Early this year I was in Memphis. During my visit I went on the Sun Studio tour. For anyone going to that neck of the woods I would highly recommend the tour – it is brilliant. One of the stories I absoutely loved was about the woman you can see in the picture above. Her name was Marion Keisker and she was personal assistant to the studio owner – Sam Philips.
She was alone in the studio the day that a young Elvis Presley walked in to record a few songs. She asked the boy, “what kind of singer are you?” He said, “I sing all kinds”. She then asked, “Who do you sound like?”. He said, “I don’t sound like nobody”. Usually the studio manager would cut the tracks but on this occasion Marion agreed to do the recording. Elvis sang two songs “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” As you can imagine Marion was impressed with Elvis’s voice and decided to mention the young talent to her boss.
At the time the studio had enough artist and Sam Philips wasn’t interested in Marion’s new find. With much persistence from Marion, Sam finally agreed to let Elvis come back into the study to record another song. This time Sam is impressed and the rest, as they say, is history!
What I love about this story is that Marion took it upon herself to record Elvis even though it was normally her manager that did it. Elvis might never have been discovered if it wasn’t for her confidence. In fact, a few years later Elvis and Marion bumped into each other and Elvis said, “I don’t know wether to kiss you or salute! We would not be having a press conference if it weren’t for this Lady”.
Marion’s story doesn’t end there – she had worked for radio station WREC, after leaving Sun Studio she joined the US Airforce and became a leading voice in the women’s movement. During her time at Sun Studio she increased her role by handling accounts with distributors and pressing plants. All of the aspiring artists who wanted to record for Sun had to speak to Keisker before they were accepted or rejected by Philips. She really was a modern day assistant!