a familiar elvis album with a new unfamiliar cover (rewritten)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 10 minutes.

THIS IS A FIRST FOR ME: While I have cor­rected er­rors in other ar­ti­cles posted on one of my blogs and even re­sus­ci­tated a few old posts I had pre­vi­ously “killed,” I have not re­vised an ar­ticle so dras­ti­cally that I have ef­fec­tively rewritten it. But this second look at RCAV­ictor EPA-830 with the weird cover is warranted.

The copy of EPA-830 was un­like any other copy I had seen and I wanted to beat every­body else to pub­lish a piece on it. It is not nec­es­sary to have read the orig­inal ar­ticle be­fore ven­turing into this one, but if you are in­ter­ested, here is a link to that ver­sion: “A Fa­miliar Elvis Album With A New, Un­fa­miliar Cover.”

The article begins here

RCA Victor EPA-830 was Elvis’ fourth EP album of 1956. Like the pre­vious EPs, it sold hun­dreds of thou­sands of copies. The front cover de­sign is a fa­vorite among Elvis fans and col­lec­tors of all ages. Along with the fa­miliar ver­sion of the cover, a new un­fa­miliar cover vari­a­tion was re­cently found and it is a rather rare record (if not nec­es­sarily for good reason).

Whereas the first three Elvis EPs con­tained tracks avail­able on other records, EPA-830 con­tained two pre­vi­ously un­re­leased tracks. The in­clu­sion of Shake, Rattle And Roll and Lawdy, Miss Clawdy was a big deal as both record­ings were good enough to have been used as a new single!

Sig­nif­i­cant text has been added to the orig­inal ar­ticle while some orig­inal text has been sig­nif­i­cantly al­tered; these are in brown print below.

These two tracks should have made this Elvis’ first block­buster extended-play record, the first one with sales in the seven fig­ures in­stead of six. It wasn’t

Please note that all ref­er­ences to EPA-830 below are aimed at the US pressing only.

 

Unfamiliar Cover: front cover of RCA Victor EPA-830, Elvis Presley, from 1956.
This is the normal front cover for RCA Victor EPA-830 with a red back­ground that fills the field on all four sides. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of copies of this jacket were man­u­fac­tured and sold in the ’50s.

Best-selling EPs of 1956

EPA-830, ELVIS PRESLEY, was shipped in early June 1956. As nei­ther Bill­board, Cash Box, nor Record World had EP charts then and none of the four tracks re­ceived much air­play or jukebox spins, there was no chart suc­cess to re­port for this record.

Nonethe­less, the album was an­other sales suc­cess: in Elvis Day By Day, Ernst Jor­gensen stated that the album ini­tially sold 400,000 copies. These sales would have easily placed it among the best-selling EPs of the year.

(All nine of Pres­ley’s EPs would have made the Top 10 best-selling EPs of the year if anyone had been counting EP sales in 1956.)

But it was not the sales block­buster that later Elvis EPs would prove to be.

Gold record awards

Like most Amer­ican record com­pa­nies, RCA Victor pre­sented their artists with company-officiated gold record awards in the ’50s (called in-house awards). These were awarded to sin­gles for sales of 1,000,000 copies. They did not present in-house awards for EP or LP albums.

When the RIAA in­tro­duced its “of­fi­cial” Gold Record Awards in 1958, they of­fered the awards for sin­gles and LP al­bums but not EP al­bums. That format had to wait until the 1980s when the RIAA began cer­ti­fying them under weirdly named cat­e­gory of Short-Form Albums.

For­tu­nately, the RIAA made the cer­ti­fi­ca­tions avail­able retroac­tively, and, in 1992, the Presley People fi­nally got their pa­per­work in order and ap­plied for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of more than a hun­dred Presley records. EPA-830 was one of sev­eral EPs pre­sented with an RIAA Gold Record Award. 

At that time, an RIAA Gold Record Award for an EP album re­quired a mere 250,000 sales. If Ern­st’s state­ment that the album sold 400,000 is ac­cu­rate, then EPA-830 will prob­ably never be awarded an RIAA Plat­inum Record.

 

Elvis DorseyBrothers 03 17 1956 Wertheimer 300 crop
This photo of Elvis on the Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show on March 17, 1956. was used for the cover of EPA-830. Por­tions of Bill Black and D.J. Fontana can also be seen be­hind Elvis (in­cluding Black’s right arm).

The familiar cover

The front cover of the jacket for EPA-830 fea­tures black-and-white im­ages of Scotty, Elvis, and Bill. The three im­ages were cropped from a photo of their ap­pear­ance on the Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show tele­vi­sion show on March 17, 1956.

On the cover, the trio is set against a bright red back­drop that takes up the en­tire front cover and ef­fec­tively sep­a­rates and iso­lates the three men. The re­sult is the three fig­ures ap­pear to be floating in the red field. De­spite this weird ef­fect, this cover is a big fa­vorite with many Elvis fans and collectors.

Pop­sike lists more than 1,000 copies that sold on eBay over the past two decades. On Discogs, more than 85 copies of EPA-830 are for sale as I write this.

So, EPA-830 is not a rare record—not even ratherly (that’s an in-joke about my other music and records blog).

At least, copies of EPA-830 with the usual front cover are not rare.

 

Elvis EPA 830 WeirdCover 800
This is the un­usual front cover for RCA Victor EPA-830. Here, the red back­ground only fills most of the field, with a white bottom that looks like a ground for the three fig­ures. Only one copy of this jacket is known to exist in the hands of collectors.

The unfamiliar cover

Re­cently, a vari­a­tion of the front cover of the jacket for EPA-830 was found. It is iden­tical to the usual front cover but in­stead of the red field filling the en­tire back­ground, it is rounded at the bottom. This pro­duces a smaller white field at the bottom of the cover, sort of a dif­ferent layer that helps ground the feet of the three musicians.

Unusual cover sold on eBay

On April 28, 2024, the only known copy of this weird album was of­fered for sale on eBay. The seller, James Holle, in­cluded sev­eral photos of the front and back cover of the album along with the fol­lowing de­scrip­tive text:

“This is an orig­inal 1956 RCA Victor pressing. I have re­searched and not been able to find any in­for­ma­tion on this par­tic­ular EPA cover. I am un­sure if this is a sample cover that RCA Victor may have been con­sid­ering or, simply a man­u­fac­turing de­fect. It is also quite pos­sibly the only cover like this in existence.

Vinyl is VG+ due to a couple of faint hair­lines. The cover is not quite as good. The top seam is split about 4½ inches and the bottom about 2 inches. There is the orig­inal price written on the back. A GREAT find even in this condition.”

Holle set a min­imum bid of $259.99 and, at the close of the auc­tion on May 5, 2024, he had re­ceived one bid for the album and sold it for his min­imum bid.

 

Elvis EPA 830 bc No 2 800
This is the orig­inal back cover for the jackets of both the usual and the un­usual front cover of EPA-830 that was used in the ’50s. (Note that it does not have a number in the lower left corner.)

Explanations for the unfamiliar cover

How did this cover come to be? Four op­tions come to mind of what this jacket could be:

1. Fake

For this to be a fake, we have to be­lieve that a trick­ster made a one-of-a-kind fake jacket to trick someone else. This seems im­prac­tical and ex­pen­sive but, as I am clue­less about to­day’s tech­nology, may be doable. This trick­ster then beat up the new jacket a bit and somehow ar­ti­fi­cially aged it, making it the jacket a be­liev­able VG con­di­tion in­stead of NM (the latter con­di­tion often being a red flag for a fake).

2. Production error

For this to be a pro­duc­tion error, we have to be­lieve that there was some kind of foul-up at the printers. How this would happen is be­yond my ken but be­liev­able.

3. Post-production damage

In a con­ver­sa­tion on the Elvis Records page on Face­book, long­time col­lector and record ex­pert Frank Daniels of­fered this opinion:

“I think the cover is ei­ther a printing error or a cover that washed out (due to having some­thing round on it, while it lay in the sun. There’s no way they would have printed ELVIS PRESLEY such that part of his last name dis­ap­peared into the background.”

I re­sponded that, if it had laid in the sun long enough to com­pletely wash out the red, then wouldn’t the white “Y” and the black of the three fig­ures have been washed out, too, if only par­tially? But those colors are com­pletely intact.

We can al­ways try an ex­per­i­ment: take an­other copy of the EPA-830 jacket, place it in the sun, place some­thing round on top of it, and let na­ture go to work.

Frank came back with, “Sun shadow on print af­fects colors dif­fer­ently. Red fades first. It doesn’t seem to im­pact black at all.”

I re­sponded that un­less someone does a few ex­per­i­ments on EPA-830 covers, we will just have to guess this jack­et’s origin—you one way, me the other.

See the My re­vised opinion sec­tion below.

4. Prototype

For this to be an RCA Victor-generated pro­to­type, we have to be­lieve that the folks at RCA’s de­sign de­part­ment in 1956 had two ideas com­peting for the final cover design.

A few of each would have been made—some with a full red back­ground, some with a semi-circular red back­ground. Then the full-red back­ground won and be­came the cover for the commercially-released EPA-830.

Copies of the jacket with the semi-circular back­ground would have been dis­carded or taken home by em­ployees. Six decades later, any sur­viving copies would be rather rare records, indeed.

 

Elvis EPA 830 WeirdCover EbayAd 600 1
This is the image of EPA-830 with the un­usual front cover as it ap­peared in the eBay ad­ver­tise­ment. In this photo, the jacket is in a pro­tec­tive plastic sleeve, causing the glare in the lower right corner.

My original opinion

So, the first op­tion seems the least likely to me. If the jacket had been in like-new con­di­tion, it would have been the most likely op­tion. (Of course, if more copies show up for sale, then I would need to re­think my opinion.) In the first ver­sion of this ar­ticle, I opined that the pro­to­type seemed the most likely ex­pla­na­tion to me.

I asked James Holle to ask the new owner of the weird EPA-830 to take high-quality photos or scans of the jacket for me to use in this ar­ticle How­ever, the owner has not re­sponded to James’ re­quest at this time.

 

BeachBoys LetHimRunWild 45 800

BeachBoys LetHimRunWild—sunfaded 800
Capitol 5464, the Beach Boys’ Cal­i­fornia Girls / Let Him Run Wild, was a smash hit in 1965. The label on top is how the record is sup­posed to look. The label on the bottom was left lying in the Sun for an ex­tended pe­riod of time and most of its colors are washed out by sunlight.

My revised opinion

The in­trepid vinyl spe­lunker Frank Daniels found an ex­ample of an­other item that had its colors washed out by the Sun. He found a copy of the Beach Boys’ single Cal­i­fornia Girls / Let Him Run Wild (Capitol 5464) with the label on the flip-side bleached by the Sun (see image above).

The orig­inal dark yellow and dark or­ange common to Capitol 45s of the time are al­most com­pletely gone! And, as Frank stated above, while the Sun washed away those colors, it left the black ink of the la­bel’s text more or less intact.

I ac­knowl­edge being (prob­ably) wrong the first time around and now be­lieve that—while 2, 3, and 4 are all possible—post-production damage caused by pro­longed ex­po­sure to sun­light seems the most likely explanation.

 

Elvis EPA 830 WeirdCover WithoutPlastic 800
This is the image of EPA-830 with the un­usual front cover as it ap­peared in the eBay ad­ver­tise­ment. In this photo, the jacket is not in a pro­tec­tive plastic sleeve, al­lowing us to see that all four cor­ners are rounded from use.

Avid Record Collectors Price Guide

Well, as stated, the eBay auc­tion brought one bid. The pos­si­bility of this item being a huge col­lectible may have been out­weighed by its being a dam­aged item along with the nev­erending spate of fake Elvis items being of­fered for sale on­line. So, in this in­stance, it seems that most Elvis col­lec­tors chose to play it safe.

If the un­usual cover ver­sion of EPA-830 is a fake or merely a dam­aged normal jacket, then the buyer now owns a lemon. If it turns out to be a production/manufacturing error, then the $259.99 he paid is prob­ably reasonable.

But if this is an aban­doned pro­to­type, adding at least one zero to its value ($2,599.90) would be a bit more realistic.

Ei­ther way, the new owner can brag, “It’s one of a kind and it’s mine.”

 

Elvis DorseyBrothers 03 17 1956 Wertheimer 800

FEA­TURED IMAGE: This photo of Elvis with Bill Black (bass) and D. J. Fontana (drums) was taken by Al­fred Wertheimer. It was taken on March 17, 1956, when Elvis and the band per­formed on the Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show tele­vi­sion show.

 

Acknowledgments

Thanks to James Holle for sup­plying me with a se­ries of im­ages of the copy of EPA-830 with the un­usual cover. Here is a bit of back story from James:

“I bought [the EPA-830 with the weird cover] in a small lot on a le­git­i­mate on­line auc­tion site—an or­ga­ni­za­tion that others have found rare trea­sures on. People do­nate the most amazing stuff to this organization.

It was in a small lot of five Elvis 45s. The other four records were of no value to me but this one caught my eye and I just had to bid on it. I won the lot for $26!

I have been a col­lector of vinyl all my life and an Elvis fan along with all music genres. I wanted to keep [the EP] but an­other part of me wanted to see what would happen [if I auc­tioned it] . . .”

Check out other items James has for sale on eBay.

Thanks to Frank Daniels for his ar­gu­ment above. Check out his blog, Frank’s Meagre Bea­tles Page.

Thanks to Diego Quaglio for his ar­gu­ment on the Elvis Records page on Facebook.

 


 

4 thoughts on “a familiar elvis album with a new unfamiliar cover (rewritten)”

  1. I saw that EP on ebay. it was in­ter­esting. I’m glad to read this ar­ticle about this. I’m a huge col­lector. So, I’m gonna keep an eye out for some in­ter­esting ones and hope­fully, to find an­other EPA-830.

    Reply

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