In 1956, when I was in fourth grade, our school had a record sale in the gym. I don’t know why they decided to do that, but it was my first chance to buy my own record. I was nine years old, and I had already heard about Elvis Presley. He had appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, which we watched every week now that we had a television. Usually we gawked at the Chinese plate twirlers and the ballet dancers, but the appearance of Elvis was a big deal. Everyone was talking about his performance.
In 1956, television shows with married couples in them showed them sleeping in twin beds. Any discussion of sex was completely taboo on television. Here came Elvis, apparently writhing his pelvis, and the cameras only showed him above the waist. We had no idea what they were keeping from us, but it certainly got our attention. So when I had a chance to buy a 78rpm record of my own, I chose Elvis.
I actually held on to my copy of “Don’t Be Cruel” for many years. I have no idea how it finally disappeared. Perhaps it was when I gained more musical knowledge and learned that Elvis had “stolen” “race music” and made it palatable to the white listening audience. I don’t think that anyone owns any kind of music, but this was a source of great contention when I was in my 20’s, and perhaps I unloaded the record then.
At any rate, it was my first–but certainly not my last–music purchase. I played that side over and over, driving everyone in my family crazy. And then I turned the disc over and got everyone yelling at each other,”you ain’t nothing but a hound dog!”