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Elvis Presley

 from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elvis starred in 33 successful films, made history with his television appearances and specials, and knew great acclaim through his many, often record-breaking, live concert performances on tour and in Las Vegas. 

Globally, he has sold over one billion records, more than any other artist. His American sales have earned him gold, platinum or multi-platinum awards for 150 different albums and singles, far more than any other artist. Among his many awards and accolades were 14 Grammy nominations (3 wins) from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received at age 36, and his being named One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation for 1970 by the United States Jaycees. 

Without any of the special privileges his celebrity status might have afforded him, he honorably served his country in the U.S. Army.

Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 August 16, 1977), also known as The King of Rock and Roll or The King, was an American singer and actor. Early in his career he was referred to as The Hillbilly Cat. Later, his friends referred to him as "E".


Presley is widely regarded as the most influential entertainer in the history of popular music. Rolling Stone magazine said "Elvis Presley is rock 'n' roll" and called his body of work "acres of perfect material." During a career spanning two decades Presley set and broke many sales records with over 100 top 40 hit singles including 18 number ones.

Elvis Presley is widely credited with bringing rock and roll into mainstream culture. According to Rolling Stone magazine "it was Elvis who made rock 'n' roll the international language of pop." A PBS documentary once described Presley as "an American music giant of the 20th century who singlehandedly changed the course of music and culture in the mid-1950s." [1]. His recordings, dance moves, attitude and clothing came to be seen as embodiments of rock and roll. Presley sang both hard driving rockabilly and rock and roll dance songs and ballads, laying a commercial foundation upon which other rock and roll musicians would build. African-American performers like Little Richard and Chuck Berry came to national prominence after Presley's acceptance among mass audiences of white teenagers. Singers like Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and others immediately followed in his wake, leading John Lennon to later observe, "Before Elvis, there was nothing."

Elvis Presley

Teenagers came to Presley's concerts in unprecedented numbers. When he performed at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair in 1956 a hundred National Guardsmen surrounded the stage to control crowds of excited fans. When municipal politicians began denying permits for Presley appearances teens piled into cars and traveled elsewhere to see him perform. It seemed as if the more adults tried to stop it, the more teenagers across North America insisted on having what they wanted. When adult programmers announced they would not play Presley's music on their radio stations (some because God told them it was sexually suggestive Devil music, others saying it was southern "nigger" music) the economic power of that generation became evident when they tuned in any radio station playing Elvis records. In an industry already shifting to all-music formats in reaction to television, profit-conscious radio station owners learned hard lessons when sponsors bought advertising time on new rock and roll stations reaching enormous markets at night with clear channel signals from AM broadcasts.


During the 1950s post-WWII economic boom in the United States, many parents were able to give their teenaged children much higher weekly allowances, signalling a shift in the buying power and purchasing habits of teens. During the 1940s bobby soxers had idolized Frank Sinatra but the buyers of his records were mostly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. Presley triggered a juggernaut of demand for his records by near-teens and early teens aged ten, twelve, thirteen and up.

Presley's overwhelming appeal was to girls. Many boys adapted his look to attract them. Along with Elvis' ducktail haircut, the demand for black slacks and loose, open-necked shirts resulted in new lines of clothing for teenaged boys. In 1956 America, birthday and Christmas gifts were often music or even Elvis related. A girl might get a pink portable 45 rpm record player for her bedroom. Meanwhile American teenagers began buying newly available portable transistor radios [2] and listened to rock 'n' roll on them (helping to propel that fledgling industry from an estimated 100,000 units sold in 1955 to 5,000,000 units by the end of 1958). Teens were asserting more independence and Elvis Presley became a national symbol of their parents' consternation.

Presley's impact on the American youth consumer market was noted on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on December 31, 1956 when future Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Louis M. Kohlmeier wrote, "Elvis Presley today is a business," and reported on the singer's record and merchandise sales (this may have been the first time a journalist described an entertainer as a business). Half a century later, historian Ian Brailsford (University of Auckland, New Zealand) commented, "The phenomenal success of Elvis Presley in 1956 convinced many doubters of the financial opportunities existing in the youth market."

Birth & Childhood

Presley was born in a two-room house in East Tupelo, Mississippi to Vernon Elvis Presley and Gladys Love Smith Presley. He was raised both in East Tupelo (which merged with Tupelo in 1948) and later in Memphis, Tennessee, where his family moved when he was 13. Elvis had a twin brother (Jesse Garon Presley) who died at birth. In 1949 the family moved to Lauderdale Courts public housing development which was near musical and cultural influences like Beale Street, Ellis Auditorium and the Poplar Tunes record store along with the Sun Studio about a mile away.

In her book, Elvis and Gladys author Elaine Dundy wrote that those close to Elvis as a boy say he was a fan of comic book superhero Captain Marvel, Jr. and would later model his trademark hairstyle and some of his stage costumes on the comic book character.

Elvis took up the guitar at 11 and practiced in the basement laundry room at Lauderdale Courts. He played gigs in the malls and courtyards of the Courts with other musicians who lived there. After high school he worked at Precision Tool Company, then drove a truck for the Crown Electric Company.



On August 15, 1955 Elvis Presley was signed by Hank Snow Attractions, a management company jointly owned by singer Hank Snow and Colonel Parker, who negotiated Presley's signing with RCA Records on November 21, 1955. On January 27, 1956 Elvis' sixth single and his first on RCA, "Heartbreak Hotel" / "I Was the One", was released and made the pop charts (it reached #1 in April). The next day Presley's national television debut on The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show marked the beginning of his transition into a teen idol. On June 5, 1956 Presley scandalized the audience of the The Milton Berle Show with suggestive hip movements while performing his second RCA single "Hound Dog." Television critics across the country slammed the performance for its "appalling lack of musicality," "vulgarity" and "animalism." The reaction was so severe, Presley was obliged to explain himself on a local New York City TV show (Hy Gardner Calling). Shortly thereafter he appeared on The Steve Allen Show dressed in a tuxedo, billed as "the new Elvis Presley" and singing "Hound Dog" to a basset hound, an experience Presley later said he found humiliating.

After a string of other TV appearances Presley made his first performance on the top-rated Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, earning the broadcast a record 5260 million viewers (82.6% of the viewership that night). By the time of his second Sullivan appearance on October 28 Presley had dyed his sandy blond hair jet black. Opposition gathered against him and even more so against his gyrations on stage. The December 1956 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine described Presley as behaving like "a sex maniac in public." On his third and final Sullivan appearance (January 6, 1957) Sullivan bowed to pressure from "moralists" and ordered that Presley be televised from the waist up to avoid showing his controversial hip movements. Meanwhile the press had taken to calling him Elvis the Pelvis, a nickname he is said to have thoroughly disliked.

"Don't Be Cruel" and "Hound Dog" topped the pop, black and country charts in 1956 and many more hit records followed. Over the next twenty-one years (until his death in 1977) Elvis had 146 Hot 100 hits, 112 top 40 hits, 72 top 20 hits and 40 top 10 hits, an achievement that has never been matched by any solo artist.




Copyright 2006 Jennifer Stewart All Rights Reserved.