Information on Rock and Roll Music

Friday, November 03, 2006

Looking Back on Elvis

Long Live the King of Rock-n-Roll

Although he died in 1977, Elvis Presley still lives on to his legions of fans as “The King of Rock and Roll.” Presley was America’s first real rock star and was one of the country’s most popular entertainers in the mid to latter half of the 20th Century, perhaps eclipsed only by Frank Sinatra. Presley sung the blues and laced it with both gospel and country music elements, leading to his nickname “The Hillbilly Cat.” His voice has been described as having a unique tonality and extraordinary range, giving him the ability to tackle an array of songs and melodies that none of his contemporaries could conquer. In performing his music, Presley exuded sexuality and swagger, becoming a role model for generations of young rebels.

Elvis was born on January 8, 1935, in East Tupelo, Mississippi. He was the son of Gladys and Vernon Presley, a sewing machine operator and a truck driver. Presley's twin brother Jesse Garon was stillborn, and Elvis grew up as an only child. Presley cut his first recordings--the songs "My Happiness" and "That's When the Your Heartaches Begin"-- in 1953 at Memphis Recording Studios, a sideline record producer Sam Phillips had started at his Sun Records studios, where anyone could record a ten inch album for four dollars. After recording several more songs for Phillips, the record producer is said to have found what he was looking for—“a white man with the Negro sound and the Negro feel". After signing with RCA in 1956 and recording “Heartbreak Hotel” Elvis became a national star. On January 28, 1956, he made his television debut on the Dorsey brothers' Stage Show, followed by six consecutive appearances. In March, Colonial Thomas Parker became Elvis’ manager. He would receive 25% of Elvis’ earnings through a contract that lasted the singer’s lifetime and beyond.

By the 1960’s Elvis had become a pop culture icon. He toured and played old songs and new hits on the road and in Las Vegas, where he was known for his sartorial splendor and highly electric performances. He started to break all sorts of entertainment records including those for concert attendance, television ratings, and records sales, becoming one of the best-selling artists in music history. Elvis continued to perform until he passed away at age 42 from a combination of obesity, depression and abuse of prescription drugs. Although Elvis has been gone for three decades, his popularity has remained in tact. Thousands make the pilgrimage to Graceland each year to pay tribute to the king of modern rock.

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