Their second record on Sun, I Don't Care if the Sun
Don't Shine backed with Good Rockin' Tonight, was released on
September 25, 1954. Given the recent contract with the Louisiana
Hayride and the hopes and promises of further bookings, by the end
of October Elvis, Scotty and Bill decided that it was time to quit their
day jobs and devote themselves full time to their music.
Memphis Business Directory listing for Crown Electric -
courtesy Mike Freeman
Papers of the day would always describe Elvis as a
former "truck driver" before hitting it big, which is really a
bit of a misnomer. One of the jobs he had and the one he was working
when they released their first record was driving a pick up truck for
Crown Electric Company, Inc. James R. Tipler, with his wife Gladys, had
opened their electrical contractor business around 1953, originally at
475 N Dunlap St.1
the site of the former Crown Electric Company at 475 N.
Dunlap St. in Memphis - Sep. 2008
Photo courtesy Google Streeview
Elvis started working there around April of 1954. The
employment agency that sent him to them advised them he was a good boy
in spite of the way he looked and dressed. He would however become well
liked by the Tiplers.2
Utility truck at Crown Electric on Poplar Ave.
Photo courtesy Ana Fernández Sangil, web source
As a driver he didn't need to know too much. All he had to do was
deliver materials to the electricians on the job. With night school, the
opportunity existed for him to study to be an electrician. While there
he also worked with Paul
Burlison, who was almost a master electrician, and Dorsey Burnette, who
was studying to be an apprentice. From them he may have first heard
of Scotty and Bill when, according to Peter Guralnick, they told him about
having played with them one night in a club and younger brother Johnny Burnette was
stabbed in the tailbone. Elvis had known the Burnette brothers since
living in Lauderdale Courts and possibly Johnny Black, Bill's younger
brother, since their mother still lived at the Courts at that time.2
By 1956 Crown Electric had relocated to 353 Poplar
Avenue though that building today no longer stands.2
The original location on N Dunlap is occupied by the Southern Steel
Company. The Burnettes and Burlison, also musicians, went onto
rockabilly fame known as The Rock And Roll Trio, Johnny
Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio, and sometimes simply as The
Johnny Burnette Trio.
Bill Black worked at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Plant in Memphis. The
plant had opened in the late 1930s. Run by Raymond Firestone, the son of company founder Harvey Firestone,
the Memphis plant would eventually cover almost 40 acres and produce 2,500 tires a
Bill's daughter Nancy, though young, remembers him
working there saying, he worked on the assembly line.
She said they lived about four blocks from the plant and you could see
it, the smokestack, from our duplex. She remembers the smells of the rubber being heated for the tires.
Bill's brother Johnny later worked there also.
The plant became the largest tire manufacturer in the company’s entire worldwide
operation and before it closed in 1983 it had become the largest industrial employer in Memphis, with a work force exceeding 3,200.
For several years acres of empty shops and warehouses filled an
entire block off North Thomas Street until the mid-1990s when
the vacant buildings were bulldozed. Only the building with the
smokestack remains but the lot is vacant still.3
Scotty was working at University Park Cleaners, located
in midtown at 613 N McLean Boulevard not far from Overton
Park. It was owned and operated by his brother Carney and his
wife Auzella. At the dry cleaners Scotty was the official hatter which
involved disassembly for cleaning then reassembly and blocking after. In
addition to that he made hats from scratch, all kinds, for women
Scotty got the job right out of the Navy, replacing the
guy that had recently left. He said he got about three hours
training and each morning would make the rounds picking up the day's
work and delivering the previous day's. Scotty used to bring his guitar to work and play during
lunch. Thirteen years old at the time, Wynnette Pugh would often
hang around because her mother worked in the office. Carney, Auzella, and Scotty
would take turns pushing her around in a clothes cart. She would later recall
and say, "Oh, yes. I watched Scotty many times. There was
this old black guy who worked in the back and Scotty would go back there
with his guitar, and this old black man and him would talk back and
forth about guitar licks."4
When he started the Starlite
Wranglers the guys would come by after their day jobs and Carney
would let them use the room upstairs in the back to rehearse where he
worked on the hats. Afterwards, needing to learn songs for
performances after their first record Scotty, Elvis and Bill used the room upstairs to
practice after work, in the early evenings or when they could all get off work
"The day I remember the most was the one when they were coming down the
stairs and Auzella looked up and said, 'My, my, my. Look at the stars,'"
"Elvis was nothing then, but he looked at her with that little smile of
his and he said, ‘Auzella, one of these days I’ll wrap you up in hundred
dollar bills.'” Wynette would grow up to be known as The
first lady of Country Music, Tammy
Though no longer a family business, the dry cleaners is
still there, though it now only occupies the front part of the building.
The back at one time was a bakery but is now vacant and being renovated.
The upstairs where Scotty used to work and the boys used to rehearse
will soon be an apartment.