In 1998, Elvis Presley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The long-awaited honor came 12 years after Presley was one of the first members enshrined in the newly formed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. His connection to country music was evident from the beginning of his career, even if his sole Grand Ole Opry performance on October 2nd, 1954, was allegedly followed by Opry manager Jim Denny’s advice that he return to his day job as a truck driver in Memphis.
Two weeks later, the 19-year-old, who was signed to Sun Records, would make his debut on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, performing “That’s All Right,” and a rocking cover of bluegrass legend Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” the two sides of Presley’s inaugural Sun release, recorded by Sam Phillips three months earlier. A local and regional sensation, the song failed to chart nationally, but Presley’s live appearances, many of which included country acts such as Hank Snow (with whom he toured for three weeks in mid-1955) began to attract national attention from zealous fans. Even an FBI intelligence officer paid notice, writing to FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover in May that Presley was “a definite danger to the security of the United States.”
As offers from major record labels began piling up, Presley continued his Louisiana Hayride appearances and other live concerts, while returning to Memphis to record additional Sun Records sessions. On July 11th, 1955, the same week he debuted on the country charts for the first time, with “Baby, Let’s Play House,” which reached country’s Top Five, Elvis recorded three cuts: “Trying to Get to You,” and the country ballad “I Forgot to Remember to Forget,” backed with the rollicking “Mystery Train.” While “Mystery Train” became a Top 10 jukebox hit, “I Forgot…” holds the distinction of becoming Presley’s first Number One hit on any of the Billboard charts, topping that same country jukebox chart for five weeks and earning two weeks as the best-selling country record in stores by February 1956.
By that time, Presley, now signed with RCA, had become the biggest star on the planet, having just recorded the massive crossover hit “Heartbreak Hotel” during his first-ever Nashville session, which took place on January 10th, 1956, two days after his 21st birthday. Two months later, Presley made his last official appearance on the Louisiana Hayride, although on December 15th, for a $2 ticket, fans could catch him at a benefit show for the Shreveport YMCA.
In October 2017, Bear Family Records released a mammoth boxed set of Louisiana Hayride performances, which included 16 classic Presley performances. The above clip, however, recorded at the Hayride on October 29th, 1955, actually appeared in July 2017 as part of the RCA/Legacy set A Boy From Tupelo, a comprehensive three-disc collection of Presley’s recorded output from 1953 to 1955.
After “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” Presley would reach the top of the country charts an additional nine times, the last two of which would occur posthumously with 1977’s “Way Down,” and the 1981 remix of the 1968 Jerry Reed-penned hit “Guitar Man,” which also featured Reed on guitar.