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Elvis Presley photographed at The Memphis Press-Scimitar offices, July 27, 1954. This photo ran with Elvis's first profile in the newspaper the following day.
Elvis Presley photographed at The Memphis Press-Scimitar offices, July 27, 1954. This photo ran with Elvis's first profile in the newspaper the following day.Jim Reid—Memphis Brooks Museum/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Elvis Presley photographed at The Memphis Press-Scimitar offices, July 27, 1954. This photo ran with Elvis's first profile in the newspaper the following day.
After touring Texas and the south, Elvis returned home to play at the Auditorium North Hall, Feb. 6, 1955, in Memphis. It was between the 3 PM and 8 PM shows that Elvis, his manager Bob Neal and Sam Phillips first met with Col. Tom Parker about representing Elvis.
Photo booth shot taken at the Katz Drug Store in Memphis, late 1954. On September 9, 1954, Elvis performed in front of the store for the opening of the Lamar-Airways shopping center.
On July 31, 1955, Elvis performed on stage at the Fort Homer Armory in Tampa, Fla., exactly one year after he played the Overton Park Shell, his first paid public performance. This shot was used as the cover for Elvis's first album, released in 1956.
Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley Overton Park Shell Aug.5, 1955  Bob Neal promoter, Johnny Cash was the headliner
Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley photographed at The Memphis Press-Scimitar offices, July 27, 1954. This photo ran with Elvis's first prof
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Jim Reid—Memphis Brooks Museum/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty I
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Elvis in the Beginning: 'That's All Right' Lights the Rock 'n' Roll Spark

Jul 05, 2014

Sixty years ago a young, unknown musician and and singer from Tupelo, Miss., named Elvis Presley struck the spark that ignited the rock ’n’ roll revolution and fundamentally altered the direction of popular music and the shape of American culture.

July 19, 1954, saw the official release of Elvis's first commercial record, the single “That’s All Right,” backed with the B-side, "Blue Moon of Kentucky." The tracks, sung by the flamboyantly dressed yet shy 19-year-old, were recorded exactly two weeks earlier at Memphis's famed Sun Studios by owner and producer Sam Phillips—and a full year after Elvis cut his first acetate, as a gift for his mother, at the same location.

The recordings stemmed from a session when Presley—joined by Scotty Moore on guitar and Bill Black on upright bass—in a break from singing ballads, began playing around with a up-beat arrangement of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup’s decade-old blues tune, "That’s All Right" (sometimes referred to as "That's All Right, Mama.") Phillips recorded and pressed Elvis's single, distributing it to local radio stations, where it drew enough reaction to have one station invite Presley in for a live, on-air interview.

Courtesy Elvis Presley Enterprises, IncCourtesy Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc 

Presley’s first record sold around 20,000 copies and brought him regional attention and success—and opened the path for others, including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison to follow him through Sun Studios' doors to fame and fortune.

Presley's utterly new, thrilling and unique sound not only shook up the music world; it blurred social lines and, with its white-boy-sings-the-blues approach, challenged racial barriers of the era. Within two years, Presley had signed to RCA Victor and evolved from a raw local teenage talent to a fully fledged national and international phenomenon. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Here, on the 60th anniversary of the release of his first single, LIFE.com presents a selection of pictures of the young Presley taken between 1953 and 1955—including one that ran with his first profile in his hometown newspaper, the Memphis Press-Scimitar—that show the boy before he became King.

Phil Bicker is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME.

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