However, Sam Phillips had difficulty persuading Southern white disc jockeys to play Presley's first recordings. The only placethat played his records at first were in the Negro sections of Chicago and Detroit and in California. However, his music and style began to draw larger and larger audiences as he toured the South in 1955. Soon, demand by white teenagers that their local radio stations play his music overcame much of that resistance and as Rolling Stone magazine wrote years later in Presley's biography: "Overnight, it seemed, "race music," as the music industry had labeled the work of black artists, became a thing of the past, as did the pejorative "hillbilly" music.  Still, throughout 1955 and even well into 1956 when he had become a national phenomenon, Presley had to deal with an entrenched racism of die-hard segregationists and their continued labeling of his sound and style as vulgar "nigger music". Allegations of racism were made against Presley, possibly by those segregationist elements who hated what he was doing. Jet examined the issue and in its August 1, 1957 edition, the African American magazine concluded that: "To Elvis, people are people regardless of race, color or creed."
Country music star Hank Snow arranged to have Presley perform at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry and his performance was well received. Nonetheless, one of the show's executives was not impressed and hinted that Presley should give up his music.
Presley's second single, "Good Rockin' Tonight", with "I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine" on the B-side, was released on September 25, 1954. He then continued to tour the South. On October 16, 1954, he made his first appearance on Louisiana Hayride, a radio broadcast of live country music in Shreveport, Louisiana, and was a hit with the large audience. His releases began to reach the top of the country charts. Following this, Presley was signed to a one-year contract for a weekly performance, during which time he was introduced to Colonel Tom Parker.
National exposure began on January 28, 1956, when Presley, Moore, Black and drummer D.J. Fontana made their first National Television appearance on the Dorsey brothers' Stage Show. It was the first of six appearances on the show and the first of eight performances recorded and broadcast from CBS TV Studio 50 at 1697 Broadway, New York. After the success of their first appearance they were signed to five more in early 1956 (February 4, 11, 18 and March 17 and 24).
Presley and his manager "Colonel" Tom Parker
On August 15, 1955, Presley was signed by "Hank Snow Attractions", a management company jointly owned by singer Hank Snow and "Colonel" Tom Parker. Shortly thereafter, "Colonel" Parker took full control and recognizing the limitations of Sun Studios, negotiated a deal with RCA Victor Records to acquire Presley's Sun contract for $35,000 on November 21, 1955. Presley's first single for RCA "Heartbreak Hotel" quickly sold one million copies and within a year RCA would go on to sell ten million Presley singles.
Elvis Presley at the Mississippi-Alabama State Fair, 1956
Parker was a master promoter who wasted no time in furthering Presley's image, licensing everything from guitars to cookware. Parker's first major coup was to market Presley on television. First, he had Presley booked in six of the Dorsey Shows (CBS). Presley appeared on the show on January 28, 1956, then on February 4, 11 & 18, 1956, with two more appearances on March 17 & 24, 1956. In March, he was able to obtain a lucrative deal with Milton Berle (NBC), for two appearances: The first appearance on April 3, 1956. The second appearance was controversial pertaining to Presley's performance of "Hound Dog" on the June 5, 1956. It sparked a storm over his "gyrations" while singing. The controversy lasted through the rest of the 50's. However, that show drew such huge ratings that Steve Allen (ABC) booked him for one appearance, which took place early on July 1, 1956. That night, Allen had for the first time beaten The Ed Sullivan Show in the Sunday night ratings, prompting Sullivan (CBS) to book Presley for three appearances: September 9, and October 28, 1956 as well as January 6, 1957, for an unprecedented fee of $50,000. On September 9, 1956, at his first of three appearances on the Sullivan show, Presley drew an estimated 82.5% percent of the television audience, calculated at between 55-60 million viewers.
Parker eventually negotiated a multi-picture seven-year contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer that shifted Presley's focus from music to films. Under the terms of his contract, Presley earned a fee for performing plus a percentage of the profits on the films, most of which were huge moneymakers. These were usually musicals based around Presley performances, and marked the beginning of his transition from rebellious rock and roller to all-round family entertainer. Presley was praised by all his directors, including the highly respected Michael Curtiz, as unfailingly polite and extremely hardworking.
Presley began his movie career with Love Me Tender (opened on November 15, 1956). The movies Jailhouse Rock (1957) and King Creole (1958) are regarded as among his best early films.
Parker's success led to Presley expanding the "Colonel's" management contract to an even 50/50 split. Over the years, much has been written about "Colonel" Parker, most of it critical. Marty Lacker, a lifelong friend and a member of the Memphis Mafia, says he thought of Parker as a "hustler and scam artist" who abused Presley's reliance on him. Priscilla Presley admits that "Elvis detested the business side of his career. He would sign a contract without even reading it." This would explain the strong influence the Colonel had on Presley. Nonetheless, Lacker acknowledged that Parker was a master promoter.
Presley and African American music
Even in the 1950s era of blantant racism, Presley would publicly cite his debt to African American music, pointing to artists such as B. B. King, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Jackie Wilson, Ivory Joe Hunter, and Fats Domino. The reporter who conducted Presley's first interview in New York City in 1956 noted that he named blues singers who "obviously meant a lot to him. I was very surprised to hear him talk about the black performers down there and about how he tried to carry on their music." Later that year in Charlotte, North Carolina,