So, what was Elvis doing January 3, 1956? How about July 16, or August 18, 1956? Those answers and many more are found in the new Elvis Presley five-disc, CD box set, Young Man With The Big Beat: The Complete ’56 Masters.
Elvis Presley’s material has been released in every configuration and way possible and plausible, or so I had thought. This latest set, scheduled for release September 27, concentrates on just 1956. The five hours of music and interviews, plus the accompanying literature, present an exhaustive and complete look at a year in the life of Elvis Presley.
The first disc comprises the first part of the 1956 studio recordings. Included are all the tracks from his debut album, plus non LP singles such as “Heartbreak Hotel” and “I Was The One.” The disc concludes with a number of EP tracks featuring “Blue Suede Shoes,”” My Baby Left Me,” and “Shake, Rattle And Roll.” These songs are some of the most influential in rock ‘n’ roll history and always welcome, but they have been reissued consistently during the past 50 years.
The second disc picks up where the first left off with Elvis’ complete second album. Elvis consistently released singles that were not a part of his studio albums. The biggest hit single of his career, “Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel,” topped the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart for 11 weeks and is included here. One of his other classic singles, “Love Me Tender,” is also found here. Again, the material has been available for decades, and while the sound is crystal clear due to the remastering process, it is more enjoyable than essential.
On the third disc, we are taken into Elvis’ live act during 1956. He performed a hundred or so shows during the year, so who knows what is lurking on some shelf somewhere. The first four tracks are taken from a performance at the Venus Room, Frontier Hotel, Las Vegas, May 6, 1956, and tracks 5-11 was recorded live at Robinson Memorial Auditorium, Little Rock, Arkansas, May 16, 1956. The real gem is the previously unreleased show of December 15, 1956, at the Louisiana Fairgrounds, Shreveport, Louisiana. The ten tracks present an accurate look at his early stage act. The material combines the famous, “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Hound Dog” with the somewhat forgotten, “Paralyzed” and “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again.” The sound is raw and limited by the technology of the day, but that’s the way it was back in 1956. This one is a must for Elvis fans and music historians.
The next disc, the fourth in the set, contains outtakes. It is always difficult to rate outtakes, especially those of Elvis Presley, as many were similar and some were very short. There are four tracks from his first RCA session, January 10-11, 1956, followed by the complete February 3, 1956 sessions, which give an excellent look at one of his early recording sessions. The final track is the complete Warwick Hotel Interview from March 24, which had never been issued by the RCA Label. This disc is for Elvis completists, only but there are a lot of those out there and at 77 minutes, it gives the listener a lot of material.
Disc five contains the Interviews. There are four more interviews, all of which have never been released by the RCA label, including the complete TV Guide Presents Elvis interview. The set finishes with a couple of rare Victrola Radio ads. It is one of the few times over an hour of Elvis interviews has been issued in one place.
The set comes with a variety of goodies, including an 80 page book complete with an assortment of photographs, complete information about each track, a timeline that chronicles what Elvis was doing virtually every day of 1956, five 8X10 photographs suitable for framing, five replica posters, and a replica concert stub.
As with all the recent Elvis reissues, especially the big box sets, the decision to purchase will depend upon your budget and how big a fan you are of “The King.” Young Man With The Big Beat: The Complete ’56 Masters is an interesting concept and one of the better Elvis box sets of the past decade.
Answers to the above questions are as follows. January 3, 1956 found him performing two shows at the Von Theater, Booneville, Mississippi at 6:00pm and 8:00pm to be exact. July 16, he took his parents on a trip to New Orleans. August 18 found him spending $750 at Long Beach Amusement park.
I wonder what he was doing December 30, 1957?