Marion Keisker made the first ($4) recording of 18 year old Elvis Presley while Sam Phillips was out of the office that day in June or July, 1953. The idea of a woman having this responsibility is quite interesting thinking on how charismatic Elvis must have been that day, yet in need of motherly attention. Marion becomes the first female to be smitten by Elvis and his voice. Marion immediately turned on the one track (mind) machine that day so that Sam could hear Elvis' recording of "My Happiness" later. She wrote "Good Ballad Singer" on the tape and the rest is history - at her hands. Marion also kept the dates on blues recordings at 706 Union that would have been otherwise lost to time. Marion helped create the first all female radio station WHER in Memphis.

Perhaps Marion Keisker lost her head one too many times at Sun Studio but time has granted her a title as Sam's "business partner" somewhat after the fact. She took her screen door with her the day she left Sun which might tell you something of her resolve.

There are no movies on Marion. I would like to correct that someday as I have visited with Marion's energy in that front office at the Memphis Recording Service well over 3,000 times being a tour guide there since July 22nd, 2003.


Marion Keisker's house sits at Tanglewood and Higbee near the Cooper Young neighborhood in Midtown Memphis, it's dark wooden facade somewhat out of place on a street filled with white bungalows.

OFF WITH HER HEAD! One day Marion got a wild hair to redo her bedroom. When she stripped the paint off the south interior wall she paused, noting how the accidental shape resembled a silhouette of Marie Antoinette!

Marion not only left the impression on the wall, she covered it in plexi-glass!
After Marion passed in 1989, her family rented the house but all the renters had to respect the sanctity of Marie Antoinette.

When I first heard this tale by one of Marion's relatives, I had to see this image of Marie Antoinette, an image that Marion would awake to, and the last thing she would ever see. Photographer Dan Ball and I knocked on Marion's door one day in 2004 and a black lady opened up. I asked her if this was Marion's house (it was) and when I asked if I could see Marie Antoinette she smiled and let us in.

I learned that Marion's birthplace (and the house she passed away in) was up for sale in 2005.

I could not buy Marion's house that day nor did I really want to. I just wanted the new buyer to respect Marie Antoinette. On February 22nd, 2006 I talked to H. Gunther who bought Marion's house and immediately stripped the walls without thinking twice about the humble shrine that stood in his way. He had no idea nor did he care. Then he asked me if I wanted to buy the house. I tried not to lose my head.

In 1989 when Marion succumbed to stomach cancer and died at home. I lived right down the street at 2110 Higbee but I didn't know who she was. A lot of people still don't know who Marion Keisker is.

Mike McCarthy

Photos by Dan Ball.