First Management Contract for Elvis

When Sam signed Elvis with Sun Records it was for three years but Scotty and Bill were not asked to sign contracts. Instead they were instructed to make their own deal with Elvis, which they agreed to as a 50-25-25 split. However this was not put in writing and they received no percentage of the royalties* for the records they played on. Considered a "band" though at the time, they were not even paid for sessions. Their only income would be from performances. This was done within the first week of their initial recording at Sun and it was recognized that Elvis would need a manager.


A reconstructed copy of Scotty's first management contract with Elvis
Photo James V. Roy

Prior to the release of the first record and after the debut of "That's Alright, Mama" by Dewey Phillips at WHBQ, Sam had distributed two-sided acetates of the songs to all the disc jockeys in Memphis which included Bob Neal at WMPS, Dick Stuart at KWEM in West Memphis, and Sleepy Eyed John (Lepley) at WHHM. Since there was a fear that Elvis, unsigned, might be a target for unscrupulous disc jockeys and bookers who might demand a piece of the action in return for playing his records or that he might be pressured or coerced into signing a management contract it was suggested that Scotty become his manager until they found someone they all trusted. Unlike the contract with Sun that was written up by Marion Keisker, Scotty had his lawyer write one up and on July 12, 1954 brought it to Elvis' house to sign. Like the contract with Sun though it required the signatures of Elvis' parents also since he was only 19 years old at the time. Identified as "the band leader," Scotty would in compensation receive ten percent of "all earnings from engagements, appearances, and bookings made by him."

PERSONAL MANAGEMENT CONTRACT ENTERED
INTO BETWEEN W. S. MOORE III AND
ELVIS PRESLEY
____________________________________________

       WHEREAS, W. S. Moore, III, is a band leader and a booking agent, and Elvis Presley, a minor, age 19 years, is a singer of reputation and renown, and possesses bright promises of large success, it is the desire of both parties to enter into this personal management contract for the best interests of both parties.
       This contract is joined in and approved by the Father and Mother of Elvis Presley, Vernon Presley and Mrs. Vernon Presley Presley.
       IT IS AGREED that W. S. Moore, III, will take over the complete management of the professional affairs of the said Elvis Presley, book him professionally for all appearances that can be secured for him, and to promote him, generally, in his professional endeavors. The said W. S. Moore, III, is to receive, as his compensation for his services, ten (10%) percent of all earnings from engagements, appearances, and bookings made by him for Elvis Presley.
        IT IS UNDERSTOOD AND AGREED that this is an exclusive contract and the said Elvis Presley agrees not to sign another contract pertaining to his professional work nor make any appearances at any time for any other person or manager or booking agent, for a period of one (1) year.
        Now we Vernon Presley and Mrs. Vernon Presley, father and mother of Elvis Presley, join in this contract for and in his behalf, confirm and approve all of its terms and his execution of same and our signatures are affixed thereto.
        The said W. S. Moore, III, agrees to give his best efforts to the promotion and success of the said Elvis Presley professionally.
SIGNED AND EXECUTED on this 12th day of July 1954.

By the fall Bob Neal had asked Sam about managing Elvis. Sam though, perhaps undecided, quoted the contract agreement with Scotty that prohibited Elvis from signing any other contract for a period of one year. He did however give Neal permission to do bookings. Scotty though, while still entitled to a percentage, was hoping to get some bookings with large promoters and surprisingly was one of the first to contact Colonel Tom Parker and Jamboree Attractions, through his Chicago office.


Xerox copy (colorized) of Diskin's letter of non-interest - Jan 13, 1955
courtesy Scotty Moore's That's Alright Elvis

The December 29th, 1954 edition of the Memphis Press Scimitar announced that Bob Neal had taken over as manager though he would not do so officially until the first of the year and Scotty relinquished all contractual ties to Elvis. Coincidentally and in spite of the initial fear of deejays, Dick Stuart would become Johnny Cash's manager and would later also be managed by Bob. Tom Diskin, Parker's assistant, eventually replied to Scotty with a non interest letter on January 13, 1955, weeks after Bob Neal assumed duties as Elvis' manager and weeks before they actually began booking the band. The Colonel though had been aware of Elvis through Oscar Davis since the previous October.



reproductions of Scotty's (trimmed) contract, from Elvis First Year album and others aged and colorized

Several reproductions of the first management contract have been produced for promotional purposes over the years, some authorized by Scotty. Others copies turn up from time to time reputed to be the original but Scotty kept it over the years though it was trimmed somewhat, possibly for framing.  When he divorced his third wife, Emily, it disappeared with her. She is said to have given or sold it to her brother-in-law, Billy Sherrill, a friend and former associate of Scotty's. Billy said he framed it and hung it on the wall and it faded to the point of illegibility. Rumors exist, however, that he may have sold it to a private collector but no one seems to know.

page added May 1, 2013
 

*Scotty has said that early on, while Elvis was still living on Alabama Street that Elvis felt troubled that Scotty and Bill were being squeezed out of the picture and suggested they split royalties from the recordings as per their performance agreement of a 50-25-25 split. Scotty told him he believed that Elvis may later resent that. Scotty knew Elvis was getting three percent so suggested as an alternative that Bill and he be given each one quarter of one percent.  He agreed but they never put it in writing. Later, Scotty reminded Bob Neal of Elvis' offer to include him and Bill on the royalties received from record sales, who acknowledged its necessity but then did nothing about it. Scotty, ever trusting, failed to pursue it.

Much of the information presented here is according to Scotty Moore and Jim Dickinson in That's Alright Elvis and Peter Guralnick in Last Train to Memphis

 

All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

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