In 1954, a young man from Tupelo, Mississippi made his way to the musical epicenter in Memphis. Working with producer Sam Phillips, who ran Sun Studios, the voice of Elvis Aaron Presley quickly garnered attention with his version of “That’s Alright”, the song most of us look back on as Elvis’s entrance to a world who would embrace and celebrate him like few others.
The album “The Sun Sessions”, captures sixteen tracks Elvis recorded in 1954 and 1955 as he was trying to make a name for himself in an evolving musical time. It still stands as the #78 rated album on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. This collection wasn’t ultimately released until 1976, but is a phenomenal time capsule for all of us imagining being in a studio or small club and encountering the sounds and sight of this remarkably striking performer for the first time. The production is simple, and if you can put yourself in the shoes of a new audience discovering Elvis, it is inconceivable to think you would not be taken back by his vocal talents as well as his presence and charisma.
I love this album from beginning to end for its pure sound and raw energy, even on the bluesy ballads. Of all the tracks, there is probably no better outlet for the range and unique power of Elvis’s voice than “Blue Moon of Kentucky”. Other highlights include “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and “Mystery Train”, tracks that live on not only through Elvis but in dozens of subsequent cover versions by artists we all listen to every day. Even in his earliest days, the impact of these songs had a massive influence on the evolution of music through the 1950s, 1960s, and beyond. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page credits the song “Baby, Let’s Play House” as his inspiration for picking up a guitar, and artists like The Beatles shaped their sound as young teens in the late 1950s learning Elvis songs (as well as his peers of the day) and mimicking his on-stage persona.
By the end of the 1950s, Elvis had been consumed by a world of excessive fan obsession, mediocre movies and the continuous move forward of musical trends. That being said, this collection helps to illustrate the roots of his meteoric rise to fame and his unmatched delivery and style, proving to a TV and film generation that while music matters most, the visual element of a performer adds an entirely different element to their ability to appeal to wide audiences. Elvis.. he was the entire package and the real deal.