29¢ Elvis Presley
Legends of American Music
Issue Date: June 16, 1993
City: Cleveland, OH or Santa Monica, CA
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
In 1956, Elvis Presley exploded on the music scene with his superseller “Heartbreak Hotel”, and popular music was never the same again. Interestingly, the “King of rock ‘n’ roll” began as a country singer in Memphis, Tennessee. Influenced by the Grand Ole Opry and blues music he heard on the radio, Elvis made his first recordings, country backed with rhythm & blues, with Sun Records and began touring as a promising newcomer to the country and western field.
His talent in rhythm & blues, as well as pop music, led to offers by larger recording companies, including RCA Victor, whom Presley signed on with in 1955. “Heartbreak Hotel” was just the first of 45 records that would sell over one million copies each. In fact, he released 14 consecutive million-selling records before being drafted into the Army in 1958.
Following his discharge two years later, Elvis made his movie debut in Love Me Tender. Concentrating on his movie career throughout much of the 60’s, he went on to make 32 additional movies. During the late 60’s he began to moderate his rebellious rock ‘n’ roll style, moving toward more traditional melodies with slower rhythms. Although his audience had aged, it continued to expand until his death in 1977.
Requests for an Elvis Stamp Pour In After His Death
When Elvis died in 1977, fans around the nation immediately wanted a stamp honoring him. After ten years, he was eligible to appear on a US stamp, and requests for it poured in. A decade later, the postmaster general hinted at issuing a stamp to honor Elvis along with other major American music figures. While many people liked the idea of an Elvis stamp, he was also a controversial subject due to his history of drug use. However, after long debate, Elvis was chosen for the first stamp in the new Legends of American Music Series.The big day came on January 8, 1993, which would’ve been Elvis’s 58th birthday. In all, 517 million Elvis stamps were printed, three times the usual print run for a commemorative. The Elvis stamp is the most widely publicized and best-selling US commemorative in history! Is it missing from your collection? Now’s is the perfect time to snatch it up! 😊
The Million Dollar Quartet’s Only Session
Music history was made on December 4, 1956, when Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash met coincidentally at Sun Studios.
One of the greatest musical collaborations of all time happened purely by chance. That December day, Carl Perkins, who’d gained fame for “Blue Suede Shoes,” went to the Memphis studio with his brothers to record some new songs. Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, had invited Jerry Lee Lewis (relatively unknown outside of Memphis at the time) to play piano for Perkins’ session.
Later on, Elvis, just 21 years old at the time, stopped by to visit Phillips. They listened to Perkins’ recording and Elvis eventually went into the studio to jam with Perkins and Lewis. Not long after, Johnny Cash, who had recently had a few country hits, also came to the studio. He later claimed he was the first to arrive because he wanted to watch Perkins perform.
Then history began to unfold. The four men began singing along to a number of gospel songs that they all grew up with, as well as some soul and rockabilly tunes. Recording engineer Jack Clement said to himself that he’d “be remiss not to record this,” and so he did, capturing a collaboration that would never happen again. Phillips knew he was witnessing history and invited a writer from the local newspaper to come to the studio. The next day, the Memphis Press-Scimitar ran an article titled, “Million Dollar Quartet,” accompanied by this famous photo.
Though Phillips had the recording, he never did anything with it. In 1969, Shelby Singleton bought Sun Records and began releasing large portions of the 10,000 hours of miscellaneous tape he discovered there. Finally, in 1981, he released the 17-track Million Dollar Quartet LP, which has been called the “Holy Grail of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” After additional songs were discovered, the album was released again in 1987 as The Complete Million Dollar Session. Including an additional album in 2006, some 47 tracks have been released. Most are incomplete songs – mixed with chatter among the musicians – capturing a moment in time rather than a perfected commercial release.
In 2007, the recording session was adapted into a stage musical that reached Broadway in 2010.
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