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First Listen: Elvis Presley, 'A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings'


By: Tom Moon
Source: NPR
July 25, 2017 - 7:59:51 AM
Elvis Reviews, Elvis CD Reviews, Elvis Articles, Elvis News

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Think of the 'A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings' three-disc set as The Rise of Elvis Presley: The Granular Detail Version.

The fabled personal recordings young Presley paid Sun Records $3.98 to make are here. The very early singles are all represented as well – and they've been put through a magical audio scrubber and buffed to diamond clarity. The set includes every available studio outtake, and some choice banter between takes. Naturally there are live performances, among them a rousing (and previously unissued) 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget' from a 1955 Louisiana Hayride radio broadcast.

Cue the doubters' chorus: Haven't we been sold much of this stuff several times before?

Yes, we have. This is just the latest exhaustive dive into the unlikely beginnings of an icon whose cupboard gets swept for stray crumbs every few years, just to keep the myth alive. But this collection is different in a few crucial ways: The sound is astonishing, and there's an accompanying 120-page book that offers a lovingly researched account of every step along Elvis Presley's path from Tupelo to stardom.

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Delightful in a way most catalog projects are not, 'A Boy From Tupelo' presents the well-known biographical details from the Presley trajectory as they unfolded, week by week, with galvanic musical accidents followed by unremarkable contract signings and radio station visits. The timeline begins on July 4, 1954, with Presley visiting guitarist Scotty Moore's house to go over songs for a tryout session at Sun. The next day's session began with the torch songs they'd rehearsed but soon detoured when Presley, between takes, sang a jittery reworking of Arthur Crudup's 'That's All Right'. Scotty Moore recalls that he and bassist Bill Black got swept up in Presley's 'acting the fool', and eventually caught the attention of Sam Phillips in the control room, who told them 'Back up, try to find a place to start, and do it again'.

Just savor this twist of fate. Elvis shows up for his first big recording session expecting to sing tender romantic songs. On a whim, he starts 'acting the fool', and the band follows, chasing a twitchy mix of rockabilly, R&B and country that was utterly new. Suddenly that became the art.

A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings.
A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings.

The book provides this kind of specific context for most of the highlight reel moments of Elvis' time at Sun. It suggests that what can seem, in the biopic version, like an overnight success, is often something more routine: There's day-in and day-out work involved in developing a musical trademark. The blazing neon meteor of sound we associate with Elvis at Sun was also the story of a Crown Electric deliveryman making the transition to full-time musician, and figuring out how to present himself on stage.

The 120-page book featuring many rare photos & memorabilia, detailed calendar and essays tracking Elvis in 1954-1955. The sets 3 CDs contain the most comprehensive collection of early Elvis recordings ever assembled, with many tracks becoming available for the first time as part of this package and one performance - a newly discovered recording of 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget' (from the Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, Louisiana, October 29, 1955) - being officially released for the first time ever.

'A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings' includes - for the first time in one collection - every known Elvis Presley Sun Records master and outtake, plus the mythical Memphis Recording Service Acetates - 'My Happiness'/'That's When Your Heartaches Begin' (recorded July 1953) and 'I'll Never Stand in Your Way'/'It Wouldn't Be the Same (Without You)' (recorded January 4, 1954) - the four songs Elvis paid his own money to record before signing with Sun. 'A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings' includes every Elvis live performance and radio recording known to exist from the period.

Essential to the understanding and appreciation of Elvis and his explosive impact on pop music and culture, A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings presents - in the best possible sound - every known Elvis Presley recording from his early career, when the world's first atomic singer fused blues, pop and hillbilly country swing to create an electrifying new music that changed the world.

'A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings' also includes a 120-page book formatted as an illustrated travelogue and datebook chronicling the genesis of Elvis' early career via facts, anecdotes, memorabilia and many rare photos. Independence Day 1954 is when this unique American saga begins, less than 24 hours before his first professional recording session, and it ends in December 1955, when the singer leaves Sun Records to record for RCA. The material is organized by calendar entries. During the months July through October 1954, the majority of the calendar is empty, as Elvis had his daytime job with Crown Electric, and music making was confined to the weekends and evening hours. This is Elvis Presley before he becomes world-famous, and an account of how this amazing young man readies himself for stardom, a young man on the pinnacle of an unprecedented level of success. 'A boy from Tupelo' would become much more than a world-famous superstar, he would become ELVIS!

Behind the making of A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings lie more than 1,500 hours of restoration work and nearly 200 hours of additional studio time devoted to the painstaking remastering of the material. The results are stunning.

A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings is produced, researched and written by Ernst Mikael Jørgensen.

Disc one of 'A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings' covers the masters Elvis recorded for Sun Records, some variations, and the four sides he paid for himself. Disc two covers all known outtakes, even just the smallest surviving fragments. Disc three covers all the live and radio recordings known to exist.

'A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings' is produced, researched and written by Ernst Mikael Jørgensen.

Legacy Recordings will also release 'Elvis Presley - A Boy From Tupelo: The Sun Masters', a single disc 12' vinyl package that chronicles the rise of Elvis Presley before he became The King of Rock and Roll.

Buy Elvis Presley: 'A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings' 3 CD/Book Set
Buy Elvis Presley: 'A Boy From Tupelo - The Sun Masters', a single disc 12' vinyl LP

Track listing.

Disc 1

Memphis Recording Service Acetates

My Happiness 2:33
That's When Your Heartaches Begin 2:52
I'll Never Stand in Your Way 2:06
It Wouldn't Be the Same (Without You) 2:09

Sun Masters

Harbor Lights 2:38
I Love You Because (unprocessed master edit) 2:43
That's All Right (45 rpm master) 2:00
Blue Moon of Kentucky (45 rpm master) 2:07
Blue Moon 2:44
Tomorrow Night 3:01
I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin') 2:27
I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine 2:32
Just Because 2:34
Good Rockin' Tonight 2:15
Milkcow Blues Boogie 2:39
You're a Heartbreaker 2:13
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (slow version) 2:43
Baby Let's Play House 2:19
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone 2:38
I Forgot to Remember to Forget 2:31
Mystery Train 2:30
Tryin' to Get To You 2:36
When It Rains It Pours 2:06

RCA Masters

That's All Right (RCA single version) 1:59
Blue Moon of Kentucky (RCA single version) 2:05
I Love You Because (RCA LP version) 2:45
Tomorrow Night (RCA LP version) 2:53

Disc 2

Sun Studio Sessions

Harbor Lights (takes 1 - 2, 3/M) 3:27
Harbor Lights (take 4) 2:38
Harbor Lights (takes 5 - 8) 4:14
I Love You Because (takes 1 - 2) 3:52
I Love You Because (take 3) 3:36
I Love You Because (takes 4 - 5) 4:08
That's All Right (takes 1 - 3) 2:18
Blue Moon of Kentucky (slow tempo outtake) 1:08
Blue Moon (takes 1 - 4) 3:36
Blue Moon (take 5) 3:25
Blue Moon (takes 6 - 8) 3:53
Blue Moon (take 9/M) 2:44
Dialogue (fragment before 'Tomorrow Night') 0:11
I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin') 0:49
Good Rockin' Tonight (fragment from vocal slapback tape) 0:10
I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine (takes 1 - 3/M) 3:47
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (slow version, take 1) 3:00
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (slow version, take 2) 2:51
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (slow version, take 3) 2:51
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (slow version, take 4 - 5) 2:50
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone (slow version, takes 6 - 7) 4:16
How Do You Think I Feel (guitar slapback tape, rehearsals + take 1) 4:30
When It Rains It Pours (vocal slapback tape, take 1) 1:37
When It Rains It Pours (vocal slapback tape, take 2 - rehearsal 1 - takes 3 - 4) 4:26
When It Rains It Pours (vocal slapback tape, take 5/M) 2:02
When It Rains It Pours (vocal slapback tape, take 6 - 8) 3:20

Disc 3

Live And Radio Performances

That's All Right 2:52
Blue Moon of Kentucky 2:23
Shake, Rattle and Roll 2:24
Fool, Fool, Fool 1:59
Hearts of Stone 2:02
That's All Right 1:52
Tweedlee Dee 2:51
Shake, Rattle and Roll 2:23
KSIJ Radio commercial with DJ Tom Perryman 0:16
Money Honey 2:43
Blue Moon of Kentucky 2:04
I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine 2:33
That's All Right 1:54
Tweedlee Dee 2:15
Money Honey 2:17
Hearts of Stone 1:37
Shake, Rattle and Roll 1:39
Little Mama 2:03
You're a Heartbreaker 2:06
Good Rockin' Tonight 2:36
Baby Let's Play House 2:22
Blue Moon of Kentucky 1:47
I Got a Woman 3:03
That's All Right 2:17
Tweedlee Dee 2:47
That's All Right 2:37
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone 3:16
Baby Let's Play House 3:19
Maybellene 3:09
That's All Right 2:49
Interview with Bob Neal 5:31
I Forgot To Remember To Forget

Track listing.

12 Inch Vinyl LP

Number of Discs: 1

Label: Legacy

Number of Tracks: 17

Studio Recording
Genre: Rock
Release date: July 28, 2017

That's All Right
Blue Moon of Kentucky
Good Rockin' Tonight
I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine
Milkcow Blues Boogie
You're a Heartbreaker
Baby Let's Play House
I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone
I Forgot to Remember to Forget
Mystery Train
I Love You Because (RCA LP version)
Blue Moon
I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')
Just Because
Tryin' to Get To You
Tomorrow Night
Harbor Lights

Buy Elvis Presley: 'A Boy From Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings' 3 CD/Book Set
Buy Elvis Presley: 'A Boy From Tupelo - The Sun Masters', a single disc 12' vinyl LP


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Elvis Presley Video Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD

Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.

Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever.

This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.

The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.