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


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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
Elvis Robertson 1955

Elvis Robertson photo 1955 900

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.


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

  1. 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.

    • D

      RCA Victor in­tro­duced the EP in 1952 and clearly mar­keted them as al­bums. Re­member, the term album was pur­loined from col­lec­tors of pho­tographs who kept their prints in book-like al­bums that are still man­u­fac­tured today. The record in­dustry picked up the term be­cause the orig­inal phono­graph al­bums were sev­eral 78 rpm records in binders that looked pretty much like photo albums.

      Re­garding Easy Come, Easy Go: in the UK, RCA lifted two tracks from that movie and is­sued it as a single: The Love Ma­chine / You Gotta Stop. For­tu­nately, British record buyers had the good sense not to buy the record.

      Like you, I was prob­ably the only kid in my school that bought Easy Come, Easy Go in 1967.


    • 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.

      • The album in ques­tion ap­pears to be E‑Z Country Pro­gramme No. 2. This New Zealand album seems to be based on the pro­mo­tional al­bums of the same names shipped to radio sta­tions in the US (or vice versa?). 

        Here is an ar­ticle from April 20, 2019:

        The ar­ticle is filled with er­rors, all too typ­ical of the slovenly work that so-called jour­nal­ists pub­lish on the in­ternet and in news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines every day.


        This is the album:

        One copy has sold on Discog for $130 and a second is cur­rently for sale at $429.52. This is a far cr in­deed from the $3,500 es­ti­mate in the article.


        Here are links to a pair of sim­i­larly ti­tled pro­mo­tional LPs shipped to radio sta­tions in the US in No­vember 1955:‑z-country-programming-no‑2/‑z-country-programming-no‑3/

        Both the ar­ticle above and Disogs claim it was re­leased in 1955, but I find that hard to be­lieve. RCA Victor didn’t re­lease their reissue of “I Forgot To Re­member To Forget” / “Mys­tery Train” until De­cember 2, 1955. To be­lieve this LP was is­sued in 1955, we have to be­lieve that HMV in New Zealand got safety copy tapes of these two tracks from RCA Victor and man­u­fac­tured and is­sued an LP all within a matter of four weeks.

        Doable, but hard to be­lieve. In fact, knowing the single was is­sued in De­cember calls into ques­tion the No­vember 1955 date as­signed to the pro­mo­tional ver­sion of the LP is­sued in the US. But that’s an­other story.

  2. 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.

    • D

      Decades ago, some re­viewer (prob­ably in Rolling Stone) ob­served that if Elvis had died on his way to New York to sign his con­tract with RCA Victor in No­vember 1956, all we would have would be the Sun sides. Had they been col­lected onto a single LP, Elvis and that one LP would be revered by fans and critics in the same manner Robert Johnson and The King of the Delta Blues Singers album are revered.


    • 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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