That sure ain’t Elvis, but it IS the microphone colloquially known as the Elvis Mike – the Shure 55S.
In 1939, Shure, an audio company that started by selling radio parts in the 1920s, introduced the Model 55 “Unidyne” microphone, which quickly become one of the world’s most recognized mikes. That art-deco design was inspired by the front grille of an Oldsmobile car.
In this 1940 Shure catalog it’s already being referred to as famous, and suitable for big band vocalizing. The fact that versions are still being made over 80 years on is a testament to its lasting, iconic style. Also to its practicality. This microphone was rugged, and the way it picked up sounds in front of it while rejecting sounds at the sides and behind made it ideal for situations involving live amplified voices. In addition to Presley, Hank Williams, Billie Holiday, and many other musicians performed in front of an “Elvis mike.”
It was far from Shure’s only microphone as these other far-out art deco models can attest. Shure supplied mikes to the armed forces in World War II, and in the age of high fidelity, probably sold more phonograph cartridges for turntables than anyone else. But this one mike is still the single product everyone has seen in person or in pictures.
That $35 price from 1940 has climbed to $180 today for new models, and vintage versions can double that. There were (and are) more sensitive microphones with more nuanced, delicate sound, but this remains a beloved workhorse. You can be Shure of that.