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Hail, hail the king of rock 'n' roll

Elvis fired rock's 'opening shot' 50 years ago, and two cities -- Memphis and Shreveport -- are celebrating with concerts and more.

June 13, 2004|Jane Engle | Times Staff Writer

The king of rock 'n' roll is being honored this year with concerts, exhibits and more in two of his kingdoms -- Memphis, Tenn., and Shreveport, La.

In Memphis, where Elvis Presley lived at Graceland, Sun Studio is sponsoring the 50th Anniversary of Rock N' Roll Reunion on July 5, marking the half-century since Presley recorded "That's All Right" at the studio.

Although Presley recorded gospel earlier with Sun, "That's All Right" was the "first real rock 'n' roll song" he did for the studio, according to its president, John Schorr. It wasn't the first-ever recording in that genre; that honor is disputed. "Rocket 88," cut at Sun in 1951 by a band that included Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston, is one candidate.

But in the segregated America of the 1950s, it took a white singer with a sense of salesmanship to market the marriage of blues, country and other styles that was rock 'n' roll, Schorr said. That's why Presley's recording is "widely regarded as the opening shot of the big bang of rock 'n' roll," he said.

Sun Studio is organizing a worldwide broadcast of "That's All Right" by hundreds of radio stations at 9 a.m. PDT on July 5 to honor the anniversary.

It's also sponsoring a free all-day "block party" on July 5, outside its doors at 706 Union Ave., with performers such as Scotty Moore, who played electric guitar on the Presley recording; D.J. Fontana; Billy Swan; and Young Agent Jones. Guided studio tours are $9.50 for adults and free for children under age 12. For details, call (800) 441-6249 or visit

Exhibits of Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia, gold-tinted lighting at Graceland, Elvis Week from Aug. 7 to 16 (with a special concert), tours and hotel packages are among other anniversary festivities this year in Memphis. For details, visit (Click on "destination" on the menu.)

In Shreveport, the Municipal Auditorium plans an Oct. 16 concert, featuring the Jordanaires, James Burton and others, to mark the 50th anniversary of Presley's first performance on "The Louisiana Hayride," where he became a regular.

In the meantime, the auditorium has opened the Stage of Stars Museum, with photos and other memorabilia that tell the history of "The Hayride," the famed radio show that in addition to Presley, hosted country music stars Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and other greats.

Tours of the auditorium, which dates to 1929, are offered; a $2 donation is suggested. For more information on the museum and concert, call the local tourist bureau at (800) 551-8682.

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