Elvis Presley's breakout year was 1956, as every Elvis fan knows. However, it wasn't until November of that year, after his first two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, that the stampede began among merchandisers to capitalize on the Presley phenomenon. On November 3, 1956, Variety detailed some of the craziness.
At the time RCA reported that sales of Elvis's "Don't Be Cruel"/"Hound Dog" single had reached 2.6 million copies in the U.S. alone. Over 1.8 million copies of his new single, "Love Me Tender," had already been shipped.
The record company was selling more than Elvis records in 1956, though. That November it started shipments of its Elvis Presley portable record player. The player featured Presley's autograph stamped in gold on the top cover of the simulated blue denim case and could be purchased in two different packages. A four-speed model came with a two-pocket Elvis extended play record for $32.95. The second offer included an automatic 45 r.p.m. player with a three-pocket EP album for $44.95.
Variety also reported several other tidbits of Presleyana on November 3. The Leonet Corporation in New York was granted an exclusive license for the sale of Elvis Presley scarves. Besides a silk-screened image of Elvis, they carried the titles of his hit records. An Elvis letter-writing contest run by station WAIT in Chicago drew a total of 1,099,127 pieces of mail in two weeks. Two teenagers won prizes for delivering 136,600 and 127,825 letters respectively to the station. Finally, although RCA officials denied any connection with its Presley meal ticket, the company started closing its New York 24th Street offices at 5 p.m., thus shortening their employees' workweek by 2½ hours. Record companies with less hit records continued to work until 5:30.