Elvis Memphis1956 cropped

elvis presley bootleg picture sleeves 1954-1956

EVERY RECORD COLLECTOR should be fa­miliar with some if not all of the many col­orful pic­ture sleeves that ac­com­pa­nied Elvis Presley records in the 1950s, many col­lec­tors may not be aware that not all Presley Product was is­sued with such a sleeve. All of them are col­lec­table and I would argue that al­most all of them are truly under-valued in truly near mint con­di­tion (NM), even harder than THAT to find in mint con­di­tion (M)!

Yet many col­lec­tors are un­aware that of the twenty-one Elvis Presley 45 rpm sin­gles is­sued in the United States by Sun and RCA Victor, nine­teen were not is­sued with a pic­ture sleeve! De­spite Pres­ley’s im­por­tance to RCA, the com­pany did not see fit to in­vest a few thou­sand dol­lars into spe­cial sleeves for a Presley single until his eighth re­lease, Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel, in July 1956. But after that, every Elvis 45 was is­sued in the US with a pic­ture sleeve for the next twenty-five years.


 

Elvis_HoundDog_PS2

The first Presley 45 single to be is­sued with a pic­ture sleeve was RCA Victor 47-6604, Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel. It was is­sued in July 1956 and the ini­tial sleeves her­alded Hound Dog as the A-side by placing it above Don’t Be Cruel on the front cover. Note: this pic­ture sleeve has been coun­ter­feited.


Elvis_Cruel_PS

This pic­ture her­alds Don’t Be Cruel as the A-side by placing it above Hound Dog on the front cover. You will al­most al­ways find this sleeve listed as “orig­inal sleeve” or “first pressing” or some such. It is not: it is a second printing or a reissue. Ex­actly when RCA de­cided to pro­mote the B-side over the A-side is un­cer­tain. Given sales and chart per­for­mance, it was prob­ably early Sep­tember, at least two months after the orig­inal sleeve above was is­sued. Note: this pic­ture sleeve has been coun­ter­feited.


Elvis_Cruel_PS(b)

Both the first printing sleeve with Hound Dog on top and the reissue sleeve with Don’t Be Cruel on top fea­tured the same back cover: this close-up of Elvis from early ’56.

In the early 1970s, sev­eral rather cre­ative col­lec­tors man­u­fac­tured bootleg pic­ture sleeves for those nine­teen sleeve­less sin­gles. Many of these were the equal of, or su­pe­rior to, the of­fi­cial RCA sleeves of the time in de­sign, al­though not in fin­ished product: the bootlegs sleeves were had black and white im­ages printed on un­fin­ished paper stock. These were sold on the col­lec­tors mar­kets as bootlegs and have been a cher­ished part of many a fan’s col­lec­tion. 

The ini­tial bootleg Elvis pic­ture sleeves were tasteful, at­trac­tive, and well made. They were quickly re­pro­duced (coun­ter­feited) by other unau­tho­rized per­sons who cared less for the col­lec­tor’s pas­sion and more for the col­lec­tor’s money. So, there are a va­riety of pic­ture sleeves; some ti­tles have more than one sleeve.

Of the im­ages in­cluded below, some are re­pro­duc­tion of the image above, varying only in a tint of color added to the photo or the paper of the fact that the image was slightly en­larged by the second gen­er­a­tion bootleg. In most cases, two dif­ferent im­ages for the same title may be the front and back sides of the same sleeve.

The Sun singles 1954-1955 

Sam Phillips re­leased five sin­gles by Elvis in a six­teen month pe­riod, none of which in­cluded a pic­ture sleeve. Such a luxury would have added a part of a penny per record to his costs and there was simply no way to jus­tify that in his budget. Phillips ran Sun on the prover­bial shoe­string budget and even com­pany sleeves were not con­sid­ered until 1956.


PlainPaper Sleeve

Sun simply pur­chased the cheapest plain paper sleeves avail­able for their re­leases. These were man­u­fac­tured from low-grade paper and were ei­ther white or brown and usu­ally showed some wear after a little han­dling. (When the teenaged record buyer both­ered to keep his records in their sleeves.) These sleeves have no col­lec­tors value.


SunCompany Sleeve

The Sun sleeves that are so preva­lent on the In­ternet ac­com­pa­nying Elvis records were man­u­fac­tured after Presley left Sun. It was with the money that Sam re­ceived from RCA Victor for Elvis’s con­tract that he was able to splurge a bit and start to make his new stars (Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Or­bison, etc.) look they were recording for a real record com­pany. These sleeves have min­imal col­lec­tors value.



Boot_Sun209

Sun 209 That’s All Right / Blue Moon Of Ken­tucky


Boot_Sun210

Boot_Sun210b

Sun 210 Good Rocking Tonight / I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine

These are two dif­ferent sleeves: not e that the top sleeve just has the Sun cat­alog number “210” in the lower left corner while the bottom sleeve has “Sun 210” in the corner.


Boot_Sun215x

Sun 215 Milkcow Blues Boogie / You’re A Heart­breaker


 

Boot_Sun217b

Sun 217 Baby, Let’s Play House / I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone


Boot_Sun223b

Sun 223 Mys­tery Train / I Forgot To Re­member To Forget


 [hr]

 
 

The RCA Victor sin­gles 1955 

Sam Phillips re­leased five sin­gles by Elvis in a six­teen month pe­riod, none of which in­cluded a pic­ture sleeve. Such a luxury would have added pen­nies per record to his costs and there was simply no way to jus­tify that in his budget. Phillips ran Sun on the prover­bial shoe­string budget and spe­cial sleeves were not even con­sid­ered be­fore 1956.


RCA_Factory Sleeve

RCA Victor printed mil­lions of these com­pany sleeves (or fac­tory sleeves) and used them on 45s from every imag­in­able genre. The ma­jority of Elvis sin­gles were shipped in these or the plain brown sleeves above. These sleeves have min­imal col­lec­tors value.

 
 

Boot_RCA-6357

RCA Victor 47-6357 I Forgot To Re­member To Forget / Mys­tery Train


Boot_RCA-6357b1

Boot_RCA-6357b2

Boot_RCA-6357b2b

RCA Victor 47-6357 I Forgot To Re­member To Forget / Mys­tery Train

The two sleeves on the bottom have their ti­tles in slightly dif­ferent lo­ca­tions. The top one has better bal­ance for having more white space be­neath the print and is more ap­pealing.


 

Boot_RCA-6380

Boot_RCA-6380c

Boot_RCA-6380b

Boot_RCA-6380b2

RCA Victor 47-6380 That’s All Right / Blue Moon Of Ken­tucky

The bottom two sleeves (Blue Moon Of Ken­tucky) are prob­ably the flip-sides of the first two sleeves (That’s All Right).


 

Boot_RCA-6381

Boot_RCA-6381bb

Boot_RCA-6381b

RCA Victor 47-6381 Good Rocking Tonight / I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine

 

Boot_RCA-6382

Boot_RCA-6382bv

Boot_RCA-6382b

RCA Victor 47-6382 Milkcow Blues Boogie / You’re A Heart­breaker

 

Boot_RCA-6382c1

Boot_RCA-6382c2

RCA Victor 47-6382 Milkcow Blues Boogie / You’re A Heart­breaker

 

Boot_RCA-6383

Boot_RCA-6383b

RCA Victor 47-6383 Baby, Let’s Play House / I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone

 

Boot_RCA-6383c1b

Boot_RCA-6383c1

Boot_RCA-6383c2

RCA Victor 47-6383 Baby, Let’s Play House / I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone


[hr]


The RCA Victor sin­gles 1956 

RCA Victor reis­sued the five Sun sin­gles in No­vember and De­cember 1955 without pic­ture sleeves. They also is­sued Pres­ley’s first two new sin­gles sans sleeves: Heart­break Hotel / I Was The One and I Want You, I Need You, I Love You / My Baby Left Me.

In Au­gust 1956, RCA re­leased all twelve tracks from the first LP as six sin­gles along with a spe­cial (throw­away) re­lease of Shake, Rattle And Roll / Lawdy Miss Clawdy, two fine record­ings that should have been saved for the second LP.


Boot_RCA-6420

Boot_RCA-6420b

RCA Victor 47-6420 Heart­break Hotel / I Was The One

 

Boot_RCA-6540

Boot_RCA-6540b

RCA Victor 47-6540 I Want You, I Need You, I Love You / My Baby Left Me

 

Boot_RCA-6636b

Boot_RCA-6636b

RCA Victor 47-6636 Blue Suede Shoes / Tutti Frutti

 

Boot_RCA-6637

Boot_RCA-6637b

RCA Victor 47-6637 I Got A Woman / I’m Counting On You

 

Boot_RCA-6638

Boot_RCA-6638b

RCA Victor 47-6638 I’ll Never Let Yu Go (Little Darlin’) / I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)

 

Boot_RCA-6639

Boot_RCA-6639b

RCA Victor 47-6639 Tryin’ To Get To You / I Love You Be­cause

 

Boot_RCA-6640

Boot_RCA-6640b

RCA Victor 47-6640 Blue Moon / Just Be­cause


Boot_RCA-6641b

Boot_RCA-6641b2

Boot_RCA-6641

Boot_RCA-6641c

RCA Victor 47-6641 Money Honey / One Sided Love Af­fair


 

Boot_RCA-6642b

Boot_RCA-6642a

RCA Victor 47-6642 Shake, Rattle And Roll / Lawdy Miss Clawdy

 

The Avid Record Col­lec­tor’s price guide

Today, most of these sleeves are a reg­ular part of the Presley Product that can be pur­chased on var­ious sites on the In­ternet. As­signing values is damn near im­pos­sible as most sellers don’t know what they are selling, orig­inal boots or boots of boots. Hence the prices paid have been fairly modest: most of the sleeves pic­tured below can be found with a little pa­tience in NM con­di­tion for $20-$40 each.

Some of the rare sleeves have sold for more than $100, but they are few and those sales may have been aber­ra­tions. Some sleeves seem so plentiful—I just ran across a seller on eBay who has sold more than twenty copies of the same sleeve, al­lowing me to infer that he has made a new batch him­self.


Elvis on stage in Memphis1956. Photo by Robert W. Dye.

FEATURED IMAGE: An­other great photo by Robert W. Dye of Elvis and Scotty, Bill, and D.J. on stage in Mem­phis in 1956.


Elvis_GoldSuit

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, while many of the sleeve de­signs above are typ­ical of good quality bootlegs, a handful of them count among the most striking Elvis pic­ture sleeves ever re­leased. That they were prob­ably done by am­a­teurs does not paint a glowing pic­ture of RCA’s art and graphics people in the ’50s.



 
 
 

Subscribe
Notify of
Rate this article:
Please rate this article with your comment.
8 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Your ELVIS ar­ti­cles are very good and in­for­ma­tive. Enjoy reading them.

Very in­ter­esting and in­for­ma­tive ar­ticle. The who ELVIS site of yours is very in­ter­esting.

First things first…I don’t think I re­ceived a no­tice. Might be be­cause I signed up on the main site rather than this one in particular?…Anyway I’ll try to add my name to this site in the next day or two.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, I’m re­ally glad you sent me the extra no­tice. Fas­ci­nating subject…I’m par­tic­u­larly in­trigued by that cover for Good Rockin’ Tonight that has Elvis the “twin” looking at himself…Mind you I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I’m def­i­nitely going to keep thinking until I do!

And just cu­rious, but how many artists have bootleg pic­ture sleeves out there in any quan­tity? I con­fess it’s an idea that never would have oc­curred to me.

Thanks Neal. I’ll keep any eye out for the next post and see if I get a no­tice. If not, I’ll sign up specif­i­cally for the Elvis site…

This is my footer.