is elvis’ “my happiness” single among the rarest and most valuable albums?

Es­ti­mated reading time is 7 min­utes.

THIS ARTICLE IS AN ABBREVIATED VERSION of a longer piece that I pub­lished on the Six­ties Music Se­crets web­site. That ar­ticle is ti­tled “Are These Five LPs Among the Rarest and Most Valu­able Records in the World?” It is the fourth in­stall­ment of my Avid Record Col­lector column on that site, where I nor­mally re­view al­bums from the ’60s.

In it, I ad­dress the ridicu­lous in­ac­cu­ra­cies in an­other ar­ticle about col­lectible vinyl al­bums that ap­peared on Yahoo News. The Yahoo ar­ticle is ti­tled “Do You Col­lect Vinyl Records? Here Are Five Al­bums That Our Ex­pert Says Are Among The Most Rare And Valuable.” 

Yahoo ranks Elvis’ “My Hap­pi­ness” single among the most valu­able “al­bums.”

The “five al­bums” in the ar­ticle are (in the order that they ap­pear in the article):

•  The Bea­tles’ THE BEATLES
•  Elvis Presley’s My Hap­pi­ness / That’s When Your Heartaches Begin
•  Madonna’s LIKE A PRAYER
•  The Wu-Tang Clan’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN SHAOLIN
•  The Dave Matthews Band’s BEFORE THESE CROWDED STREETS

Of course, My Hap­pi­ness / That’s When Your Heartaches Begin was a one-of-a-kind, 78 rpm single that Elvis recorded in 1953. So it’s nei­ther vinyl nor an album but that did not stop Yahoo’s res­i­dent “ex­pert” from in­cluding it in the list.

Un­for­tu­nately, the hobby of col­lecting records has cer­tainly seen its share of this kind of misinformation. 

 

My Happiness: original 78 rpm acetate single of Elvis' "My Happiness" from 1953.

This is the orig­inal ten-inch, 78 rpm ac­etate of “My Hap­pi­ness” / “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” that Elvis recorded at the Sun Studio in Mem­phis, Ten­nessee, in 1953. It was prob­ably given to Elvis in a plain white paper sleeve like the one above.

Read the other articles first

But be­fore reading this ar­ticle here on Elvis – A Touch Of Gold, I sug­gest you click on over to the other ar­ti­cles and read them first.

To read the ar­ticle on Yahoo News, click here.

To read the ar­ticle on Six­ties Music Se­crets, click here.

But, if you only want to read about the Elvis record, stay right here! What I wrote in the Six­ties Music Se­crets ar­ticle about the Presley platter can be found below be­tween the two hor­i­zontal lines.

 


My Happiness: close-up of the label of original 78 rpm acetate single of Elvis' "My Happiness" from 1953.

This is the orig­inal ten-inch, 78 rpm ac­etate of “My Hap­pi­ness” / “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” from 1953. The label has turned brown with age and pieces have broken off due to brittleness.

Artist: Elvis Presley
Title: My Hap­pi­ness / That’s When Your Heartaches Begin
Format: 78 rpm ac­etate single
Recorded:
June -Au­gust 1953
Re­leased:
un­re­leased

“A rare test pressing of Elvis Presley’s first-ever recording was sold by Jack White for $300,000.”

First, the record re­ferred to in the Yahoo News ar­ticle fea­tures Elvis per­forming two songs, My Hap­pi­ness and That’s When Your Heartaches Begin. The songs were recorded in June or July of 1953, at the Mem­phis Recording Ser­vice when the singer was 18 years old. Elvis paid $3.98 to record the songs and have one copy of a 10-inch, 78 rpm record man­u­fac­tured on the spot. 

Second, the record is not a test pressing—it is an alu­minum ac­etate with a shellac-based coating.

Third, the record is not merely “rare” but is a one-of-a-kind item—it is unique.

Fourth, Jack White did not sell the record for $300,000—he bought it for $300,000 at a Grace­land auction.

Fifth, the writer spelled all the words in this sen­tence correctly.

The Mem­phis Recording Ser­vice (“A com­plete ser­vice to fill every recording need”) was part of the Sun Records studio and of­fice. It al­lowed local mu­si­cians to cut a record for their use at a price that al­most any one of them could af­ford. While Presley re­put­edly made the record as a gift for his mother, it served as an in­di­rect step­ping stone to his even­tual meeting with and “dis­covery” by Sam Phillips (or Sun em­ployee Marion Keisker, de­pending on whose memory you trust) in 1954.

What­ever reason Elvis had for making the record, he never gave it to Gladys. In­stead, he gave the record to his friend Ed Leek, who kept the record’s ex­is­tence a se­cret until after Presley’s death in 1977.

In 2015, Leek’s es­tate con­signed the record to Grace­land for auc­tion and it sold for $240,000 to an undis­closed buyer who later iden­ti­fied him­self as recording artist Jack White. With the com­mis­sion to the auc­tion house and other fees, the final pur­chase price was ap­prox­i­mately $300,000.

Jack White re­leased a vinyl edi­tion of My Hap­pi­ness / That’s When Your Heartaches Begin on his own Third Man Records in time for Record Store Day on April 18, 2015. The Record Store Day ver­sion was a lim­ited edi­tion fac­simile of the orig­inal 10-inch, 78 rpm disc, in­cluding the dam­aged paper la­bels. Third Man also re­leased a 7-inch, 45 rpm edi­tion that fea­tured re­stored ver­sions of the two songs (Sun TMR-307).


 

My Happiness: reproduction of 78 rpm single of Elvis' "My Happiness" manufactured in 2015.

This is an au­tho­rized re­pro­duc­tion of the orig­inal 1953 ac­etate of “My Hap­pi­ness” / “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” man­u­fac­tured by Third Man Records in 2015.

A history of “My Happiness”

As you can see, I wrote that the “ses­sion” for the recording was held in June or July of ’53. I based that on a state­ment in an ar­ticle on that year in Presley’s life I found on the 706 Union Av­enue web­site. That ar­ticle noted that, “Marion Keisker said in No­vember 1989 it had to have been in June be­cause all of Mem­phis Recording Service’s logs were in­tact ex­cept for June 1953. It is easy to see why someone may have wanted to ‘borrow’ that par­tic­ular log, given its his­toric sig­nif­i­cance, and collector’s value.”

That makes sense but I then thought to check Keith Flynn’s Presley Pages web­site a look and see what he had to say about this fa­bled ses­sion. Sure enough, he listed the date for this fa­bled recording of these two songs as the ac­cepted July 18, 1953. He also in­cluded sev­eral hun­dred words of text about the recording, from which the fol­lowing is based:

Mys­tery sur­rounds the ac­tual date of this first pri­vate demo ses­sion, as the date has al­ways been thought to have been in July 1953, with July 18 being most likely. How­ever, the label that Marion Keisker used for Presley’s ac­etate was an un­used label for Sun 189, the Pris­on­aires’ Softly And Ten­derly by the Pris­on­aires. Ac­cording to many sources, this side wasn’t recorded until Au­gust 3, 1953.

Ac­cording to the books in­cluded in the boxed CD sets Mem­phis Recording Ser­vice Volume 1 and Mem­phis Recording Ser­vice – The Com­plete Works 1953-1955, the date for Presley’s ses­sion was Au­gust 22, 1953

After having paid the Mem­phis Recording Ser­vice to record My Hap­pi­ness and That’s When Your Heartaches Begin, Elvis took his record to his friend Ed Leek, whose par­ents owned a record player. Based on what Elvis told him that day, Leek has long sup­ported Presley’s as­ser­tion that the recording had been done with Marion Keisker in charge, not Sam Philips. Somehow, the record ended up in Leek’s possession.

On the other hand, a news­paper story from a US mag­a­zine in 1956 en­ti­tled On The Record throws an­other el­e­ment of un­cer­tainty into the equa­tion. Writing about Elvis’ first pri­vate recording, the writer says the following:

‘He chose a slow ballad. In the recording, Elvis’ singing style changes [every] eight bars. He swings from a high, thin tenor to a re­sounding bass, but most of the time the voice sounds merely un­de­cided. The platter is worn and cracked today. But to his par­ents, it is still a most pre­cious pos­ses­sion, to be played only on spe­cial occasions.’

As Flynn noted, “This de­scrip­tion of Elvis’ de­livery is ac­cu­rate and surely has to be the re­sult of having heard the ac­tual disc. The ref­er­ence to its sen­ti­mental value to the family is most per­ti­nent, too.”

 

My Happiness: 45 rpm single of Elvis' "My Happiness" manufactured in 2015.

This is the first pressing as a seven-inch, 45 rpm single of the 1953 record­ings of “My Hap­pi­ness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.” This record was man­u­fac­tured by Third Man Records in 2015.

And that’s a wrap

So, the title of the Yahoo ar­ticle im­plies that it is for vinyl col­lec­tors. It claims to list five al­bums that are among the “most rare and valuable”—one as­sumes it means the rarest and most valu­able vinyl records. Does the ar­ticle do these things?

Not re­ally.

Why?

•  One of the records is not an album.
•  Two of the records are not vinyl.
•  Two of the records are nei­ther rare nor par­tic­u­larly valuable.

But the worst part is that three of the records are one-of-a-kind items that no one reading the ar­ticle will ever see let alone have an op­por­tu­nity to buy and add to their collection!

The con­coc­tion of facts with in­cor­rect state­ments, the mis­un­der­standing of terms common in ei­ther the record in­dustry or the record col­lecting hobby/business, and the clumsy writing make the Yahoo ar­ticle sound like it was written not by one ex­pert but by a group of moon­lighting Wikipedia “ex­perts.”

 

My Happiness: photo of Elvis visiting Poplar Tunes record store in Memphis in 1956. 1200

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was cropped from this one. It’s a photo of Elvis, disc jockey Dewey Phillips, and Joe Cuoghi, one of the owners of Poplar Tunes Record Shop on Poplar Av­enue in Mem­phis, Ten­nessee. This photo was taken on Oc­tober 16, 1956, more than three years after the record­ings in this ar­ticle were made. I chose it be­cause of the “1953” written on the box.

Joe Scola, former ad­ver­tising di­rector for Poplar Tunes, stated, “Long be­fore Elvis met Colonel Parker, it was Joe Cuoghi who con­vinced the late Bob Neal to manage the young singer’s ca­reer. Joe took a real in­terest in Elvis from the start, but you never hear much about that anymore.”

 

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