In the 1950s, singles were more important sales items in rock and roll than albums, Presley being the sole rock and roll performer of that era who also sold albums in great quantity. This remained the case for most rock artists until 1968, when album sales exceeded singles sales in terms of total units for the first time since the introduction of the long-playing album by Columbia Records in 1948. Shortly after acquiring Presley's contract from Sam Phillips at Sun Records, RCA reissued every one of the five Sun singles on its own label.
Of the singles, 82 appeared on the Billboard Pop Singles chart, with 71 of those making the Top 40, and with 14 topping the chart. In addition, until late 1968 when Billboard discontinued charting b-sides independently, 40 flipsides made the singles chart, with 24 of those reaching the Top 40, and one topping the charts, the b-side of "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog." From 1956 through early 1962, Presley also achieved the unique distinction that, with the exception of the seven records released simultaneously on one day in August of 1956, not only did every one of his first 24 major label singles reach the top five, but each of the b-sides except for three made the Top 40. This discography does not include the myriad singles released posthumously in various markets around the world, except for the two issued within a year after his death and generally considered part of his lifetime official discography by Presley biographers such as Ernst Jorgensen, the producer of his box sets.
The album list categorizes releases into the following subsets: studio albums; soundtracks; live albums; compilations; and budget issues, mostly on the RCA subsidiary label, Camden. Standard compilations sold at regular retail prices, and were often collections of singles or, in the case of A Date with Elvis, For LP Fans Only, and Elvis for Everyone, were product assembled by RCA when Presley was either performing his military service, or concentrating on his film and soundtrack work. Budget issues sold at reduced retail prices, and were of shorter than standard running time. When RCA instituted its compact disc reissue program in the 1990s, it ignored the budget issues, and realized a different series of compilations.
The 1969 double album From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis was reissued one year later, separated into the studio and the concert disks, and appears on the discography in its separated incarnation. The Having Fun With Elvis On Stage album, originally on the Colonel's personal imprint Boxcar Records, is a recording of just Presley's on-stage patter and contains no music at all. It was standard practice for soundtrack albums to be augmented by non-soundtrack studio recordings, if necessary, to bring the running time up to acceptable levels. Of the albums, only the seasonal album Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas and the budget LPs Elvis' Christmas Album from 1970, Pure Gold, and the Pickwick Records issues did not make the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, Presley the leader in most number of charting albums in history. He is second only to The Beatles for most weeks at #1 on the LP chart.
One notable aspect of Presley's recording career is that, unlike most of his contemporaries such as Chuck Berry, Bill Haley & His Comets, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, Presley rarely recorded new versions of any of his songs in a studio setting. A few exceptions exist such as "Blue Suede Shoes" which he recorded in 1956 and again in 1960 for the soundtrack of G.I. Blues, and "Love Letters", a 1966 single Presley later re-recorded for a 1971 album. As such, unlike his contemporaries, Presley's discography lacks any "Greatest Hits" album consisting of re-recordings, although copious live performances of his hits were released during and after his lifetime.
A separate section catalogues posthumous releases, confined mostly to the compact disc era. The number of Presley reissues and repackages since his death are in the hundreds, new ones being configured by RCA as old ones go out of print, and are currently beyond the scope of this discography to tally beyond the historically significant and noteworthy. Total record sales to date: estimated at over 1 billion worldwide.