Marion Keisker MacInnes - Sun Records

By: Elvis Australia
June 28, 2004

A look at Elvis' Sun Records days, in this the 50th Anniversary year, would not be complete without featuring another key person in the beginning of Elvis' career - the late Marion Keisker.

Marion was a native Memphian, born there on September 23, 1917. She made her radio debut in 1929 at the age of 12, appearing on WREC's weekly children's hour 'Wynken, Blynken & Nod'. She graduated from Southwestern College, majoring in English and Medieval French. She married in 1939 and moved to Illinois where she lived until her divorce in 1943. She and her son moved back to Memphis and she got a secretarial job. By 1946, she joined radio station WREC, where she became a popular radio personality with her daily 'Kitty Kelly' talk show. She wrote, produced and directed fourteen other programs as well.

It was at WREC that Marion met and fell in love with Sam Phillips. They worked closely together, broadcasting big bands from the Peabody Hotel's Skyway Room. Marion also helped Sam set up and operate his own recording studio on Union Avenue. They did all the work themselves - laying the tile, painting the acoustic boards and setting up the limited amount of equipment Sam had. The studio, named The Memphis Recording Service, opened in January 1950 with Marion working as office manager while still working part-time at WREC to make ends meet. Marion was the organizer while Sam was the creative force. She kept track of the musicians and contacted them for sessions. She kept a log of the sessions, paid the musicians and was contact person for the pressing plants and distributors.

It was Marion who first laid eyes on Elvis as he came shyly in the door looking to self-record his voice for the very first time. There was something about this boy that both she and Sam recognized. She wrote next to his name 'Good Ballad Singer - Hold'.

By 1955, Marion resigned from WREC and helped Sam to develop his idea of an 'all girl' radio station. 'WHER - 1000 Beautiful Watts' started its seventeen-year run on October 29, 1955. It was the first all-girl radio station in the world. All the announcers, sales staff, management, record librarians, copy writers - all the jobs were done by women.

Marion and Sam's relationship ended in 1957 and she joined the U.S. Air Force. Elvis hadn't seen her since then when he looked up at his March 1, 1960 'on his way home' press conference in Germany and spotted her. Captain Marion (Keisker) MacInnes was stationed in Germany. Elvis told her, 'I don't know whether to kiss you or salute!' She responded, 'In that order'. She was reprimanded by an army captain for over-familiarity with a noncom. Elvis defended her and said, ..' we wouldn't be having a press conference if it weren't for this lady'.

Elvis spotted her in another crowd in January 1971. It was at a luncheon in Memphis honoring the U.S. Jaycees' Ten Outstanding Young Men of America of 1970 - one of several activities leading up to an evening awards banquet. Elvis was one of the ten. This time. he grabbed Marion and took her to his table and introduced her to his wife Priscilla and the guys in his entourage, telling them, '...she's the one who made it all possible. Without her I wouldn't even be here'.

Marion lost a long battle with cancer and died on December 29, 1989. She had been a successful radio personality, actress and military service person - a hard worker and innovator in her own career endeavors. And, lest anyone forget, she was there the very first day in the career of Elvis Presley.

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