This Day in Rock Music History - January 4

Elvis recording at Sun Studios
Elvis recording at Sun Studios

1954 - Elvis and the Sun Recordings

On this day in rock music history, Elvis Presley made his second recording as a birthday present for his mom. The legendary event took place at the Memphis Recording Service, a facility owned by Sam Phillips from Sun Records. The actual recording took place nearly six months earlier, but he returned on this day to work on a second acetate, which is a copy of an original recording.

Recording his demo reportedly cost nearly $4 at the time. Interestingly, his family didn't own a record player. The songs includided "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartache Begins" on side one of the record and "I'll Never Stand in Your Way" and "It Wouldn't be the Same Without You" on the second side.

Sun Studios is where Elvis Presley's career began, although rather accidentally. Phillips wasn't too impressed with his first few recordings, but invited him back nonetheless to record some of the songs he knew. He aslo asked some local musicians to join in on the session to audition the young singer. His recording sessions were still unimpressive until he started playing with blues song "That's All Right (Mama)." Philips had found the style and sound that he was hoping for, combining traditionally "black" music with boogie-woogie and country.

Elvis recorded 20 songs at the Sun Studios between 1953 and 1956. The songs he recorded blended several types of music, including gospel, country, western, blues and rockabilly. Recently, these recordings were inducted into the United States Congress National Recording Registry.

Elvis sings "That's Where Your Heartaches Begin" 1953

Fender Guitar
Fender Guitar

1965 - Fender Sells to CBS

The founder of the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company - Leo Fender - sold his guitar company to CBS. During the first half of the 1960s, he worked feverishly on his instruments by creating new designs and better models for players. Some would say he was a workaholic because he would work seven days a week and many times into the late nighttime hours. In 1964, he became exhausted and his health began to decline as a result of his lack of rest and hard work.

Fender sold his company to CBS for $13 million. As part of the deal, he agreed to a "non-compete clause" in which he could not create new musical instruments for a decade after the agreement.

When his agreement was fulfilled, Fender was elected president of a company called Musicman. This company designed and built amps, guitars and other popular instruments. Although it was founded in 1971, Fender declined any active role in the company until his contractual obligations expired.

Today, the Fender design continues to be one of the best-selling and recognizable guitars in the world.

Michael Stipe, lead singer of R.E.M.
Michael Stipe, lead singer of R.E.M.

1960 - Michael Stipe is Born

Michael Stipe, the bald-headed lead singer of R.E.M. was born on this day in rock music history. The alternative rock band initially gained widespread popularity on college radio in 1980 when they released "Radio Free Europe" on their college's local radio station. As a result of their mild success, I.R.S. Records signed them a year later. Their first commercially successful album - Murmur - was released in 1983 and became the first in a series of albums heralded by music critics.

Interesting Facts about Michael Stipe:

He is the godfather of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love's child - Frances Bean Cobain.

Patti Smith has been a great inspiration to his music.

At one time, Stipe was very good friends with Natalie Merchant and even recorded some songs with her.

He has published a collection of writings called "Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith"

He contributed haiku poetry to a published book named "The Haiku Year."

Stipe opened and owned a vegetarian restaurant in Athens, Georgia during the mid-1990s. It closed soon after.

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