© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

People

Elvis Presley (1935-1977) was such a pivotal figure in the history of popular music that, in retrospect, he seems to have been almost destined to emerge when he did. Sun Records honcho Sam Phillips anticipated his coming anyway. In one of the most oft-repeated stories in American musical history, Phillips is reported to have said that he could make a fortune if he could find a white singer who could master the black vocal style.

Elvis was that singer, and the early sides he cut for Sun in 1954 function as a kind of Rosetta Stone for mid-century pop music. He was the point at which black and white, urban and rural styles converged. He debuted with a rockabilly reworking of "That's All Right," a blues song by Big Bill Broonzy that had drawn on Blind Lemon Jefferson's "That Black Snake Moan."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
back to top