On This Day: Fans Hear Elvis for the First Time on Radio With “That’s All Right” in 1954

If you were around to experience the beginnings of Elvis Mania, you likely remember how absolutely feral fans were over Elvis Presley. And it all started on July 8, 1954 when Elvis released his debut song “That’s All Right” on the radio.

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Obviously, Elvis was making music before that fateful day. However, the debut of his first single marked the first time a large number of people had access to his music via radio. The song was played for the first time on Memphis, Tennessee’s WHBQ radio station.

The Origins of Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right”

“That’s All Right” was recorded just three days before the song debuted on WHBQ. The song was originally an Arthur Crudup song that Elvis and his band, The Blue Moon Boys, decided to experiment with. The improvised cover ended up marking the beginning of a legendary career.

The song was recorded at Sun Studio and featured a more up-tempo rendition of the classic blues tune. It originally wasn’t intended to be recorded, either. But Sun Studio producer Sam Phillips heard the group riffing on it and decided to record it.

Phillips shopped the song around to a few local stations before DJ Dewey Phillips decided to play it on WHBQ’s Red, Hot & Blue segment.

The Beginning of Elvis Mania

After playing the song on WHBQ, the station was flooded with phone calls. The patient zeroes of Elvis Mania called in droves asking to play the song again. The station ended up playing the song over a dozen times that evening.

Eventually, “That’s All Right” was released with the track “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”. It’s since been listed on countless lists of the best songs of all time. And many believe Presley’s rock and roll version of the blues classic to be one of the first rock and roll records ever released.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

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