ARTHUR CRUDUP CAME AND WENT, placing five sides from three singles on Billboard’s national R&B chart in 1945-1946. Then the big hits stopped, although RCA Victor kept releasing his records for several years to apparently dwindling returns. His fifteen minutes of fame were over until eight years later when Elvis Presley released his first record.
While Presley’s version of Crudup’s That’s All Right on tiny Sun Records caused a sensation wherever it was played in 1954, it wasn’t played in many places above the Mason-Dixon Line. But in 1956, Elvis took the entire western world by storm—shaking, rattling, and rolling his way to the top of the pop, country, and blues charts.
Elvis’ recordings of Arthur Crudup’s songs generated a fortune in royalties, of which the songwriter saw a tiny portion.
He also recorded two more songs written by Crudup, My Baby Left Me and So Glad You’re Mine. Along with That’s All Right, these three recordings appeared on several Presley singles and albums that sold more than 3,000,000 copies in the US in the ’50s alone!
But of the tens of thousands of dollars—a fortune in the ’50s—these records generated in songwriting and publishing royalties, Crudup saw only a tiny share.
For this gross injustice, many people have spent decades blaming Elvis even though he had nothing to do with it!
Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup recording in RCA’s studio sometime in the 1940s.
Elvis and Arthur Crudup
Arthur Crudup is probably back on some folks’ radar because of the huge success of Baz Luhrman’s movie Elvis. Several scenes in the movie feature a 12-year-old Elvis peeking in on Crudup performing in a tiny juke joint in Mississippi. Unfortunately, this has been followed by a flurry of articles holding Presley responsible for Crudup’s aforementioned financial woes.
To address this, I wrote an article titled “Arthur Crudup Might Just Be Forgotten If Not For Elvis.” My article could just as easily have been published on this blog, Rather Rare Records. But as duplicate content on different locations on the internet is a big no-no with Google, I am instead posting this text along with these few paragraphs from the opening of the Crudup article:
“ELVIS DID NOT ‘STEAL’ ANYTHING and especially not Arthur Crudup’s royalties. For decades, I have read articles that mention Crudup’s being cheated of his royalties, both as a recording artist and as a songwriter, while also mentioning that Presley made millions of dollars as if the two situations are somehow connected. They are not.
Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup established himself as a rising star in the blues field in the mid-1940s. Then his star stopped ascending. Due to what appears to have been a saga of never-ending financial woe, Crudup gave up recording in 1954 and turned to manual labor for an income.
That same year, Elvis Presley released Crudup’s That’s All Right as his first single, and the rest, as they say, is history. But because he was a financially successful white artist, Presley has been ceaselessly linked to, if not blamed, for the financial woes of Crudup, a Black artist.
This article presents something for everybody who likes a few facts to go along with their opinions.”
The article “Arthur Crudup Might Just Be Forgotten If Not For Elvis” is more than 3,000 words long. To read the whole thing, click here.Elvis’ recordings of Arthur Crudup’s songs generated a fortune in royalties, of which the songwriter saw a tiny portion. Click To Tweet
FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page is a photo of Elvis cleverly altered to warp a bandana around his face and add a backdrop that makes him appear to be taking part—or at least be near—a demonstration that caused the police to use some kind of gas. I am using it here to give the impression that a masked Elvis implies a bandito Elvis.