DID RCA RELEASE OTHER VERSIONS of ‘Mystery Train’ and ‘I Forgot To Remember To Forget’ by other Victor artists at the same time they released Elvis Presley’s versions of those songs as his first RCA record?” Why would they do that? Were they hedging their $40,000 bet on purchasing the contract of the fledgling singer?
I discovered these recordings while perusing old issues of Billboard and Cash Box for information on what RCA Victor had done to promote their first Presley platter. I was hoping to find any mention of any promotional projects the record company might have done for Elvis.
This article is one in a series about collecting Elvis records from late 1955 and early ’56.
Lo and behold, I discovered that Toni Arden had included a version of I Forgot To Remember To Forget as the flip-side to her single Are You Satisfied? After that, I found a group called the Turtles that had released Mystery Train as one of the sides of their only single.
I was curious about these records. The fact that both artists were with RCA Victor and both records were released within days of the record company’s first Presley record could not have been a coincidence.
It appears that both the Arden and Turtles’ sides were recorded before RCA signed Presley and were released at about the same time as RCA Victor’s reissue of Sun 223.
Are You Satisfied? / I Forgot To Remember To Forget
RCA Victor 20–6346 (78 rpm single)
RCA Victor 47–6346 (45 rpm single)
Released: November 1955
Toni Arden was a pop singer who had a few hits in the early ’50s. She had a powerful set of pipes, as the blues-based A‑side of this record displayed. Are You Satisfied? was competing for airplay with several other versions of the same song, notably Rusty Draper’s which wound up a Top 20 hit.
RCA Victor 6346 was reviewed in the December 3, 1955, issue of Cash Box. This normally indicates a release date in the last two weeks of November. The review stated, “This side is a good shuffle delivery of a high-flying country hit. Dramatic treatment of powerful number.” (page 12)
Neither side was a hit.
The Avid Record Collector Price Guide
The Arden record is not easy to find, especially in near-mint condition. It should not be a surprise that there aren’t many transactions on the internet from which to base an assessment of current market value. Of course, there is not much demand for Toni Arden records at this time nor is there likely to be any time soon. I used what was available and the basic price evaluation system that I used in my price guides.
There have been no sales of the 78 on eBay or Discogs from which to derive an estimated value. So I assigned this record a near-mint value of $20–30, which is a reasonable price for just about any 78 in near-mint condition from the ’50s.
Three copies of this promotional white-label 45 have sold on Discogs in the last seven years, each graded VG. The prices realized were $4 in 2021, $3 in 2018, and $9 in 2016. Using these sales, I assigned this record a near-mint value of $20–25.
There have been no sales of this 45 on eBay or Discogs so I assigned this record a near-mint value of $10–15. This is a reasonable price for just about any 45 in near-mint condition from the ’50s.
Mystery Train / Say You Care
RCA Victor 20–6356 (78 rpm single)
RCA Victor 47–6356 (45 rpm single)
Released: December 1955
Nothing is known about the Turtles and they may have been put together just for this recording. Mystery Train is a group vocal with accompaniment by Hugo Winterhalter’s orchestra. The singing sounds a bit like the commercial folk-pop music that would become popular a few years later (and which was lovingly lampooned in Christopher Guest’s movie A Mighty Wind).
There is a “sing-along-with-Mitch” quality to the singing at odds with a driving rockabilly-like instrumental underpinning. In fact, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly what Winterhalter’s orchestra contributed to this recording (unless they had a rock & roll rhythm section buried among their members).
RCA Victor 6356 was reviewed in the December 17, 1955, issue of Billboard. This normally indicates a release date in the first week of December. The review stated, “The Turtles do a pop version of the song which cut a swath in the country field when recorded by Elvis Presley on Sun.” (page 56):
Neither side cut any swaths anywhere.
The Avid Record Collector Price Guide
The Turtles record is not easy to find, especially in near-mint condition. It should not be a surprise that there aren’t many transactions on the internet from which to base an assessment of current market value. The Turtles’ record isn’t known by many so there isn’t much of a demand for it at this time. I used what was available and the basic price evaluation system that I used in my price guides.
There has been one sale of the 78 documented on eBay. In 2014, a copy graded VG++ sold for $50. Using this sole sale as my guide, I assigned this record a near-mint value of $50–100.
Three copies of this promotional white-label 45 have sold on Discogs and eBay in the last six years. The prices realized were $6 for a VG copy in 2021, $18 for a VG+ copy in 2020, and $21 for a VG copy in 2017. Using these sales, I assigned this record a near-mint value of $50–100.
Three copies of this 45 have sold on Discogs in the last five years, each graded VG+. The prices realized were $12 in 2020, $7 in 2019, and $9 in 2018. Using these sales, I assigned this record a near-mint value of $20–25.
RCA did release other versions!
It would have been understandable if other record companies had swooped in and instructed a few of their artists to cut pop or country versions of I Forgot To Remember To Forget and Mystery Train to try and ride the coattails of the Presley hit. It was common for multiple versions of the same song to compete for airplay and sales in the ’50s.
What made this an interesting move was that it was Presley’s own record company issuing versions of two songs that would then compete with that company’s first Presley record! Why would a record company make such a decision?
It is part of the Elvis legend that there were people at RCA who questioned signing the young singer, especially for $40,000. Even if they had doubts about Presley, why would they attempt to torpedo his success?
Steve Sholes was in charge of Presley’s recording sessions and record releases. Sholes was also head of Specialty Singles for RCA, which included country, R&B, gospel, and children’s music. Didn’t he have a say in the matter? If so, why would he agree to the release of these sides?
If anyone has answers to these questions—especially answers backed by documentation—please let me know.
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was cropped from this 8 x 10-inch publicity photo of Toni Arden. The photo was inscribed: “Kenny, Nice working with you at the Roxy. Lots of success, Toni Arden.” This inscription may date from September 1949, when Arden appeared on stage at the Roxy as part of Ed Sullivan’s Toast Of The Town television show.
The first fourteen articles in this series are almost completed and listed below with links to each. Should you access one of these articles and receive an Error Page, try back a week later.
01 RCA Victor’s “SPD” Series of Specialty Records
02 What Was the First Elvis Record That RCA Victor Released?
03 The Biggest Country & Western Record News of 1955
04 The First RCA Elvis Record Was “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”
05 The RCA Victor Cartoon Picture Sleeves of the ’50s
06 The Elvis “This Is His Life” Cartoon Picture Sleeve
07 RCA Victor 47–6357 Bootleg Picture Sleeves
08 The “Record Bulletin” Picture Sleeve for RCA’s First Elvis Record Is a Fake
09 Did RCA Release Other Versions of Elvis’ Songs to Compete With Elvis’ Records?
10 A New Kind of Hit Re-run With Elvis Presley
11 Was “E‑Z Pop Programming 5” the First LP to Feature an Elvis Track?
12 Was “E‑Z Country Programming 2” the First LP to Feature an Elvis Track?
13 Was SPD-15 the First EP to Feature an Elvis Track?
14 Is the Country & Western Jukebox Promotion Kit a Fake?
More articles addressing the early RCA Victor releases are planned. Each will contain the blockquote, “This article is one in a series about collecting Elvis records from late 1955 and early ’56,” like the one at the beginning of this article.
To find all the articles in the series, copy the blockquote, paste it into the Find option (the magnifying glass in the navigation bar at the top of each page), and then press Return or Enter on your keyboard.
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.)