TAKE A STEP BACK IN TIME WITH ME TO JANUARY 19, 1955.  ~  And for my Sheffield High (Sheffield, Alabama) classmates, if you will close your eyes, we will be taken back to the Sheffield Community Center where we first experienced Elvis in his initial Get Acquainted barnstorming tour.  In 1954 Elvis cut his first record "That's Alright Mama" at Sun Records in Memphis.  Sun was the recording studio of Sam Phillips, a native of Florence, in the Shoals area of Alabama.  Today the Shoals consist of four relatively small towns, Sheffield, Tuscumbia, Muscle Shoals, Florence, and the surrounding communities.  That is my hometown area - born in Tuscumbia, grew up in Muscle Shoals and Sheffield.

In 1955 I was a senior at Sheffield High School and in the afternoons I would go with a group of friends to the Sheffield Community Center where the Recreation Director, Creston Porter, would allow us to dance to 45 rpm records.  One afternoon he put a new record on the player, a new demo record sent out by Sun Studios.  It was Elvis' first record - "That's Alright Mama" - and we loved dancing to it.  

I asked about the singer and Creston told me, "His name is Elvis Presley."   I will never forget my reaction to his name.  I thought to myself, "With a name that weird, he will never make it in the singing business."   Yes, in 1955 the name Elvis Presley seemed really weird to me.   Today it sounds as common as John Smith.  But, regardless of his name - we loved his music.  Yes, Bill Gray proved to be a false prophet!

Several weeks later, Elvis with two side-men, Scotty Moore on lead guitar and Bill Black on upright bass, came to the Sheffield Community Center for one night.  And, ALL we kids went wild over his singing and his gyrations.

Why did he come to Sheffield first?  Following the release of that first record, with Sheffield being only about a two and a half hour drive down Alabama Route 72 from Memphis - my hometown was the first stop on Elvis' initial one-night concert tour to introduce him and his music to the people. 

And, it probably was because Sam Philips, who owned Sun Records in Memphis where Elvis was discovered, grew up in Florence, Alabama (the Shoals) and still had strong ties to the Shoals area.

Over the years since his rise to fame and his early death, I have seen and heard a number of Elvis impersonators.  Yet, I have never before heard anyone who truly captured the sound and the vibrant youth of Elvis as a young man.  This 16 year old young man from Canada, David Thibault, does that.  When I first heard Elvis at the Sheffield Community Center he was about 19 years old, so this young man captures that essence of Elvis, young, loving the music he is singing.  Virtually all Elvis impersonators go for the mature Elvis look and sound.  This young man
, David Thibault, is not attempting to be an Elvis impersonator.  He is only singing the music his grandfather taught him to love and which seems to fit his voice very well.

With all that said, let me first offer you the young man from Canada singing"That's Alright Mama." 

David Thibault - "That's Alright Mama"  

Then listen to the young Elvis singing his first recorded song:

Elvis Presley - "That's Alright Mama"

I pray that you enjoyed this trip down memory lane to my 1950s - when I grew up in the beautiful state of Alabama - eating pinto beans, black-eyed peas, fried okra, turnip greens, collard greens, and real cornbread (no sugar allowed!) - and dancing to a mixture of true country music, blues, New Orleans jazz, and big-band sounds.  And experiencing the birth of rock and roll music. 

So, now I will sit down and shut up - and let you close your eyes as you try to figure out who is singing -- Elvis or David Thibault?

God bless, Bill  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Note:  "That's All Right" was written and originally recorded by Arthur Crudup in 1946 as "That's All Right, Mama."

"That's All Right" was the first single released by Elvis Presley, recorded in July 1954, and released on 19 July 1954 with "Blue Moon of Kentucky" as the B-side.  Its catalog number was Sun 209.   The label reads "That's All Right"(omitting 'Mama' from the original title), and names the performers as 
Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black.  Arthur Crudup is also listed on this label, giving him credit for authorship.

Recorded at Sun Studio in 1954 with Elvis Presley providing vocals and rhythm guitar, Scotty Moore on lead guitar, and Bill Black on upright "slap"bass.  It was produced by Sam Phillips in the style of a "live" recording.  The recording contains no drums or additional instruments.  Upon finishing the recording session, according to Scotty Moore, Bill Black remarked, "Damn. Get that on the radio and they'll run us out of town."  (http://lyrics.elvispresley.com.au/lyrics/thats_all_right_mama.html)


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07 Aug 2018

By Bill Gray