Some of Elvis Presley's first RCA recordings from nearly 50 years ago, including never-before-heard takes of "All Shook Up" and "Jailhouse Rock," will be put up for bid on Sunday at an auction of show business memorabilia.
The six unedited reel-to-reel tapes -- "pre-master" originals from the private collection of the studio engineer who recorded them, are valued at between $30,000 and $50,000, according to international auction house Bonhams & Butterfields.
Highlights will be played on Saturday for potential bidders at the Bonhams gallery in Los Angeles, marking their first public exhibition, auction spokesman Erik Simon told Reuters.
The more than two hours of audio consist of 57 musical tracks, including multiple takes of songs Presley performed in the studio, as well as casual banter between Presley, members of his band and the engineer, Thorne Nogar.
It was Nogar, working under contract for RCA at Radio Recorders studios in Los Angeles, who ended up in possession of the reels and whose family has put them up for bid through Bonhams & Butterfields.
"We've had them for a lot of years, and I think the people should enjoy them," said Nogar's son, Stephen, 57, a retired trucker who now resides in Kentucky. "And frankly, we could use the money."
Because they do not hold the underlying copyright to Presley's music, Nogar said his family may sell the physical recordings to another party for "personal enjoyment" only. The tapes cannot be copied for commercial gain, he said.
The tapes were made from September 1956 through September 1957 during the singer's initial sessions at RCA, which had bought out Presley's contract from Sun Records for $35,000.
Nogar, who died in 1994 at age 72, made a habit of rolling two tapes simultaneously as he recorded Presley so he would have a backup of the sessions in case RCA producers changed their minds about which version of a song they preferred after the master was cut. It was the backup that Nogar kept.
"He called them his ass-saver tapes," his son said, adding that the quality is noticeably crisper than even a new vinyl record, which is four "generations" removed from sound made in the studio.
"You ought to hear a first-generation tape. It's so much fresher," Nogar said. When bidders here the playback on Saturday, he said, "They're going to find out what a 22-year-old Elvis sounds like."
The recordings include such early Presley hits as "Jailhouse Rock" and "All Shook Up," all the material he recorded for his original Christmas album and a batch of religious tunes. Stephen Nogar said his personal favorite is a ballad titled "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You."
The Presley tapes are part of a larger auction being held by Bonhams, which also will include the original suits worn by the Beatles on their first album cover, a guitar owned by rock legend Jimi Hendrix, rare Disney animation celluloids and a collection of more than 300 vintage movie posters.
From the Bonhams & Butterfields site
A collection of 6 original uncut inches reel to reel tapes of Elvis Presley
This is an absolutely unique and extraordinary find, historically and culturally. Elvis's recording career really began in 1954 at Sun Records in Memphis with the famous producer Sam Phillips. Out of those sessions came "Heartbreak Hotel," "Don't be Cruel, "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Love Me Tender," among others. It was Sam Phillip's vision to create a complete fusion between white country music, and black blues. In Elvis (the Atomic powered singer, as he came to be billed), he had found the perfect instrument to disseminate the new art form. No one had ever seen or heard anyone like him.
The sessions were characterized by an edgy nervous drumming, white session players like Scotty Moore and Bill Black tore out all the stops, and Elvis, when it came to the Arthur Crudup Song "That's All Right", went on full attack, turning it inside out. Phillips knew they had something. Elvis' success caught many old hands unaware. They were dumfounded when Presley occupied the No. 1 singles spot on the charts for 19 weeks in 1956, and then both EPs went to number one. Next, Colonel Parker engineered the buy-out of Elvis' Sun contract by RCA. There was an initial session in New York, and by September 1956, Elvis was recording for RCA at Radio Recorders on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, one of only two studios in LA at that time. The sessions ranged from September 1956, to September 1957, one of the most creative periods in his career. The engineer for all of his Hollywood sessions was the best man on the West Coast, the legendary Thorne Nogar, who happened to be the father of our consignor. These sessions were highly important and 1956 and 1957 were two of the most key years in Elvis' rapid ascent to superstardom.
The way the sessions worked was this. There was no multi-tracking in 1956 and all the recordings are mono. Elvis would sing into a single microphone the signal going directly to the reel to reel tape. Hogar would then cut and splice together the tape and send the finished product to New York for mastering. Once the tapes left Hogar's hands there were no more changes possible, in New York or anyway else. That was the way the record would be released. New York wanted the tapes immediately as they were done, and would often have a record out within a few days. With the sessions barely begun Hogar heard back from New York that they liked the beginning of one take and the end of another. His response "too bad, that's on the cutting room floor." From that moment on, Hogar set up an identical deck and made two simultaneous originals of every take, one to cut together and send to RCA headquarters, and the other for insurance. What we have here are the 'insurance' tapes.
A full set of originals, completely unmolested. Raw footage, with awesome sound quality including conversations and comments between the tracks. Essentially a clean and perfect record of everything that transpired in the studio, between the engineer, the producer, Elvis and the session players. This record exists no where else and, as such this really is an extraordinary find. The tapes are all in original boxes, and contain session labels indicating the date, the personnel, the titles and other identifying information. There are many takes that became hits. There are, over the 6 tapes some 57 tracks, over 2 hours, including the entire "Elvis Christmas Album", with "Blue Christmas", there's "Jailhouse Rock," "Long Tall Sally," "All Shook Up," "Blueberry Hill," "Teddy Bear," "Love Me," and many others, a complete list of the 57 tracks is available on request. These are "Radio Recorders," tape numbers 349-354, and some of these actual tapes are depicted in Jorgensen's "Reconsider Baby: The Definitive Elvis Sessionography," Pierian Press, 1986. To hear a 23-year old Elvis direct to tape in this 1st generation state is amazing. Nevermind the fact that this is a one-only original group of sessions. With this lot is a copy of a letter to the consignor from Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. in which the Director of Entertainment and Music Publishing indicates that the recordings may be sold, but that music rights reside with BMG/RCA. But although they have the rights, without these recordings only the purchaser may enjoy what is on these tapes. A Signed printed photograph is also included "To Barby from Elvis Presely" which Thorne had Elvis sign for his daughter.
A member from the FECC messageboard conracted the auctionhouse for the tracklisting. They replied:-
Blue Christmas, the complete album (10 tracks)
Jail House Rock (Begin fade at 1:50)
Jailhouse Rock (Begin Fade at (2:15)
Treat Me Nice
Don't Leave Me Now
Don't Leave me Now
I Want to be Free
Young and Beautiful (3 tracks)
And then there are copious notes
It is no Secret
Have I told you Lately
Source: Various / Updated: Nov 20, 2004