Last Sunday, an Associated Press story appeared in the entertainment sections of many American newspapers. It was titled AUDIO ARCHIVES – Library of Congress picks 50 Recordings To Save For Posterity. There was a list of the 50 selections, which I immediately scanned before reading the article itself. I wanted to see what recordings from the fifties they included. There were three: “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis, “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino, and “That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly and The Crickets.
I love all three of these songs, and still have the original 45’s of each that I purchased as a teenager. However, instead of being happy at their selection for this honor, I was annoyed. Even though I didn’t know what the National Recording Registry was all about, it just seemed like there should be an Elvis song in it. At that point, I figured I’d better read the article.
This quickly revealed that 2006 is the fifth year of these selections, so it figured Elvis certainly had to be in the previous groups. This prompted a visit to the Library of Congress website for a complete look at the whole National Recording Registry thing. The Library of Congress has registered recordings since 2002 that are culturally, historically or aesthetically important. The Librarian of Congress, who makes the selections, certainly thinks it is a big deal. He proudly states, “The National Recording Registry represents a stunning array of the diversity, humanity and creativity of our sound heritage.”
These honored recordings are not limited to just music. Here’s a sample of some non-musical items: FDR’s “Fireside Chats,” “Who’s On First “ by Abbott and Costello, the first official trans-Atlantic telephone conversation in 1927, Martin Luther King’s speech “I Have A Dream, and “Casey At The Bat” by DeWolf Hopper, who recited the poem over 10,000 in performances.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library with 126 million items, including 500,000 LP’s, 450,000 78-RPM discs, 200,000 CD’s and 100,000 cassettes. Now that’s what I call a record collection.
And, yes, Elvis is included in the National Recording Registry. His complete output from the 1954 and 1955 Sun Records recording sessions was honored as a group in the inaugural listing in 2002. So my initial fear that Elvis didn’t receive the recognition he deserved turned out to be unfounded.
Similar recognition to other fifties’ songs has been rather limited. Besides the titles mentioned above, the only other fifties’ songs honored so far are: “Earth Angel” by the Penguins, “Roll Over Beethoven” by Chuck Berry, and “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles. That leaves a lot of great tunes to be honored in future years. It will probably be a long wait, but someday we should see “Heartbreak Hotel added to the National Recording Register. If the Library of Congress ever starts a National Video Register, Elvis doing “Hound Dog” on the Milton Berle Show is a cinch to make the inaugural list.
© 2006 Philip R Arnold www.elvisblog.net