This was Elvis' first single, and it came out of his first recording session. Elvis was a 19-year-old truck driver when he came to Sun Records in Memphis to record a song as a gift for his mother. Sun was owned by Sam Phillips, who his assistant, Marion Keiser, knew was looking for a "white man who sounds like a black man." She alerted her boss to Elvis, and Phillips arranged some sessions with some local session players: bassist Bill Black and guitarist Scotty Moore.
The trio tried a few different songs in various styles, finally hitting the mark when they informally started playing Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's obscure 1946 blues song "That's All Right," in a fast, innovative style. Phillips liked what he heard and had them record the song this way. This uptempo blues variation led some music historians to consider it the first rock song.
Elvis recorded this song at Sam Phillips' studios in Memphis on July 5, 1954. Sam delivered a copy to the local disc jockey Dewey Phillips (no relation) at WHBQ. On July 8, Dewey became the first DJ to play an Elvis song when he gave it a spin on his Red, Hot & Blue show. It got a huge response, so played it several more times and eventually brought Elvis in for an interview.
Dewey Phillips was a pioneering DJ who played a mix of black and white music that attracted a large and diverse following. After he started playing "That's Alright Mama," it quickly caught on in Memphis and went national, setting the stage for Elvis' rapid rise.
Presley told Rolling Stone magazine, "I said if I ever got to the place where I could feel all old Arthur felt, I'd be a music man like nobody ever saw."
This song was only the second time Elvis and lead guitarist Scotty Moore played together. It was also the first song Elvis played in concert: On July 30, 1954, Elvis opened for Slim Whitman in Memphis and performed "That's All Right, Mama," "Blue Moon Of Kentucky," and "I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')."
Bertrand - Paris, France
According to Scotty Moore, this session wasn't so smooth. He says Elvis started jumping around, "acting the fool," which drew the ire of Sam Phillips, who owned the label and recording studio. Phillips made them start over, and it was this second take that was the keeper.
On July 5, 2004, exactly 50 years after Elvis recorded the song, "That's Alright Mama" was re-released. It didn't get much attention in America but made #3 in the UK and also charted in Canada and Australia.