Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. He grew-up there in a shotgun shack that his father, Vernon, built. Elvis was thirteen when his parents moved to Memphis. Throughout his teens, the family moved around, living in small apartments and low-cost public housing.

Winning By Surrender

Jan 3, 2012

As 1961 dawned, It was back to the ballads for Elvis Presley. Since his return from the Army, Elvis had topped the charts with a song based on the late 19th century melody “O Sole Mio,” transliterated into “It’s Now Or Never.” The same session revived a 1920’s love song, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” So when Presley went to RCA’s Nashville studio in late October, 1960, along with the gospel tunes lined up for his first religious-themed album, His Hand In Mine, he brought a new treatment of another Italian classic.

Memphis was the summit of success for many singers, and a jumping-off point for others.  Roy Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas, and grew up in Wink.  He went to North Texas State to study geology, but after seeing Elvis in concert in Dallas, it was another type of rock altogether that had his attention. He left behind the country and western swing direction of his first band, the Wink Westerners, and started another called the Teen Kings.  Johnny Cash shared a bill with that band, and suggested Roy contact Sam Phillips at Sun Records.

A couple of hundred miles can sometimes make all the difference in the world.  When you look at it, even among the members of the million dollar quartet, Elvis came from Tupelo, Jerry Lee Lewis from Ferriday, Carl Perkins from Jackson, and Johnny Cash from Dyess, Arkansas, to make it big in Memphis.  So it stands to reason some Memphians would find their place in the sun by moving on down the line.  Two transplants in particular helped shape and define Nashville’s Music City reputation.

Many an arena was rocked by the strains of the song Aerosmith chose to close their shows, a tune with a long legacy known as “Train Kept-A-Rollin’.” Long before the first Aerosmith fans lit their Bics for an encore, the song was a staple of the hard rock scene.

It was the first song Led Zeppelin played when they formed in 1968.

Led Zeppelin formed, of course, from the remnants of blues-rock innovators The Yardbirds, who had their own go at the song in 1965.

Colonel Tom Parker knew there would never be another 1956. It was highly unlikely that Elvis Presley, or perhaps anyone, would so dominate the record charts, spending half the year at number one with multiple million-selling releases. The colonel knew, in fact, that as that first blush of the teeny-boppers of the 50’s matured and were abducted by real life, record sales were declining. Even though Elvis still put out million-selling records, the sales figures had been trending downward since “Jailhouse Rock”.

Elvis Presley’s first record sold one copy, and he was the one who bought it. In the summer of 1953, when the teen-aged Elvis drove up to 706 Union Avenue and finally worked up the nerve to go inside, the lady who greeted him at the front desk at Memphis Recording Service was Marion Keisker. Marion had been a radio personality at WREC in the 40’s, where she met Sam Phillips, then joined him in the adventure of starting and running a recording studio. Marion gave Elvis the rates for making a simple recording, $3.98 plus tax, then oversaw his first foray into fame.