New York, NY (February 3, 2004)—The news that an Elvis Presley master tape from the original 1954-55 first demo sessions at Sun Studios in Memphis will be cut up, mounted on plaques and sold online, was revealed last week at a press conference held at Nola Studios in Manhattan. The tape’s owners, Master Tape Collection (MTC) held the press conference last Tuesday, January 27, to announce plans for the tape, which reportedly contains the original recording of the song “That’s All Right,” along with nine others.
At the press conference, Bloomfield, NJ-based MTC played a segment of the tape from a copy they made, revealing rare conversations between Elvis, the late producer and Sun owner Sam Phillips and Elvis guitarist Scotty Moore, as they laid down the tracks. MTC president Michael Esposito explained his decision to cut, certify, number and mount each two-inch segment of the tape onto a plaque, which is being sold online at ElvisMasterTape.com for $495.
In a press release issued by MTC, Esposito stated, “News of the tape’s discovery had traveled throughout the music industry. Once we knew what we had, and given the condition it was in, we realized that the process to preserve it intact would, instead, destroy it. So we set about designing a plaque with a Lucite cover that would preserve a two-inch segment of the tape as an authenticated collectable item. Rather than disintegrate in a museum, it will, hopefully, grace the homes and offices of Elvis devotees around the world.”
According to MTC, the original tape was purchased at a Sheriff’s auction and was part of a number of tapes that were salvaged from an old Tennessee warehouse, where they were stored for several decades. The Elvis tape, which appeared to have suffered some water damage, was wound and stored on a ten-inch reel, on a wooden hub, and kept in a box simply marked “Elvis.” Since the tape was extremely fragile and could only be played once, two digital copies of the tape were made.
Esposito began the process of authenticating the tape and initiated a forensic investigation with the assistance of Phillips (who died last year), producer/engineer Tony Bongiovi, and engineers Jim Czak and Andy VanDette. According to the January 28, 2003, New York Times article on the subject, there may be some doubt as to the authenticity of the tape, and an included quote from an RCA (Elvis’ record label) spokeswoman claimed ownership of the original tape of the recording. While quite likely, it’s not clear whether more than one tape was made of the sessions.
Ten songs were recorded on this original master tape, with the first being, “That’s All Right,” a song credited with launching Elvis’s career. Just one month after Elvis laid down the track on July 5th, 1954, the song to hit the Memphis Country Music Charts at #3. This recording and those that followed in 1954 and 1955 came to be known in the industry as the “Sun Sessions,” for having been recorded on the Sun label. Because of the particularly historical nature of the tape, many believe it should be stored and exhibited as part of rock and roll history.
MTC will use a control process to audit and document each new and resale buyer. Graceland’s Elvis Presley Enterprises granted a license and agreed to allow MTC to embed each plaque and certificate with its prestigious hologram to signify it as an official signature product. At the press conference, Esposito cut a 2-inch segment from the tape reel as a gift to Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises.
Elvis Master Tape