The King’s First Chords: Elvis Presley’s Debut Recording

The King’s First Chords: Elvis Presley’s Debut Recording


In the annals of music history, July 18, 1953, marks a momentous occasion. It was on this day that Elvis Presley, the undisputed King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, ventured into Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, and made his first-ever recording. It was a modest start, a heartfelt gift for his beloved mother, that would inadvertently serve as the launchpad for an illustrious career that would shake the very foundations of popular music.

Presley, then an unassuming 18-year-old truck driver, walked into Sun Records with a simple, yet deeply personal mission. He wanted to record a couple of songs as a belated birthday present for his mother, Gladys. The young Elvis, a devoted son, decided to spend $4—an amount that held substantial weight for him at the time—to lay down two tracks: “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.”

The two songs he chose were reflective of his personal taste and the influences that would later shape his music. “My Happiness,” a pop standard first recorded in 1933, and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” a melancholic ballad dating back to 1937, highlighted Presley’s affinity for emotional depth and his ability to evoke the sentiment of the blues.

In an echo-laden room, with just a guitar in his hands, Presley recorded the two songs. There was no audience, no screaming fans, and no gold-plated records—just a nervous young man with a baritone voice and a guitar. Marion Keisker, the assistant to record producer Sam Phillips, was the one who recorded Presley. Struck by his unique voice, she made a note to remember this young man.

Presley’s initial recordings were not aimed at fame or fortune, but rather born out of his love for music and as a heartfelt gift for his mother. However, these tracks would become catalysts for an extraordinary career that saw Presley transform into an international superstar. He would return to Sun Records a year later, catching the attention of producer Sam Phillips, which led to his first commercial record. And as they say, the rest is history.

July 18, 1953, thus stands as a testament to the humble beginnings of a music legend. It reminds us that the road to greatness often begins with a single, seemingly insignificant step. For Elvis Presley, it was a $4 record—a gift to a beloved mother—that marked the beginning of an era of rock ‘n’ roll.

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