ELVIS PRESLEY SUN 45s: SPOTTING THE ORIGINALS
• Hear a sample of all 10 tracks in natural sound from the Original 45s below! •
Record Info & Contract Press pages: Original research, photos of our records, soundfile versions & text ©2017 by select45rpm.
The Elvis 'Sun' set has been bootlegged & repro'd several times as well as the official RCA box set. You need to know what the originals are if you are paying top £££ for them. We had a set some years back & kept the photos below. We could straighten & tidy the pics a bit, but best left raw as any editing of photos would affect the object of showing them as they come.
Firstly, we'll rapidly dismiss some repros. Ones with RCA small text around the label edge are the modern box set ones. Any Elvis Sun with a GLOSSY label is not an original. Any Elvis with "Issued 1973" in the deadwax is a 1973 repro, but the earliest one & it has some value. Any different tracks from Sun sessions, or silly ones like RCA-only tracks are always fantasy issues coming under the general term "reissue". Some odd or early ones do have a collector value.
Similarly, if an Elvis Sun 45 is found in a Picture Sleeve that match the record details, do not automatically dismiss the record itself as a reissue. These early bootleg picture sleeves were bought by collectors in the early 1970s who may have put a genuine Sun 45 in it! Only other comparisons of the vinyl will reveal the truth.
Going by the Hand Etched matrix numbers isn't too helpful either as many repros can do the same easily. What they don't always do is add the "72" in small writing higher up, as in (3 to the power of 2 in maths). Original matrix handwriting will look different to newer, as 1954-55 was still ink and fountain pen days where people wrote slower.
There is also a 2005 repress apparently using the original then 51 year old stamper of "That's All Right" but it is a one sided press to be sensible. It's in a book "Elvis Presley Memphis Recording Service. The Beginning of Elvis Presley. The Birth of Rock & Roll. Volume 1 1953-1954" one for sale on ebay for £52 complete reveals the one sided 45 that is mastered like the original, but we've not seen one to confirm.
The 45s all look subtly different to each other as the photos show. Some are thin vinyl, as Sun 209 and Sun 215 are, some are thicker vinyl like Sun 210 and Sun 217 are. The first 4 play with the typical "SUN HISS" which, as we've explained elsewhere (see our Vinyl Quality page) is because they mastered them wrongly with a Transcription size stylus anyone foolish enough to say they used a 78 stylus of 2.8 thou is dangerously wrong & a 78 stylus will wear the grooves wrongly & it'll sound poor as it rides the groove too high. Only the last one can be played with a normal mono or stereo stylus. Any Elvis Sun, once played with the right stylus (1.5 to 1.8 thou) will sound very different to the RCA transfers, which were EQ'd to sound much fuller, compared to the thinner, more natural Sun masters. The spacing of the grooves section & the runout deadwax are is crucial too. The last one, Sun 223 was pressed in several places across America, you'll likely find it with MSICO & on styrene. But the metal master used was always the same on the first 4 as you only find 1 type, so if yours doesn't look like ours then it's not original. One minor difference is "Good Rockin' Tonight" either credits "Ray Brown" (sic) or "Roy Brown" as the writer.
ARE THEY RARE?
In terms of Elvis, yes. The odds of you finding a real one in the open record market are pretty slim, unless you go to a proper dealer or an established collector is selling up. For Rarity of the Originals, consider some were big hits in the Country market & are rarer than similar size R&B hits simply as the C&W market in 1954-55 was pretty small. The last 2 are still easily found if you have the money as collectors & dealers regularly trade in them. The odds of finding one in the UK in a general music collection bought at the time are zero, but Collectors have been buying them since. Hank Williams in the 1950s had many huge C&W hits with tracks that are familiar to buyers today, but in their initial sales period, they barely touched the Pop Charts. From the Billboard charts, you can see 3 of Hank Williams sold a Million, with eleven No.1 hits, yet only made no 20 his highest rating in the Pop charts, simply as the pop market were buying the Pop versions, of which there were a lot. Most C&W records from 1950 to 1955 you see on 45s never made the charts at all, making the Country Singles Book not as interesting as it could be, as only 10-15 records appeared in the charts per week.
SHALL WE BUY SUN 45s OR 78s?
For most records, the 45 is the most valuable & most wanted. But with Elvis the mystique of anything 1950s Elvis on Sun keeps the 78s prices high. We only bought the 45s as at the time we had a 45s collection & these fitted in well. But the 45s are with the Stylus issue & the fact most are heavily played means they sound quite noisy even playing with the correct size stylus. 78s from the USA are usually extremely worn, or unused shop unsolds, but with Elvis be sure they've had 60 years of being played & not always with a light modern 78rpm player. They'll have been played on the early electric radiograms & jukeboxes, if not the wind-up players perhaps. Our 1932 Pye G/GR gram tracks at 5 ounces! Our 1957 EAR autochanger player tracks at about 15 grammes! But we can track unwarped 78s easily on our Hifi at 2 grammes! We've had Mint looking Blues 78s that were juked to death so the grooves are shattered with gaps between where a loud patch wore out. Elvis 78s will have been more heavily played in their first few years of life than the 45s from the amount of USA 45s & 78s we've had over the years. But if we are talking megabucks to only buy Near Mint barely used copies, as the Good Rocking Tonight auction house in USA turned up in 1998-2000 the prices were going very high. That scene we now see as a bit artificial as the prices of a lot of Big Ticket USA 45s & LPs have nosedived, if buyers still buy, but not at anything like the high prices. A $2000 Swallows 45 is now a $400 item & it makes us wonder about those lofty prices a bit. Back to Elvis, the 78s & 45s were mastered at the same time. A 78 is mastered louder & the 78 EQ is different, as our 1957 EAR Triple Four portable record player (with 4 speakers inside) proves. The 78 is cut louder & bassier so when played on a standard RIAA Phono stage on an amp, the sound is bassier because it's not EQ'd correctly. The EAR player on playing a 78 is bassy on the RIAA setting & more flat sounding on the 78 setting with bass reduced & midrange-treble more open. On playing 78s of the 1950s, the 78 setting we preferred, though as our other pages show, we know Hifi. The big boomy sound of a Jukebox as you hear is a 78 being played with RIAA & it's more fun that way, if less Hifi. Which one you prefer will be your taste. The fact it sounds nicer than a lower mastered 45 is why the Early Bootlegs of R&B & Rockabilly dubbed from a 78, as well as them not understanding the Stylus Size issue, of which we found out ourselves when having these 45s. To buy a NM Sun 45 to us is a better buy than a 78 for the ease of storage & it'll be easier to sell on, The NM Sun 78s will be cheaper but harder to store & the risk of cracked 78s is always there. For Audio needs, the NM 78 will deliver a better sound that can be EQ'd correctly. Which you buy is of your choice & funds. Will people be able to play 78s in 30 years? Yes. Old players will still be around. Will your i-pod bought tracks be any good in 30 years? Doubt it.
ELVIS on SUN: The Chart Positions
Sun 217 with "Baby Let's Play House" made no5 on the C&W Chart & stayed for 15 weeks, making No.5 as Jockey & No.10 as Best Seller. "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" after entering at 'equal No.12' on the 17-21 Sep 1955 "Most Played by Jockeys" Chart (not sales), eventually made a huge FIVE WEEK C&W NUMBER 1 HIT! It also hit the Regional charts. But there's more to that story: it only hit No.1 AFTER the RCA 6357 release in Dec 1955, hitting No.1 in Feb 1956. "Mystery Train" illustrates this, charting at No.11 from Dec 1955. But neither made the Pop Chart & the RCA 6357 record is still fairly hard to find on the first issue.
WHAT ABOUT THE "PUSH" MARKS?
Sadly the whole story of Push marks is a load of amateur guesswork carried on as fact for decades! The 3 marks in a triangular shape are visible on the label area on the first 4 to some degree and can prove authenticity. You can see them in our photos. The last one does not have them as newer machinery was used, explaining the stylus size problem with the first. The 3 marks you see are found on plenty of other early USA records, what they are is A FILLED HOLE on the acetate master the grooves were cut on to. The holes were needed to stop the disc slipping as it was being cut and once the manufacturing process was started, the holes were filled in. Plenty of early USA indie companies with 45s & 78s going back decades before have this feature. UK 78s can show these marks too. The holes were quickly filled leaving an obvious bump or dip, or well filled & smoothed off so they barely show. No warm record off the press would have itself have such heavy marks impressed that don't match either side, yet without warping the record. These "dents" in the label area could be added to repros to confuse, so take other aspects of originality into consideration & that 'Mystery Train' doesn't have any as the pressing manufacture style changed... It's like with Gold Londons, these tired guessed ideas need correcting!
THE PHOTOS BELOW
are exactly as taken. Note the groove to deadwax ratio, the edge of the vinyl. Sun yellow label paper is dull with a deep orangey richness to it. The print is always Brown on the early Suns. Minor label variations exist, ie the catalog number at the bottom or on the right & the Ray Brown error. We've sensibly heavily watermarked these big clear pictures, else shysters could eaily use a raw photo & try to sell you a fake! Enough of the detail shows through to compare yours to.
YOU SAY THEY SOUND VERY DIFFERENT!
We want to hear them!! Well we recorded them raw to CD using the right stylus when were selling them, so we offer short MP3 samples of all 10 tracks below. As with early indie pressed vinyl, the pressing quality can be seriously lacking even on VG+ ones played with the best matched stylus, but if that's how they were made, that's how they are.
Here are 60 Second MP3s in good quality direct from the original 45s pictured below
The records were decent copies as you can hear & see, the 1st was EX & the others around VG+ with only Sun 215 with clicks at the start. They are played with the best size custom stylus to get the best sound. We have just run them thru the de-clicker else it's as they came. All original 45s will have the same sound characteristics if played with a custom stylus, if played with a standard shop-bought stylus they'll sound lousy as explained above.
The most different sounding
are "That's All Right" with a more natural thinner live sound from the Sun 45 & the CD version beefed up & added echo losing the "Sun" sound into 1956 RCA sound. We know which we prefer... "You're A Heartbreaker" sounds muffly on every RCA issue as the Sun 45 wasn't mastered with enough EQ & there is distortion. Most will have never heard it like this and further our quick EQ version shows better resolution and how rough it was mastered! Compare both to the RCA "Sunrise" CD version & see what unnatural sounding processed music they are selling you! The transfers you hear on CD & Vinyl today are still based on the 1955 RCA dubbed copies, but "Restored" by careless people over the decades, especially the digital era, just look at the waveforms on an audio program to see the mess they've made...
The 1955-56 RCA transfers
were carelessly done just to be re-released quickly, adding reverb & EQ-ing up the sound to appear less rural. It appears no Master Tapes exist, maybe they were direct cut to acetate which was used in the mastering process & then those acetates discarded of overplayed & worn out. This is confirmed by the 1957 repress of The Prisonaires "Just Walking in the Rain" on 45. The 1953 original 45 with the moving run out groove was cut with the odd stylus size & sounds wonderful played correctly. But this 1957 reissue with the static run out groove is clearly dubbed, and most likely from a 78. Sun was only a tiny company & many pre 1956 tracks on compilations are dubbed from disc. It needs Near Mint copies finding of 45 or 78 depending which was best mastered & properly transferring via the ELP Laser Turntable to lose stylus size problems to release an ultimate 10 track CD of these beyond-important tracks. They'd sell Millions! Elvis as you've never heard him before!
All the RCA masters were EQ'd up some with echo added, making the fresh Sun sound of 'That's All Right' into an awful mess as heard on a later 1958 UK EP version. The Original masters must have been on Acetate discs as no tapes now exist, or modern reissues would go to those. To harshly "improve" the old 1956 transfers is an awful idea. The other Sun session tracks beyond the 10 Sun issued tracks must have been transferred in 1956 & then the masters lost? It seems a bit unlikely, but where are they? The worst sounding Sun track is 'You're A Heartbreaker' which was mastered from the disc but the Sun 45 was mastered incorrectly without the RIAA EQ, so it sounds thick & muffly on the careless RCA transfers. Hear how it should sound from our MP3 below which we recorded using the correct Stylus size & with the right EQ. It's a fresh sounding track, not that muddy mess that the fools keep fiddling with to lose even more of the 'real Sun Sound'.
Bad Transfers by Amateurs
Other Historical Tracks by Robert Johnson are as poorly treated too: the Columbia reissues even CDs from the 1990s still use the awful limited dubbed versions from the early 1960s. We've had Bessie Smith early UK EP reissues as well as other early Blues artists & the idea then was to use harsh inductance filtering to lose the 78 noise. Only trouble is this makes a mess of the treble & midrange making it "ring" harshly on the vocals & sound awful. But hear a high grade 78 of other artists on the same labels at the same time & beyond the 78 noise, the recordings are actually clear & crisp. 78 mastering is done by amateurs clearly. We have 78s we recorded to CD in 1998 & we recorded them direct, using the right stylus & right EQ. Some late 1920s tracks beyond the 78 surface noise still sound very fresh. By 1929 the sound on a 78 was actually of high quality with treble extended, though most is amid the 78 noise. So why Robert Johnson & Elvis sound so rubbish is because of amateurs thinking to 'remove' is the way. Wrong.
We know how to restore sound, with care not heavy-handed losing the "Real Sound". We've done loads of old Cartoons inc the Disney DVDs of the earliest ones which had sound recorded to a 78 type Transcription "Vitaphone" type disc like WB used. The Disney early DVDs are mostly recorded raw sound & no attempt to clean the sound as they didn't want to spend the money? It is a talent & clearly these amateurs mangle the sound knowing none of the tricks we do. We know Hifi & Sound as well as Hifi design & to get the best sound from a poor source is a fragile balance.
We had Kevan Budd, the guy who made a mess of the 2004 "Sun Sessions" yet other clueless idiots praised his over-restoration & he wanted to buy our high quality 45 transfers, you can hear reasonable MP3 versions below. Bear in mind the huge interest a proper release would make, the sales & all that, the cheeky bugger said this... "as far as payment, as mentioned it will have to come from my own limited funds - nothing unusual there! so may not be of interest just to cover the cost of posting the transfers and making a CDR, therefore at this time i can only offer £20" he never got a reply. We often encounter tight-ass "experts" like him, the bootlegger of those UK 60s 'repro' singles & now the USA R&B, and 'Record Collector' wanting something important for nothing. Pleading poverty too, you think we've not dealt with folks like this before?
Quite worryingly, he says this scary line proving he knows absolutely nothing about how restoring sound should be done! A menace amid "experts" as is often the case! "to minimise both distortion and some noise while trying not to damage the music itself, such as reinserting each of bill blacks bass clicks one by one to ensure the snap was not lost to processing which may otherwise make it sound muted." Processing so harshly it loses the Bass Clicks shows this fool has no idea. What a Menace!
Enjoy our sample of The Real Elvis on Sun!
these are online now...
Original Recordings by Sun Records. Copyright owned by today's owners RCA etc & today's publishers. These actual MP3s sound recording samples are property of select45rpm.