elvis’ riaa gold record awards 1958-1975 (while he was alive)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 7 min­utes.

ELVIS DIED WITH ONLY 28 GOLD RECORDS. That is, he col­lected only twenty-eight of­fi­cial RIAA Gold Record Awards during his ca­reer. He also moved to that man­sion on the hill without a single Plat­inum Record Award on his wall! Nei­ther he nor Colonel Parker nor RCA Victor showed any real en­thu­siasm for the awards while he was alive. Since his death, the Presley People have done an ad­mirable job in get­ting RCA and the RIAA to make things right.

Working with the vast per­sonal files of Colonel Parker, the RIAA cer­ti­fied and awarded 110 Gold and Plat­inum Record Awards to the Presley es­tate in 1992. Since then, an­other eighty-eight Awards have been added to the list. 1

There is a follow-up to this ar­ticle ti­tled “About Those Elvis Gold And Plat­inum Record Awards,” which you should also read.

There are many rea­sons for RCA’s lack­adaisical at­ti­tude to­wards these awards, an at­ti­tude ap­par­ently shared by Elvis and his man­ager. And looking at the his­tory of the Awards, this per­spec­tive was also shared by most of the record industry’s movers and shakers.

When the RIAA launched its “of­fi­cial” Gold Record Awards pro­gram in Jan­uary 1958, it opened its doors to the Amer­ican record in­dustry. Any com­pany could submit records for in­de­pen­dent au­diting and re­ceive RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for a Gold Record Award. They of­fered the in­dustry ac­cess to awards that were stan­dard­ized and in­de­pen­dently au­then­ti­cated. 2

There is a follow-up to this ar­ticle ti­tled “About Those Elvis Gold And Plat­inum Record Awards,” which can be found here.

 

Elvis HeartbreakHotel 1956 GoldRecord long shot 800
On April 11. 1956, RCA Victor pre­sented Elvis with his first gold record for sales of 1,000,000 copies of “Heart­break Hotel.” The pre­sen­ta­tion was ca­sual and took place while he was recording his second million-seller, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.”

Gold record awards since the ’40s

In­di­vidual record com­pa­nies had been handing out gold records since the ’40s, so there wasn’t a big rush to get records to the RIAA for their blessing. In fact, the in­dustry es­sen­tially ig­nored the RIAA Awards for years. They picked up a little steam in the late ’60s; al­bums ap­peared with RIAA Gold Record stickers af­fixed to their covers. But the Awards didn’t re­ally catch on until the ’70s. 3

At that point, record com­pa­nies re­al­ized that the awards could be used pro­mo­tion­ally: a Gold Record was proof that “mil­lions” of people had al­ready bought an album, so why shouldn’t you buy it? 

But for the first ten years, most com­pa­nies just didn’t see the awards as a big deal and didn’t ac­tively par­tic­i­pate. For ex­ample, in early 1958 RCA Victor could have im­me­di­ately re­quested cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for Gold Record Awards for the fol­lowing Elvis titles:

Heart­break Hotel / I Was The One
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You / My Baby Left me
Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel
Love Me Tender / Any Way You Want Me
Too Much / Playing For Keeps
All Shook Up / That’s When Your Heartaches Begin
Teddy Bear / Loving You
Jail­house Rock / Treat Me Nice

RCA Victor could have also sub­mitted the extended-play album ELVIS, VOLUME 2, the only EP to sell more than a mil­lion copies in the US! Elvis’ JAILHOUSE ROCK would follow suit later in ’58. Sev­eral LPs prob­ably qualified.

They could have.

But they didn’t.

And we will prob­ably never know why. 

 

ElvisGold 1961 Surrender 800
On Feb­ruary 25, 1961, Elvis was given a spe­cial golden record by RCA Victor for his latest hit, “Sur­render,” to com­mem­o­rate the fact that he had sold 76,000,000 singles—or 15,000,000 per year since 1956!

Qualifying a 45 for a Gold Record

A 45 rpm single had to sell 1,000,000 (one mil­lion) copies within the United States.

That’s it.

 

Elvis ChristmasAlbum RIAAGoldRecord 1963 800
This RIAA Award is for LPM-1951, the reissue of ELVIS’ CHRISTMAS ALBUM from 1959. It’s pos­sible that the sales of the orig­inal 1957 album (LOC-1035) were not counted to­wards this Award. When RCA is­sued this album in fake stereo (LSP-1951e) in 1964, it sup­pos­edly sold an­other 300,000 copies in a few weeks!

Qualifying an LP for a Gold Record

A 33⅓ rpm LP album had to sell $1,000,000 (one mil­lion dol­lars) at the manufacturer’s whole­sale price. The number of copies that an LP sold was ir­rel­e­vant to the Award but was slightly more than 700,000 copies for a normal LP.

As the price of records rose, the number of records re­quired to reach the million-dollar gold stan­dard de­clined. In 1974, new stan­dards for an album were es­tab­lished and an album had to meet two criteria:

•  An album must sell $1,000,000 at the whole­sale level, plus
• 
an album must sell at least 500,000 units.

By this time a “unit” con­sisted of ei­ther an LP or tape. While reel-to-reels and 8-tracks were still man­u­fac­tured, they sold little and had a mi­nus­cule im­pact on sales tal­lies. But the cas­sette tape was catching on fast with music-lovers across the country.

 

ElvisGold 1970 Astrodome 1200
On March 1, 1970, during his tri­umphant ap­pear­ance at the Houston As­trodome, Elvis was pre­sented with Gold Records for three sin­gles (“In The Ghetto,” “Sus­pi­cious Minds,” and “Don’t Cry Daddy”) and two al­bums (FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS and FROM MEMPHIS TO VEGAS). He would not have a year filled with gold like this again until 1977.

Elvis’ RIAA Gold Records 1958-1975

Here are the records cer­ti­fied Gold by the RIAA prior to Elvis’ death in 1977. As noted, there were only twenty-eight, and this teeny-weeny figure had tongues a-wagging for years after Presley’s passing about how RCA must have lied about his sales through the years to ac­count for so low a tally. This would be put to rest in 1992 with the afore­men­tioned cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of 110 Gold and Plat­inum Record Awards.

The ti­tles below are listed chrono­log­i­cally as they re­ceived their cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Within each year, ti­tles are listed chrono­log­i­cally based on their orig­inal re­lease date. Album ti­tles are in bold print.

 

1958

47-7280                  Hard Headed Woman / Don’t Ask Me Why

 

1960

LPM/LSP-1382    Elvis

 

1961

LPM/LSP-1707     Elvis’ Golden Records

LPM/LSP-2426    Blue Hawaii

 

1962

47-7968                  Can’t Help Falling In Love / Rock-A-Hula Baby

 

1963

LPM/LSP-1951      Elvis’ Christmas Album

LPM/LSP-2256     G.I. Blues

LPM/LSP-2621     Girls! Girls! Girls!

 

1966

LPM/LSP-1254     Elvis Presley

LPM/LSP-2075     Elvis’ Gold Records, Volume 2

LPM/LSP-2765     Elvis’ Golden Records, Volume 3

 

1968

LPM/LSP-1515      Loving You

LPM/LSP-3758    How Great Thou Art

 

1969

LPM/LSP-2328    His Hand In Mine

LPM-4088             Elvis (NBC-TV Special)

47-9741                   In The Ghetto / Any Day Now

47-9764                  Sus­pi­cious Minds / You’ll Think Of Me

LSP-6020              From Mem­phis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis

 

1970

LSP-4155               From Elvis In Memphis

47-9768                 Don’t Cry, Daddy / Rubberneckin’

47-9835                 The Wonder Of You / Mama Liked The Roses

 

1971

LSP-4362               On Stage – Feb­ruary 1970

 

1972

74-0769                 Burning Love / It’s A Matter Of Time

LSP-4776               Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden

 

1973

LPM-6401             World­wide 50 Gold Award Hits, Volume 1

LSP-4555              That’s The Way It Is

VPSX-6089           Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite

 

1975

CPL1-0341            A Leg­endary Per­former, Volume 1

 

Ex­actly why RCA Victor, Colonel Parker, and Presley balked at building an im­pres­sive cat­alog of RIAA Awards through the years will prob­ably never be known. Due to the au­diting and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions of 1992, we know that had RCA been dili­gent about the Awards (and about main­taining proper records about their records), Elvis might have left this mortal coil with 50-60 of­fi­cial Gold Records on his walls.

 

ElvisGold 1972 Sholes 1500 trim

FEATURED IMAGE: Here is Elvis with former pro­ducer Steve Sholes showing off the RIAA Gold Record Award for the 1972 album ELVIS AS RECORDED AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. Presley looks trim and fit, if over-tanned. Of course, there are those eyes . . .

 

ATOG Postscript Image

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, I have to stress that the RIAA Awards did not carry a lot of weight in the in­dustry until the mid-’70s, by which time Elvis wasn’t racking up the sales fig­ures that he had pre­vi­ously. It’s pos­sible that Elvis was prouder of get­ting a gold record from Ar­gentina or South Africa, where people didn’t have the money to buy large quan­ti­ties of records than he did from get­ting a re­dun­dant RIAA Award for a title that he al­ready had an RCA award hanging on his wall. We’ll never know.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   The sto­ries of RCA’s “mis­placing” thou­sands of pieces of paper doc­u­menting Presley’s sales through the year have been around since Elvis was alive! Ap­par­ently, most of the pa­per­work from the years fol­lowing his death (1977-1979) are missing—years in which hun­dreds of mil­lions of Elvis records were selling around the world! 4

2   Record com­pa­nies could join the RIAA and pay mem­ber­ship dues and sep­a­rate fees for the au­diting and the ac­tual phys­ical Awards. Non-member record com­pa­nies also had ac­cess to the Awards, but with sig­nif­i­cantly higher au­diting fees.

3   These awards pre­sented by a record com­pany to one of its artists are now called in-house awards and for many records, these are all we have to go on.

4   RCA also “mis­filed” all of the master tapes to Presley’s record­ings of the 1950s. But that’s an­other story . . .

 

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That’s a lot of hard info I’ve never seen put to­gether in one place and much ap­pre­ci­ated. I al­ways as­sumed RCA was just under-reporting for tax pur­poses, hiding profit like the movie com­pa­nies (sup­pos­edly) did. My guess on Elvis’s in­dif­fer­ence is that once he had a few for the walls at home it just wasn’t that big a deal, but as you say, we’ll prob­ably never know.

Just as prob­able that the Colonel and Elvis didn’t want proof of, or ques­tions about, his in­come. This makes clear there had been other ‘award gold record’ pro­grams so this just wasn’t viewed as a ‘big deal’ by many. 

I think this em­phasis on awards, etc., has not had a pos­i­tive im­pact on the music in­dustry. We’re sacrificing/losing cre­ativity and orig­i­nality as in­dustry execs focus on things like this. And as we’ve learned with book sales/awards, too often the au­thor, family, pub­lisher are the ones buying to en­sure an award.

In­ter­esting!

Thank you for reading it!

Hi Neal,

There are a few things wrong with this ar­ticle from a fac­tual stand­point. First of all, the photo of Elvis re­ceiving the in-house gold record for “Heart­break Hotel” at the Nashville recording ses­sion for “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” was done on April 14, 1956, not April 11, 1956. Elvis was later pho­tographed with this gold record back home in Mem­phis at the Audubon Drive home with his par­ents and local DJ Dewey Phillips. Later that month, Elvis was pho­tographed again in Las Vegas with Colonel Parker and an as­sort­ment of in­di­vid­uals on stage. This photo was used for the cover of Cashbox mag­a­zine at some point in late May, 1956.

Also the photo of Elvis with a heavy set gen­tleman from Au­gust 1, 1972 is wrong. The guy in the photo be­side Elvis is not Steve Sholes. The guy in the photo is George Parkhill, who worked for RCA. Steve Sholes had died in 1968, four years prior to the photo being taken.

As to your ques­tion re­garding why more RIAA awards weren’t is­sued during Elvis’ life­time. The an­swer is pretty easy. RCA was al­ready is­suing in-house gold records in most cases, so there re­ally wasn’t any need to pursue the RIAA awards, al­though, at times it would seem that they were pur­sued. I should also point out that al­though you don’t show pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence of it, Elvis did re­ceive some RIAA gold records from Steve Sholes in late 1963 while Elvis was filming “Kissin’ Cousins.” These gold records would have been for the Christmas album and the sound­track to “Girls!, Girls!, Girls!” I am aware of at least two photos taken. There are sev­eral more photos taken of the Houston event from March, 1970 when Elvis re­ceived his gold records for the three sin­gles and the two al­bums. There is also a photo of Elvis’ pro­ducer Felton Jarvis, Chet Atkins and RCA ex­ec­u­tive Harry Jenkins holding gold records. Felton is holding a gold record for the “How Great Thou Art” LP, while Felton is holding one for “In The Ghetto” and Harry Jenkins is holding one for “Sus­pi­cious Minds.” I would imagine this photo also dates from some­time around 1970.

Hi Neal, thanks for the ar­ti­cles on RIAA Cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, they are very helpful and appreciated. 

1. The Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel single is cer­ti­fied at 4million. There is an in-house award at Grace­land for Don’t Be Cruel en­graved with “Spe­cial Award for 5 mil­lion seller” con­taining 5 ac­tual records pressed in Gold and framed. Is this for World­wide Sales or USA Sales? I am un­aware of the issue date for the award.

2. Are in-house awards for world­wide or USA sales? 

3. The Elvis For Everyone LP rear cover con­tains the al­bums that have sold over $1million, is this world­wide sales or USA sales? 

Thank you in ad­vance for your an­swers – Anthony

Thanks Neal. What was the cri­teria for Gold, and post-1974, for Plat­inum RIAA awards for 45 EPs. Also were you aware re­cently RIAA re­duced Elvis’s album total from 146.5 mil­lion to 139 mil­lion and GOLD cer­ti­fi­ca­tions from 117 to 101? ap­pre­ciate your site, lots of great ar­ti­cles i’ve en­joyed very much. – Anthony

This is a very good ques­tion that I have often asked my­self. The RIAA web­site lists the cri­teria for short-form al­bums / EPS (ex­tended plays) as needing the same amount sold as a single or full-length album (500,000 for gold, 1 mil­lion for plat­inum, 2 mil­lion or more for multi-platinum and 10 mil­lion for di­a­mond). How­ever, all of Elvis’ ex­tended plays were cer­ti­fied back in March 1992. As noted by Anthony’s com­ment al­ready, the RIAA web­site (www.riaa.com) has re­moved 7.5 mil­lion in album sales from Elvis’ tally on the web­site to re­duce it from 146.5 mil­lion down to 139 million.

Also, the RIAA web­site has re­duced the number of gold al­bums Elvis had from 117 down to 101 along with the number of plat­inum and multi-platinum tal­lies. Elvis has 16 ex­tended plays that are cer­ti­fied at a min­imum of gold, 10 of which have reached plat­inum status. 2 of those plat­inum ex­tended plays have reached 2X Plat­inum. So it breaks down as such:

6 Gold
8 Platinum
2 2X Platinum

Total of 16 ex­tended plays were cer­ti­fied back in March 1992. The problem I’ve al­ways no­ticed is if you ex­trap­o­late the RIAA rules as men­tioned above for short-form al­bums / ex­tended plays and apply them to the above tal­lies of the 16 ex­tended plays that are cer­ti­fied, you don’t come up with the 7.5 mil­lion that was re­duced from Elvis’ total. 6 gold would be equal to 3 mil­lion. 8 plat­inum would be equal to 8 mil­lion, and 2 2X plat­inum would be equal to 4 mil­lion. That should be a total of 15 mil­lion, which is twice as much as the 7.5 mil­lion that was re­moved from Elvis’ album tally.

This would seem to in­di­cate that the ex­tended plays that were cer­ti­fied back in March 1992 were cer­ti­fied as gold equaling 250,000, plat­inum equaling 500,000, and 2X Plat­inum equaling 1 mil­lion. If you ex­trap­o­late those set of rules you get 6 gold equaling 1.5 mil­lion, 8 plat­inum equaling 4 mil­lion and 2 2X Plat­inum equaling 2 mil­lion. 1.5 mil­lion + 4 mil­lion + 2 mil­lion equals 7.5 mil­lion. That’s how they came up with the 7.5 mil­lion for the 16 ex­tended plays.

I don’t quite un­der­stand why those rules were used for the ex­tended plays but it ap­pears they were. I think the logic was back then that since a short-form album or ex­tended play was roughly 1/2 of an album, it only needed 1/2 of the sales of a full-length album to be­come cer­ti­fied, even though that is not the way the cri­teria for short-form al­bums / ex­tended plays is cur­rently stated on the RIAA web­site for certification.

Now the ques­tion is was there a mis­take back in March 1992 as far as the ex­tended plays that are just now being rec­ti­fied. This could go ei­ther way. For ex­ample, if those 6 gold ex­tended plays did, in fact, sell 500,000 copies but were only cer­ti­fied at 250,000 and if those 8 plat­inum ex­tended plays sold 1 mil­lion copies but were only cer­ti­fied at 500,000 and if those 2 2X plat­inum each sold 2 mil­lion copies but were only cer­ti­fied at 1 mil­lion that could mean that ul­ti­mately in­stead of Elvis losing 7.5 mil­lion, is going to re­gain that 7.5 mil­lion but also gain an­other 7.5 million.

Now the flip-side of this is if in­deed the 6 gold ex­tended play al­bums only sold 250,000 and the RIAA de­cides to re­voke those cer­ti­fi­ca­tions due to not meeting the cur­rent 500,000 threshold for ei­ther a short form album or a full-length album, then that would mean that the 8 plat­inum would be­come gold for having 500,000 in sales which would equal 4 mil­lion and the 2 2X Plat­inum would be­come 2 plat­inum which would equal 2 mil­lion total. This would bring Elvis’ total ex­tended play cer­ti­fi­ca­tions only down to 6 mil­lion rather than the pre­vious 7.5 million.

Es­sen­tially, there are 3 ways this could go. Elvis could simply re­gain the 7.5 mil­lion was taken from him and his total album sales would go back to 146.5 mil­lion (in­cluding both full-length al­bums and ex­tended plays) or he could gain that 7.5 mil­lion but also gain an­other 7.5 mil­lion due to the way the ex­tended plays were cer­ti­fied back in March 1992. Or there is the pos­si­bility that the RIAA is going to apply the new stan­dards for ex­tended plays / short form al­bums and Elvis would re­gain 6 mil­lion of the 7.5 mil­lion that was removed.

The RIAA web­site has not shown any­thing that would in­di­cate that they are sep­a­rating full-length album sales and short-form / ex­tended play album sales when com­piling the top tally of album sales. In fact, there filter on their web­site still al­lows you to filter be­tween sin­gles or al­bums / EPs com­bined. I be­lieve Elvis is the only one who is se­ri­ously im­pacted by losing ex­tended play sales.

Hi Neal
help un­con­fuse me please.in one re­sponse above you mention,”I am not aware of there being any cri­teria nor any awards for EPs prior to those given Presley’s es­tate in 1992. Since then, they use the same stan­dard as sin­gles: 500,000 for Gold and 1,000,000 for Platinum.”

then within an­other re­sponse you wrote, “The first time I saw EPs ad­dressed at all was for the 1992 awards cer­e­mony for Elvis Presley in 1992. At that time, EPs were cer­ti­fied as you surmised:

250,000 for Gold
500,000 for Platinum
1,000,000 for Multi-Platinum”

are you saying that if Elvis had been cer­ti­fied for a GOLD EP when he was alive a GOLD EP was 250,000? but when he did re­ceive GOLD cer­ti­fi­ca­tions for an EP in March 1992 the cri­teria was 500,000? thank you again, Anthony

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