Los Angeles – Some of Elvis Presley’s first RCA recordings from nearly 50 years ago, including never-before-heard takes of “All Shook Up” and “Jailhouse Rock,” will be put up for bid on Sunday at an auction of show business memorabilia.
The six unedited reel-to-reel tapes – “pre-master” originals from the private collection of the studio engineer who recorded them, are valued at between $30,000 and $50,000, according to international auction house Bonhams & Butterfields.
Highlights will be played on Saturday for potential bidders at the Bonhams gallery in Los Angeles, marking their first public exhibition, auction spokesman Erik Simon told Reuters.
The more than two hours of audio consist of 57 musical tracks, including multiple takes of songs Presley performed in the studio, as well as casual banter between Presley, members of his band and the engineer, Thorne Nogar.
It was Nogar, working under contract for RCA at Radio Recorders studios in Los Angeles, who ended up in possession of the reels and whose family has put them up for bid through Bonhams & Butterfields.
“We’ve had them for a lot of years, and I think the people should enjoy them,” said Nogar’s son, Stephen, 57, a retired trucker who now resides in Kentucky. “And frankly, we could use the money.”
Because they do not hold the underlying copyright to Presley’s music, Nogar said his family may sell the physical recordings to another party for “personal enjoyment” only. The tapes cannot be copied for commercial gain, he said.
The tapes were made from September 1956 through September 1957 during the singer’s initial sessions at RCA, which had bought out Presley’s contract from Sun Records for $35,000.
Nogar, who died in 1994 at age 72, made a habit of rolling two tapes simultaneously as he recorded Presley so he would have a backup of the sessions in case RCA producers changed their minds about which version of a song they preferred after the master was cut. It was the backup that Nogar kept.
“He called them his ass-saver tapes,” his son said, adding that the quality is noticeably crisper than even a new vinyl record, which is four “generations” removed from sound made in the studio.
“You ought to hear a first-generation tape. It’s so much fresher,” Nogar said. When bidders here the playback on Saturday, he said, “They’re going to find out what a 22-year-old Elvis sounds like.”
The recordings include such early Presley hits as “Jailhouse Rock” and “All Shook Up,” all the material he recorded for his original Christmas album and a batch of religious tunes. Stephen Nogar said his personal favorite is a ballad titled “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.”
The Presley tapes are part of a larger auction being held by Bonhams, which also will include the original suits worn by the Beatles on their first album cover, a guitar owned by rock legend Jimi Hendrix, rare Disney animation celluloids and a collection of more than 300 vintage movie posters.