Elvis’s birthday was January 8th, hence the Elvis open thread. I’m quite sentimental about this record — it was the first Elvis album I bought. And I wore the vinyl thin playing it over and over. It’s as fresh today as the first time I heard it.
“That’s All Right [Mama]” was recorded on July 5, 1954. Rolling Stone magazine argued in a 2004 article that Presley’s recording of “That’s All Right” was the first rock-and-roll record.
Sam Phillips gave copies of the record to local disc jockeys Dewey Phillips (no relation) of WHBQ, Uncle Richard of WMPS, and Sleepy Eyed John Lepley of WHHM. On July 7, 1954, Dewey Phillips played “That’s All Right” on his popular radio show “Red, Hot & Blue”. On hearing the news that Dewey was going to play his record, Presley went to the local movie theater to calm his nerves.
Interest in the record was so intense that Dewey reportedly played the record 14 times and received over 40 telephone calls. Presley was persuaded to go to the station for an on-air interview that night. Unaware that the microphone was live at the time, Presley answered Dewey’s questions, including one about which high school he attended: a roundabout way of informing the audience of Presley’s race without actually asking the question.
“That’s All Right” was officially released on July 19, 1954, and sold around 20,000 copies. This number was not enough to chart nationally, but the single reached number four on the local Memphis charts.
In July 2004, exactly 50 years after its first release, the song was finally released as a single in the United Kingdom, and entered the UK Singles Chart at Number 3. It also became a minor hit outside the UK, debuting and peaking at Number 31 in Australia and Number 33 in Ireland.