Elvis JailhouseRock scene DontLeave 3 1500

super rare version of 1957 elvis album found!

WHEN RCA VICTOR STRUCK GOLD with Elvis in 1956, the only medium that mat­tered to the people most likely to buy his records was the 45 rpm single. In the first twelve months after signing Presley in No­vember 1955, the record com­pany re­leased an un­be­liev­able six­teen sin­gles in the United States! These 45 and 78 rpm records sold over 12,000,000 copies, with ap­prox­i­mately 90% of those sales being 45s.

During the same time, RCA re­leased two twelve-inch, 33⅓ rpm LP al­bums, ELVIS PRESLEY (LPM-1254) and ELVIS (LPM-1382). The first one sold 362,000 copies in six weeks, which was a mind-boggling number at the time. The second one was equally suc­cessful. In fact, these may be the two biggest selling rock & roll LPs of the ’50s that weren’t greatest hits com­pi­la­tions. 1

Victor also re­leased nine seven-inch, 45 rpm Elvis EP al­bums. Both of the EP and LP for­mats were un­proven with rock & roll and teenaged record buyers in the mid-’50s. The EP was the newer format and hadn’t caught on with ei­ther teenagers or their par­ents. 

 

Is this the rarest com­mer­cially is­sued Elvis record in the world? There’s no way to know.

 

That changed with Elvis’ EPs in 1956, es­pe­cially when ELVIS, VOLUME 1 (EPA-992) sold a mil­lion copies within weeks of re­lease at the end of the year and kept right on selling through the next ten years! That was a figure that no EP or LP had achieved up to that time in any genre of music. 2

In 1956, Pres­ley’s LP and EP sales com­bined were al­most 3,000,000 in the US. This was also a phe­nom­enal number and their suc­cess hinted that these for­mats could be a vi­able outlet for rock & roll. 3

As Elvis had es­tab­lished the EP as an im­por­tant part of mar­keting his music in 1956, RCA Vic­tor’s plans for 1957 in­cluded more EPs.

 

Elvis EPs EPA 994 600x

Elvis EPA 4041 DontLeave cover f 600x600

Elvis EPA 4054 Peace cover f 600 1

Elvis EPA 1515 1 LovingYou f 600

Elvis EPA 1515 2 LovingYou f 600

Elvis EPA 4108 ChristmasSongs cover f 600 1

The EPs as scheduled

Above are the covers of the first six Elvis EPs of 1957. They were as­signed cat­alog num­bers and sched­uled for re­lease as they were recorded. Here is their sched­uled re­lease by month: 4

EPA-994       Jan­uary
EPA-4041     April
EPA 4054     April
EPA-1-1515   June
EPA-2-1515   June
EPA-4018     Oc­tober

Now let’s look at the same album covers as they were ac­tu­ally re­leased, which did not ex­actly follow their sched­uled re­lease:

 

Elvis EPs EPA 994 600x

Elvis EPA 4054 Peace cover f 600 1

Elvis EPA 1515 1 LovingYou f 600

Elvis EPA 1515 2 LovingYou f 600

Elvis EPA 4041 IsItSoStrange cover f 600 1

Elvis EPA 4108 ChristmasSongs cover f 600 1

The EPs as released

The covers above are in the order in which they were ac­tu­ally re­leased in 1957. This order does not follow the chronology showed by their cat­alog num­bers. Here is their re­lease schedule by month: 5

EPA-994       Jan­uary
EPA 4054     April
EPA-1-1515   June
EPA-2-1515   June
EPA-4041     Au­gust
EPA-4018     Oc­tober

EPA-4041 is out of order: RCA sched­uled it to be re­leased in April but it didn’t find its way into record stores until Au­gust. So it moved from second place to fifth. Aside from the chronology, there is an­other dif­fer­ence: Five of the covers have a border (or title-strip) across the top that lists the ti­tles of the four songs on the album. 6

Ex­cept for EPA-4041.

In­stead of song ti­tles at the top of the cover, it has the al­bum’s title JUST FOR YOU. This is the ver­sion of EPA-4041 that is usu­ally found in most col­lec­tions.

This means that there are two dif­ferent ver­sions of the cover for EPA-4041!

I have known of the dif­fer­ence be­tween this album and the other EPs of 1956-1957 for decades. I have seen many copies of EPA-4041 over that time and every one of them had JUST FOR YOU on the front cover.

Like most col­lec­tors, I never ques­tioned it.

Until now.

 

Elvis EPA 4041 DontLeave cover f 600x600

Elvis EPA 4041 IsItSoStrange cover f 600

The image on the top is the front cover of the jacket of the un­re­leased ver­sion of EPA-4041 with the song ti­tles at the top. The image on the bottom is the front cover of the jacket of the re­leased ver­sion of EPA-4041 with the al­bum’s title at the top.

Two versions of one album

As stated above, there are two dif­ferent ver­sions of the cover for EPA-4041! But the dif­fer­ence is even greater than merely having the song ti­tles of the al­bum’s title at the top: In 2012, a copy of EPA-4041 was found with a jacket with the song ti­tles at the top of the front cover in­stead of the fa­miliar JUST FOR YOU.

This alone made it a sig­nif­i­cant find for Elvis col­lec­tors, but there was a second dif­fer­ence. In­stead of the usual Is It So Strange, it listed Don’t Leave Me Now as the second song on Side 2. But the record was the usual pressing that lists and plays Is It So Strange.

In 2017, a second copy of EPA-4041 with a jacket with the song ti­tles on the front cover was found but this time the record listed and played Don’t Leave Me Now as the second song on Side 2 in­stead of the usual Is It So Strange. Finding this album is a major de­vel­op­ment in the field of col­lecting Elvis, es­pe­cially to long-time col­lec­tors who thought such finds were a thing of the past!

 

Is this rather rare Elvis record worth $1,000 or is it worth $10,000? There’s no way to know.

 

Here are the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two ver­sions of EPA-4041. Be­cause little is known at this time, I refer to the album with Is It So Strange (with the al­bum’s title on the cover) as the re­leased ver­sion and the album with Don’t Leave Me Now (with the song ti­tles on the cover) as the un­re­leased ver­sion:

  The front cover of the re­leased ver­sion has the title of the album at the top. The front cover of the un­re­leased ver­sion has the al­bum’s song ti­tles at the top.

 The back cover of the re­leased ver­sion lists the al­bum’s four songs on the album at the top. The back cover of the un­re­leased ver­sion does not list the al­bum’s songs at all.

•  The record of the re­leased ver­sion lists and plays Is It So Strange as the second song on Side 2. The record of the un­re­leased ver­sion lists and plays Don’t Leave Me Now as the second song on Side 2.

 

Elvis EPA 4041 DontLeave label 2 600

Elvis EPA 4041 IsItSoStrange label 2 600x

The label on the top is the record from the un­re­leased ver­sion of EPA-4041 with Don’t Leave Me Now. It is a Rock­away pressing. The label on the bottom is the record from the un­re­leased ver­sion of EPA-4041 with Is It So Strange. This is a Hol­ly­wood pressing but there were lao press­ings from In­di­anapolis and Rock­away.

What we know

In­for­ma­tion about the un­re­leased ver­sion of the album with Don’t Leave Me Now is min­imal. Here is a list of what we know to be so:

  It ex­ists.

That’s about it. Here is a list of what we do not know:

  We don’t know its story.
  W
e don’t know how many copies RCA man­u­fac­tured.
  We don’t know how many copies RCA dis­trib­uted if any at all.

In re­searching this album, I looked at the ad­ver­tise­ments on Pop­sike for 333 copies of EPA-4041 that have been sold on eBay over the past fif­teen years. I also looked at 282 ads on Grip­sweat. Here is a list of what I found:

  Not one of them was listed with a cover with the song ti­tles on top.
  Not one of them was listed as in­cluding Don’t Leave Me Now in­stead of Is It So Strange.
  Not one of them was listed as being un­usual or un­usu­ally rare.

 

Elvis EPA 4041 DontLeave cover b 600 crop

Elvis EPA 4041 IsItSoStrange cover b 600

The image on the top is the back cover of the jacket of the un­re­leased ver­sion of EPA-4041 with Don’t Leave Me Now; it does not have the song ti­tles at the top. The image on the bottom sais the back cover of the jacket of the re­leased ver­sion of EPA-4041 with Is It So Strange; it does have the song ti­tles at the top.

So, Neal, what is it worth?

Many eBay sellers are nei­ther record col­lec­tors nor record dealers and know next to nothing about the records they ad­ver­tise. They wouldn’t even no­tice the song ti­tles on the cover of a copy of EPA-4041 that they were selling. Many sellers don’t even bother taking photos of the items they ad­ver­tise but lift an image of the record off the in­ternet from someone else’s web­site or eBay ad.

So it is pos­sible that an­other copy of the un­re­leased ver­sion of EPA-4041 has been ad­ver­tised and sold. But we will prob­ably never know. For the listing of the un­re­leased ver­sion of EPA-4041 on his Elvis Records web­site, Paul Combs states:

There are no recorded sales of a com­plete package of this cat­alog number with Don’t Leave Me Now, but based on other odd­i­ties and one-offs, this one by our ac­counts should be in the con­ser­v­a­tive range of $3,500 to $5,000 in value.”

That’s a rea­son­able es­ti­mate, but my predilec­tion when as­signing an es­ti­mated value to an item with so little his­tory is to give a much wider spread. For this, I’d go as low as $2,000 and as high as $10,000 for the jacket with Don’t Leave Me Now and the record with Don’t Leave Me Now in near-mint con­di­tion.

So, I am more con­ser­v­a­tive than Paul on the low end (an ad­jec­tive few who know me would apply to much of any­thing about me) yet more ad­ven­turous on the high end (some­thing few con­sider me to be at this point in my life). 7

 

Elvis 1956 photo DavidHecht 700 bright

During the third week of Jan­uary 1956, RCA Victor sched­uled a pho­to­shoot for their newest recording artist. Ac­cording to RCA Country & Western Pro­mo­tions Man­ager Chick Crumpacker, “RCA had a man on staff named David Hecht who had a studio in Carnegie Hall. It had the northern light that Hecht liked. We did the photo shoot, then went for milk­shakes across the street.” From this shoot came one of the most icono­graphic photos of the rock & roll era (above) that was used on the front cover of the million-selling LP album ELVIS (LPM-1382) and the million-selling EP album ELVIS VOLUME 1 (EPA-992) along with ELVIS VOLUME 2 (EPA-993). Other photos from this shoot were used on STRICTLY ELVIS (EPA-994) and EPA-4041.

Where did it come from?

When RCA’s pressing plant at Rock­away, New York, turned on the ma­chines to press the records with Don’t Leave Me Now, they pressed hun­dreds if not thou­sands of copies. For these, they had an equal number of jackets as­sem­bled. Where are they?

After forty years of in­volve­ment with buying and selling used and col­lec­table records and ob­serving new one-of-a-kind records being un­cov­ered reg­u­larly, my ex­pe­ri­ence would lead me to say this:

Be­cause records are mass-produced, if there is one, there are prob­ably two.

If two, then there are prob­ably twenty.

And if twenty?

Who knows …

 

Elvis JailhouseRock scene DontLeave 3 1000 crop

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is from a scene in the 1957 movie Jail­house Rock where Elvis’s char­acter is preparing to record Don’t Leave Me Now. With him in the studio are Bill Black (up­right bass), D.J. Fontana (drums), Judy Tyler (smiles), Mike Stoller (piano)  and Scotty Moore (guitar).

 

Elvis goldsuit 600

POSTCRIPTUALLY, I want to thank “Tommy” (a fake name for a col­lector who prefers anonymity) for making me aware of this super-duper rare record. He con­tacted me here at A Touch Of Gold in June 2018 after he had pre­vi­ously con­tacted sev­eral other people in the Elvis world (in­cluding Paul at Elvis Records). We dis­cussed this record and its origin and whether or not anyone con­nected with Elvis or RCA Victor could of­fi­cially clue us in on it. I told Tommy:

“I am not aware of anyone re­motely as­so­ci­ated with RCA in the 1950s con­tributing to in­for­ma­tion about Elvis records sixty years on. Un­less RCA doc­u­ments show up some­where, the best we can do when things like this are found is to con­sider the ev­i­dence and make ed­u­cated guesses.”

I am al­ready working on a follow-up ar­ticle about this ver­sion of EPA-4041 I will con­sider the ev­i­dence and make a few ed­u­cated guesses about its origin. That ar­ticle is al­most at the top of my to-do list—it’s just right be­hind my rewriting nine old ar­ti­cles about the Gold Stan­dard Se­ries of 45 rpm records that I promised everyone a few posts ago.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   The biggest selling LP of the ’50s ap­pears to be ELVIS’ CHRISTMAS ALBUM, but most of that ti­tle’s sales were ac­crued in the ’60s.

2   In fact, rock and pop LPs did not con­sis­tently sell over a mil­lion copies until the mid-1960s, and then only by a handful of artists, pri­marily the Bea­tles, Herb Alpert & the Ti­juana Brass, the Mon­kees, and, re­put­edly, The Mamas & The Papas.

3   The March 9, 1957, issue of Bill­board car­ried an ar­ticle ti­tled “RCA ’56 Sales 7% Over 1955″ in which RCA claimed that Elvis sold 12,500,000 sin­gles and 2,750,000 EP and LP al­bums in 1956. Little was known about the in­di­vidual sales fig­ures for the EPs until March 27, 1992, when RCA held a cer­e­mony to an­nounce over one hun­dred RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tions for Pres­ley’s cat­alog. Sev­en­teen EPs were of­fi­cially cer­ti­fied for Gold (250,000 sales) and Plat­inum (500,000 sales) Record Awards for the first time.

4   I did not in­clude the sev­enth EP album of 1957, Jail­house Rock, as RCA Victor made a change in their cover de­sign that is not ger­mane to this ar­ticle.

5   Dates in this ar­ticle were taken from Keith Fly­nn’s web­site Elvis Presley Pages, al­though I double-checked some of them against those in Peter Gu­ral­nick and Ernst Jor­gensen’s Elvis Day By Day – The De­fin­i­tive Record of His Life and Music and Lee Cot­ten’s All Shook Up – Elvis Day-By-Day, 1954-1977.

6   The first fif­teen Elvis EPs is­sued in 1956-1957 had a black or a white border across the top with the al­bum’s song ti­tles. With the re­lease of EPA-4114, JAILHOUSE ROCK, in late 1957, the border was dropped as part of RCA Vic­tor’s pre­ferred look for all sub­se­quent EP al­bums.

7   Well, I am rather straight-laced about the rules for the use of good old-fashioned grammar and punc­tu­a­tion.

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Great ar­ticle! It’s amazing that new in­for­ma­tion about col­lecting Elvis records is still sur­facing at this point.

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Never heard about this until now.

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