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Nov 12, 2022




The deal that would forever change American popular culture did not happen overnight. 

The seeds were sown months in advance due to the rise of Elvis Presley's success, Colonel Tom Parker's ambition, and Sam Phillips' desperation. 

On August 15, 1955, after much back and forth, Elvis signed a contract naming Colonel Tom Parker as 'special adviser' to Elvis Presley and [then-manager] Bob Neal, "in effect giving authority to Colonel to negotiate on your behalf. 

At the same time, Sam Phillips's diminutive Sun Records was having difficulty meeting demand from its rising star, and bankruptcy seemed imminent. 

In the late summer of '55, a deal somehow it seemed inevitable. The Colonel had his sights set on RCA the entire time. As the only major record company tied to a corporation, RCA was deep in money, and the Colonel had decade-long ties to the label through his RCA artists Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow

Hank Snow and Elvis

But always, as a good cunning That was, Colonel Parker didn't want RCA to take anything for granted and continued to argue with other labels. 

Earlier in the fall, Sam Phillips sat down with Colonel Parker to discuss the details. 

He knew he needed to sell Elvis's contract, but he was still reluctant to do so. The Colonel asked Phillips to state his price, which Phillips did: USD 35,000 plus USD 5,000 for the royalties he owed to Elvis. 

That number may seem small today, especially given what we know of Elvis' later career, but in 1955 it was more than had ever been paid for an artist's contract. 

It was an outrageous figure: the Colonel knew it and Sam Phillips didn't think it wouldn't happen.

 Negotiations progressed until the Colonel received a call from RCA executive W.W. Bullock with a "final" offer of $25,000. The Colonel reportedly received the same offer from Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records. The final agreement was negotiated by the Colonel on November 15 from his office in Madison, Tennessee.

 In the end, RCA agreed, and Sam Phillips got every penny he asked for. On November 21, a summit was convened at the Sun in Memphis to make the historic agreement official: Colonel Parker and his assistant Tom Diskin flew in from Madison, RCA representatives H. Coleman Tily and Steve Sholes flew in from New York, and RCA representatives Sam Esgro and Jim Crudgington also headed to Memphis

Waiting for this contingent were Sam Phillips, Bob Neal, Gladys and Vernon Presley and, of course, Elvis Aron Presley

The headline from Billboard magazine: "DOUBLE DEALS HURL PRESLEY INTO STARDOM" (“Double Negotiation Boosts To Presley To Stardom”). 

This contract meant many things to many people. For Sam Phillips, for whom the decision was the most difficult, it meant financial solvency. His small label was finally back on its feet again, and through the deal, had acquired a reputation that promised to attract talent and the resources to develop and promote that talent. 

The magnificent array of artists who followed Elvis through the Sun's doors is perhaps the best testament to why Phillips was chosen: Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich and others. 

For RCA it was a tremendous gamble. They had just paid an unprecedented amount of money to sign a twenty-year-old (Vernon had to sign the contract because Elvis was still underage at the time) who had NEVER made the charts. 

For Elvis it was a dream come true. The poor kid from Tupelo who had seen movies and imagined himself in them, who had read comics and become their hero, was now at the height of all his ambitions. 

But as much as the ramifications of this document were for Sam Phillips or RCA or even Elvis Presley himself, and their impact it cannot be denied, it is nothing compared to what it meant for the United States and its culture. 

When RCA paid $35,000 for Elvis Presley's contract, sent a message: that the greatest of all record companies believed that a Rock'n'Roll artist could become a star as wide as Frank Sinatra. Before the deal with RCA, Elvis had been marketed as a country artist: he had won country music awards, his records had been top performers on the Country & Western charts, and he toured almost exclusively with country artists, such as Hank Snow Jamboree

But the size of RCA's investment required that Elvis be promoted as a performer for the entire market: Country, Pop and Rhythm'n'Blues. And at least initially, RCA pushed Elvis into all of these markets without trying to alter the sound or instrumentation he used at Sun. Upon first joining Sun Records, Elvis told Marion Keisker, "...I sing about everything." 

It was an artistic fact from the beginning: the union of black and white cultures. And the exposure granted by RCA made it a commercial fact. 

The Rock'n'Roll urge that had secretly manifested itself in the South for years was becoming a market reality for the entire country and post-war youth culture with lots of discretionary income; he now had the buying power to turn this subculture en masse, and Elvis into a star

The rest is history and not just music history. This is your base and foundation. 

Information provided by Elvis Shop Argentina

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