ELVIS PRESLEY ON EXTENDED PLAY! Was the all-Elvis record in the untitled SPD-15 collection the first appearance of an Elvis track on an extended-play record? RCA Victor SPD-15 is a set of ten EPs by ten of the company’s country & western artists. Intended for jukeboxes, it remains a mysterious record even sixty years later.
While each record in the SPD-15 set has its own catalog number, none of the records have an individual title. But not printing the title of an EP record on the record’s labels was standard for RCA Victor at the time. Commercial EP albums were issued with a record housed inside a custom cardboard jacket. Each jacket had the album’s title on it.
This article is one in a series about collecting Elvis records from late 1955 and early ’56.
For example, the first commercially released, standard Elvis EP album was EPA-747. Everyone knows this album as ELVIS PRESLEY because that’s what it says on the front cover of the jacket but the record has only the catalog number and the titles of the songs on each side. This applies to every commercially released Presley EP through the final album in that format in 1967, EASY COME, EASY GO.
As for SPD-15, collectors have referred to this set of records simply by its catalog number for decades. Until recently, neither a custom box nor a set of custom sleeves was not known to exist for SPD-15. (Refer to the section “Jukebox Promotion Kit” below.)
The point of this article, then, is to answer the question, “Was this the first EP record released by RCA Victor to feature an Elvis track?”
But first, there is a little background information.
Untitled EP collection
Here is the technical information about this record:
Set catalog number: SPD-15
Record catalog numbers: 599‑9083 through 559‑9092
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1061 through 1080
Format: 7‑inch, 45 rpm records (issued without a box)
Manufactured: January or February 1956
Released: January or February 1956
Here is a listing of the ten records and the tracks on each:
Catalog number: 599‑9083
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1061 and G2WH-1062
Artist: Hank Snow
Side 1: I Don’t Hurt Anymore / Yellow Roses
Side 20: I’m Moving On / The Golden Rocket
Catalog number: 599‑9084
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1063 and G2WH-1064
Artist: Chet Atkins
Side 2: Country Gentleman / San Antonio Rose
Side 19: Downhill Drag / Mister Sandman
Catalog number: 599‑9085
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1065 and G2WH-1066
Artist: Jimmie Rodgers
Side 3: In The Jailhouse Now No. 2 / Peach Picking Time Down In Georgia
Side 18: Mule Skinner Blues / Mother, The Queen Of My Heart
Catalog number: 599‑9086
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1067 and G2WH-1068
Artist: The Sons of the Pioneers
Side 4: The Ballad Of David Crockett / The Three of Us
Side 17: Tumbling Tumbleweeds / Cool Water
Catalog number: 599‑9087
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1069 and G2WH-1070
Artist: Johnnie & Jack
Side 5: I Get So Lonely / Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight
Side 16: No One Dear But You / Poison Love
Catalog number: 599‑9088
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1071 and G2WH-1072
Artist: Porter Wagoner
Side 6: A Satisfied Mind / Company’s Coming
Side 15: Eat, Drink And Be Merry / Let’s Squiggle
Catalog number: 599‑9089
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1073 and G2WH-1074
Artist: Elvis Presley
Side 7: That’s All Right / Baby Let’s Play House
Side 14: I Forgot To Remember To Forget / Mystery Train
Catalog number: 599‑9090
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1075 and G2WH-1076
Artist: Homer & Jethro
Side 8: The Ballad Of David Crew-Cut / Yaller Rose Of Texas, You-All
Side 13: Sifting, Whimpering Sands / The Hound Dog In The Windo
Catalog number: 599‑9091
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1077 and G2WH-1078
Artist: Jim Reeves
Side 9: Yonder Comes A Sucker / I’m Hurting Inside
Side 12: Jimbo Jenkins / I’ve Lived A Lot In My Time
Catalog number: 599‑9092
Matrix numbers: G2WH-1079 and G2WH-1080
Artist: Eddie Arnold
Side 10: The Cattle Call / Just Call Me Lonesome
Side 11: Bouquet of Roses / Anytime
The forty tracks are an interesting and entertaining cross-section of the country music that RCA Victor offered in the mid-’50s. Most are ballads and show no awareness of the rock & roll revolution that was about to take place.
As for the Presley tracks, while I Forgot To Remember To Forget was close to straight country & western, the other three—That’s All Right, Baby Let’s Play House, and Mystery Train—sound like they are from a dimension beyond that which was known to man.
There are important data found in the record’s matrix numbers that tell us a few things about this record, especially the four-character prefix for each number. The prefix for SPD-15 is G2WH.
This company code tells us the following:
1. The first character tells the year that the record was made.
2. The second character tells the RCA imprint it was released under.
3. The third character tells the record’s category.
4. The fourth character tells the size, speed, and groove of the record.
To determine the information below, I used “Matrix Numbers Explained” on Keith Flynn’s Elvis Presley Pages website. (The article “RCA Victor Master Serial Number Codes” on Discogs may be easier to understand although it has less detail.)
The first four characters of the matrix number for SPD-15 tell us the following:
G = 1956
2 = RCA Victor
W = country & western
H = seven-inch, 45 rpm extended play record.
So, the G2WH prefix tells us that the record is a seven-inch phonograph record that plays at 45 rpm. It is an extended play record with at least two tracks per side It was manufactured in 1956 and carried the RCA Victor imprint.
Determining the month when SPD-15 was manufactured or shipped is difficult although it was no sooner than January 1956. Whatever paperwork that RCA Victor had regarding promotional records like this is long gone. Trade publications like Billboard and Cash Box rarely mentioned promotional records unless they were part of a special campaign.
Fortunately, SPD-15 may have been part of such a campaign. A little spelunking on the internet turned up “Victor Readies EP Packs for Jukes” in the December 24, 1955, issue of Billboard (pages 13 and 58):
“RCA Victor is preparing the second edition of what might develop into an annual juke box operator promotion. The company reportedly is putting together five special ‘functional’ units of ten EP disks each, to be offered as a special value in late February or early March.
The disks have been described by the diskery as ‘ideal couplings of top standards.’ and these will be accompanied by a permanent type of title strip, probably of plastic, that will stand up under repeated shifts. The cost of these strips, incidentally, will determine the actual price of the disks, probably to run between 70 and 75 cents per, as opposed to the standard dealer price of 88 cents for a hard-package unit.
The c.&w. pack will feature 10 artists in four numbers each, including the top chart-riding bits by these gleaned from the last two years. Porter Wagoner, for example, will be represented by Satisfied Mind, plus three of his top catalog items. Elvis Presley will be represented by four sides obtained by Victor from Sun Records in its recent Presley acquisition deal.
Each of the five packs will be available separately and, according to a company spokesman, there is no law against dealers buying them also, altho the disks will be boxed without sleeves.”
This Billboard article seems to be addressing SPD-15 as the aforementioned second edition. Since RCA was preparing this edition in mid-December, it’s probably reasonable to assume that they had a shipping date in mind that wasn’t too far away.
So, if this is referring to SPD-15, then it’s likely that SPD-15 was shipped sometime in the first few months of 1956.
Black and gray labels
Collectors have long believed that SPD-15 was manufactured exclusively for jukeboxes and/or radio airplay. But a few fans also believe that these records may have been sold in retail stores. Whatever the case, there are some weird things about this set.
All records were manufactured in RCA’s pressing plant in Indianapolis, Indiana. The records were pressed with both gray labels and with black labels. The typeface and layout of the text on both the black and gray labels are identical.
Most collectors believe that the gray-label records were intended for jukeboxes while the black-label records were either shipped to radio stations or sold to the public. Whichever, gray-label records are far more common than black-label records.
Based on Popsike’s listing, there have been twenty-eight auctions on eBay involving one or more gray-label records in the past seventeen years. During that same period, there was only one auction involving one black-label record.
Jukebox, radio, or home play
The records were manufactured with their sides numbered to be stacked on an automatic turntable. That is, the first record in the set (559‑9083) features side 1 on the top and side 20 on the bottom; the second record (559‑9084) features side 2 and side 19; etc.
Numbering the records this way is referred to as automatic sequencing. As jukebox customers played one side of a record at a time, sequencing the side numbers this way provided no advantage for jukeboxes!
As for radio play, I assume that very few jocks were in the habit of slipping an automatic 45 adapter onto the turntable at their radio station, slipping a stack of records onto the adapter, and letting them play continuously for an hour. So, sequencing the side numbers this way provided no advantage for radio stations either!
Automatic sequencing was done almost exclusively for records made for home use. If the black-label records were intended to be sold in retail shops, it would make sense for this sequencing to have been used. If few people purchased these records, that would explain the rarity of the black-label records.
Records being made available for retail sale are suggested in the article “Victor Readies EP Packs for Jukes” above where it states that “each of the five packs will be available separately and . . . there is no law against dealers buying them also.”
Another relatively recent discovery is the existence of ten custom paper sleeves for SPD-15. Each sleeve has a reproduction of the jukebox title strip for each record with “Sample Records Enclosed” at the top and “Sterling Title Strip” at the bottom. The back side is blank.
There appear to be at least two versions of these sleeves: one is made with old-looking paper that some collectors believe are authentic artifacts from 1956. The other is a recent set of reproductions on paper that is obviously new.
As I am of the “Show me” sub-genre of the human species, I am dubious of the authenticity of both versions.
Each set of ten records for SPD-15 should have included a sheet of ten title strips, one for each record. The individual strips were torn from the sheet and inserted in the window slots at the front of the jukebox so customers could see the selections. For SPD-15, there are two different strips:
• One strip is made of light cardboard and is approximately 3 x 11 inches. It was made by the Sterling Title Strip Company in New Jersey (above) and supposedly came with the gray-label records. Two variations on the Sterling sheets exist, one with the company’s street address at the bottom and another without the address.
• The other strip is made of a plastic-like material and is approximately 3 x 11 inches. It was made by Inkweed Studios in New York (below) and supposedly came with the black-label records. Inkweed Studios was started by Lionel and Joanne Ziprin to produce hand-crafted greeting cards aimed at the Beat Generation. In 1955, Inkweed was purchased by Fred Mann & Company, who did not have the same goals as the Ziprins and might have taken on jobs such as printing jukebox strips to pay the bills.
Why RCA Victor used two printers on the East Coast for one job is not known.
The Avid Record Collector’s price guide
SPD-15 is a very difficult “item” to evaluate on the collector’s market. The set of ten records is rare in any condition! As stated above, there have been only twenty-nine auctions on eBay involving one or a few records and no complete sets of ten in seventeen years! Nonetheless, here are my estimated values:
The Elvis record
Here are the most recent sales for the Elvis record (599‑9089), all with gray labels:
• In 2021, a copy graded VG++ (“record looks unplayed”) sold for $612.
• In 2020, a copy graded between VG+ and VG++ sold for $175.
• In 2019, a copy graded VG+ (“label tear on B‑side”) sold for $100.
Using these examples, the Avid Record Collector suggests a near-mint value of $400–600 for a copy of 599‑9089 with gray labels.
As for a near-mint copy of 599‑9089 with black labels, it would be considerably more.
The non-Elvis records
The non-Elvis records are also difficult to find in near-mint condition. They usually sell in the $20–40 range in VG+ condition.
The sleeves and strips
I have not seen the sleeves or the title strips offered for sale separately so cannot offer a suggested near-mint value for either.
A complete set
A set of the ten records, each in its own custom sleeve, along with the ten title strips all in near-mint condition would be a major event in the world of Elvis collecting. I can’t hazard a guess as to what it might fetch.
Jukebox Promotion Kit
In 2014, a seller on eBay advertised several records from SPD-15 plus a custom box titled “Country & Western Jukebox Promotion Kit.” The authenticity of this box is a joke.
I devote an entire article to this box. To read that article, click here.
Now, to answer the question at the beginning of this article: “Was this the first EP record released by RCA Victor to feature an Elvis track?”
If we assume that SPD-15 was shipped to radio stations prior to EPA-747 being shipped to stores on March 23, 1956, then the answer is Yes.
But we don’t know when SPD-15 was shipped, so the best answer is Maybe.This article about SPD-15 is one in a series about collecting Elvis records from late 1955 and early ’56. Click To Tweet
FEATURED IMAGE: Since the featured image at the top of this page is a record label that already appeared in this article above, I am filling this space with a caricature of Elvis. This cool drawing of Elvis in ’57 was done by the artist known as Santos. I have published eleven collections of Elvis caricatures on this blog; to view the first one, click here.
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.
Finally, thanks to the following for their input to some or all of these articles:
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.)