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Lot 55: 1956/57 Correspondence from RCA Record Division to Colonel Parker Regarding (and Including) the Two Different Picture Sleeve Designs for Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" and "Hound Dog"
29 October 2016
Memphis, TN, USALive Auction
Offered is correspondence to Colonel Parker from W.W. (Bill) Bullock on RCA letterhead relating to "Don't Be Cruel" and "Hound Dog." The single "Don't Be Cruel" was released in July 1956 with "Hound Dog" on the reverse. Both songs, recorded in July 1956, were immensely popular with fans: within just a few short weeks "Hound Dog" rose to number two on the Billboard pop charts, being topped by "Don't Be Cruel" reaching number one, where it remained for 11 weeks. The single (RCA 47-6604) sold so many copies that Elvis received five gold records at one time. Elvis performed "Hound Dog" on both The Milton Berle Show and The Steve Allen Show and "Don't Be Cruel" on all of his Ed Sullivan Show appearances. He remained on the charts with these two songs for 55 weeks, the biggest double-sided hit ever.
This incredible collection includes the two RCA letters and both versions of the rare paper sleeves. The first letter, dated August 20, 1956, is addressed to Colonel T. A. Parker at the Hollywood-Knickerbocker Hotel and states, "Starting with this week, we are using the new sleeve. Notice DON'T BE CRUEL is the featured tune." This letter is signed "Bill," as is the second letter dated February 1, 1957, to Colonel Parker, which states, "My closest check, including overseas, EP sales, etc., DON'T BE CRUEL/HOUND DOG appears to be about 4,600,000. We have sold a total of about 7,000 in the last four days. It might make it and then again it might not. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for the type of award and does Elvis have any TV appearances coming up on which the presentation could be made? It seems a crime to make these awards and not get some publicity from it, particularly one that represents such an outstanding job." The post script at the bottom of this 1957 letter says, "I will have to admit that you and Mr. Sharky have nothing in common."
This rare collection of two letters and the two sleeve exemplars that each display different lead titles captures an extraordinary moment in music history. The letters each measure 8 1/2 by 11 inches (21.59 x 27.94 cm), and the sleeves each measure 7 by 7 inches (17.78 x 17.78 cm). They are accompanied by a letter of authenticity from the 1999 Graceland Archives Auction (sold as lot A148) and a letter of authenticity from Graceland Authenticated.
Condition Report: The letters are slightly discolored from age and exhibit horizontal crease marks from folding and minor edge creasing; there is a slight tear on the upper right corner, two punch holes on left and four tiny ink marks on left edge of the 1957 letter, otherwise both are in excellent condition overall. The record sleeves each exhibit wear around the edges with only slight foxing on one and a small tear at the corner upper edge of the other, overall excellent condition.