The story goes something like this. On 18th July 1953, a young, good-looking truck driver walked into Memphis Recording Service and Sun Records with four dollars in his pocket, looking to cut an acetate (a cheap, self-pressed demo record).
He used the money to record two songs, ‘My Happiness’ and ‘That’s When Your Heartache Begins’, processed the recording, and according to legend, intended to present the acetate to his mother as a present. She never got it, though, and the disc instead went to his friend Ed Leek, who probably said something like, “Thanks, Elvis!”
That recording, which, if you haven’t guessed, was the first-ever recording made by Elvis Presley, was what made Sun owner Sam Phillips’ ears perk up. He hauled Elvis back in to record a few more tracks, signing him to his label in 1954. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now that history-making four-dollar record is the prize item in an upcoming memorabilia auction at Graceland, Presley’s iconic Memphis estate, which was turned into a shrine to the singer following his 1977 death, The New York Times reports.
Graceland’s second Elvis auction will be held on 8th January, which would have been The King’s 80th birthday, with the disc set to fetch a pretty penny. It’s little wonder, as there is only one copy of the acetate in existence, though the performances themselves were included on several RCA compilations.
Graceland has not provided estimates for the items it is planning to sell, but UK mag Record Collector once listed the disc’s value at US$500,000. Another item from Ed Leek’s collection featured in the auction is Presley’s first Sun single, ‘That’s All Right’, on a 78-RPM disc autographed by Presley himself.
Also included in the auction is Presley’s first driver’s license from 1952 (his occupation is listed as student), as well as a signed contract for a 1955 appearance on the Louisiana Hayride radio show.
The Times also notes that while the official story is that the ‘My Happiness’ / ‘That’s When Your Heartache Begins’ disc was intended as a present for Presley’s mother, biographers have suggested other theories as the Presleys did not in fact own a record player.
One theory is that Presley simply wanted to hear how his voice sounded on record, while another is that he hoped to catch the attention of Phillips. If so, Presley did a pretty good job, we must say.