Jack White Secretly Bought Elvis Presley's First Recording, Plans Reissue

Rocker was "undisclosed buyer" who bought Presley songs for $300,000 and will reissue vinyl for Record Store Day

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Jack White
Jack White revealed that he was the secret buyer of Elvis Presley's first recording and will reissue the vinyl for Record Store Day Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty

In January, the first recording by Elvis Presley – a 1953 acetate disc featuring "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin" – sold at auction for $300,000 to "an undisclosed buyer." It turns out the secret purchaser wasn't just any deep-pocketed Elvis fan: Jack White has revealed that it was his winning bid that landed the 10-inch recording, and that he plans to reissue the single on vinyl for this coming Record Store Day.

Billboard details how a mysterious man with a black briefcase accompanied the "My Happiness" single from Memphis to the Third Man Records headquarters in Nashville, where White told employees about the record's history and his plans to reissue it on Record Store Day. Recorded by an 18-year-old Presley on July 18th, 1953 at Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service for $4, the one-copy-only pressing was given to Elvis' friend Ed Leek; over 60 years later, it was Leek's daughter who auctioned off the recording, which White secretly purchased.

According to the Third Man site, White will go through painstaking details in order to recreate the original 1953 10-inch 78rpm disc, "from reproducing the typewritten labels (printed on the reverse of extra Prisonaires labels that happened to be laying around Sun Records in July 1953) to being packaged in a plain, nondescript, of-the-era sleeve, the utmost attention to detail has been paid in order to create an object so close to the historic original as to almost be indistinguishable from one other." The limited edition reproductions will arrive on Record Store Day, April 18th. 

Later in the year, Third Man will release a widely available version of Presley's single with newly restored sound. "Working from a transfer done by industry expert Alan Stoker at the Country Music Hall of Fame, the audio will be as clean as modern technology can make it without losing the feeling and soul that makes these two songs both haunting and breath-taking," Third Man writes.

White, whose Third Man is constantly dreaming up inventive new ways to market vinyl (even if Neil Young thinks the revival just "a fashion statement"), also talked about his own listening habits. "Digital in the car, vinyl in the bedroom," White told Billboard. "Because I like to listen to music in the car really loud." White doesn't have a problem with compact discs, but notes that neither his new Tesla nor his computer came with CD drives as other industries shift away from the compact disc.

The Elvis single isn't the only vinyl Third Man is working on for Record Store Day on April 18th: White previously announced plans to reissue the White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan as a commercially available vinyl for the first time. The 10th anniversary reissue will feature a new lenticular gatefold jacket and two 180-gram LPs, one colored red and the other white.

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