Elvis 1956 photo Robertson 1500 crop

the real answer to “what was elvis presley’s first album?”

TODAY’S QUORA QUESTION is “What was Elvis Pres­ley’s first album?” Everyone who knows much of any­thing about Elvis thinks they know the an­swer: LPM-1254 with Red Robert­son’s iconic pho­to­graph of Elvis in 1955. But that’s not the ac­tual an­swer, as anyone who knows more than much-of-anything-about-Elvis re­al­izes. Con­fu­sion ex­ists be­cause the term “album” has taken on non-format-related mean­ings in the in­ter­vening decades.

But first, here is some back­ground in­for­ma­tion. In the early ’50s, there were two for­mats for al­bums: the 33⅓ rpm, long-play album (LP) and the 45 rpm, extended-play album (EP). In­tro­duced in 1948 by Co­lumbia Records, the stan­dard LP in­cluded two parts:

1. a record
2. a card­board jacket

The jacket nor­mally had a pho­to­graph or art­work on the front cover and liner notes, photos, or ad­ver­tise­ments on the back cover.

RCA Victor in­tro­duced the seven-inch EP album in early 1952. A stan­dard EP in­cluded two parts:

1. a record
2. a card­board jacket

The jacket nor­mally had a pho­to­graph or art­work on the front cover and liner notes, photos, or ad­ver­tise­ments on the back cover.

 

The term “album” has taken on sev­eral mean­ings since the re­lease of Elvis’s first al­bums, in­cluding ones that have nothing to do with the format.

 

In the US, most LPs in­cluded a paper inner sleeve to pro­tect the record as it slid in and out of the card­board jacket. EPs rarely in­cluded a paper inner sleeve.

Record com­pa­nies man­u­fac­tured LPs in both ten-inch and twelve-inch sizes. By 1956, most of them had dis­con­tinued the ten-inch record but the twelve-inch album had grown steadily in pop­u­larity and sales (al­though sales of a mil­lion copies was un­heard of).

The EP had not es­tab­lished it­self as a very prof­itable format and was not as common as the LP.

That is, until March 1956.

 

Elvis LPM 1254 ad ARedHotStar 1000 dark

This ad­ver­tise­ment from the March 31, 1956, issue of The Bill­board lists the three new Elvis al­bums with their sug­gested re­tail prices. Note that at the time the that this ad was com­posed, Heart­break Hotel / I Was The One had not sold a mil­lion copies.

A red hot star is born

Then, in the fourth week of March 1956, RCA Victor shipped three Elvis Presley al­bums si­mul­ta­ne­ously. One was an LP, two were EPs. They were very sim­ilar pack­ages:

Each album had the same title.
Each album had the same cover photo and de­sign.
Each album fea­tured tracks from the same pool of record­ings.

Knowing this, here is a list of those three records that make up the cor­rect an­swer to the ques­tion, What was Elvis Pres­ley’s first album? As they were shipped by RCA Victor on the same day, they are listed al­pha­bet­i­cally by cat­alog number.

 

Elvis EPA 747 light 600

EPA-747, Elvis Presley

Re­leased: March 23, 1956

Format: Seven-inch, 45 rpm extended-play (EP) album with two tracks per side (four tracks total).

Charts: There were no EP charts in the US in 1956. When Bill­board in­tro­duced an EP chart in Sep­tember 1957, EPA-747 made the Top 10 five times in 1958-1959.

Be­cause the Bill­board Top 100 tal­lied radio plays and jukebox plays along with sales, “Blue Suede Shoes” from this album made it to #24 on that chart.

Sales: EPA-747 sold 400,000 copies straight off, an unheard-of number for an EP at that time.

 

ElvisPresley EPB 1254 600

EPB-1254, Elvis Presley

Re­leased: March 23, 1956

Format: Seven-inch, 45 rpm extended-play (EP) album with two records with two tracks per side (eight tracks total).

Charts: There were no EP charts in the US in 1956. When Bill­board in­tro­duced an EP chart in Sep­tember 1957, EPB-1254 made the Top 10 three times in 1958-1959.

Sales: EPB-1254 sold 150,000 copies. It may be the biggest selling two-record EP in the US.

 

Elvis LPM1254 600

LPM-1254, Elvis Presley

Re­leased: March 23, 1956

Format: Twelve-inch, 33⅓ long-play (LP) album with six tracks per side (twelve tracks total).

Charts: This reached #1 on the Bill­board LP chart, the first rock & roll album to top that survey.

Sales: LPM-1254 sold an un­prece­dented 360,000 copies in six weeks, making it RCA Victor’s fastest-selling pop LP up to that point. Do­mestic sales topped a mil­lion copies, making it one of the biggest-selling LPs of the ’50s.

 

Beatles VeeJay EP 903 Souvenir 600

Vee-Jay re­leased The Bea­tles (VJEP-1-903) during the height of Beat­le­mania in 1964. Known by the blurb on the front cover (“Sou­venir of Their Visit to America”), Vee-Jay priced it the same as a single (99¢ in­stead of the usual $1.49) and sold more than a mil­lion copies. 

RCA misplaced what?

EPA-747 and the other Elvis EP ti­tles re­leased in 1956 changed the way the in­dustry looked at the format when each sold hun­dreds of thou­sands of units. Elvis – Volume 1 (EPA-992) even passed the mil­lion mark in do­mestic sales when its fea­tured track, “Love Me,” made the Top 10 on the na­tional pop charts!

Sales of EPs by es­tab­lished sellers like Fats Domino, Pat Boone, Ricky Nelson, etc, are not known. What is known is that no other EP aside from Pres­ley’s has been cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award (250,000 sales).

RCA Victor is­sued its last com­mer­cial EP in 1967 with Pres­ley’s Easy Come, Easy Go. Sup­pos­edly, it sold con­sid­er­ably less than 100,000 and the EP was dis­con­tinued as a vi­able com­mer­cial format in the US. Such was not the case else­where, as the Bea­tles re­leased the two-record Mag­ical Mys­tery Tour EP album in 1967 and sold more than 600,000 copies in a year!

 

The gen­er­a­tions growing up in the past few decades have tended to use the term “album” to mean a vinyl LP only.

 

Be­cause the EP was a de­funct format in the states, Capitol com­bined the six tracks on the EP album with five sides pre­vi­ously re­leased as sin­gles and is­sued them as the Mag­ical Mys­tery Tour LP in the US.

RCA Victor con­tinued man­u­fac­turing the better selling Elvis cat­alog EPs until 1969, by which time even they were no longer selling enough to keep them in print.

The gen­er­a­tions growing up in the past few decades have tended to use the term album in a very con­stricted sense for a vinyl LP only. Hell’s Belles, I have seen learned people re­strict the term even more to have nothing to do with the format but in­stead refer to the pre­sen­ta­tion of the recorded ma­te­rial.

But that’s an­other story

In the ’50s, there two for­mats for al­bums: the 33⅓ rpm LP album and the 45 rpm EP album. Three Elvis al­bums were re­leased si­mul­ta­ne­ously using these for­mats. Click To Tweet

Elvis Robertson 1955

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo of Elvis at the top of this page is prob­ably the most iconic photo in rock & roll’s his­tory. It was taken by William “Red” Robertson on July 31, 1955, at a per­for­mance at the Fort Homer Hes­terly Ar­mory in Tampa, Florida.

 

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I read re­cently that an RCA album re­leased in 1955 in South Africa ( I think) con­tained two Elvis Sun tracks among other artists’ songs. I sadly cannot re­member much de­tail. Even Elvis’s last EP, Easy Come, Easy Go, was dif­ferent in the UK to else­where with only 4 tracks on the one I pur­chased in 1967.I daresay I may have been the only 13 year old boy in Leeds that bought it in the year of Sgt Pepper etc.I must say that I never thought of an EP as an album.

I also bought the single.Ex juke box without a middle.Leeds City Kirk­gate Market was bril­liant for a bargain.It was half price to a new one.I must be spe­cial.

Not that I can remember.But I was only 12 in 1967 and the BBC then did not play much pop music then.I doubt it wil have got much air play.

Dave, I be­lieve the LP you’re re­fer­ring to was ac­tu­ally New Zealand of all places! It was a comp LP with a track or two from Elvis Sun. I can’t re­member which, how many, or name of LP. I think it re­cently made news from a mas­sive eBay sale. Tech­ni­cally, it was the first album Elvis ever ap­peared on.

Thinking about the first album Elvis should have been the Sun ses­sions which of course was is­sued many years later and found its way into the Rolling Stone Top 20 of all-time al­bums.

Rightly so too.

That all may be well n good, but then we wouldn’t have the two greatest trax the King ever recorded—Live: “Polk Salad Annie”; Studio: “Merry Christmas Baby” (com­plete ver­sion)!

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