the most valuable elvis 45 of the ’70s has been bootlegged!

SOME COPIES OF “BURNING LOVE” may be the most valu­able commercially-issued Elvis single of the ’70s! De­spite its last sale on eBay for al­most a thou­sand dol­lars, many col­lec­tors are un­aware of this record’s value or its origin. This ar­ticle ad­dresses those facts and warns readers that this rarity has been boot­legged and these coun­ter­feit copies are being sold to un­sus­pecting fans!

For sev­eral months in 1974, a weird gray label turned up on RCA Vic­tor’s latest 45 rpm sin­gles. It wasn’t a strong, dis­tinct gray but a sort of washed-out gray that gave the records giving it a sickly look. These gray la­bels didn’t last long, only finding their way onto a pair of Presley hits: Burning Love from 1972 and Promised Land from 1974. Then they were gone!

The US pressing of “Burning Love” with gray la­bels may be the most valu­able Elvis single of the ’70s and it has been bootlegged!

Ac­cording to Frank Daniels’ re­search into RCA Victor label de­signs, this gray label was used at the In­di­anapolis planet as a “tran­si­tional sub­sti­tute for the or­ange label” until the com­pany switched to the new light brown/tan label in 1975. Frank es­ti­mates that the grays were used be­tween Au­gust and No­vember 1974 while the plant at Hol­ly­wood con­tinued using or­ange labels:

“Clearly, most of the gray la­bels came out for sin­gles that were still selling when In­di­anapolis ran out of or­ange la­bels in Au­gust.” 1

My own re­search gave me the same re­sults. Nu­mer­i­cally, the ear­liest single that I found with a gray label was APB0-0295, John Den­ver’s An­nie’s Song / Cool An’ Green An’ Shady. As this was orig­i­nally re­leased in June 1974, the first press­ings from both Hol­ly­wood and In­di­anapolis have or­ange la­bels. Copies with gray la­bels are prob­ably second pressings.

I fol­lowed the grays to Jan­uary 1975 with the last record that I found with gray la­bels was PB-10154, White Heat’s If That’s The Way You Feel (Then Let’s Fall In Love) / Take A Look At Your­self (Be­fore You Frown On Some­body Else). This means that there could be more than one hun­dred RCA sin­gles from 1974-1975 with gray la­bels, a few of which may be later press­ings. 2

In most cases, these second press­ings were man­u­fac­tured in con­sid­er­ably smaller amounts than the ini­tial or­ange label records. Con­se­quently, the grays are con­sid­er­ably rarer than the or­anges. Most col­lec­tors don’t seem to care, but Elvis col­lec­tors do.

 

Elvis bootlegged: US picture sleeve for "Burning Love" with notch at top.
There are two pic­ture sleeves for 74-0769, “Burning Love” / “It’s A Matter Of Time.” This sleeve with a thumb-notch cut into the top of the front face is con­sid­er­ably rarer than the sleeve with the straight cut across the top (see below). Most col­lec­tors are un­aware of the dis­parity in avail­ability be­tween the two so they are usu­ally valued similarly.

Fifty shades of gray

If you look for copies of these gray label sin­gles on the in­ternet, you will find them in var­ious shades and tones of gray. In fact, some of them look more tan than gray! Paul Combs of the Elvis Records web­site has been looking into these gray label records a lot longer than I have. On his site, he noted, “There are many shades of gray. From a solid light gray to par­tial light gray to orangish gray to near or­ange gray.”

It seems that any RCA single man­u­fac­tured at the In­di­anapolis plant in the last few months of 1974 that is not ob­vi­ously the light brown/tan label that be­came the com­pa­ny’s new norm in 1975 is con­sid­ered to be some shade of gray. So the im­ages that I have posted below show a va­riety of gray la­bels that look dif­ferent from each other.

Of course, I pulled these im­ages off the in­ternet so I am as­suming that are rel­a­tively ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the ac­tual records. That is, I am as­suming that the people who posted them on the in­ternet used their scan­ners and cam­eras cor­rectly. If so, then it ap­pears that In­di­anapolis did not have a large stock­pile of a spe­cific gray paper al­lotted to the sin­gles but used a va­riety of dif­ferent gray paper for these “gray” la­bels as the need arose.

There is at least one ex­cep­tion to the John Denver single above being “nu­mer­i­cally” the first RCA single with a gray label: copies of 74-0769, Elvis Pres­ley’s Burning Love / It’s A Matter Of Time, from 1972 can be found with gray la­bels! Only two Elvis records are known to have been man­u­fac­tured with gray la­bels for do­mestic sale while a third is ru­mored. They are listed below.

 

Elvis bootlegged: US picture sleeve for "Burning Love" with straight-cut top.

Elvis bootlegged: US pressing of "Burning Love" 45 with dark gray label.

Elvis bootlegged: US pressing of "Burning Love" 45 with medium gray label.

Burning Love / It’s A Matter Of Time

Cat­alog number: 74-0769
Re­lease date: Au­gust 1972

First Hol­ly­wood pressing with or­ange la­bels: $6-12
First In­di­anapolis pressing with or­ange la­bels: $4-8
First Rock­away pressing with or­ange la­bels: $5-10
Later In­di­anapolis pressing with gray la­bels: $400-800

The highest price paid for a copy of Burning Love with gray la­bels was $800, which was re­al­ized in an auc­tion on eBay in 2017. It was ad­ver­tised as being in mint con­di­tion. Four other NM copies sold on eBay during the past ten years for prices be­tween $375 and $578.

Someone has a copy of Burning Love with gray la­bels graded EX-NM for sale on eBay right now with a whop­ping Buy It Now price of $2,000! The ad er­ro­neously states that it is a first pressing from 1972.

Fi­nally, unau­tho­rized re­pro­duc­tions (aka fakes aka bootlegs) of this record with gray la­bels are known to exist. (See “One shade of fake” and “An­other shade of fake” below.)

 

Elvis bootlegged: US picture sleeve for "Promised Land."

Elvis bootlegged: US pressing of "Promised Land" 45 with light gray label.

Elvis PromisedLand 10074 gray light 800

Elvis bootlegged: US pressing of "Promised Land" 45 with light brownish-gray label.

Elvis bootlegged: US pressing of "Promised Land" 45 with dark brownish-gray label.

Elvis bootlegged: US pressing of "Promised Land" 45 with light yellowish-gray label.

Promised Land / It’s Midnight

Cat­alog number: PB-10074
Re­lease date: Oc­tober 1974

First Hol­ly­wood pressing with or­ange la­bels: $5-10
First In­di­anapolis pressing with or­ange la­bels: does not exist
First In­di­anapolis pressing with gray la­bels: $2-4
First In­di­anapolis pressing with brownish-gray la­bels: $2-4
First In­di­anapolis pressing with light-brown/tan la­bels: $50-100

The first two im­ages above are ob­vi­ously gray la­bels, al­though they are no­tice­ably dif­ferent shades of gray.

The third image is also sup­pos­edly a gray label vari­a­tion, al­though it kooks brownish to me. Using GIMP, I de­ter­mined that the HTML color for this label is Hex #b7a077. Ac­cording to the Crisp Edge web­site, that is a color mix­ture of or­ange and brown with a color hue/base color of gray. So, it’s gray and brown! 3

The fourth image is a copy of PB-10278 with the light brown/tan la­bels that RCA used on their 45s and LPs during 1974-1976. It is out of order here to show the dif­fer­ence be­tween the gen­uine brown label and the brownish-gray label above it.

The fifth image is a  copy of PB-10074 found on the 45cat site which is listed as “yellow-tan.” Whether this is a new vari­a­tion on the light-brown/tan label or a poorly pho­tographed or scanned re­pro­duc­tion of the gen­uine light-brown/tan label is not known.

Fi­nally, unau­tho­rized re­pro­duc­tions (aka fakes aka bootlegs) of this record with gray la­bels are not known to exist.

 

Elvis bootlegged: US picture sleeve for "T-R-O-U-B-L-E."

Elvis bootlegged: US pressing of "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" 45 with light gray label.

T-R-O-U-B-L-E / Mr. Songman

Cat­alog number: PB-10278
Re­lease date: April 1975

First Hol­ly­wood pressing with or­ange la­bels: $4-8.
First In­di­anapolis pressing with light-brown/tan la­bels: $2-4
In­di­anapolis pressing with gray la­bels: Not man­u­fac­tured

Fi­nally, unau­tho­rized re­pro­duc­tions (aka fakes aka bootlegs) of this record with gray la­bels are known to exist. The record pic­tured above is a bootleg. (See “One shade of fake” below.)

 

Elvis bootlegged: advertisement for counterfeit "Burning Love" with gray label.

One shade of fake

In 2016, ads ap­peared on eBay for copies of both 74-0769 and PB-10278 with gray la­bels. The ads had iden­tical lay­outs with both sides of the pic­ture sleeves and the records laid out in a grid (see the im­ages above and below) and were from the same seller. Ex­cept there was some­thing odd about each ad: The ad for 74-0769 mis­spelled J.D. Sum­n­er’s name as “Summer” on both sides while the ad for PB-10278 mis­spelled Donnie Sum­n­er’s name as “Summer” on the B-side.

As all other US press­ings of this record cor­rectly spell those two gen­tle­men’s last names, these records were ques­tioned by knowl­edge­able buyers. In fact, in each of the five ads for these two records that ap­peared be­tween April and June of that year, only one bid was placed for each auc­tion. So there were five auc­tion and five bids, each win­ning the record for the sell­er’s stated min­imum bid.

Con­sid­ering the rarity of the one record, this is mys­te­rious ac­tivity and could lead a cyn­ical ob­server to in­ter­pret the bids as having been placed by shill bid­ders. If this is so, then these ads may have been the first in­stances of these bootlegs ap­pearing on the in­ternet for sale. 4

The ex­is­tence of these records on these ads caused Paul Combs at the Elvis Records web­site to in­clude a warning with the list­ings for the gray label records for the two records:

The warning for 74-0769 reads “Be­ware of fakes on eBay!
The warning for PB-10278 reads “This one pic­tured is fake!

In both warn­ings, Paul calls at­ten­tion to the mis­spelled “Summer” on both records.

 

Elvis bootlegged: advertisement for counterfeit "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" with gray label.

Another shade of fake

In 2018, an­other seller—at least I as­sume it is an­other seller as the ads look very different—advertised a copy of Burning Love with gray la­bels with J.D. Sum­n­er’s name mis­spelled as “Summer.” The seller did not men­tion this boner (as­suming he knew it was a boner) but he did call at­ten­tion to a rather odd fact about the record:

“This could very well be a gen­uine 1974 Gray Label, but I ques­tion its au­then­ticity be­cause if you look around the in­side of the center hole, you can see a sliver of or­ange. Also, when the record was cleaned, the gray color washed away as can be seen on the Burning Love side. There is also glue residue that is vis­ible just out­side of por­tions of the label.”

This de­scrip­tion sounds like someone pasted a gray label over an or­ange label! De­spite this warning that buyers might be bid­ding on a bootleg, and de­spite the seller grading the ques­tion­able record a mere “VG with many sur­face scuffs and scratches,” it still re­ceived twenty-five bids and sold for $116!

 

Elvis bootlegged: second advertisement for counterfeit "Burning Love" with gray label.

A confusing shade of fake

Okay, the fact that the pre­vious press­ings of 74-0769 with or­ange la­bels from RCA’s plants in Hol­ly­wood, In­di­anapolis, and Rockaway—and all from 1972 and pos­sibly early ’74—all spell J.D. Sum­n­er’s name cor­rectly as does one pressing from In­di­anapolis with gray la­bels should lead us to be­lieve that the gray label record with the mis­spelling is a bootleg.

But there’s one little thing that may throw a wrench into the works: Le­git­i­mate RCA records from France (RCA 41.033), Ger­many (RCA 74-0769), the Nether­lands (RCA 74-0769), and Yu­goslavia (RCA SRCA-88601) all mis­spell J.D. Sum­n­er’s last name as “Summer” on the record labels.

Is it pos­sible there was some piece of pa­per­work cir­cu­lating among RCA of­fices that had the mis­spelling and it found its way to In­di­anapolis and a few other branches out­side the US? If so, then is it pos­sible that the gray label records with “Summer” are ac­tu­ally gen­uine RCA press­ings with spelling er­rors on their la­bels? That is a ques­tion that will take some time to an­swer, al­though my record col­lec­tor’s gut tells me they’re bootlegs. 5

 

Elvis bootlegged: US promo pressing of John Denver's "Please Daddy" with gray label.
There were some gray label promo 45s pressed, such as this copy of DJH0-0182, John Den­ver’s “Please, Daddy.” But this is an odd one as it is a 1973 re­lease. So, why would RCA be pressing promos of this record a year after its release?

Bootlegged Elvis

Here are a few notes that don’t fit in the sec­tions above. These are not the only Elvis records that have been re­pro­duced but as bootlegs for the col­lec­tors market. Even­tu­ally, I will get around to writing ar­ti­cles about the others.

In late 1974, the la­bels for both the sin­gles and the al­bums began changing over to a light brown or tan color. This color lasted less than two years as RCA re­turned to black la­bels in 1976.

One Elvis record is known to have been man­u­fac­tured with gray la­bels to be ex­ported to Eng­land for sale ex­clu­sively in the UK: RCA 2458EX, My Boy / Loving Arms. It is not listed below. To learn more about this record, click here.

Spe­cial thanks to Frank Daniels and Paul Combs for their con­tri­bu­tions to this article.

The US pressing of the ‘Burning Love’ 45 (74-0769) with gray la­bels may be the most valu­able Elvis single of the ’70s and it has been boot­legged! Click To Tweet

 Elvis bootlegged: photo of Elvis on stage in red "Burning Love" jumpsuit.

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was cropped from the pic­ture sleeve to 74-0769, Burning Love / It’s A Matter Of Time. The jump­suit was “one of the three ‘pin­wheel’ suits Elvis had. Al­though Elvis only wore this suit in 1972, it is clearly a 1971 de­sign and was com­mis­sioned that year. This is the only red jump­suit Elvis ever wore, which makes it quite spe­cial.” (Elvis Presley In Con­cert) Fans have long re­ferred to this outfit as the Burning Love Jumpsuit.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   Frank orig­i­nally dis­sected the RCA Victor label on his Frik­tech web­site (“A Vic­to­rious His­tory Through RCA Victor Label Styles”), much of the in­for­ma­tion in this ar­ticle was pro­vided by Frank to me via email.

2   There may be gray label sin­gles be­fore APB0-0295 and after PB-10154. I used the RCA Victor list­ings on the 45cat web­site as a ref­er­ence and while it has mil­lions of en­tries, it is still far from complete.

3   There is a dis­cus­sion on the rarity of the light-brown/tan label press­ings of PB-10074 ti­tled “Who Has Ac­tu­ally Seen an Elvis Presley Promised Land 45 RPM on the Tan Label?” It can be read here.

4   As the person(s) who man­u­fac­tured these records was thoughtful enough to mis­spell “Sumner” as “Summer,” these records are nei­ther exact re­pro­duc­tions nor coun­ter­feits. Hence, I refer to them as bootlegs.

5   Along with finding the mis­spelled name, I un­earthed some­thing even fun­nier: On RCA Victor ‎31A-2191 from Uruguay, “Burning Love” was mis­spelled as “Buming Love.” As much as I would like to in­vent a meaning for the word bume, I think I’m just going to let it rest as is …

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