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Elvis' First Recording Given New Life by Jack White's Record Company

Fans waited hours in line at Third Man Records in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 18, 2015, for a reissue of Elvis' first recording.
/ Source: NBC News

Nashville, Tenn. — Elvis may have left the building, but the very first record he cut more than 60 years ago is alive and well in Nashville thanks to another rock and roll innovator, Jack White.

A quick history lesson:

In July of 1953, Elvis went to Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, to make a record for his mother. "He paid $4 for a one-off recording,” said Jay McDowell, of Nashville’s Musicians Hall of Fame.

"The studio owner wasn’t even there that day so the secretary ran the machine to cut the record," McDowell said.

Move the needle forward to 2015:

White, a multi-Grammy winner and owner of Third Man Records in Nashville, secretly snagged Elvis’ first record during a Graceland Auction in January.

The ten-inch, 78-rpm disc containing two songs, "My Happiness" on one side and "That’s When Your Heartaches Begin" on the other, set White back $300,000. Now he’d like to share it with fans, in the most authentic form possible.

The labels on the reissue, produced on a typewriter, are identical to those "that happened to be laying around Sun Records in July 1953" and the record has been packaged in a nondescript sleeve that was typical of the era, according to Third Man Records.

"The utmost attention to detail has been paid in order to create an object so close to the historic original as to almost be indistinguishable from one other," a statement on Jack White’s website said.

The record was first digitally transferred at The Country Music Hall of Fame and then pressed into vinyl copies at United Record Pressing in Nashville, Third Man Records’ Ben Blackwell told NBC News. "It’s a whole Nashville experience from one end to the other," Blackwell added.

The goal? To have the copies ready for the public on April 18, which is Record Store Day — when music lovers around the world flock to brick and mortar record stores for special events and to snatch up some vinyl, of course.

Third Man Records didn’t only sell the Elvis reissue on Saturday but also displayed the original record and the Rek-O-Kut direct-to-disc recorder that Elvis cut the record on some six decades earlier. Fans who signed up in advance and were willing to shell out $100 could also record a 10-inch "direct-to-acetate in the same way Elvis recorded his first record."

Hundreds waited hours — some waited days — in line for the Third Man Records Elvis reissue, as well as other vinyl special releases.

When the doors opened a little after 10 a.m., 59 year-old Christina Condor from Cleveland, Ohio, was first in line. She spent the night in a tent. She came with her son for the Elvis reissue, but also because she’s a Jack White fan.

"His music is generation spanning," Condor said. "It’s something I can share with my son, and you can’t say that about too many artists."

Elvis paid $4 to make his first record 62 years ago. Fans on April 18, 2015, paid $20 for a replica. Third Man representatives won’t say how many they made, and they’re not sure if there will be enough left to sell online. Blackwell said that Third Man will produce 7-inch copies of the recording though.

The Elvis original recording reissue "has elicited what's quite-possibly the most interest and excitement of any of our Record Store Day releases ever," a statement on Third Man Record’s website said.

“We'd expect nothing less for the King.”