ATESTAT LA LIMBA ENGLEZA
'The King of Rock 'n' Roll'
Introduction .............. pag.
I. Early life .............. pag.
II Musical influences ............ pag.
1. First recordings at Sun Studios ...... pag.
2. First public performances ....... pag.
3. Breakthrough year: 1956 ........ pag.
4. Controversial king ............. pag.
III. Military service and mother's death ........ pag.
IV. Hollywood years .............. pag.
1. Sex symbol: The women in his life .... pag..
2. Influence of Colonel Parker and others pag.
3. 1968 comeback .......... pag.
4. Return to live performances ........ pag.
V. Final year ............ . pag.
1. Elvis Presley's final resting place at Graceland. pag.
VI. Post mortem ............. pag.
1. Legacy ............. pag.
2. Elvis Presley statue in Memphis, Tennessee . pag.
3. Awards and recognition ...... pag.
VII. Elvis Presley's Graceland ......... pag.
1Visits to Graceland pag
2 Tourist destination ............. pag
3 Elvis's grave at
4 The Jungle Room,
5 The Living Room,
6 Elvis's Lockheed Jetstar on display near Gracelandpag
7. National Historic Landmark pag.41
8. Recent developments ............. pag
The reason I chose Elvis Presley as a subject for this paper is that Elvis Presley was a spectacular singer, musician and actor. He is a cultural icon, often known as 'The King of Rock 'n' Roll', or simply 'The King'.
The paper has 8 chapters in which you can find all about "The King's" life and death, about his influence on people through music and movies..
Chapter l talks about Elvis Presley's early life, his childhood and his passion for music.
Chapter 2 presents his musical influences and his first shows, his first recordings at Sun Studios, his first public performances, his breakthrough year(1956) .
In chapter 3 is envisaged his contribution to the military service. Even if he was the most famous soldier, he had never been privileged.
Chapter 4 is about his Hollywood years, the most successful years in his life.
The last year of his life is presented in chapter 5, a year full of agony.
In chapters 6,7 and 8 I talk about the post mortem years, about Graceland and the fact that even if he died he still lives in the fans'minds and in our souls.
I. Early life
Elvis Aaron Presley, in the humblest of circumstances, was born to Vernon and Gladys Presley in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. His twin brother, Jessie Garon, was stillborn, leaving Elvis to grow up as an only child. He and his parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948, and Elvis graduated from Humes High School there in 1953.
Presley's father, Vernon April 10, 1916-June 26, 1979, had several low-paying jobs, including sharecropper and truck driver. His mother, Gladys Love Smith, April 25, 1912-August 14, 1958 worked as a sewing machine operator. They met in Tupelo, Mississippi, and eloped to Pontotoc County where they married on June 17, 1933.
Presley was born in a two room house, built by his father, in East Tupelo. He was the second of identical twins-his brother was stillborn and given the name Jesse Garon. He grew up as an only child and 'was, everyone agreed, unusually close to his mother.' The family lived just above the poverty line and attended the Assembly of God church. Vernon Presley has been described as 'taciturn to the point of sullenness' and as 'a weakling, a malingerer, always averse to work and responsibility.' In 1938 he was jailed for an eight-dollar check forgery. During his absence, his wife, who has been described as 'voluble, lively, full of spunk,' lost the family home. Priscilla Presley describes her as 'a surreptitious drinker and alcoholic.'
Presley was the subject of bullying at school; classmates threw 'things at him-rotten fruit and stuff-because he was different, because he was quiet and he stuttered and he was a mama's boy.'
At age ten, he made his first public performance in a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. Dressed as a cowboy, the young Presley had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone and sang Red Foley's 'Old Shep.' He won second prize.
In 1946, Presley got his first guitar. In November 1948 the Presleys moved to Memphis, Tennessee, allegedly because Vernon-as well as needing work-had to escape the law for transporting bootleg liquor. In 1949, they lived at Lauderdale Courts, a public housing development in one of Memphis' poorer sections. Presley practiced playing guitar in the basement laundry room and also played in a five-piece band with other tenants. Another resident, Johnny Burnette, recalled, 'Wherever Elvis went he'd have his guitar slung across his back.He used to go down to the fire station and sing to the boys there.He'd go in to one of the cafes or bars.Then some folks would say: 'Let's hear you sing, boy.' Presley attended L. C. Humes High School, but Peter Guralnick notes how fellow students viewed the young singer's performing unfavorably. Kenneth Holditch remembers that he was 'a sad, shy, not especially attractive boy' whose guitar playing was not likely to win any prizes. Many of the other children made fun of him as a 'trashy' kind of boy playing trashy 'hillbilly' music.
Presley occasionally worked evenings to boost the family income. He began to grow his sideburns and dress in the wild, flashy clothes of Lansky Brothers on Beale Street. Presley stood out, especially in the conservative Deep South of the 1950s, and he was mocked and bullied for it. Despite his unpopularity, at Christmastime in 1952, he performed in the 'Annual Minstrel Show' sponsored by the Humes High Band and won by receiving the most applause and thus an encore he sang 'Cold Cold Icy Fingers' and then 'Till I Waltz Again With You'.
After graduation, Presley was still a rather shy person, a 'kid who had spent scarcely a night away from home.' His third job was driving a truck for the Crown Electric Company. He began wearing his hair longer with a 'ducktail'-the style of truck drivers at that time.
II. Musical influences
Initial influences came through his family's attendance at the Assembly of God, a Pentecostal Holiness church. Rolling Stone magazine wrote that: 'Gospel pervaded Elvis' character and was a defining and enduring influence all of his days.' During breaks at recording sessions or after concerts, Presley often joined in private with others for informal gospel music sessions.
The young Presley listened a lot to local radio; his first musical hero was family friend Mississippi Slim, a hillbilly singer with a radio show on Tupelo's WELO. Presley performed occasionally on Slim's Saturday morning show, Singin' and Pickin' Hillbilly. 'He was crazy about music.That's all he talked about,' recalled his sixth grade friend, James Ausborn, Slim's younger brother. 'I think gospel sort of [inspired] him to be in music, but then my brother helped carry it on.' Before he was a teenager, music was already Presley's 'consuming passion.' J. R. Snow, son of 1940s country superstar Hank Snow, later recalled that even as a young man Presley knew all of Hank Snow's songs, 'even the most obscure.'
The family's move to Memphis expanded Presley's musical horizons. He became a regular at record stores that had jukeboxes and listening booths, playing old records and new releases for hours. He attended services at the East Trigg Baptist Church, whose pastor, the Rev. Herbert W. Brewster, was a composer of numerous gospel songs. Presley was an audience member at the all-night black and white 'gospel sings' downtown. Memphis Symphony Orchestra concerts at Overton Park were another Presley favorite, along with the Metropolitan Opera. His small record collection included Mario Lanza and Dean Martin. Presley later said, 'I just loved music. Music period.'
Memphis had a strong tradition of blues music and Presley went to blues as well as hillbilly venues. Many of his future recordings were inspired by local African American composers and recording artists, including Arthur Crudup, Rufus Thomas and B.B. King. King says that he 'knew Elvis before he was popular. He used to come around and be around us a loton Beale Street.'
According to Michael Bertrand, he 'was an untrained musician who played entirely by ear. 'I don't read music,' he confessed, 'but I know what I like.' Because he was not a songwriter, Presley rarely had material prepared for recording sessions' When he, as a young singer, 'ventured into the recording studio he was heavily influenced by the songs he had heard on the jukebox and radio.'
II. 1. First recordings at Sun Studios
Main article: Elvis Presley's Sun recordings
On July 18, 1953, Presley went to the Memphis Recording Service at the Sun Record Company, now commonly known as Sun Studios. He paid $3.98 to record the first of two double-sided demo acetates, 'My Happiness' and 'That's When Your Heartaches Begin.' Presley reportedly gave the acetate to his mother as a much-belated extra birthday present, though the Presleys did not own a record player at the time. Returning to Sun Studios on January 4, 1954, he recorded a second acetate, 'I'll Never Stand in Your Way'/'It Wouldn't Be the Same Without You.'
Sun Records founder Sam Phillips had already cut the first records by blues artists such as Howlin' Wolf and Junior Parker. He thought a combination of black blues and boogie-woogie music would be very popular among white people, if presented in the right way. In the spring, Presley auditioned for an amateur gospel quartet, The Songfellows, and a professional band. Both groups turned him down.
When Phillips acquired a demo recording of 'Without Love (There Is Nothing)' and was unable to identify the vocalist, his assistant, Marion Keisker, reminded him about the young truck driver. She called him on June 26, 1954. Presley was not able to do justice to the song though he would record it years later, but Phillips asked the young singer to perform some of the many other songs he knew, and he invited local Western swing musicians Winfield 'Scotty' Moore electric guitar and Bill Black slap bass to audition Presley. They did so on Sunday, July 4, 1954, at Moore's house. Neither musician was overly impressed with the young singer, but they agreed a studio session.On July 5-6 would be useful to explore his potential. During a recording break, Presley began 'acting the fool' with Arthur Crudup's 'That's All Right (Mama),' a blues song. When the other two musicians joined in, Phillips got them to restart and began taping. This was the bright, upbeat sound he had been looking out for. Black remarked, 'Damn. Get that on the radio and they'll run us out of town.' The group recorded four songs during that session, including Bill Monroe's Blue Moon of Kentucky, a bluegrass waltz. After an early take, Phillips can be heard on tape saying: 'Fine, man. Hell, that's different - that's a pop song now, just about.'
To gauge professional and public reaction, Phillips took several acetates of the session to DJ Dewey Phillips no relation of Memphis radio station WHBQ's Red, Hot And Blue show. 'That's All Right' subsequently received its first play on July 8, 1954. A week later, Sun had received some 6,000 advanced orders for 'That's All Right'/'Blue Moon of Kentucky,' which was released on July 19, 1954. From August 18 through December 8, 'Blue Moon of Kentucky' was consistently higher on the charts, and then both sides began to chart across the South, from Virginia to Texas.
II.2. First public performances
Moore and Black began playing regularly with Presley. They gave a few performances in July 1954 to promote the Sun single at the Bon Air, a rowdy music club where the band was not well-received. On July 30 the trio, billed as The Blue Moon Boys, made their first appearance at the Overton Park Shell, with Slim Whitman headlining. A nervous Presley is said to have shaken his legs uncontrollably during this show: his wide-legged pants emphasized his leg movements, apparently causing females in the audience to go 'crazy.' Though uncertain about what caused the fans to scream, Presley consciously incorporated similar movements into future shows. DJ and promoter Bob Neal, who had been approached by Sam Phillips to get Presley on the Overton Park bill, became the trio's manager (replacing Scotty Moore).
Moore and Black left their band, the Starlite Wranglers, and from August through October 1954 appeared with Presley regularly at The Eagle's Nest. Johnny Cash later recalled Presley playing there during breaks.
Presley debuted at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on October 2; Hank Snow introduced Presley on stage. He performed 'Blue Moon of Kentucky' but received only a polite response. Afterwards, the singer was allegedly told: 'Boy, you'd better keep driving that truck..'
Country music promoter and manager Tillman Franks booked Presley for the Louisiana Hayride on October 16. Franks, having never seen Presley before, referred to him as 'that new black singer with the funny name'. During Presley's first set, the reaction was muted; the second show had a younger audience, and Franks advised Presley to 'Let it all go!' As house drummer D.J. Fontana who had worked in strip clubs complemented Presley's movements with accented beats and Bill Black engaged in his usual stage antics, the crowd was more responsive.
According to one source, 'Audiences had never before heard music like Presley played, and they had never before seen anyone who performed like Presley either. The shy, polite, mumbling boy gained self-confidence with every appearance, which soon led to a transformation on stage. People watching the show were astounded and shocked, both by the ferocity of his performance, and the crowd's reaction to it.Roy Orbison saw Presley for the first time in Odessa, Texas: 'His energy was incredible, his instinct was just amazing.I just didn't know what to make of it. There was just no reference point in the culture to compare it.' 'He's the new rage,' said a Louisiana radio executive.'Sings hillbilly in R&B time. Can you figure that out. He wears pink pants and a black coat.''Sam Phillips said Presley 'put every ounce of emotioninto every song, almost as if he was incapable of holding back.' When he collapsed after a concert in Florida, an emergency room doctor warned him to slow down because he worked as hard in twenty minutes as the average laborer did in eight hours.
Presley's sound was proving hard to categorize; he had been billed or labeled in the media as 'The King of Western Bop,' 'The Hillbilly Cat', and 'The Memphis Flash.'
On August 15, 1955, he was signed to a one-year contract with 'Hank Snow Attractions,' a company owned by Hank Snow and 'Colonel' Tom Parker. Parker became Presley's manager thereafter. By August 1955, Sun Studios had released ten sides credited to 'Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill,' all typical of the developing Presley style.
II.3. Breakthrough year: 1956
The iconic cover of Elvis Presley's debut RCA album. Photo taken on January 31, 1955
Several major record labels had shown interest in signing Presley. On November 21, 1955, Parker and Phillips negotiated a deal with RCA Victor Records to acquire Presley's Sun contract for an unprecedented $35,000.
To increase the singer's exposure, Parker finally brought Presley to television (In March 1955, Presley had failed a TV audition for Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts). He booked six of the Dorsey Brothers' Stage Show (CBS), beginning January 28, 1956, when Presley was introduced by Cleveland DJ Bill Randle. Parker also obtained a lucrative two-show deal with Milton Berle (NBC).
On January 27, Presley's first RCA single, 'Heartbreak Hotel,' was released. By April it hit number one in the U.S., and sold a million copies. On March 23, RCA released the first Presley album: Elvis Presley. Like the Sun recordings, the majority of the tracks were songs written and/or sung by country artists.
From April 23, he had two weeks at the Venus Room of the New Frontier Hotel, Las Vegas - billed this time as 'the Atomic Powered Singer.' His shows were badly received, by critics and guests it was an older, more conservative audience. However, Presley, Moore and and Black saw Freddie Bell and the Bellboys live in Vegas, and liked their version of Leiber and Stoller's 'Hound Dog.' By May 16, Presley had added the song to his own act.
A few days after an April 3 appearance for The Milton Berle Show in San Diego, a near-fatal flight taking Presley's band to Nashville for a recording session left all three badly shaken. After more hectic touring, Presley returned to The Milton Berle Show on June 5 and performed 'Hound Dog' without his guitar. Singing it uptempo, he then began a slower version. His exaggerated, straight-legged shuffle around the microphone stand stirred the audience-as did his vigorous leg shaking and hip thrusts in time to the beat.
Presley's 'gyrations' created a storm of controversy - even eclipsing the 'communist threat' headlines prevalent at the time. The press used such words as 'vulgar' and 'obscene' because of the strong sexual content perceived in his act. Presley was obliged to explain himself on the local New York City TV show Hy Gardner Calling: 'Rock and roll music, if you like it, and you feel it, you can't help but move to it. That's what happens to me. I have to move around. I can't stand still. I've tried it, and I can't do it.'
'The Milton Berle Show' appearances drew such huge ratings that Steve Allen (NBC), not a fan of rock and roll, booked him for one appearance in New York. Allen wanted 'to do a show the whole family can watch' and introduced a 'new Elvis' in white bow tie and black tails. Presley sang 'Hound Dog' for less than a minute to a top hat and bow tie-wearing Basset Hound. According to author Jake Austen, 'the way Steve Allen treated Elvis Presley was his federal crime. Allen thought Presley was talentless and absurd [he] set things up so that Presley would show his contrition' The day after (July 2), the single 'Hound Dog' was recorded and Scotty Moore said they were 'all angry about their treatment the previous night.' Presley often referred to the Allen show as the most ridiculous performance of his career. A few days later, Presley made a 'triumphant' outdoor appearance in Memphis at which he announced: 'You know, those people in New York are not gone change me none. I'm gonna show you what the real Elvis is like tonight.'
Country vocalists The Jordanaires accompanied Presley on The Steve Allen Show and their first recording session together produced 'Any Way You Want Me', 'Don't Be Cruel' and 'Hound Dog.' The Jordanaires would work with the singer through the 1960s.
Though Presley had been unhappy with the show, Allen's had, for the first time, beaten The Ed Sullivan Show in the Sunday night ratings, causing a critical Sullivan (CBS) to book Presley for three appearances for an unprecedented $50,000.
Presley's first Ed Sullivan appearance (September 9, 1956) was seen by some 55 - 60 million viewers. On the third show Presley sang only slow paced ballads and a gospel song. The fact that Presley was only shown from the waist up during this last broadcast has led to claims that Sullivan had "censored" the singer, or that Colonel Parker had orchestrated censorship claims to generate publicity. In spite of any misgivings about the controversial nature of his performing style, Sullivan declared at the end of the third appearance that Presley was 'a real decent, fine boy' and that they had never had 'a pleasanter experience' on the show.
II.4. Controversial king
Main article: Elvis Presley's cultural impact
Sam Phillips had anticipated problems promoting Presley's Sun singles. He recalled: 'The white disc-jockeys wouldn't touch Negroes' music and the Negro disc-jockeys didn't want anything to do with a record made by a white man.' Ironically, hillbilly singer Mississippi Slim, one of Presley's heroes, was one of the singer's fiercest critics. Phillips felt Dewey Phillips-a white DJ who did play 'black' music-would promote the new material, but many of the hundreds of listeners who contacted the station when 'That's All Right' was played were sure Presley must be black. The singer was interviewed several times on air by the DJ and was pointedly asked which school he had attended, to convince listeners that he was white.
Regarding Presley's hybrid style of music, others have observed: 'Racists attacked rock and roll because of the mingling of black and white people it implied and achieved, and because of what they saw as black music's power to corrupt through vulgar and animalistic rhythms The popularity of Elvis Presley was similarly founded on his transgressive position with respect to racial and sexual boundaries White cover versions of hits by black musicians often outsold the originals; it seems that many Americans wanted black music without the black people in it.' To some, Presley had undoubtedly 'stolen' or at least 'derived his style from the Negro rhythm-and-blues performers of the late 1940s.' But some black entertainers, notably Jackie Wilson, claimed, 'A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man's music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis.'
Crowd frenzy at the Mississippi - Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, 1956.
By the spring of 1956, Presley was becoming popular nationwide and teenagers flocked to his concerts. Scotty Moore recalled: 'He'd start out, 'You ain't nothin' but a Hound Dog,' and they'd just go to pieces. They'd always react the same way. There'd be a riot every time.' Bob Neal wrote: 'It was almost frightening, the reaction from teenage boys. So many of them, through some sort of jealousy, would practically hate him.' In Lubbock, Texas, a teenage gang fire-bombed Presley's car. Some performers became resentful (or resigned to the fact) that Presley going on stage before them would 'kill' their own act; he thus rose quickly to top billing. At the two concerts he performed at the 1956 Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, one hundred National Guardsmen were on hand to prevent crowd trouble.
Presley was considered by some to be a threat to the moral wellbeing of young women, because 'Elvis Presley didn't just represent a new type of music; he represented sexual liberation.' 'Unlike Bill Haley, who was somewhat overweight and looked like everyone's 'older brother,'' Presley generated an 'anti-parent outlook' and was the 'personification of evil.' To many adults, the singer was 'the first rock symbol of teenage rebellion. they did not like him, and condemned him as depraved. Anti-Negro prejudice doubtless figured in adult antagonism. Regardless of whether parents were aware of the Negro sexual origins of the phrase 'rock 'n' roll', Presley impressed them as the visual and aural embodiment of sex.' In 1956, a critic for the New York Daily News wrote that popular music 'has reached its lowest depths in the 'grunt and groin' antics of one Elvis Presley' and the Jesuits denounced him in its weekly magazine, America. Time magazine of June 11, 1956, mockingly referred to the singer as 'dreamboat Groaner Elvis ('Hi luh-huh-huh-huv-huv yew-hew') Presley.' Even Frank Sinatra opined: 'His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.'
Presley was even seen as a 'definite danger to the security of the United States.' His actions and motions were called 'a strip-tease with clothes on' or 'sexual self-gratification on stage.' They were compared with 'masturbation or riding a microphone.' Some saw the singer as a sexual pervert, and psychologists feared that teenaged girls and boys could easily be 'aroused to sexual indulgence and perversion by certain types of motions and hysteria,-the type that was exhibited at the Presley show.' In August 1956, a Florida judge called Presley a 'savage' and threatened to arrest him if he shook his body while performing in Jacksonville. The judge declared that Presley's music was undermining the youth of America. Throughout the performance (which was filmed by police), he kept still as ordered, except for wiggling a finger in mockery at the ruling.
Presley seemed bemused by all the criticism. On another of the many occasions he was challenged to justify the furor surrounding him, he said: 'I don't see how they think [my act] can contribute to juvenile delinquency. If there's anything I've tried to do, I've tried to live a straight, clean life and not set any kind of a bad example. You cannot please everyone.'
In 1957, Presley had to defend himself from claims of being a racist: he was alleged to have said: 'The only thing Negro people can do for me is to buy my records and shine my shoes.' The singer always denied saying, or ever wanting to say, such a racist remark. Jet magazine, run by and for African-Americans, subsequently investigated the story and found no basis to the claim. However, the Jet journalist did find plenty of testimony that Presley judged people 'regardless of race, color or creed.'
His parents moved home in Memphis, but the singer lived there briefly. With increased concerns over privacy and security, Graceland was bought in 1957, a mansion with several acres of land. This was Presley's primary residence until his death.
Presley in a promotional photo for Jailhouse Rock released by MGM on November 8, 1957.
Presley's record sales grew quickly throughout the late 1950s, with hits like 'All Shook Up' and ')Let me Be Your) Teddy Bear.' Jailhouse Rock, Loving You both in 1957 and King Creole in 1958 were released and are regarded as the best of his early films. However, critics were not impressed-very few authoritative voices were complimentary. In response, it has been claimed that while 'Elvis's success as a singer and movie star dramatically increased his economic capital, his cultural capital never expanded enough for him to transcend the stigma of his background as a truck driver from the rural South 'No matter how successful Elvis became he remained fundamentally disreputable in the minds of many Americans He was the sharecropper's son in the big house, and it always showed.''
III. Military service and mother's death
On December 20, 1957, Presley received his draft notice. Hal Wallis and Paramount Pictures had already spent $350,000 on the film King Creole, and did not want to suspend or cancel the project. The Memphis Draft Board granted Presley a deferment to finish it. On March 24, 1958, he was inducted and completed basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, before being posted to Friedberg, Germany with the 3rd Armored Division .
Presley joined the 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor. He had chosen not to receive special treatment and was respected for not joining 'Special Services', which would have allowed him to avoid certain duties and maintain his public profile. Presley continued to receive massive media coverage, with much speculation echoing Presley's own concerns about his enforced absence doing irreparable damage to his career. However, early in 1958, RCA producer Steve Sholes and Hill and Range 'song searcher' Freddy Bienstock had both pushed for recording sessions and strong song material, the aim being to release regular hit singles during Presley's two-year hiatus.The hit singles-and six albums-duly followed during that period.
In Germany, ' sergeant had introduced Presley to amphetamines when they were on maneuvers at Grafenwhr it seemed like half the guys in the company were taking them.' Friends around Presley also began taking them, 'if only to keep up with Elvis, who was practically evangelical about their benefits.'
The army also introduced Presley to karate-something which he studied seriously, even including it in his later live performances.
As Presley's fame grew, his mother continued to drink excessively and began to gain weight. Doctors had diagnosed hepatitis and her condition worsened. Presley was granted emergency leave to visit her in August 1958, but shortly afterwards she died, aged forty-six. Presley was distraught, 'crying hysterically' and 'grieving almost constantly' for days. Her favorite gospel group, The Blackwood Brothers, performed at her funeral.
Presley returned to the U.S. on March 2, 1960, and was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant on March 5th. Recording sessions in March and April yielded some of his best-selling songs-including 'It's Now or Never.' Although some tracks were uptempo, none could be described as 'rock and roll'. Most found their way on to an album-Elvis is Back!-described by one critic as 'a triumph on every level It was as if Elvis had broken down the barriers of genre and prejudice to express everything he heard in all the kinds of music he loved'. The album was also notable because of Homer Boots Randolph's acclaimed saxophone solo during the blues standard 'Reconsider Baby.'
IV. Hollywood years
Elvis Presley filmography
In 1956, Presley launched a parallel career as a film actor, beginning with the musical western, Love Me Tender. It was panned by the critics but did well at the box office. The original title-The Reno Brothers-was changed because of the advanced sales of the song 'Love Me Tender'. The majority of Presley's films were musical comedies made to 'sell records and produce high revenues.' He also appeared in dramatic films with musical interludes, like Jailhouse Rock and King Creole. To maintain box office success, he even 'shifted into beefcake formula comedy mode for a few years.' He also made one non-musical western, Charro!
Elvis Presley 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 131 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.
Interviewed while in the Army, Presley said on many occasions that 'more than anything, he wanted to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor.' His manager, with an eye on long-term earnings, negotiated a multi-picture seven-year contract with Hal Wallis. The contract gave Presley a fee for each role and a percentage of any profits.
The singer withdrew from performing, except for The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis in 1960 and three charity concerts, two in Memphis and one in Pearl Harbor in 1961. Although Presley was praised by directors, like Michael Curtiz, as polite and hardworking and as having an exceptional memory for both his and the other actors' lines, 'he was definitely not the most talented actor around.' The Presley vehicles, and the AIP beach movies mainly made for an early sixties teenage audience were generally viewed by critics as a 'pantheon of bad taste.' The scripts of his movies 'were all the same, the songs progressively worse.' Others noted that the songs seemed to be 'written on order by men who never really understood Elvis or rock and roll.' For Blue Hawaii and its soundtrack LP, 'fourteen songs were cut in just three days.' Critics would later claim that 'No major star suffered through more bad movies than Elvis Presley.'
Presley and Ann Margret in a promotional shot for Viva Las Vegas released by MGM on May 20, 1964.
Presley movies were nevertheless popular, and he 'became a film genre of his own.' Elvis on celluloid was the only chance to see him in the absence of live appearances, especially outside of the U.S. (the only time he toured outside of the U.S. was in Canada in 1957. His Blue Hawaii even 'boosted the new state's tourism. Some of his most enduring and popular songs came from those [kind of] movies,' like 'Can't Help Falling in Love,' 'Return to Sender' and 'Viva Las Vegas.' His films during the 1960s 'had grossed about $130 million, and he had sold a hundred million records, which had made $150 million.'
In 1964, Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole had starred in Hal Wallis' Becket. To Presley's anger and dismay, Wallis admitted to the press that the financing of such quality productions was only possible by making a series of profitable B-movies starring Presley. He branded Wallis 'a double-dealing sonofabitch' (and he thought little better of Tom Parker), realizing there had never been any intention to let him develop into a serious actor.
Presley was one of the highest paid actors during the 1960s, but times were changing. 'The Elvis Presley film" was becoming pass. Young people were tuning in, dropping out and doing acid. Musical acts like Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, The Doors, Janis Joplin and many others were dominating the airwaves. Elvis Presley was not considered cool as he once was.' Priscilla Presley recalled: 'He blamed his fading popularity on his humdrum movies' and ' loathed their stock plots and short shooting schedules.' She also noted: 'He could have demanded better, more substantial scripts, but he didn't.'
Presley made his final acting appearance in the 1969 release Change of Habit. His last two films were concert documentaries in the early 1970s, though Presley did continue to consider dramatic movie roles.
In spite of the formulaic movie songs of the 1960s, Presley did make noteworthy studio recordings, including 'Suspicion,' '(You're The) Devil in Disguise' and 'It Hurts Me.' In 1966 he recorded a cover of Bob Dylan's 'Tomorrow is a Long Time' which RCA relegated to bonus track status on the soundtrack album for Spinout. He also produced two gospel albums: His Hand in Mine (1960) and How Great Thou Art (1966). In 1967, he recorded some well-received singles in collaboration with songwriter/guitar player Jerry Reed, including Reed's 'Guitar Man.' Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock 1957.
IV. 1. Sex symbol: The women in his life
Main article: Relationships of Elvis Presley
Many fans and others have acknowledged Presley's sexual attraction and photogenic looks. Steve Binder recalled from the making of the '68 Comeback Special: 'I'm straight as an arrow and I got to tell you, you stop, whether you're male or female, to look at him. He was that good looking. And if you never knew he was a superstar, it wouldn't make any difference; if he'd walked in the room, you'd know somebody special was in your presence.'
Reference has often been made to Presley's allegedly numerous sexual conquests, but it is unclear whether Presley had sex with the women he dated. His early girlfriends Judy Spreckels and June Juanico say that they did not. Byron Raphael and Alanna Nash have stated that the star 'would never put himself inside one of these girls' Peggy Lipton claims that he was 'virtually impotent' with her,She attributed this to his drug misuse.Cassandra Peterson best known as 'Elvira' says she knew Presley for only one night, but all they did was talk.
Other women, like Cybill Shepherd, have said they had full sex with the singer. Ann-Margret Presley's co-star in Viva Las Vegas refers to Presley as her 'soulmate' but has revealed little about their long-rumored romance.Presley dated many female co-stars, apparently for publicity purposes. Lori Williams dated him for a while in 1964. She says their 'courtship was not some bizarre story. It was very sweet and Elvis was the perfect gentleman.' She also claims that Ann-Margret 'was the love of his life." A publicity campaign about Presley and Margret's romance is said to have been launched during the filming of Viva Las Vegas, 133 which helped to increase Margret's popularity.
Priscilla Presley ne Beaulieu had stayed with Presley during the 1960s they had first met in Germany, when she was only fourteen. They married on May 1, 1967, in Las Vegas. A daughter, Lisa Marie, was born nine months later. Priscilla Presley and biographer Suzanne Finstad also claim that the singer was not overly active sexually.
IV.2. Influence of Colonel Parker and others
Main articles: Colonel Tom Parker, Memphis Mafia
By 1967, Colonel Tom Parker had negotiated a contract that gave him 50% of Presley's earnings. Over the years, much has been written about the suspect nature of Parker's business practices. His dubious origins and gambling addictions in particular - and the subsequent need to keep Presley 'commercial' - may well have adversely affected the course of Presley's career.t
Marty Lacker, one of a coterie of Presley's trusted friends known as the 'Memphis Mafia', regarded Colonel Parker as a 'hustler and scam artist' who abused Presley's trust, but Lacker acknowledged that Parker was a master promoter. Priscilla Presley noted that 'Elvis detested the business side of his career. He would sign a contract without even reading it.'
Presley primarily recorded songs that his manager and music publishers thought would be commercially successful. He apparently did not like all the songs he sang and seemed to accept the Colonel's continual quashing of his musical ambitions. It is also claimed that Presley's original band was fired because Parker wanted to isolate the singer from anyone who might offer him a better management deal.
Producer Chips Moman, who oversaw 1969 recording sessions at American Studios in Memphis, was particularly critical of the song choices and staff of Hill and Range, Presley's main music publisher. Moman claims he could only get the best out of Presley when he stood up to the 'aggravating' publishing personnel and asked them to leave the studio. RCA executive Joan Deary was later full of praise for the superior results of Moman's work but despite this, no producer was to override Hill and Range's influence again. Moman never again worked with Presley.
Presley's father distrusted the members of the 'Memphis Mafia'; he thought they collectively exercised an unhealthy influence over his son. 'Surrounded by [their] parasitic presence it was no wonder' that as the singer 'slid into addiction and torpor, no one raised the alarm: to them, Elvis was the bank, and it had to remain open.' Musician Tony Brown noted the urgent need to reverse Presley's declining health as the singer toured in the mid-1970s. 'But we all knew it was hopeless because Elvis was surrounded by that little circle of people all those so-called friends and bodyguards.'
Larry Geller became Presley's hairdresser in 1964. Unlike Presley's generally down-to-earth buddies, Geller was interested in 'spiritual studies'. From their first conversation, Geller recalls: 'Elvis looked as if he'd been slapped. As he shook his head from side to side, he said, ' Larry, I don't believe it. I mean, what you're talking about is what I secretly think about all the time there has to be a purpose there's got to be a reason why I was chosen to be Elvis Presley." He then poured out his heart in 'an almost painful rush of words and emotions,' telling Geller about his mother and the hollowness of his Hollywood life, things he could not share with anyone around him. Thereafter, Presley voraciously read books Geller supplied, on religion and mysticism. Perhaps most tellingly, he revealed to Geller: 'I swear to God, no one knows how lonely I get and how empty I really feel.' Presley would be preoccupied by such matters for much of his life, taking trunkloads of books with him on tour.
IV.3. 1968 comeback
Main article: Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special
Elvis Presley in his '68 Comeback Special, airing on NBC, December 3, 1968.
By mid-1968, Presley's recording career was floundering - only die-hard fans were buying his soundtrack recordings. He had become deeply unhappy with his career, especially a movie schedule that all but eliminated creative recording. In 1968, Presley made a Christmas telecast on NBC. Later dubbed the '68 Comeback Special, and airing on December 3, 1968, the show featured lavishly staged productions, but also saw Elvis clad in black leather, performing live in an uninhibited style reminiscent of his rock and roll days. Rolling Stone called it 'a performance of emotional grandeur and historical resonance.' Its success was helped by director and co-producer, Steve Binder, who worked hard to reassure the nervous singer and to produce a show that was not just an hour of Christmas songs, as Col. Parker had originally planned.
Buoyed by the experience, Presley engaged in a prolific series of recording sessions at American Studios, which provided material for two albums, including the acclaimed From Elvis in Memphis, Chips Moman was its uncredited producer. It was followed by From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis a double-album featuring live recordings and American Studios songs.
The 1969 Memphis sessions revitalized Presley's recording career, leading to the hit singles 'In the Ghetto', 'Suspicious Minds', 'Kentucky Rain' and 'Don't Cry Daddy'.
IV.4. Return to live performances
In 1969, Presley made record-breaking appearances in Las Vegas. He then toured across the U.S. up to his death, with many of the 1,145 concerts setting venue attendance records. He also had hit singles in many countries. Presley's song repertoire was criticized, indicating he was still distant from trends within contemporary music.
Elvis Presley, in Aloha From Hawaii television broadcast via satellite on January 14, 1973.
On December 21, 1970, Presley met with President Richard Nixon at the White House. Presley arrived with a gift - a handgun. It was accepted but not presented for security reasons. Guralnick details how Presley engineered the encounter, a somewhat bizarre attempt to express his patriotism, his contempt for the hippie drug culture and his wish to be appointed a 'Federal Agent at Large'. His priority was apparently to obtain a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, to add to similar items he had begun collecting. He offered to 'infiltrate hippie groups' and claimed that The Beatles had 'made their money, then gone back to England where they fomented anti-American feeling.' Nixon was uncertain and bemused by their encounter, and twice expressed concern that Presley needed to 'retain his credibility.'
MGM filmed him in Las Vegas for a 1970 documentary: Elvis: That's The Way It Is. As he toured, more gold record awards followed. MGM filmed other shows for Elvis On Tour, which won a Golden Globe for Best Documentary, 1972. A fourteen-date tour started with an unprecedented four consecutive sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden, New York. After the tour, Presley released the 1972 single 'Burning Love' - his last top ten hit in the U.S. charts.
In 1973, Presley had two January shows in Hawaii. The second was broadcast live, globally. The 'Aloha from Hawaii' concert was the first to be broadcast via satellite and reached at least a billion viewers. The show's album went to number one and spent a year in the charts.
Off stage, Presley had continuing problems. In spite of his own infidelity, Presley was furious that Priscilla was having an affair with a mutual acquaintance-Mike Stone, a karate instructor. He raged obsessively: 'There's too much pain in me Mike Stone [must] die.' A bodyguard, Red West, felt compelled to get a price for Stone's contract killing and was relieved when Presley decided: 'Aw hell, let's just leave it for now. Maybe it's a bit heavy' The Presleys separated on February 23, 1972, agreeing to share custody of their daughter.
Elvis meets U.S. President Richard Nixon in the White House Oval Office, December 21, 1970
After his divorce in 1973, Presley became increasingly isolated and overweight, with prescription drugs affecting his health, mood and his stage act. Despite this, his 'thundering' live version of 'How Great Thou Art' won him a Grammy award in 1974 and he continued to play to sell-out crowds. A 1975 tour ended with a concert in Michigan, attended by over 62,000 fans.
By now Presley had 'no motivation to lose his extra poundage he became self-conscious.. his self-confidence before the audience declined. Headlines such as 'Elvis Battles Middle Age' were not uncommon.' According to Marjorie Garber, when Presley made his later appearances in Las Vegas, he appeared 'heavier, in pancake makeup with an elaborate jeweled belt and cape, crooning pop songs to a microphone He had become Liberace. Even his fans were now middle-aged matrons and blue-haired grandmothers, who praised him as a good son who loved his mother; Mother's Day became a special holiday for Elvis' fans.'
Almost throughout the 1970s, RCA had been increasingly concerned about making money from Presley material: they often had to rely on live recordings because of problems getting him to attend studio sessions. RCA's mobile studio was occasionally dispatched to Graceland in the hope of capturing an inspired vocal performance. Once in a studio, his interest was sometimes lacking and he was easily distracted. Much of this behavior has been linked to the problems of his health and pill-taking.
V. Final year
Presley's decline continued. A journalist recalled: 'Elvis Presley had become a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self he was barely able to pull himself through his abbreviated concerts.' In Alexandria, Louisiana, the singer was on stage for less than an hour and 'was impossible to understand.' In Baton Rouge, Presley failed to appear. He was unable to get out of his hotel bed, and the rest of the tour was cancelled.
According to Guralnick, fans 'were becoming increasingly voluble about their disappointment, but it all seemed to go right past Elvis, whose world was now confined almost entirely to his room and his [spiritualism] books.'  In Knoxville, Tennessee on May 20, 'there was no longer any pretense of keeping up appearances The idea was simply to get Elvis out on stage and keep him upright for the hour he was scheduled to perform.' Thereafter, Presley struggled through every show. Despite his obvious problems, shows in Omaha, Nebraska and Rapid City, South Dakota were recorded for an album and a CBS-TV special: Elvis In Concert.
In Rapid City, 'he was so nervous on stage that he could hardly talk He was undoubtedly painfully aware of how he looked, and he knew that in his condition, he could not perform any significant movement. He looked, moved, and gestured like an overweight old man with crippling arthritis.' A cousin, Billy Smith, recalled how Presley would sit in his room and chat, recounting things like his favourite Monty Python sketches and past japes, but 'mostly there was a grim obsessiveness a paranoia about people, germs future events,' that reminded Smith of Howard Hughes.
V.1. Elvis Presley's final resting place at Graceland
A book was published-the first expos to detail Presley's years of drug misuse. Written with input from three of Presley's 'Memphis Mafia,' the book was the authors' revenge for them being sacked and a plea to get Presley to face up to reality. The singer 'was devastated by the book. Here were his close friends who had written serious stuff that would affect his life. He felt betrayed.'
Presley's final performance was in Indianapolis at the Market Square Arena, on June 26, 1977.
Another tour was scheduled to begin August 17, 1977, but at Graceland the day before, Presley was found on the floor of his bathroom by fiance, Ginger Alden. According to the medical investigator, Presley had 'stumbled or crawled several feet before he died.' He was officially pronounced dead at 3:30 pm at the Baptist Memorial Hospital.
At his funeral, hundreds of thousands of fans, the press and celebrities line the streets and many hoped to see the open casket in Graceland. Among the mourners were Ann-Margret (who had remained close to Presley) and his ex-wife.U.S. President Jimmy Carter issued a statement.
Presley was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery, Memphis, next to his mother. After an attempt to steal the body, his-and his mother's-remains were reburied at Graceland in the Meditation Gardens.
VI. Post mortem
Presley had developed many health problems, some of them chronic. 'Elvis had an enlarged heart for a long time. That, together with his drug habit, caused his death. But he was difficult to diagnose; it was a judgment call.'
Presley first took drugs in the army, taking amphetamines to stay awake on late shifts, though there are claims that pills of some form were first given to him by Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips. In Elvis and Me, Priscilla Presley writes that by 1962, he was taking placidyls to combat severe insomnia in ever-increasing doses and later took Dexedrine to counter the sleeping pills' after-effects. She later saw 'problems in Elvis' life, all magnified by taking prescribed drugs.' Presley's physician, Dr. George C. Nichopoulos, has said: 'Elvis' problem was that he didn't see the wrong in it. He felt that by getting pills from a doctor, he wasn't the common everyday junkie getting something off the street. He thought that as far as medications and drugs went, there was something for everything.'
According to Guralnick: 'drug use was heavily implicated in this unanticipated death of a middle-aged man with no known history of heart diseaseno one ruled out the possibility of anaphylactic shock brought on by the codeine pillsto which he was known to have had a mild allergy.' In two lab reports filed two months later, each indicated ' a strong belief that the primary cause of death was polypharmacy,' with one report 'indicating the detection of fourteen drugs in Elvis' system, ten in significant quantity.'
The judgment of some in the medical profession has also been seriously questioned. At a press conference, Medical Examiner Dr. Jerry Francisco had offered a cause of death while the autopsy was still being performed and before toxicology laboratory results were known. Dr. Francisco dubiously stated that cardiac arrhythmia was the cause of death, a condition that can only be determined in a living person-not post mortem. Many doctors had been flattered to be associated with Presley (or were bribed with gifts) and supplied him with pills which simply fed his addictions. It has been claimed that the singer spent at least $1 million per year on drugs and doctors' fees or inducements. Although Dr. Nichopoulos was exonerated with regard to Presley's death, 'In the first eight months of 1977 alone, he had written 199 prescriptions totaling more than 10,000 doses of sedatives, amphetamines, and narcotics: all in Elvis' name. On January 20, 1980, the board found him guilty of overprescription but decided that he was not unethical, because he claimed he'd been trying to wean the singer off the drugs.' His license was suspended, and he was given three years' probation. In July 1995, his license was permanently revoked after the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners found that he had improperly dispensed drugs to several of his patients.
In 1994, the autopsy into the death of Presley was re-opened. Coroner Dr. Joseph Davis declared: 'There is nothing in any of the data that supports a death from drugs. In fact, everything points to a sudden, violent heart attack.' However, there is little doubt that long-term drug misuse caused his premature death.
Further information: Cultural depictions of Elvis Presley
Further information: Elvis Presley's cultural impact; Elvis Presley phenomenon
Elvis Presley's death deprives our country of a part of itself. He was unique and irreplaceable. More than 20 years ago, he burst upon the scene with an impact that was unprecedented and will probably never be equaled. His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. His following was immense, and he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness, and good humor of his country.
- President Jimmy Carter, 1977-08-17.
Author Samuel Roy has written: 'Elvis' death did occur at a time when it could only help his reputation. Just before his death, Elvis had been forgotten by society.'
Biographer Ernst Jorgensen has observed that when Presley died, it was as if all perspective on his musical career had been lost. His latter-day song choices had been seen as poor and indulgent; many who disliked Presley had long been dismissive because he did not write his own songs. Others complained-incorrectly-that he could not really play any musical instrument. Such criticism of Presley continues. The tabloids had ridiculed his obesity and the kitschy, jump-suited performances of his final years. Re-runs of his worst movies only highlighted the dubious career path he had taken in the 1960s. In 1980, John Lennon said: 'Elvis died when he went into the army. That's when they killed him, that's when they castrated him.' Acknowledgment of his vocal style had been reduced to mocking the hiccuping, vocalese tricks that he had used on some of his early records-and the way he said 'Thankyouverymuch' after songs during live shows. This was only countered by the almost religious and uncritical dedication of his most ardent fans, who had even denied that he looked 'fat' before he died Any wish to understand Elvis Presley-his genuine abilities and his real influence-'seemed almost totally obscured.'
VI.2. Elvis Presley statue in Memphis, Tennessee
However, in the late 1960s, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein had remarked: 'Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century. He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it's a whole new social revolution the 60's comes from it.'
It has been claimed that his early music and live performances helped to lay a commercial foundation which allowed other established performers of the 1950s to be recognised. African-American acts, like Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, came to national prominence after Presley's acceptance among the mass audience of White American teenagers. Little Richard commented: 'He was an integrator, Elvis was a blessing. They wouldn't let black music through. He opened the door for black music.' It has also been claimed that the black-and-white character of Presley's sound, as well as his persona, helped to relax the rigid color line and thereby fed the fires of the civil rights movement.
Presley's recorded voice is seen by many as his enduring legacy (his death triggered a huge boost in his record sales, as well as other merchandise-some of it of dubious quality and taste). In The Great American Popular Singers (1974), Henry Pleasants wrote: 'Elvis Presley has been described variously as a baritone and a tenor. An extraordinary compass and a very wide range of vocal color have something to do with this divergence of opinion. The voice covers two octaves and a third Moreover, he has not been confined to one type of vocal production. In ballads and country songs he belts out full-voiced high G's and A's that an opera baritone might envy. He is a naturally assimilative stylist with a multiplicity of voices-in fact, Elvis' is an extraordinary voice, or many voices.'
Gospel tenor Shawn Nielsen, who sang backing vocals for Presley, said: 'He could sing anything. I've never seen such versatility He had such great soul. He had the ability to make everyone in the audience think that he was singing directly to them. He just had a way with communication that was totally unique.'
Other celebrated pop and rock musicians have acknowledged that the young Presley inspired them. The Beatles were all big Presley fans. John Lennon said: 'Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn't been an Elvis, there wouldn't have been a Beatles.' Deep Purple's Ian Gillan said: 'For a young singer he was an absolute inspiration. I soaked up what he did like blotting paper you learn by copying the maestro.' Rod Stewart declared: 'People like myself, Mick Jagger and all the others only followed in his footsteps.' Cher recalls from seeing Presley live in 1956 that he made her 'realize the tremendous effect a performer could have on an audience.'
By 1958, singers obviously adopting Presley's style, like Billy Fury, Marty Wilde and Cliff Richard the so-called 'British Elvis', were rising to prominence in the UK. Elsewhere in Europe, Johnny Hallyday became the French equivalent and the Italians Adriano Celentano and Bobby Solo were also heavily influenced by Presley.
The singer continues to be imitated-and parodied-outside the main music industry. Presley songs remain very popular on the karaoke circuit, and many from a diversity of cultures and backgrounds work as Elvis impersonators ('the raw 1950s Elvis and the kitschy 1970s Elvis are the favorites.'
Presley's informal jamming in front of a small audience in the '68 Comeback Special is regarded as a forerunner of the so-called 'Unplugged' concept, later popularized by MTV.
In 2002, The New York Times observed: 'For those too young to have experienced Elvis Presley in his prime, today's celebration of the 25th anniversary of his death must seem peculiar. All the talentless impersonators and appalling black velvet paintings on display can make him seem little more than a perverse and distant memory. But before Elvis was camp, he was its opposite: a genuine cultural force Elvis's breakthroughs are underappreciated because in this rock-and-roll age, his hard-rocking music and sultry style have triumphed so completely.'
VI.3. Awards and recognition
In 1971, Presley was named 'One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation' by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce The Jaycees. That summer, the City of Memphis named part of Highway 51 South 'Elvis Presley Boulevard', and he won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences the organization that presents Grammy awards.
Elvis received 14 Grammy nominations from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). His three wins were for gospel recordings - the album How Great Thou Art (1967), the album He Touched Me (1972) and his live Memphis concert recording of the song How Great Thou Art (1974). In 1971, NARAS also recognized him with their Lifetime Achievement Award (known then as the Bing Crosby Award in honor of its first recipient). Elvis was 36 years old at the time. Five of Elvis' recordings have been inducted into the NARAS Hall of Fame - his original 1956 recordings of Hound Dog (inducted 1988) and Heartbreak Hotel (inducted 1995), his original 1954 recording of That's All Right (inducted 1998), his original 1969 recording of Suspicious Minds (inducted 1999), and his original 1956 recording of Don't Be Cruel (inducted 2002). The Hall of Fame recognizes 'early recordings of lasting, qualitative or historical significance', with many inductees being recordings that were created and released before the 1958 inception of NARAS and the Grammy Awards
He is the only performer to have been inducted into four music 'Halls of Fame': the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 1986, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame 1997, the Country Music Hall of Fame 1998, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame 2001. In 1984, he received the W. C. Handy Award from the Blues Foundation and the Academy of Country Music's first Golden Hat Award. In 1987, he received the American Music Awards' first posthumous presentation of the Award of Merit.
Presley has featured prominently in a variety of polls and surveys designed to measure popularity and influence.
In 1994, the 40th anniversary of Presley's 'That's All Right' was recognized with its re-release, which made the charts worldwide, making top three in the UK.
During the 2002 World Cup a Junkie XL remix of his 'A Little Less Conversation' credited as 'Elvis Vs JXL' topped the charts in over twenty countries and was included in a compilation of Presley's U.S. and UK number one hits, Elv1s: 30.
In the UK charts January 2005, three re-issued singles again went to number one 'Jailhouse Rock', 'One Night'/'I Got Stung' and 'It's Now or Never'. Throughout the year, twenty singles were re-issued-all making top five.
In the same year, Forbes magazine named Presley, for the fifth straight year, the top-earning deceased celebrity, grossing US$45 million for the Presley estate during the preceding year. In mid-2006, top place was taken by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain after the sale of his song catalogue, but Presley reclaimed the top spot in 2007.
VII. Elvis Presley's Graceland
Graceland, Elvis Presley's home and refuge for twenty years, is one of the most visited homes in America today, now attracting over 600,000 visitors annually. It is also the most famous home in America after the White House. In 1991, Graceland Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Graceland is the name
of the 13.8 acre estate and large white-columned mansion that once belonged to Elvis
Presley, located at
purchased Graceland in early 1957 for approximately $100,000 after vacating an
Mark Crispin Miller,
According to Brad Olsen, 'Some of the rooms at Graceland testify to the brilliance and quirkiness of Elvis Presley. The TV room in the basement is where he often watched three television sets at once, and was within close reach of a wet bar.'
Elvis absolutely felt at home in this place. When he would tour, staying in hotels, 'the rooms would be remodelled in advance of his arrival, so as to make the same configurations of space as he had at home - the Graceland mansion. His furniture would arrive, and he could unwind after his performances in surroundings which were completely familiar and comforting,' the room in question, 'The Jungle Room' being 'an example of particularly lurid kitsch.'
The Meditation Gardens, designed and built by architect and designer Bernard Grenadier, has been noted as a preferred place of Elvis in the property, where he often went to reflect on any problems or situations that arose during his life.
According to the singer's cousin Billy Smith, Elvis spent the night at Graceland with Smith and his wife Jo many times: 'we were all three there talking for hours about everything in the world! Sometimes he would have a bad dream and come looking for me to talk to, and he would actually fall asleep in our bed with us.'
There was some discord between Elvis and his stepmother Dee at Graceland, however, and Elaine Dundy said 'that Vernon had settled down with Dee where Gladys had once reigned, while Dee herself - when Elvis was away - had taken over the role of mistress of Graceland so thoroughly as to rearrange the furniture and replace the very curtains that Gladys had approved of.' This was too much for the singer who still loved his deceased mother. One afternoon, 'a van arrived and all Dee's household's goods, clothes, 'improvements,' and her own menagerie of pets, were loaded on while Vernon, Dee and her three children went by car to a nearby house on Hermitage until they finally settled into a house on Dolan Drive which ran alongside Elvis's estate.'
The book Elvis by the Presleys reveals several details concerning the singer's life at Graceland including his obsessions and passions when staying at home.
VII.1. Visits to Graceland
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in
In 1957, Presley
invited Richard Williams and Buzz Cason to visit the Whitehaven neighborhood of
'In the late 50s, Elvis
was fond of claiming that the
On August 16, 1977, on one of Lisa
Marie Presley's visits to
On June 30, 2006, when US President George W. Bush hosted Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for a tour of the mansion, it became the only residence on American soil other than an Embassy, the White House, or any of the other Presidential retreats to have hosted a joint-visit by a sitting US president and a head of a foreign government. (Koizumi, who served as Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006, is an avid Elvis Presley fan and even shares Presley's January 8 birthday.)
On August 14, 2007 (2 days before the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death) Dale Earnhardt Jr and his grandmother Martha Earnhardt unveiled his #8 Budweiser/Elvis Chevrolet that he raced at the 2007 Chevy Rock and Roll 400 in Richmond the following September 8.
VII.2. Tourist destination
Presley's death in 1977, Priscilla Presley served as executor of his estate.
VII..3. Elvis's grave at
An annual procession through the estate and past Elvis's grave is held on the anniversary of his death. The largest gathering assembled on the twenty-fifth anniversary in 2002. One estimate was of 40,000 people in attendance, despite the heavy rain.
The biggest crowd in Memphis for an Elvis Week is generally regarded as the 20th Anniversary in 1997. At this time several hundred media groups from around the world were present and the event gained its greatest media publicity as an estimated 50,000 fans visited the city.
The Graceland grounds include a museum containing many Elvis artifacts, like some of his famous Vegas jumpsuits, awards, gold records, the Lisa Marie jetliner, and Elvis's extensive auto collection. Recently Sirius Satellite Radio installed an all-Elvis Presley channel on the grounds. The service's subscribers all over North America can hear Presley's music from Graceland around the clock. Two new attractions have been added, Elvis Presley After Dark and Elvis 56; these can be found on the plaza.
VII.4. The Jungle Room,
of the museums at
VII.5. The Living Room,
You then proceed down a hallway lined with gold records. The tour then winds you through a display of his 68 Comeback, featuring his leather suit and some gowns worn by Priscilla. You are then taken back outside to view his still fully functioning stable of horses. Then into Elvis' racketball court. The court now houses a display of Elvis' trademark sequined 'jumpsuits'. All are presented facing forward except for the last suit in the room.
VII.6. Elvis's Lockheed Jetstar on display near Graceland
The last jumpsuit worn by Elvis is turned backwards as if walking away from you. Also in this room are all the awards and distinctions posthumously presented to Elvis. Then you are taken into the Meditation Garden. Buried here are Elvis, mother Gladys, father Vernon and grandmother. A separate building houses a car collection and not far away his two planes Lisa Marie (a Convair 880) and Hound Dog II (a Lockheed JetStar) are on display.
One of the most impressive displays is the trophy room off the main house, displaying Elvis's huge collection of gold and platinum records and other awards, stage costumes, photographs and more.
VII.7. National Historic Landmark
VII.8. Recent developments
In early August
2005, Lisa Marie Presley sold 85% of the business side of her father's estate.
She kept the Graceland property itself, as well as the bulk of the possessions
found therein, and she turned over the management of
In February 2006,
CKX Chairman Bob Sillerman announced plans to turn Graceland into an international
tourist destination on a par with the Disney or Universal theme parks, sprucing
up the area mansion and doubling the 600,000 annual visitors. Sillerman's goal
is to enhance the 'total fan experience' at Graceland to compel
visitors to spend more time and money. The company is working with the Bob Weis
Design Island Associates, based in
Sillerman, who has been speaking with investors and developers, said he will ask local governments to help improve some of the public spaces around Graceland. He wants to expand the visitor center and exhibit space to showcase thousands of pieces of Elvis memorabilia that have never been seen. A new hotel is a possibility, or an expansion to the nearby Heartbreak Hotel.
numbers grew to around 700,000, by 2005, and partly due to the negative impact
VII.9. Graceland in pop culture
Paul Simon's 1986
song 'Graceland' presents
The song 'Walking
There are even
film titles ironically alluding to Presley's estate and the Elvis cult
practiced there nowadays. For example, the movie 3000 Miles to
In the TV show
Full House, Elvis fan Jesse Katsopolis talked about going to
They spill into Memphis from around the world, some for the first time, many more for return visits to the shrine of their rock and roll god, Elvis Presley. They show a devotion and knowledge of Elvis theology that is the envy of conventional churches. They speak with a passion unknown and perhaps a little frightening to many of us.
They are Elvis fans, here to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death, and they are proud of it. They personify the root of the word fan, which comes from the word 'fanatic.'
Yet they do not appear to be freaks, which is unsettling to those of us who don't understand their passion. To them, Elvis personified many things, some of them contradictory: Rebellion and respect; dangerous music and conventional charity.
They are unself-conscious as they walk the hallowed ground. Festooned with Elvis buttons, 'TCB' pins, Elvis jackets, 20th anniversary T-shirts (and T-shirts from previous death anniversaries), Elvis fans create a breeze in the close, hot, humid air. And there is no concept of enough: They are happy to buy more souvenirs.
They talk to old friends and meet new ones. They share their knowledge of Elvis and their memories of previous visits to Graceland. They critique the impersonators.
John Bakke remembers all too well the first Elvis Presley seminar he organized. It was 1979, and the dust had yet to settle on Presley's sensational death just two years prior. No one seemed willing to take either the musician or Bakke seriously.
'I was interviewed by some skeptical reporters,' says Bakke, now professor emeritus at the University of Memphis. 'I said Elvis may be an object of serious historical study, and The Associated Press picked that up right under `Man Bites Dog' stories.'
How things have changed in two decades. For this year's conference - titled 'Is Elvis History? 2002 and Beyond' and scheduled 9 a.m.-4 p.m. today at U of M's Fogelman Executive Center - Bakke says he has been interviewed by a swarm of international media from The New York Times and The Washington Post to Polish, Australian and German television reporters.
'And nobody is presuming that there isn't going to be something important said,' says Bakke, who seems a little surprised himself. 'It's an indication of an awareness that Elvis is not just passing through.'
Underwritten in part by a grant from the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation, the sold-out seminar - which benefits U of M's Elvis Presley Endowed Scholarship Fund - gleans all sides of the melodious debate, examining Presley's place within the context of music and social history as well as asking whether that legacy has run its course.
Among the esteemed speakers Bakke has lined up: Peter Guralnick, whose detailed portraits Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love have made him Presley's foremost biographer; hailed writer Greil Marcus, whose books include Mystery Train, Dead Elvis and Double Trouble: Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley in a Land of No Alternatives; Michael Bertrand, the author of Race, Rock, and Elvis; and Allison Graham, who wrote Framing the South: Hollywood, Television, and Race During the Civil Rights Struggle.
Sun Records founder/producer Sam Phillips and Presley pal Jerry Schilling, head of the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission, will talk about the real Elvis.
Others scheduled to speak include veteran record executive Eddie Ray; U of M history professor Dr. Charles Crawford; former Shelby County sheriff and mayor Bill Morris; local columnist Jackson Baker, and WKNO-TV Channel 10 personality `Mr. Chuck' Scruggs.
After holding back-to-back seminars, first in 1997 for the 20th anniversary of Elvis's death, then in 1998, Bakke feels less concerned with staging an annual event than with giving the seminar enough time out so something new can be brought to the table.
Among those with a fresh perspective this go-round is University of Mississippi visiting professor Michael Bertrand, who will address Elvis in relation to the civil rights era.
'You have Emmett Till being lynched for crossing a line for violating etiquette, you have at the same time Clyde McPhatter or the Dominos or the Ravens coming into the South,' says Bertrand. 'Young white kids are flocking to these concerts, falling in love with these artists. They're basically violating the same type of etiquette. And then in Memphis you have this young man recording at Sun Records. He's doing the same thing. He's crossing these same boundaries of class and race, and yet he becomes an extremely popular figure. It's very interesting for me, that you would have two men, Emmett Till and Elvis Presley, occupying the same space at the same time.'
With such critical focus being applied to a rock singer, one would think a seminar titled 'Is Elvis History?' answers itself.
Yet the shifting sands of social opinion are just as important to Bakke as are the certainties of Presley's musical past. And the crux of this seminar is to examine how Elvis as a social phenomenon will be seen in coming years: revolutionary or reactionary.
'Elvis is getting a lot of credit for the impact he's had on music itself,' says Bakke. 'Culturally, I think he's seen more as a regressive force, as someone who exploited black music rather than brought it into the mainstream. When he was first popular, people like (Black Panther) Eldridge Cleaver and Abbie Hoffman were proclaiming him as being a real force of liberation. I think that's changed a little bit to where he's (now) seen as, at best, more of a transitional figure and, at worst, a kind of low-class, low-brow imitation.'
No doubt there will be those ready to defend and denounce such a statement at the seminar.
Jerry Schilling first left the auspices of employer and friend Elvis Presley in the late 1960s. Safe to say, he has never really left.
A former Memphian and, more to the point, member of Presley's Memphis Mafia, Schilling - now a Los Angeles producer - has been involved in so many Presley movies and presentations, the King continues to write the check.
Schilling produced the first two volumes of the Disney home videos, Elvis: The Great Performances and its subsequent two-hour special, with host Priscilla Presley; he also produced the 1989 radio show, From Graceland, the Turner video The Lost Performances and the RCA/BMG docudrama Elvis in Hollywood; he co-produced the ABC series Elvis and has been a consultant for several projects, including Elvis and Me, Heartbreak Hotel and This is Elvis.
The latest in the Schilling oeuvre is the third and final installment of The Great Performances, called Elvis from the Waist Up (airs 9 p.m. Monday on VH1). And he is getting close to completing his pet project of two years, a feature-film version of Peter Guralnick's definitive Elvis biography, Last Train to Memphis.
It all fits for a man whose job description for many years was assistant to Elvis.
Memphis-born Schilling, 55, first met Elvis in a game of touch football at the Dave Wells Community Center. The year was 1954, literally days after Dewey Phillips had spun That's All Right on WHBQ, altering forever the course of popular music. Schilling was about eight years younger than Elvis, who had been trying to get a game together with a few friends.
'This will tell you how popular Elvis was (at the time); he couldn't get six people to play football,' says Schilling, who was asked to join in the extemporaneous fun. 'Those football games, after that, became weekly rituals.'
The rituals grew. Football progressed to all-night movies, which progressed to Graceland parties. In 1964, the call came. Schilling, then a college senior, was asked to see Presley.
'He said, 'I need you to go to work for me.' He didn't say what as because Elvis basically hired his inner circle of people out of trust, whether it was security, running errands (or) maybe even doing something important.'
Schilling did not refuse the offer and remembers his first night on the job as tossing a football at a truck stop on the way to L.A. and - now that he was among the inner circle - some rather deep conversation with the King.
'He was the first human being that ever talked about real things (to me),' says Schilling. 'I learned a lot from him by just being around him.'
Schilling also learned a lot being around Elvis's movies. He became a stand-in for Elvis on the set and began studying camera work and film editing. Movie interest was so strong that Schilling stopped working for Elvis in 1967 and took a position at ABC as apprentice film editor.
'My job was to scrape the labels off of syndicated shows in a basement by myself,' he laughs.
If Elvis had many comebacks, so did Schilling, who found himself back in the King's favor shortly after resigning.
'I was doing this (ABC job) for a few weeks, and I get a call from Elvis in my little apartment,' Schilling says. 'And he said, 'Do you do this editing on the weekends?' - He did not like to be said 'no' to - I said, 'No.' He said, 'I'm on my way by. We're going to Palm Springs.''
For the next few years, Schilling led the most erratic of lifestyles, scraping labels off cans during the week and then on weekends taking a Lear jet to Las Vegas, where he handled sundry arrangements for Presley. He even ended up at the White House in 1970 when Elvis met Richard Nixon.
Schilling quit once again in the early 1970s, this time to work as a tour manager for an unknown artist called Billy Joel. Since then, he also has been personal manager for the Beach Boys and Lisa Marie Presley and has served as a creative-affairs consultant for the Graceland estate.
But it is the movies to which Schilling and his self-named management company, begun in 1975, keep returning.
Elvis from the Waist Up, produced by Schilling and directed by Andrew Solt, the team behind the other Great Performances, is a collection of Elvis's earliest live appearances, including television spots on the Milton Berle, Steve Allen and, of course, Ed Sullivan shows. It is common knowledge that, because of his uninhibited gyrations, Presley was filmed from the waist up on Sullivan's family variety show. What people may have forgotten is that Presley's third appearance was censored, not his first.
Another interesting clip from the video is the earliest extant footage of Elvis at an outdoor Texas show from 1955. There is no audio to the home movie, which was fortuitously found in a trunk, but it shows a short-sleeved, charismatic Elvis already in command of an audience (and the camera).
'It's the story about how Elvis became a household name how his confidence builds,' says Solt, who met Schilling when both were involved in postproduction of the 1972 documentary Elvis On Tour. 'It's interesting in looking at an artist's career to see how it happened, how they load the rocket fuel in the early days.'
The hourlong video, budgeted around $800,000, was meant for the Disney Channel but was sold to VH1 instead, Schilling says, when Disney reverted to mostly children's programming.
Guralnick wrote the script that U2 singer Bono narrated. In fact, Bono recorded his narration at House of Blues Memphis after U2's May performance in town.
'I just knew he was going to choose Memphis,' says Schilling, who held the release date back six months to get Bono on board. 'And he wouldn't take a penny for it. He said, 'No, I'm not doing this for money.''
Do not expect more Great Performances after this one. Not only have all the Elvis shots been shot, but also licensing footage has become too pricey.
'Stuff has become so rare,' says Schilling, who worked four years getting Elvis from the Waist Up off the ground. 'That's why I'm glad this is the last of the series.' Schilling adds that an Elvis documentary cannot be made today without losing money. 'There are so many artists, publishers and people that got ripped off for years, and I think there's a new consciousness. These people are wanting to rightfully get paid for what they own - and probably a little bit for what they've lost over the years.'
next Elvis project forgoes archival film for filmed re-enactment. One of
Newell was chosen not for his British comedic films but for the way he got inside the characters' minds in his gangster movie, Donnie Brasco.
'I said if you can do that with the characters in these early days of Elvis, we can have a really special film,' Schilling says.
A cinema newcomer, Jim Uhls, is writing the script and took in a recent Schilling-guided tour of the Birthplace of Rock and Roll that including the opening night of Elvis Presley's Memphis club. Uhls also visited Sun Records owner and producer Sam Phillips, the man responsible for Presley's first hits.
Phillips's son, Knox, said it was a productive meeting that should result in an accurate portrait of Presley.
'Everybody feels good about the project again,' he said. According to Knox, the Phillips family was disappointed in the last screenplay by Coal Miner's Daughter writer Tom Rickman.
Last Train is, however, the last Elvis film Schilling says he will produce. He has had plenty of movie opportunities because of his association with Presley and is proud of the relationship, but he feels it's time to move on.
'Nothing is more important to me whatever else I ever do. (But) I want to produce films, not just Elvis films. I don't think it's good for Elvis, and I don't think it's good for me.'
I have to say that Elvis is an endless source of inspiration to me.I am a singer myself and I am continually fascinated by his spirit and genius.I hope that in my future career I will benefit from everything I have learnt from his perfect music and fascinating personality
Even though music will change with the times , Elvis will always be * ON OUR MINDS*, as he used to say in one of his most famous songs.
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