"the kid had no right behaving like a sex maniac on a national show."
-- Dorothy Kilgallen

On January 10th, 1956, Elvis Presley entered the RCA studio in Nashville, Tennessee for his first recording session with his new label. Some would consider this the inaugural event of the “rock and roll era” in popular music, a bursting onto the music scene of the “Hillbilly Cat” with a new sound that would begin to dominate the popular music charts. Although it was indeed a seminal point in the history of rock and roll, it was more of an evolution than a revolution. Elvis Presley had been recording this “new” music at Sun Records in Memphis since 1953. By the time Elvis’s contract was sold to RCA for $35,000 in 1956, rock and roll was already a significant presence in popular music, even though it was largely ignored by the major labels and seen by many as merely a teenage fad. “Rock Around the Clock” had become the first rock and roll record to reach number one on the Billboard charts in 1955. R & B records such as the Penguin’s “Earth Angel” and the Platter’s “Only You” had “crossed over” to the pop charts. Fats Domino (“Aint That a Shame”) and Little Richard (“Tutti Fruiti”) had preceded Elvis onto the pop charts in 1955. The classic rock and roll guitar sound of Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” reached #5 on the pop chart in 1955. So, in a sense, Elvis was nothing “new.”

But Elvis was the catalyst through which rock and roll would become the dominant music of our culture. Sam Phillips’ plea of wanting to find a “white boy who sounded black” has become a cliché because from our perspective it seems so obvious. The “race” music of the early ‘50’s was reaching an increasingly larger audience, but it was sometimes difficult to get airplay on stations listened to by a majority of the white audience. Sometimes, as was the case with the Platter’s recording of “Only You” (the second time), the record label wanted the music released as an “R & B” song, creating a barrier to its pop success. Elvis had already caused a media splash, with some success on the country charts and great excitement at regional performances in the South. The rest of America got their first Elvis experience on January 28th when he performed on Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey’s “Stage Show” for CBS. Dorothy Kilgallen wrote in her column, “the kid had no right behaving like a sex maniac on a national show.” For it wasn’t just the music, it was the performance that generated the excitement. And the energy of the performance could be experienced again and again through the recording. Teenagers who had not been “on the cutting edge” of the music, seeking out the “race” records, or demanding the real sound behind the Pat Boone cover of “Aint That a Shame” were enthralled. Many parents shared Ms. Kilgallen’s sentiments. The media (television and movies) saw dollar signs. In July, Elvis sang on the Steve Allen Show. And although Ed Sullivan had earlier declared that Elvis would never appear on his show, he eventually paid $50,000 for three Elvis appearances. By the end of 1956, Elvis had charted 17 songs and appeared in two movies. And what had been a trickle of rock and roll music onto the pop charts became a deluge. As Chuck Berry proclaimed, "Roll over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news."

Elvis certainly wasn't the first rock and roller. Bill Haley had been playing the cross between rhythm and blues and country swing since the early '50's. When "Rock Around the Clock" was played over the opening credits of the 1955 movie, "Blackboard Jungle," Bill Haley and Rock and Roll had its first #1 record. But until Elvis, rock and roll only had a minor presence on the charts.
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Elvis Presley performed for the Ed Sullivan Show three times, the final time on January 6th, 1957 -- the last time he would make a live television appearance. He performed four songs: "Don't Be Cruel," "Too Much," "When By Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again," and "Peace in The Valley." Two days later, the Memphis draft board would classify Elvis as "1A."
"That's All Right" and flip side, "Blue Moon of Kentucky" was the first Elvis Presley single released by Sun Records. on July 19th, 1954. The "Scotty" and "Bill" identified on the label were Scotty Moore and Bill Black who became Elvis's band as they toured the South in '54 and '55. The record was a regional success, but did not chart nationally.
The Penguins
"Earth Angel" by the Penguins is considered by some to be the first "hit" rock and roll record. It was #1 on the R & B chart and #8 on the pop chart in 1954.
"Rocket 88" was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats. The recording was actually done by Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm. It was #1 on the R&B chart in 1951 and is considered by some to be the first rock and roll record.
Elvis was shown only from the waist up on his January 6th Ed Sullivan appearance.