This record’s late release was and still is special, to go back to his roots with such a modest collection of the first singles he had recorded.
The colourful cover sells it, too. With a stage set up behind Elvis, swinging into one of his iconic moves with his toes on the ground and his feet twisting, legs spread wide and hand on the leaning microphone. This record is a true celebration of where Elvis Presley started, and is a must have for anyone interested in his records.
It wouldn’t be unusual if a record company received the rights to producing a brand new vinyl record of Elvis Presley’s incredible work. Compilation albums of old artists aren’t too strange! That being said, if you’re on the hunt for Presley records, you’ll probably end up with used vinyl records.
Either way, both are worth investing in. After all, used records can usually help you stumble onto something great. You might run into a first pressing of the debut 1956 record! It’s not extremely likely, but it’s certainly not something that couldn’t happen, either.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the massive impact Elvis left on the world through his career. Both in music and film, he made a gigantic name for himself that continues to impact music and media as we know it today.
New Vinyl Records by Elvis Presley on Life of Vinyl
Second Hand Vinyl Records by Elvis Presley on Life of Vinyl