RCA VICTOR SIGNED ELVIS as a recording artist on November 21, 1955. The first RCA Elvis record they released was a reissue of Sun 223, “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” / “Mystery Train.” It had been among the best-selling country records for several weeks and RCA was determined to take it to the top.
Despite the obvious potential appeal of Presley to the teenage pop market, his record was already a big hit in the country market so that is where RCA concentrated its promotion.
This article is one in a series about collecting Elvis records from late 1955 and early ’56.
This article is an overview of RCA Victor 20–6357 and 47–6357, I Forgot To Remember To Forget / Mystery Train, which includes a price guide to the current market value of the various versions of the record.
But first, there is a short timeline of a few pertinent events (“From Sun to RCA”) that led up to the success of RCA taking the Presley platter to the top of the national country charts.
From Sun to RCA
This is a brief timeline of a few important events that took place in the final weeks of 1955 that led Elvis Presley from tiny Sun Records to one of the largest record companies in the world, RCA Victor.
At the Country Music Disc Jockey Convention in Nashville, Elvis bragged that he would be signing with RCA Victor. At this time, well-known songwriter Mae Boren Axton supposedly offered Elvis a new song she had just written, Heartbreak Hotel. Elvis supposedly assured her that it would be his first new single for his new record company.
Sam Phillips of Sun Records sold his exclusive recording contract with Elvis Presley to RCA Victor. Phillips received an unprecedented $35,000 for the contract plus the rights to all the material that Elvis had recorded for Sun, including unreleased recordings.
Sun was allowed to continue manufacturing and selling I Forgot To Remember To Forget / Mystery Train (Sun 223) through the end of the year. This meant that there would be a period where Sun and RCA competed to sell the same product in the same market.
Elvis then signed an exclusive recording contract with RCA Victor and a publishing contract with Hill & Range Songs. These contracts were the culmination of a series of negotiations by Colonel Tom Parker that involved the Presley family (as Elvis was legally a minor), Presley’s manager Bob Neal, Sam Phillips, RCA Victor, and Hill & Range Songs.
Parker used a decade’s worth of connections with RCA Victor to get the record company executives to agree to what many people in the recording and entertainment industry thought was outrageous.
In the December 3, 1955, issue of Cash Box, the article “Victor Signs Elvis Presley” noted, “Presley has been the rage of the country ‘bobby-soxers’ wherever he has performed. In addition, the chanter has been a double threat on wax inasmuch as his platters have a rhythm and blues flavoring and have been spilling over into that field and it’s also quite possible that the versatile Presley could well become a big pop name.”
In the December 3, 1955, issue of Billboard, the article “Double Deals Hurl Presley Into Stardom” stated, “Sun has retained the right to press a certain additional number of [I Forgot To Remember To Forget / Mystery Train] under its own label until the first of the year. At the same time, Victor expects to release the disk under its label within the next eight days.”
In the same issue of Billboard, RCA Victor ran a full-page ad introducing Presley as the “most talked-about new personality in the last 10 years of recorded music.” Beneath a photo that would become internationally famous on the front cover of the artist’s debut albums in a few months, the advertisement announced that Elvis Presley was “now on RCA Victor records with I Forgot To Remember To Forget [and] Mystery Train.”
For the first time, Cash Box listed RCA Victor 6357 along with Sun 223 on their various country charts.
For the first time, Billboard listed RCA Victor 6357 along with Sun 223 on their various country charts.
The first RCA Elvis record
I Forgot To Remember To Forget / Mystery Train
Catalog number: 20–6357 (78 rpm)
Catalog number: 47–6357 (45 rpm)
Released: late November or early December 1955
RCA Victor released the first Presley record as both a 78 rpm single (20–6357) and a 45 rpm single (47–6357) either during the last week of November or the first week of December 1955. As it was a reissue of Sun 223, which was still in the Top 10 of the three country & western charts (best sellers, most played in jukeboxes, and most played on the radio) of both Billboard and Cash Box, it wasn’t reviewed as a new record by either publication.
The Billboard article above stated that “Victor expects to release the disk under its label within the next eight days.” That article was datelined November 26, so the next eight days were November 27 through December 4. If Billboard was accurate, then the release date of late November or early December 1955 that I assigned to this record is likewise accurate.
The two records that surround the Presley record—RCA Victor 6356, Vaughn Monroe’s Don’t Go To Strangers, and 6358, the Turtles’ version of Mystery Train—were reviewed in the December 17, 1955, issue of Billboard. This would indicate a release date for these two records during the first two weeks of December 1955.
Normally, we would expect 6357 to have been released with 6356 and 6358 but the Presely platter was a big deal and could have been rushed into release.
For more on the mysterious Turtles’ version of Mystery Train, click here.
RCA Victor manufactured promotional copies of 47–6357 but not 20–6357. These white-label 45s were shipped to radio stations around the country. According to an RCA Victor Record Bulletin dated November 28, 1955:
“Promotion is being spearheaded with disc jockey records to the entire Pop and C&W ‘A’ lists, an initial coverage of more than 4,000 destinations.”
So, we can probably safely assume that at least 4,000 copies of the white label promo 45 existed at one time. This would be the last promo pressing of a regularly released Elvis single from RCA Victor until 1964.
I Forgot To Remember To Forget and Mystery Train were also included on several special promotional records: two LP records and a set of EP records. (These records are also subjects of articles on this blog; see “Postscriptually” below.)
The Avid Record Collector’s Price Guide
Here is where the Avid Record Collector weighs in with a few things about the records above, including assessing their value in the current collectibles market. The values below are for records with near-mint labels and near-mint vinyl. Finding these records in that condition can take a lot of time and effort.
Please note that by the time RCA Victor released their first Elvis record, 45s were outselling 78s in the American marketplace. Plus, shellac 78s were not as durable as vinyl 45s and showed wear and tear faster and easier. So, while the 45s of most rock & roll records from the ’50s are the more desirable to most people, the 78s are often much rarer.
In 1954, RCA Victor began adding a “New Orthophonic High Fidelity” motto to the labels of most of their records. This motto should have appeared on all Presley platters of the time but 0ccasionally printers forgot to add it to a batch of labels. In the paragraphs below, this motto is abbreviated as “NOHF.”
RCA Victor 20–6357
RCA Victor 20–6357 has black labels that should have NOHF on them. Labels were not required to have the record’s speed printed on them but some do. There are three major label variations for this 78 rpm record:
• NOHF on the right side
• NOHF on the left side
• NOHF and “78 R.P.M.” on the right side
On Popsike, I counted 125 copies of 20–6357 that had sold on eBay since 2004. I took a sample from these sales to get an idea of the scarcity of the three label variations. (If you take a look at how tiny the images are on Popsike, you should understand why I did a sampling instead of squinting at every listing.) I came up with the following tallies:
• Thirty copies with NOHF on the right side.
• Ten copies with NOHF on the left side.
• Only one copy with “78 R.P.M” on the label.
Clearly, there should be a great difference in prices paid for these three variations but there is not. I assigned the values above to reflect the wide variety of prices paid on eBay over the years but assigned different values to the three variations to illustrate their relative rarity:
• NOHF on the right side: $100–200
• NOHF on the left side: $200–300
• NOHF and “78 R.P.M.” on the right side: $300–400
Also, as the three photos of 20–6357 above illustrate, there are also variations in where the catalog and matrix numbers and “New Orthophonic High Fidelity” are placed on the label along with differences in the typeface used for the text/information.
RCA Victor 47–6357 (promo)
There is one known pressing of the 45 rpm record with white labels and “Record Prevue” at the top. It is currently valued at $500–600.
RCA Victor 47–6357
RCA Victor 47–6357 has black labels that should have NOHF on them. Labels were apparently required to have the record’s speed printed on them as all copies do. There are three major label variations for this 45 rpm record:
• NOHF and “45 RPM” on the right side
• NOHF on the right side without “45 RPM”
• NOHF and “45 R.P.M.” on the right side
Copies of 47–6357 with “45 R.P.M.” also have a horizontal line across the label.
On Popsike, I counted 135 copies of 47–6357 sold on eBay since 2004. I took a sample from these sales to get an idea of the scarcity of the three label variations. I came up with the following tallies:
• Fifty copies with “45 RPM” on the right side
• Five copies without “45 RPM”
• Fifty copies with “45 RPM” and a horizontal line
Like the 78s, there should be a great difference in prices paid for these three variations but there is not. The Avid Record Collector’s values above reflect the wide variety of prices paid on eBay over the years for these records but different values are assigned to the three variations to illustrate the records’ relative rarity.
• NOHF and “45 RPM” on the right side: $40–60
• NOHF on the right side without “45 RPM”: $60–100
• NOHF and “45 R.P.M.” on the right side: $60–100
Also, as the three photos of 47–6357 above illustrate, there are also variations in where the catalog and matrix numbers and “New Orthophonic High Fidelity” appear on the label along with differences in the typeface used for the text/information.
Despite the financial investment in their new singer and his obvious photogenic qualities, RCA Victor did not spend another penny to include a custom picture sleeve with 47–6357. Nonetheless, there are several such sleeves associated with this record—three are bootlegs and one is a bit more controversial. I will address these sleeves in a separate article.
Things were about to change
After twenty-three weeks on the chart, on February 25, 1956, I Forgot To Remember To Forget made it to #1 on the C&W Best Sellers in Stores survey on Billboard. On March 3, Mystery Train joined it at the top and the record was listed as a double-sided #1. One week later, the record fell back to #2 on its slow decline down that survey.
On March 3, 1956, I Forgot To Remember To Forget pooped out at #2 on the Country Best Sellers chart in Cash Box. It remained there for another week and then began its decline down that survey.
But by then, Heartbreak Hotel had been released and things were about to change.This article about the first Elvis record that RCA Victor released is one in a series about collecting Elvis records from 1955 and early ’56. Click To Tweet
FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page is a scan of a copy of a promotional pressing of RCA Victor 47–6357, Mystery Train with white labels. As there are other photos of a promotional copy of this record, I am using the full photo of Elvis taken at RCA Victor’s studio in New York City on December 1, 1955.
The first fourteen articles in this series are almost completed and listed below with links to each. Should you access one of these articles and receive an Error Page, try back a week later.
01 RCA Victor’s “SPD” Series of Specialty Records
02 What Was the First Elvis Record That RCA Victor Released?
03 The Biggest Country & Western Record News of 1955
04 The First RCA Elvis Record Was “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”
05 The RCA Victor Cartoon Picture Sleeves of the ’50s
06 The Elvis “This Is His Life” Cartoon Picture Sleeve
07 RCA Victor 47–6357 Bootleg Picture Sleeves
08 The “Record Bulletin” Picture Sleeve for RCA’s First Elvis Record Is a Fake
09 Did RCA Release Other Versions of Elvis’ Songs to Compete With Elvis’ Records?
10 A New Kind of Hit Re-run With Elvis Presley
11 Was “E‑Z Pop Programming 5” the First LP to Feature an Elvis Track?
12 Was “E‑Z Country Programming 2” the First LP to Feature an Elvis Track?
13 Was SPD-15 the First EP to Feature an Elvis Track?
14 Is the Country & Western Jukebox Promotion Kit a Fake?
More articles addressing the early RCA Victor releases are planned. Each will contain the blockquote, “This article is one in a series about collecting Elvis records from late 1955 and early ’56,” like the one at the beginning of this article.
To find all the articles in the series, copy the blockquote, paste it into the Find option (the magnifying glass in the navigation bar at the top of each page), and then press Return or Enter on your keyboard.
Mystically liberal Virgo enjoys long walks alone in the city at night in the rain with an umbrella and a flask of 10-year-old Laphroaig who strives to live by the maxim, “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know that just ain’t so.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a college dropout (twice!). Occupationally, I have been a bartender, jewelry engraver, bouncer, landscape artist, and FEMA crew chief following the Great Flood of ’72 (and that was a job that I should never, ever have left).
I am also the final author of the original O’Sullivan Woodside price guides for record collectors and the original author of the Goldmine price guides for record collectors. As such, I was often referred to as the Price Guide Guru, and—as everyone should know—it behooves one to heed the words of a guru. (Unless, of course, you’re the Beatles.)