The first thing you hear is an acoustic guitar.
That’s Elvis Presley, fingering an open-position A Major chord and setting the tempo with a solid Carter scratch: boom–chuck–boom-pa-chuck-a. After 4 beats, Bill Black’s slapping upright bass comes in, doubling the guitar’s alternating bass notes. After 4 measures of that, Scotty Moore brings in his electric guitar and Elvis, his vocals drenched in reverb, starts to sing.
“Well, that’s all right, Mama, that’s all right for you. That’s all right, Mama, just any way you do, that’s all right.”
This was not a new song. R&B musician Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup wrote and recorded it in 1946. But at Sam Phillips’ Memphis Recording Service, home of Sun Records at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN, on Monday, July 5, 1954, the old song took on a new sound and popular music would never be the same.
In those days, 1953, 1954, Sam Phillips had often told Marion Keisker, the secretary/receptionist at the recording studio: “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.”
Sam had found his man.
Not to tarnish E’s aura, it’s a shame that the “Negro sound” had to be legitimized by a white singer in order for it to get airplay in the mainstream media. Adding insult to injury, “whitey” gets contracts, houses, cars while the originators of many of these songs lived and died playing the Chitlin’ Circuit, never getting anywhere beyond that.
Of course, now that it doesn’t matter, we get Hip Hop. Sigh….