Elvis 1957 OnStage goldsuit 1500 crop

can fifty million elvis fans be wrong? (yet more gold records vol. 2)

IN TWO RECENT ESSAYS here on A Touch Of Gold, I ad­dressed is­sues re­garding Elvis Pres­ley’s 1959 album ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOL. 2 (RCA Victor LPM-2075). Specif­i­cally, I ex­am­ined how the record was ti­tled in its Wikipedia entry, where it is re­ferred to as by the phrase “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong,” as if that was the record’s title.

I ar­gued that the phrase was a bit of hy­per­bole tagged to the record to pro­mote sales. With this third essay, I have a look-see at the origin of that blurb (and the use of “fifty mil­lion” in­stead of “50,000,000”).

The phrase “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong” is printed in large, bold, red type at the top of the front cover of LPM-2075, in the left corner. So it is easy to see why anyone would in­ter­pret that as the al­bum’s title.

 

At long last, the se­cret be­hind the coining of the phrase “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong” is re­vealed here at A Touch Of Gold! 1

 

After all, we all read the Eng­lish lan­guage from left to right, and we all start at the top of the page, usu­ally with the first word on the left.

But I am not “anyone,” ei­ther here at A Touch Of Gold—where I am ed­itor, writer, and chief-book-and-cottlewasher—or there at Wikipedia, where I had been a con­tributing (if lax) ed­itor for years.

And as a col­lector of records and au­thor of ar­ti­cles and books on the topic of records, I know better: when the title on an al­bum’s jacket con­flicts with the title on the al­bum’s record, we go with the title on the record.

After all, we are buying the record for the music, nein?

 

Elvis LPM 2075 GoldRecordsVol2 c 600

This is the orig­inal front cover to jacket for LPM-2075 in 1959. It fea­tured made the photo of Elvis in his gold suit from early 1957 fa­mous and a rock & roll touch­stone.  Reading this front cover, the title of this album ap­pears to be 50,000,000 ELVIS FANS CAN’T BE WRONG (ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS – VOLUME 2) in­stead of the other way around.

And what is the title on the record?

The title of the album on the record’s la­bels upon re­lease was ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOL. 2. And de­spite the on-again-off-again changes to the record’s la­bels over the years, they have al­ways car­ried ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOL. 2 on them.

I ar­gued that point first to those ed­i­tors at Wikipedia, and then here on my site that the title of the album is ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS VOL. 2. If you have not read the two ear­lier ar­ti­cles here, I sug­gest a quick pe­rusal of them is in order at this time. 2

Like other Elvis fans and col­lec­tors, for decades I as­sumed that “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong” was the work of someone at RCA Victor—either an anony­mous person in the com­pa­ny’s pro­mo­tions de­part­ment (who should have gotten a hel­luva bonus for coining the phrase) or a more-clever-then-usual ex­ec­u­tive.

Hah!

Nei­ther is the case!

Enter mein freund Frank Daniels, who read my posts on LPM-2075 and, proac­tive gent that he is, stepped in and made some amend­ments and ad­di­tions of his own to the Wikipedia ar­ticle.

He then did some spelunking in the nether re­gions of the world­wide web (at which he is con­sis­tently adroit) and for­warded this finding to me.

 

Elvis LPM 2075 GoldRecordVol2 H 1 600

Elvis LPM 2075 GoldRecordsVol2 R 600

On top is a first pressing from RCA Vic­tor’s plant in Hol­ly­wood, Cal­i­fornia. On the bottom is a first pressing from the Rock­away, New Jersey, plant. On both, the title of the album is ELVIS’ GOLD RECORDS, VOL. 2.

Elvis is the biggest seller that ever existed

In an in­ter­view with Re­becca Franklin for “Stars In A Golden Spin” (Chicago Tri­bune, Oc­tober 26, 1958), Pres­ley’s pro­ducer Steve Sholes bragged,

“Every record Elvis has made for us has sold over a mil­lion. Since Jan­uary 1956, we’ve sold 50,000,000 Elvis Presley records in this country alone, not counting for­eign sales or al­bums. Elvis is the biggest money-maker and the biggest record seller that ever ex­isted in any age.”

We all know we can never ever take the word of anyone as­so­ci­ated with any recording artist con­cerning how many records they sold or how many drugs they didn’t do. So here is my in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Sholes’ words:

 The phrase “every record Elvis has made for us” refers to each new single from Heart­break Hotel (Jan­uary 1956) through Hard Headed Woman (June 1958).

 The phrase “not counting for­eign sales” is self-explanatory.

 The phrase “not counting al­bums” is not self-explanatory: I in­ter­pret “al­bums” to mean both 33⅓ rpm long-play LP al­bums (of which there were six that had prob­ably sold around 3,000,000 at that point) and 45 rpm extended-play EP al­bums (prob­ably an­other 7,000,000). 3

So then, based on free­wheelin’ Frank’s first fab­u­lous find of Ms Franklin’s ar­ticle, the “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong” blurb on LPM-2075 could be traced to an in­ter­view with Steve Sholes in 1958! 4

Could be, but it goes back even fur­ther …

 

Elvis LPM 2075 GoldRecordsVol2 H 1960 1100 copy

Elvis LPM 2075 GoldRecordsVol2 H 1963 600

The record on top is a Hol­ly­wood pressing from 1960, while the one on the bottom is a Hol­ly­wood pressing from 1963-1964. If we want to ac­cept the blurb as part of the al­bum’s title due to its ap­pear­ance on this label, then we have yet an­other title, as the singer’s sur­name has been added to the blurb: 50,000,000 ELVIS PRESLEY FANS CAN’T BE WRONG.

Can fifty million Americans be wrong?

Finding the Stars In A Golden Spin piece could have been a vic­tory for most researchers—but not Herr Daniels! He con­tinued ex­ca­vating and found some­thing even ear­lier and even more mean­ingful in the Sep­tember 19, 1956, issue of Down Beat.

Down Beat was a mag­a­zine ded­i­cated to the hip­ness of jazz (which was ar­guably true then) and its su­pe­ri­ority over other genres of pop­ular music (also ar­guably so). In that issue, well-known clar­inetist, band­leader, and ed­i­to­ri­alist Les Brown con­tributed a piece ti­tled, “Can Fifty Mil­lion Amer­i­cans Be Wrong.”

The ar­ticle was an un­fa­vor­able look at Elvis and his fans, with Brown be­moaning the lack of ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the “fine tal­ents” of such “se­rious vocal artists” as Jerri Southern and Dick Haymes.

The ar­ticle con­cludes, “The ed­u­ca­tional re­spon­si­bility seems to fall mainly on the disc jockey, who still has the greatest prox­imity to, and the greatest in­flu­ence over, the record-buying public. Fifty mil­lion Amer­i­cans can easily be misled.” 5

And what in­spired Brown’s title? Elvis had ap­peared on Ed Sullivan’s tele­vi­sion show on Sep­tember 9, 1956. The au­di­ence for that show was 82.6% of the people watching tele­vi­sion in the United States that night! 6

This was es­ti­mated to have been 54,000,000 Americans—the largest viewing au­di­ence in the medi­um’s his­tory at the time and one that would last until Feb­ruary 1964.

Hence Brown’s real ques­tion isn’t “Can fifty mil­lion Amer­i­cans be wrong?” It’s “Can fifty mil­lion Elvis fans be wrong?”

Hence RCA Victor’s hy­per­bolic but ab­solutely per­fect an­swer: Hell, No! 50,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong!

 

Elvis_GoldSuit_z

FEATURED IMAGE: Elvis on stage at the Memo­rial Col­i­seum in Buf­falo, New York, on April Fool’s Day of 1957. He has the gold jacket and shoes (and socks?) but a more com­fort­able, durable pair of black slacks—which ac­tu­ally looks a hel­lu­valot better as it sets off the gold top.

Fi­nally, a tip of my Akubra Snowy River to Frank Daniels for the in­for­ma­tion above, in­cluding sev­eral of the photos! If you want to see his fabgear web­site de­voted to iden­ti­fying first and later press­ings of Bea­tles records (45s, pic­ture sleeves, EPs, LPs, tapes, and more), then you ab­solutely must check out Across the Uni­verse.

 

Elvis_ATOG_image

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, I have in­cluded a jpeg image of the page from the Down Beat issue with the Les Brown ar­ticle (see below). Also, while it may seem that I have milked this issue (the title of Elvis Pres­ley’s ninth long-playing alum) a wee bit dry, I do be­lieve I have one more chapter in me some­where …

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   Well, ac­tu­ally, I sorta let the cat out of the bag with some of my con­tri­bu­tions to the Wikipedia entry for this album, namely the info about the Down Beat ar­ticle. But my pull-quote reads better if I make it sound like it’s heralding a ground­breaking, you-read-it-here-first ar­ticle, hennah?

2   And my ar­gu­ment is clear, even if the issue isn’t be­cause of RCA Victor’s wishy­washi­ness over the years. (Read the ar­ti­cles: “50,000,000 Wikipedia Con­trib­u­tors Can’t Be Wrong (Hah!)” and “50 Neal Umphred Fans Can’ Be Wrong.”

3   If my in­ter­pre­ta­tions are cor­rect, then sales of all Presley plat­ters topped 60,000,000 do­mes­ti­cally, making Sholes’ state­ment con­ser­v­a­tive in­deed!

4   Ms Franklin’s ar­ticle at­tempted to tie poverty in with am­bi­tion and suc­cess, and got to Sholes to opine on that du­bious con­nec­tion: “It’s an ad­van­tage to be born poor. The poor boys seek des­per­ately for av­enues of es­cape. Per­haps they try records be­cause no par­tic­ular ed­u­ca­tion is re­quired.”

Ouch!

Sholes also de­liv­ered the stan­dard take on the young Pres­ley’s back­ground: “Elvis loved his mother very much. They used to sing hymns to­gether at home and in church. He thought it would be nice to make a record for her, so he went to a place in Mem­phis and had a recording made. The man there liked his voice and later asked Elvis to make a record for him.”

Franklin con­cluded her column by noting, “In the year ahead, two, three, maybe four singers will be hailed as brand new stars of pop music. Chances are they’ll be men, be­cause teen-age girls buy most pop records and they prefer male singers. Only one thing is cer­tain: The new stars will offer some­thing dif­ferent.”

Here she is spot-on ac­cu­rate.

5   So fans of junkie jazz mu­si­cians were clear-headed and open-eyed, while fans of rock & roll needed an ed­jicayhsun?

6   The ex­pres­sion “Fifty Mil­lion Amer­i­cans Can’t Be Wrong” is al­most cer­tainly a ref­er­ence to the song “Fifty Mil­lion Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong,” a hit in 1927 for sev­eral se­rious vocal artists, in­cluding the fine tal­ents of So­phie Tucker.

 


Elvis CanFiftyMillionAmericansBeWrong clean 600

Elvis CanFiftyMillionAmericansBeWrong column1 600 copy

Elvis CanFiftyMillionAmericansBeWrong column2 600

This is the one-page ar­ticle “Can Fifty Mil­lion Amer­i­cans Be Wrong?” by Les Brown in the Sep­tember 19, 1956. issue of Down Beat mag­a­zine. I cropped the two columns of text from the ar­ticle and set them below the main image. Click on them and they will en­large to a read­able level. Then read it and laugh!

 

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Here I thought the fifty mil­lion title was in re­sponse to the Hifi gift and plaque Elvis got for selling fifty mil­lion records.

Oh no, I’m in­dif­ferent. This tidbit is some deep diggin trivia. Much re­spect.

Here we are 65 years later and even highly re­spected opera singers like the so­prano Kiri Te Kanawa says young Elvis was the greatest singer she ever heard. Placido Domingo, ca.1994, said the only voice he wished he had was Elvis’.

Les Brown seemed foolish and turned out he wasn’t even close to knowing Presley.

This is my footer.