Elvis Presley (8.1.1935)
Elvis Presley was a world-renowned American singer and actor. He has become an iconic figure in popular culture and is often referred to as The King of Rock and Roll.
Elvis Presley: Childhood
Elvis was born to Vernon Elvis Presley and Gladys Love Presley and raised in the house that his father built in Tupelo. Elvis was an identical twin, but his brother was stillborn.
When Vernon was jailed for altering a cheque, Gladys and Elvis were forced out of the family home and had to live with relatives.
Elvis Presley made his first public performance in October 1945, when he sang at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. Dressed as a cowboy, Elvis stood on a chair in order to reach the microphone and sang Red Foley's 'Old Shep'. On his 11th birthday, he was given his first guitar.
Elvis was a fan of Mississippi Slim's radio show and was influenced by the likes of Bob Wills, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Roy Acuff.
The Presley family moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948 and Presley would practice guitar along with Johnny Burnette (a rockabilly pioneer), another tenant in his block. When he earned enough money from his job at Loew State Theater, he would dress himself in clothes from Lansky Brothers on Beale Street.
Elvis Presley: Music Career
In 1953, Elvis Presley went to Sun Records' Memphis Recording Service and cut a recording of 'My Happiness' and 'That's When Your Heartache Begins', reportedly as a present for his mother. Eventually, Sam Phillips got Winfield 'Scotty' Moore and Bill Black to record some songs with Presley. They recorded a version of Arthur Crudup's 'That's All Right (Mama)', backed with Bill Monroe's 'Blue Moon of Kentucky'. When DJ Dewey Phillips played 'That's All Right' on his radio show, listeners called in, eager to find out who the singer was. Many assumed Elvis to be black and Presley had to confirm on the radio which school he attended, to confirm his race.
Elvis' first paid performance was in 1954 at the Overton Park Shell, with Slim Whitman. Hank Snow introduced Presley when he debuted at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.
'Colonel' Tom Parker became Elvis' manager in 1955 and he soon signed to RCA Victor Records. Elvis was only 20 years old, so his father had to sign the contract for him. Though Elvis did not write his songs, Mae Boren Axton allowed Presley writing credits for her song 'Heartbreak Hotel' because she liked him and knew that he wanted to buy his parents a Cadillac.
Elvis Presley's debut album was self-titled and was released in 1956. It became RCA's first million dollar-seller. His performance on The Milton Berle Show earned him the title 'Elvis the Pelvis' due to his gyrating movements. As a result, when Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, he was only filmed from the waist up.
In December of that year, Sun Records recorded a session at their studios of Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley performing together in their studio. The tracks were released as a bootleg entitled The Million Dollar Quartet.
In 1957, Elvis Presley was drafted into the army. He was granted leave to finish filming King Creole. Following his time in the army, his success continued to grow, as did his appetite for alcohol and amphetamines. Among the first tracks launched after his release were 'It's Now Or Never' and 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' In March 1960, Frank Sinatra - who had previously criticised Elvis' style - invited him to perform on The Frank Sinatra-Timex Special.
Despite losing out to Burt Lancaster for a role in The Rainmaker, Elvis' movie career eventually flourished. He made his debut in Love Me Tender, a musical western, followed by Jailhouse Rock. Throughout his career, he worked alongside renowned actors, such as Walter Matthau, Angela Lansbury, Charles Bronson and Mary Tyler Moore, though his credibility as an actor was far from concrete; he was often cast in light-weight, pithy films that did little for his reputation. However, there was still money to be made from an Elvis flick, as people outside of the US had no chance to see Elvis live. In fact, the Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole movie Becket was only made possible by the money generated by a series of Elvis movies.
In the late 1960s, artists such as Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and Janis Joplin were dominating radio play. Tom Parker was considered by many to be ruining Elvis' career by demanding ever-increasing salaries. As a result, he lost a role in A Star Is Born to Kris Kristofferson, despite the fact that Barbra Streisand had personally invited him to take the role.
During the era, The Beatles had knocked Elvis off of his throne, dominating popular culture. 'Suspicious Minds' was his sole number one of this era. In 1965, the Beatles met Elvis Presley, during a well-publicised arrangement made by Tom Parker.
A pivotal moment in Elvis career came in 1968, with his televised NBC show, simply named Elvis, but later dubbed the '68 Comeback Special. Clad in black leather, Elvis performed in front of a small studio audience. The following year, Elvis Presley returned to live performance. His performances in Las Vegas attracted show business luminaries such as Fats Domino, Cary Grant, Pat Boone and Henry Mancini.
Elvis' health began to deteriorate in the 1970s and his addiction to prescription drugs became overwhelming. His reputation was blighted by poor and cancelled performances. His final performance was in Indianapolis, on 26th June, 1977.
He was pronounced dead on 16th August 1977. Elvis' legacy has been widespread and prominent, with artists such as Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger admitting his influence over them as performers. His home, Graceland, in Memphis has become a popular tourist attraction.
Elvis Presley: Personal Life
Elvis and Priscilla Presley married in May 1967 at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. They had a daughter together, Lisa Marie Presley (who was briefly married to Michael Jackson), born in 1968.
Elvis was also linked to a number of other ladies, including the actress Cybill Shepherd, the writer Judy Spreckels, the actress Ann-Margret and beauty pageant entrant Linda Thompson. The singer Cher reportedly regrets having turned down his advances. His last girlfriend, Ginger Alden was with him when he died.