10 March 1956, RCA bets everything it has on a young Elvis Presley with a resounding advert

It was 10 March 1956 when RCA Victor announced Elvis Presley as the ‘new singing rage’ with a half-page advert in well-known magazine Billboard.

1956 RCA Records places a half page ad in Billboard - Sound Identity post blog

The RCA team weren’t wrong, it was a resounding advert that instantly added to the hype growing around the young talent. In a career of 24 years, Elvis Aaron Presley, who later earned the nickname The King of Rock and Roll or just The King, released an incredible 61 albums and sold over a billion records all over the world (Person of the Week: Elvis Presley, TIME, 15 August 2002).

It was actually a little earlier that RCA really hit the jackpot: in late November 1955 when Sam Phillips, the talent scout who discovered Elvis and owner of small record company Sun Records, ceded his contract to the record company giant Radio Corporation of America for the then record-breaking sum of approximately $35,000.

Sam Phillips was well aware of what he was letting go, just a few months before signing the singer he had stated “If I could find a white boy who could sing like a black man I’d make a million dollars” (Rock ‘n’ Roll Dances of the 1950s, Lisa Jo Sagolla, 2011, page 18).

It was pure coincidence that he did ever find that “white boy who could sing like a black man”. Elvis Presley actually visited Sun Records to make a cheap recording of a song to give to his mum, it was an old ballad entitled My Happiness. Sam Phillips happened to hear that recording and immediately realised the potential of the voice behind that ingenuous performance. Shortly afterwards, he would be involved in one of the greatest music industry deals of all time.

Whether he allowed Elvis to be stolen or whether he rode the wave for as long as his small record company would allow him, we will never know but great respect goes to RCA who immediately placed everything on their winning horse.

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