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.
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.
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
“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).
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.”
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?
• 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.”
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.”
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.)