Elvis 1956 photo Wertheimer HudsonTheatre 1500 copy

rca victor ads for elvis presley records in 1956

ELVIS PRESLEY OWNED 1956! That year he as­cended the heavens of pop­u­larity to be­come the most talked-about new per­son­ality in the last ten years of recorded music! By the end of the year, he had six #1 records on var­ious charts, sold more than 12,000,000 sin­gles, and was uni­ver­sally known, both de­ri­sively and af­fec­tion­ately, as “Elvis the Pelvis.”

During those months, RCA Victor both pro­moted him through ad­ver­tising and ex­ploited his fame with prod­ucts that also re­quired ad­ver­tising. Below find ex­am­ples of ads that ran in var­ious pub­li­ca­tions; I have di­vided them up be­neath the records that were being pro­moted.

The cat­alog num­bers for the sin­gles below are for the 45 rpm ver­sion of the record; 78s had a “20” prefix with the same 6000 number. Album ti­tles are in all cap­i­tal­ized let­ters.

 

RCA Victor ads: in-store standee announcing Elvis exclusively on RCA Victor Records from late 1955 or early 1956.

RCA Victor ads: back of in-store standee announcing Elvis exclusively on RCA Victor Records from late 1955 or early 1956.

This is a 15 x 20 inch, card­board standee meant to be placed on record store shelves or counter-tops. It has a ‘leg’ af­fixed to the back that folds out so that it can lean back on that leg and stand alone as a dis­play. This may have been man­u­fac­tured by RCA Victor in the first weeks of 1956 or later in March for the re­lease of the first album, but it’s so beau­tiful that I wanted it here as the first image in this ar­ticle.

 

 


RCA Victor 47-6357

I Forgot To Re­member To Forget / Mys­tery Train

 

RCA Victor ads: RCA bulletin announcing I FORGOT TO REMEMBER TO FORGET from 1955.

This is not an RCA Victor ad, but a no­tice from their Sales and pro­mo­tion de­part­ment to whole­salers alerting them to the signing of Elvis Presley and the re­lease of his first record on Victor, 20/47-6357, I Forgot To Re­member To Forget / Mys­tery Train.

Al­though it’s not men­tioned, this was a reissue of two sides that were al­ready in the na­tional C&W Top 10 charts as a Sun Records single. The no­tice states that 4,000 pro­mo­tional copies of the record have been shipped to radio sta­tions across the country.

 

RCA Victor ads: first full-page ad announcing I FORGOT TO REMEMBER TO FORGET from 1955.

This is RCA Vic­tor’s first full-page ad for Elvis and his first Victor record, I Forgot To Re­member To Forget / Mys­tery Train. It ap­peared in the De­cember 3, 1955, issue of Bill­board and may be where they dubbed him “The Most Talked-About New Per­son­ality in the Last 10 Years of Recorded Music.”

 

RCA Victor ads: RCA bulletin announcing reissue of four Sun singles on RCA from 1955.

This Record Bul­letin, dated De­cember 19, 1955, an­nounces the re­lease of Pres­ley’s other four Sun records on RCA Victor. They again refer to Elvis as “The Most Talked-About New Per­son­ality” and note that these four records had “spotty dis­tri­b­u­tion” when orig­i­nally re­leased on Sun Records in 1954-1955.

 

 


RCA Victor 47-6420

Heart­break Hotel / I Was The One

 

RCA Victor ads: half-page ad calling Elvis the "new Singing Rage."

In a half-page ad in the March 10, 1956, issue of Bill­board, RCA Victor an­nounced Elvis as the “New Singing Rage.” At the time, Heart­break Hotel and I Was The One were al­ready hits and the first self-titled EP al­bums (RCA Victor EPA-747 and EPB-1254) and LP album (RCA Victor LPM-1254) were due for im­me­diate re­lease.

 

RCA Victor ads: full-page poster from Elvis thanking Milton Berle from 1956.

RCA Victor ads: back of full-page poster from Elvis thanking Milton Berle from 1956.

A spe­cial 12″ x 18″ double-sided ad/poster from Elvis and Colonel Tom Parker, thanking Milton Berle for having Elvis on his April 3, 1956 show. Elvis per­formed his hit single Heart­break Hotel along with Blue Suede Shoes and Shake, Rattle And Roll. This was a very big step up from Pres­ley’s pre­vious ap­pear­ances on The Dorsey Brothers Show. This poster also pro­moted Pres­ley’s con­certs at the San Diego Arena on April 4-5, 1956.

 

 


RCA Victor LPM-1254

ELVIS PRESLEY

 

RCA Victor ads: full-page RCA poster calling Elvis the "young man with a big beat" from 1956.

Ap­par­ently, this was the first poster that RCA Victor printed for the first LP album, ELVIS PRESLEY (LPM-1254).

 

RCA Victor ads: full-page RCA ad claiming "a red hot star is born" from 1956.

In March 1956, RCA Victor re­leased the long-playing album ELVIS PRESLEY (LPM-1254). Within six weeks, it had sold 360,000 copies, making it the com­pa­ny’s fastest selling pop album to date.  It car­ried a man­u­fac­tur­er’s list price of $3.98, but could usu­ally be found for a dollar less in most stores.

But even $2.98 was a hefty sum for a teenager in the ’50s, when al­lowances were gen­er­ally given in dimes and quar­ters. The top image is the first poster that RCA Victor is­sued for use on store walls, while the bottom image is a print ad. 

 

 


RCA Victor EPA-821

HEARTBREAK HOTEL

 

RCA Victor ads: full-page RCA ad for EPA-821 ELVIS PRESLEY from 1956.

In April, RCA Victor re­leased the third Elvis EP album, HEARTBREAK HOTEL. The ad above uses the photo from the EP and LP al­bums is­sued the pre­vious month, lists all six of Elvis’s sin­gles, and high­lights EPA-821. This ad ap­peared in the July 1956 issue of Hit Pa­rader mag­a­zine.

 

 


RCA Victor 47-6540

I Want You, I Need You, I Love You / My Baby Left Me

 

RCA Victor ads: full-page RCA ad for I WANT YOU, I NEED YOU, I LOVE YOU from 1956.

For the first few weeks of its re­lease, the two sides of this record vied for su­premacy on the charts. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You clearly out­per­formed My Baby Left Me, but the latter reached #18 on the Cash Box Top 100.

 

RCA Victor ads: full-page RCA ad for I WANT YOU, I NEED YOU, I LOVE YOU with big red heart in background from 1956.

In May 1956, RCA Victor re­leased their second Elvis single of newly recorded ma­te­rial, I Want You, I Need You, I Love You / My Baby Left Me. The top image is a banner used for hanging on the walls of record shops, while the bottom image is a mag­a­zine ad.

 

 


RCA Victor 47-6604

Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel 

 

RCA Victor ads: double full-page RCA with "History Making!!" banner from 1956.

In July 1956, RCA Victor re­leased their third new Elvis single, Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel. This is a double-page spread from the Au­gust 18, 1956, issue of Bill­board ac­knowl­edging that the pre­vious single (I Want You, I Need You, I Love You) and the A-side of the new single (Hound Dog) had al­ready sold a mil­lion copies in the US. It also claimed that the new record’s B-side (Don’t Be Cruel) was selling yet an­other mil­lion!

 

RCA Victor ads: double full-page RCA ad listing all fifteen Elvis singles from 1956.

This an­other two-page ad for smaller mag­a­zines alerting readers to the fact that there were fif­teen Victor sin­gles, many of which could also be found on five EP al­bums and one LP album.

 

 


RCA Victor EPA-965

I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine

 

RCA Victor ads: full-page ad from Famous Music Publishing plugging I DON'T CARE IF THE SUN DON'T SHINE from 1956.

This Oc­tober 1956 ad ex­claims that I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine is step­ping out from the pack, on its way to be­coming a hit. The ad was placed by the Fa­mous Music Cor­po­ra­tion, holder of the rights to the song. While they list the cat­alog number for the single, it ac­tu­ally reached #74 on the Bill­board Top 100 as the fea­tured track for the EP album ANY WAY YOU WANT ME (EPA-965).

 

 


RCA Victor 47-6647

Love Me Tender / Any Way You Want Me

 

RCA Victor ads: full-page RCA ad for LOVE ME TENDER from 1956.

In Sep­tember 1956, RCA Victor re­leased their fourth Elvis single of newly recorded ma­te­rial, Love Me Tender / Any Way You Want Me. This banner/poster was used for hanging on the walls of record shops to pro­mote the record.

 

 


RCA Victor EPA-992

ELVIS – VOLUME 1

 

RCA Victor ads: full-page RCA ad for EPA-992 ELVIS for selling over 500,000 in one month from 1956.

In Oc­tober 1956, RCA Victor re­leased ELVIS, VOLUME 1 (EPA-992), which col­lected four tracks from the newly re­leased LP album, ELVIS (LPM-1382). Disc jockeys played the EP and Love Me be­came a mas­sive hit, reaching the Top 10 on the Bill­board Top 100 sin­gles survey! This pushed sales of EPA-992 past the mil­lion mark, the first EP to achieve seven-figure sales.

 

RCA Victor ads: photo of Elvis in his gold suit from 1957.

POSTSCRIPTUALLY: This sam­pling is not de­fin­i­tive, but rep­re­sen­ta­tive of most of the ad­ver­tising that RCA Victor did for their biggest record-seller in ’56. This is the first of sev­eral inter-related ar­ti­cles about the methods em­ployed by Colonel Parker and RCA Victor to pro­mote Elvis in 1956.

 

In 1956, Elvis had six #1 records and sold more than 12,000,000 sin­gles in the US! Click To Tweet

 

RCA Victor ads: photo of Elvis with fans at the Hudson Theater in New York from 1956.

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is Elvis back­stage at the Hudson The­atre in New York in July 1956. He was there to ap­pear on the Steve Allen Show and cut a few sides at RCA’s studio in New York: Hound Dog, Don’t Be Cruel, and Any Way You Want Me were waxed in one ses­sion. Pho­to­graph by Al­fred Wertheimer.

 

 

 

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