The Resignation in the Memphis Press

In September of 1957 Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ finished their second short tour of the year in Portland. An aborted session in LA soon after where Scotty and Bill had planned to record several instrumentals hoping to supplement their income served as the breaking point in an inequitable arrangement that had been brewing over time. On September 7th they delivered a letter of resignation to Elvis in a desperate attempt to improve their status and economic situation (see here).

After their return to Memphis on or around the 11th, the Memphis press, preoccupied at the time with Elvis and Anita Wood's relationship and the "very expensive" diamond and sapphire ring he had given her in Hollywood that week, in a Press-Scimitar article mentioned that "Col. Tom Parker had driven into Graceland late" on the 10th "but would not reveal his reason for being in town." By the 13th the story had got out and it was first reported by Robert Johnson of the Press-Scimitar, who had followed their career since the beginning. The articles, pertaining to the resignation, as they appeared in both papers commencing on the 13th are as follows:

Memphis Press-Scimitar, Page 1 - Sept. 13, 1957

Two of Elvis' Musicians Quit Him

Claim Not Paid As Promised

Press-Scimitar Staff Writer

Bill Black and Scotty Moore, the musicians who have been with Elvis Presley ever since he started his singing career, have quit.
They sent Elvis a special delivery letter containing their resignations in Hollywood last Saturday.
"I don't believe Scotty and I could raise more than 50 bucks between us," said Black. "I'm still living day to day."
Both men expressed admiration for Elvis and wishes for his continued success, but said he had prospered and they haven't.
"He promised us that the more he made the more we would make," Scotty said. "But it hasn't worked that way."
"Bill and I paid income tax on more than $10,000 the first two years we were with Elvis. Last year it was down to about $7500."
"This year, because of some money we made on the Paramount picture, it'll be close to $10,000, but the studio paid the extra money."

'I Think We Lost'
"I think we actually lost money on the M-G-M picture." He said in the Paramount picture they got $285 a week for three or four weeks, as they qualified for actor's pay.
For working on the M-G-M picture, he said, they got paid musicians scale, about $21 a day, when they worked.
"This is not something that just happened suddenly," Black said. "We've talked about it for a year-and-a-half."
"We've only had one raise in two years, Scotty had to threaten to quit to get that."
Moore said they got a raise of $25 at that time."
"Elvis is the star, and we know it," Moore said.

Expected More
"I didn't expect to get rich on this, and I certainly don't begrudge him any of the success he has had or what it's brought him, but I did expect to do better than I have to make a good living for my family."
Bill Black plays bass, Scotty Moore plays guitar. D.J. Fontana, the drummer, did not resign with them.
Moore said the letter of resig-

Turn to Page 2 'HAD TO'

Memphis Press-Scimitar, Page 2 - Sept. 13, 1957

'Had to Bluff,' They Claim

Elvis' Musicians Say Pay Small

(Continued From Page 1)

nation gave "the customary two weeks notice."
This would put the end at Saturday, Sept. 21.
Elvis has a personal appearance at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair at Tupelo Sept. 27.
Black and Moore said they got $100 a week when they are not on the road, and $200 a week when they are on tour.
"But we've only played 14 personal appearances this year," said Black.
Moore said it costs $50 to $60 a week just to live out of the extra hundred they get when on the road.
"What we get may seem like a good living wage," he said, "but for the position we've been holding and the front expected of you, its not enough.
"We've had to bluff."

Elvis Calls
He said Elvis called him yesterday afternoon and talked with him about his resignation, and he said he told Elvis he would want a raise of $50 a week.
He said he would also need $10,000 cash, to put in the bank, "so I could clean up my debts and have something to show for these four years.
"Elvis wanted a couple of days to think it over."
Black said he has been working in the service department of Ace Appliance Co. to help make ends meet.
Black said Elvis did not call him.
"But I figure we've been more important to him in his work than anyone but Col. Parker.
"He could feel free on the stage with us there behind him. We were always on time, and we never missed a job."

"I've been embarrassed at the way we had to do. We'd be put up in a big hotel, and certain things were expected of us because we were with Elvis. Like picking up a check for coffee, and tipping, and things like that. We'd go out to eat where we could get it cheaper. When you're in Rome you got to do like the Romans."
"We're not jealous of anyone, but we found out other people were laughing at us. even the guys selling souvenir books were making more money than we were."
He said Elvis gave them $1000 each at Christmas.
When Elvis first got together with Scotty and Bill, the three worked as a unit, sharing fees on a basis of double for Elvis as leader, and a share each for Bill and Scotty.
The salary arrangement went into effect when the group was ...????...* Bob Neal, in 1955.
Elvis was unavailable for comment.

Memphis Press-Scimitar, September 13, 1957 courtesy the Memphis Public Library

The Commercial Appeal - Page 21 - Sept. 14, 1957

Anita, Elvis Together Again' Smacking Reunion At Airport

By Neil Sanders
"Oh, Darling!" squealed Elvis' current flame as she hurried prettily down the ramp of the airliner to meet the Memphis rock and roller.
They collided at the bottom of the ramp, and Presley, oblivious of a small audience, wound his long arms around curve-some Anita Wood and gave her a smack calculated to scorch her pretty eyebrows.
Miss Wood, not to be outdone, retaliated.
The blond Hollywood Star Hunt winner arrived at Municipal Airport about 6:45 p.m. She was late. Her plane was scheduled to land about 20 minutes earlier.

Elvis Arrived Early
To the delight of autograph hunters, Elvis slid into the airport parking lot in his newest Cadillac several minutes before Miss Wood's plane arrived. He was kept busy scribbling while waiting.
Miss wood still displayed on the third finger of her right hand, that diamond and sapphire ring Elvis gave her before he left Hollywood Monday night.
She had spent a week in Hollywood preparing for her appearance in AB-PT Pictures' "Girl in the Woods." She will return to the film capital in several weeks.
While faring well with romance, Presley was having trouble with his business affairs. Two musicians who have been with him since he started his singing career four years ago have quit in a pay dispute.
Bill Black and Scotty Moore said they resigned Saturday, effective Sept. 21. Mr. Black plays bass and Mr. Moore the guitar.

Paid Own Road Expenses
They said Presley has been paying $100 a week at home and $200 a week on the road, plus a $1000 Christmas bonus. They paid their own expenses on the road they added.
The musicians claim this in not enough to support their families and "put up the front expected of us."
Asked about the resignations, Presley said he felt someone had "hired them out from under me."
He said he would "miss: the musicians because they had played together so long. But he didn't seem to be worried about replacing them.
"There are plenty of musicians around begging for work," he said.
Presley said the pair had never asked for a raise or complained about anything. He promised he would release an explanation of the resignations today.
Miss Wood, 19-year-old Jackson, Tenn., lovely, was also met at the airport by Mrs. J. R. Patty, an aunt with whom she lives at 2186 Monroe.
Wallace Witmer, Mid-South Fair president, also was at the airport to present Miss Wood a gold pass to the Fair Sept. 20-28.
After she and Elvis posed for photographers, miss wood left with her aunt. Elvis left a couple of minutes later.
But from the gleam in the singer's eye, it was evident they would get together later in the evening for a private reunion.

The Commercial Appeal, September 14, 1957 courtesy the Memphis Public Library

Memphis Press-Scimitar, Second Section Page 9 - Sept. 14, 1957

Elvis Is 'Shocked’ At Musicians Quitting
But He Goes Ahead Auditioning To Get Replacements on Team

A Message to the Musicians
An open message from Elvis Presley to Bill Black and Scotty Moore, the musicians who quit him last week after being with him since before stardom;
"Scotty, I hope you fellows have good luck. I will give you fellows good recommendations. If you had come to me, we would have worked things out. I would have always taken care of you.
"But you went to the papers and tried to make me look bad instead of coming to me so we could work things out. All I can say to you is 'good luck.'"

By BILL E. BURK, Press-Scimitar Staff Writer
Even tho he had been warned that some of his group might quit, Elvis Presley said in Memphis last night that he was “shocked“ when the two registered letters came to him in Hollywood announcing the resignations of Bill Black and Scotty Moore, musicians who had been with him since before his sudden rise to the top began.
"'The news of their quitting me came as a shock," Elvis told this reporter in an interview at his home at Graceland. "It is a mystery to me why they didn’t come to me and ask for more money," he said. "They never did, believe me they didn't."
"We've had our problems before-even some arguments- but we always settled them," he continued. "Every time they ever came to me and asked for something, they got it, no matter what. Had they come to me, we would have worked it out and they would have got more money."
Elvis said he had an idea that some outsiders (he didn't know who) had made offers to the boys. He said he talked with Scotty after receiving the letter of resignation and Scotty admitted to him that he had other offers.
"'They expressed to the paper their respect and admiration for me," Elvis said. "If they had that much, why didn‘t they come to me instead of going to the paper?" Again he repeated that neither of them had ever come to him asking for more money.
In his conversation with Scotty, Elvis said he offered to give him $150 a week while working (representing a $50 a week increase), but that Scotty told him it would take that, plus a sizable sum to get him out of debt.
Elvis said, “Scotty said that I said the more money I made the more he and Black would make. I have a good memory and I don't remember ever telling them that."
Elvis told of the many times he had gone to bat for the boys to get them in his movies. "In our first picture, 20th Century Fox absolutely refused to use them, because they had no place for them."
Paramount didn't want to use the musical group either, Elvis said, but he talked with Hal Wallis, whom Elvis quoted as saying "I need them like I need a hole in my head." "I told Mr. Wallis that I could do a much better job with the boys behind me, that I was used to working with them and he consented against his will," Elvis said.
Elvis told of certain people close to him who have tried to persuade him to drop his musical group during the last two years. He would not name these people, but said he told them he would not because they were good musicians and because of sentimental reasons.
"We started out together," he said, "and I didn't want to cut anyone out of anything. I went out of my way several times to get them into things I was doing."
"Those boys could have had a job with me as long as I was making a dime," Elvis said. They have been doing nothing the last 1 1/2 years but laying around, and I've been paying them $100 each every week. People thought I was crazy for doing this. There are a lot of good musicians around. I could have picked a new group every week, but no, I wanted Scotty and Bill."
Elvis said their resignations came at a crucial time. He plays the Tupelo Fair (which he called "my homecoming"), Sept. 27. He said he just received the date of his next tour, which will be in October at a spot not yet named. And then it‘s back to Hollywood for work on two more films.
Elvis said he would immediately begin auditioning for a new guitar and bass player during the two weeks before the Tupelo Fair. "It might take a while," he said, "but it’s not impossible to find replacements."

* * *

Musician Denies Elvis' Statement

By ELTON WHISENHUNT, Press-Scimitar Staff Writer
Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley's guitar player, said today no one had hired him and bass player Bill Black "out from under Elvis."
Moore also denied the rock 'n` roll king‘s statement that "they never asked me for a raise—if they had they would have got it."
Moore said numerous times in the last 18 months he and Black had asked Presley for more money. They were not requests for salary increases as such, Moore said, but money from the gate receipts on shows they played.

Promise Claimed
Moore said his and Black's requests for a part of gate receipts ...?????...* garded" by Elvis and they never got any extra money.
Moore said, "Col. Parker once told us, 'You've got to be prepared to quit in order to get a raise when you talk to Elvis. Either you will get a raise, or of course, you will be out of a job.' He meant, of course, that it would take the most drastic action possible to get a raise out of Elvis.
Q. You mean you don't believe Elvis' statement that you and Black had never asked him for a raise and if you had you would have got it?
A. No, I don't believe it.
Presley has been paying Moore and Black $100 each when they're not on a tour and $200 a week on the road. In addition, Moore's and Black's hotel and travel expenses were paid but they were not on expense account, Moore said.

Entertains Friends
Elvis entertains his friends lavishly. He usually has several traveling with him. In Hollywood recently he spent $1700 a week to put up several Memphis buddies.
Black and Moore sent Elvis letters of resignation last Saturday. A few days later, Moore said, Elvis called Moore and offered him $150 a week while in Memphis and $250 on the road. Moore said he told Elvis if he could "out of the kindness of his heart give me $10,000 to get out of debt the $50 raise would be fine."
Moore said Elvis wanted to think it over a day or two and he hasn't heard from Elvis yet. He said he doesn't think he will hear from Elvis any more.
Moore said he did not plan to call Presley, either.
"We're both pretty stubborn," Moore said. "I guess he can be stubborn longer because he's got more money.

Memphis Press-Scimitar, September 14, 1957 courtesy the Memphis Public Library

How the press initially found out about the resignation, has never been specified, though Elvis evidently was under the belief that it was from Scotty and Bill.  Whether the stories, as implied by Elvis, had any bearing on Elvis' decision or if it was simply his refusal to pay the money with or without the Colonel's, and other's advice, is anyone's guess now. Day's later, Scotty received a confirmation letter, likely dictated by the Colonel, dated the 18th, signed by Elvis' father Vernon, accepting their resignation.


This is to advise that, pursuant to your notice of September 7, 1957, we are accepting your resignation from our employment effective September 21, 1957, and, accordingly, enclose herewith notice of separation and your final salary check in the amount of $86.25, representing payment in full for all services rendered for us by you prior to September 21, 1957.

courtesy That's Alright, Elvis

In the Commercial Appeal the following day, it was reported that Scotty had been replaced by Nashville A-Teamer, Hank Garland, at least for the imminent commitment in Tupelo.**

The Commercial Appeal, Page 35 - Sept. 19, 1957

Elvis To Appear On TV Tomorrow To Boost Safety


Elvis Presley will make a television appearance at 7:30 tomorrow night on WKNO to lend his support to safety.
The 30-minute appearance of the screen and television star on Channel 10 will highlight the final program of the five part series of the safety Hit Parade Program sponsored by the Memphis Kiwanis club.
Fans of the rock and roll entertainer were advised they'll see Elvis better if watch him on their television screens.
There will be no space for visitors at the TV studios at 268 Jefferson said Eugene T. Avery, Kiwanis publicity chairman, and Hearn W. Tidwell, Kiwanis safety committee chairman.
A police escort will accompany Elvis from his home and return, and cars will not be permitted to stop in the television station area.
Students from Central, East, Humes, Treadwell, White Station, South side, Messick, and Kingsbury High Schools also will appear on the show.
Guests will include Police Traffic Insp. Clifford Legg, Capt. Stuart Dean of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and Lt. W. H. Hathcock, of the sheriff's office. Lt. Forrest O'Kelly, police officer on safety duty with city schools, will be master of ceremonies.
"It is expected that Elvis will have a dramatic impact on all teenagers by lending his wholehearted support to this most important phase of general safety," the Kiwanis officials said.
Guitar players appearing with Presley will be Tony Rossini and Gary McEwen.
The fourth program on Memphis' educational television station tonight will stress "General Safety." Fire Chief John Klinck will be a special guest in a show featuring safety patrols from Peabody and Springdale Schools.

Hot Guitar Player Hired By Presley
Employment of Hank 'Sugarfoot' Garland, a hot guitar player from Nashville, has solved half of Elvis Presley's employment problems, the Memphis rock and roll entertainer said last night.
Two vacancies on the Presley staff occurred Sept. 7, when Scotty Moore, guitarist, and bass player Bill Black resigned, effective Saturday in a dispute over pay.
"The toughest job was finding a good guitar player," Presley explained. He expressed relief that Garland - whose nickname evolved from his record, "Sugarfoot Rag" - can play the way Moore did.
Presley is still looking for a bass player to appear with him Sept. 27 at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show Tupelo, Miss.

The Commercial Appeal, September 19, 1957 courtesy the Memphis Public Library

Though they found two weeks of steady work in Dallas during their time gone, Scotty and Bill only missed the one appearance with Elvis. By the end of October they had resolved their differences and returned to the band, in time for one final tour and one final film (see here) before Elvis went into the Army.

Page added January 9, 2012

*Several lines in the copies of the articles on hand were illegible, hence not transcribed. **Though a Nashville A-Teamer sessionist, prior to this time Hank had never recorded with Elvis nor was otherwise professionally associated with him, Scotty or Bill.

Financial Correspondence between Bill and Tom Diskin

Bill Black's and Tom Diskin's July 1957 correspondence - 1999
Photo courtesy Elvis: The Official Auction Catalogue

According to letters sold by Guernsey's from the Archives of Graceland in auction in 1999, management, at least, was notified of Scotty and Bill's financial issue(s) as early as July of 1957, as evidenced in a handwritten letter by Bill Black to Tom Diskin dated July 25, 1957.  It read:

July 25, 1957

Dear Tom,
Haven't heard a word from you on the money situation you were going to look into after we left. Knowing that you are a man of your word and faithfully devoted to us your complete silence has me worried. What's the lowdown. You realize how important this matter is. This is in the strictest confidence. Thanks

Yours Truly
Bill Black

Tom Diskin responded on the 29th informing Bill that any information he had would have been passed on and noted that he mentioned it "to the people out there" who said they would look into it. He advised Bill that if he has not heard anything about the matter yet, payment is not likely.*

section added July 25, 2013

*according to Item A161 and description featured in Guernsey's Presents at the MGM Grand Items from the Archives of Graceland Elvis: The Official Auction Catalogue

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