490. Elvis Presley, 'The Sun Sessions'
Many believe rock & roll was born on July 5th, 1954, at Sun Studio in Memphis. Elvis Presley, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black were horsing around with "That's All Right, Mama," a tune by bluesman Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, when producer Sam Phillips stopped them and asked, "What are you doing?" "We don't know," they said. Phillips told them to "back up and do it again." The A side of Presley's first single (backed with a version of Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky"), "That's All Right" was issued by Sun on July 19th. It may or may not be the first rock & roll record. But the man who would be King was officially on wax. Bridging black and white, country and blues, his sound was playful and revolutionary, charged by a spontaneity and freedom that changed the world. "It's the blues," critic Greil Marcus wrote in his classic book Mystery Train. "But free of all worry, all sin; a simple joy with no price to pay." Presley released four more singles on Sun – including definitive reinventions of Wynonie Harris' "Good Rockin' Tonight" and Junior Parker's "Mystery Train" – before moving on to immortality when Phillips sold his contract to RCA for $35,000. Incredibly, it took more than 20 years for Presley's Sun output to be properly collected on a 1976 LP – which has since been superseded by this 1999 double-CD chronicle of the King's beginnings at Sun. It collects everything he cut at the studio, including alternate takes and the 1953 acetate he recorded as a gift for his mother as a shy and awkward recent high school graduate.