Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
Tupelo, Mississippi's own Elvis Aaron Presley was the first major "crossover" pop star and became one of the most important cultural figures of the 20th century. When Elvis Presley hit turntables on March 23, 1956, rock & roll was changed forever. While it's often called the first rock & roll album ever released, it was not. Rock & roll had its roots in African American culture, the nexus being gospel and blues. The origins of this popular art form took shape as far back as 1750. Methaius Palmer is noted as saying, "The back beat in the Negro jump music causes one's body to rock, but the rhythm in the Negro spiritual causes one's body to roll. This, say I, is the origin of the rock and roll." Black singers and musicians in the 1920s had many scintillating blues and jazz songs that were popular with whites and blacks alike, though they couldn't openly share their appreciation together in public.
During the time that Elvis emerged, Jim Crow was in full effect and race relations were strained in America. Elvis, with his intoxicating mixture of country and blues, gyrating hips and swarthy good looks, made R&B palatable to white Americans. The six-track Elvis Presley was number one on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart for ten astounding weeks. He goldened the covers on the album, which included the Drifters’ "Money Honey" and Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman." These songs were already popular in their own right, but he put the Midas touch on them. After the release of this album, the public had spoken. A "king" of rock & roll was crowned and he was ready to fill those blue suede shoes. Not bad for a kid who couldn't even read music.