Who is Elvis Presley?
|Elvis Presley. Photo: grammy.com|
Who was Elvis Presley?
Elvis Presley, in full Elvis Aaron Presley or Elvis Aron Presley (see Researcher’s Note), (born January 8, 1935, Tupelo, Mississippi, U.S.—died August 16, 1977, Memphis, Tennessee), American popular singer widely known as the “King of Rock and Roll” and one of rock music’s dominant performers from the mid-1950s until his death.
For Elvis Presley, childhood and adolescence were difficult and often involved working to help the family with finances. He picked up music early from local gospel groups and picked up the guitar when he was only 11 years old, reported Britannica.
On Jan 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, shortly before dawn, in a two-room house built by her husband, Vernon Presley, and her brother-in-law, Gladys Presley gives birth to twin sons. The first, Jessie Garon, is born stillborn. The second, Elvis Aaron, is born alive and healthy. Elvis would be their only child.
Elvis grows up within a close-knit, working-class family, consisting of his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, who all live near one another in Tupelo. There is little money, but Vernon and Gladys do their best to provide for their son, who is the center of their lives. They move from one house to another in Tupelo. Elvis attends the Assembly of God Church with his family, and the music and preaching register deeply with Elvis Presley. Childhood influences include black blues-men in the neighborhood and country music radio programs enjoyed by his family.
In 1945, Ten-year-old Elvis stands on a chair at a microphone and sings "Old Shep" in a youth talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, held in Tupelo. The talent show is broadcast over WELO Radio. Winning the fifth prize, Elvis receives $5.00 in fair ride tickets. This is one of the first public musical performances for Elvis Presley as a child.
In1946, Elvis’ parents cannot afford the bicycle that Elvis wants, so Gladys talks him into accepting a guitar instead. Elvis' first guitar costs $12.95 and is purchased at the Tupelo Hardware Company.
From 1948 - 1953, Elvis and his parents live in public housing or low rent homes in the poor neighborhoods of north Memphis. Life continues to be hard. Vernon and Gladys go from job to job and Elvis attend L.C. Humes High School. Elvis works at various jobs to help support himself and his parents. The Presley-Smith family remains close-knit, and Elvis and his family attend the Assembly of God Church.
While at Humes High, Elvis nervously sings with his guitar at a student talent show. Much to his own amazement, he gets more applause than anyone else and wins, then performs an encore. The acceptance feels good.
Around the 1960s, Presley's personal life also seemed to be on an upswing. He and Priscilla wed in 1967 and had a daughter, Lisa Marie, the following year. Unfortunately, this joyous time would not last. By the early 1970s, Presley's marriage was falling apart. The couple divorced in 1973, and Priscilla received custody of Lisa Marie. Presley was also wrestling with other personal problems, including a growing addiction to prescription drugs; the once-thin rock star was battling a weight problem, and his destructive lifestyle caught up with him that fall when he was hospitalized for drug-related health problems. Despite his personal obstacles, Presley remained a popular draw in Las Vegas and on tour. He performed at his last concert in June 1977, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
According to Graceland, in 1954, Elvis began his singing career with the legendary Sun Records label in Memphis. In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. By 1956, he was an international sensation. With a sound and style that uniquely combined his diverse musical influences and blurred and challenged the social and racial barriers of the time, he ushered in a whole new era of American music and popular culture.
Here are a few Elvis Presley facts: he 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. Among his many achievements 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, Elvis honorably served his country in the U.S. Army.
His talent, good looks, sensuality, charisma, and good humor endeared him to millions, as did the humility and human kindness he demonstrated throughout his life. Known the world over by his first name, he is regarded as one of the most important figures of twentieth-century popular culture. Elvis died at his Memphis home, Graceland, on August 16, 1977. He was 42.
This brief Elvis Presley biography doesn’t begin to fully capture the personality of the king. For the full Elvis Presley life story and an inside look at Elvis’ life, plan a trip to Memphis for a Graceland tour.
What kind of music did Elvis make?
He combined many genres, including blues, gospel, country, and rock and roll. Elvis sometimes referred to his own music as “rockabilly.” Some of his most popular songs were “Love Me Tender,” “All Shook Up,” and “Hound Dog.”
Death and Legacy
On the morning of August 16, 1977, Presley died of heart failure, at the age of 42. It was later ruled that his death was related to his prescription drug use. Presley was buried on the Graceland property, near the gravesites of his mother, Gladys, father Vernon, and grandmother Minnie Mae Hood Presley.
Quotes by Elvis
There are plenty of Elvis sayings and quotes in the hearts of his family, friends, and fans that Graceland gathered from his tours in his career.:
“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do ‘em all together, I guess.” - Elvis in 1956, talking about his way of moving on stage.
"I ain't no saint, but I've tried never to do anything that would hurt my family or offend God...I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something to the world." - Elvis commenting to a reporter in, the 1950s.
“Don’t criticize what you don’t understand, son. You never walked in that man’s shoes.” - Elvis often used this adaptation of a well-known quotation.
“The first time that I appeared on stage, it scared me to death. I really didn’t know what all the yelling was about. I didn’t realize that my body was moving. It’s a natural thing for me. So to the manager backstage, I said, ‘What’d I do? What’d I do?’ And he said “Whatever it is, go back and do it again.” - From a 1972 taped interview used in MGM’s documentary "Elvis on Tour"
“Man, I was tame compared to what they do now. Are you kidding? I didn’t do anything but just jiggle.” - From the press conference prior to his record-breaking Madison Square Garden shows in New York City, 1972
“...the image is one thing and the human being is another...it’s very hard to live up to an image.” - From the press conference prior to his record-breaking Madison Square Garden shows in New York City, 1972
“A live concert to me is exciting because of all the electricity that is generated in the crowd and on stage. It’s my favorite part of the business - live concerts.” - Elvis at a press conference prior to his 1973 television special, "Elvis - Aloha from Hawaii, via Satellite"
“ ‘Til we meet again, may God bless you. Adios.” - Said in 1977 at the end of a concert during his last tour
First No. 1 Hit: 'Heartbreak Hotel'
In 1955, Presley began to develop a following with fans being drawn to his unusual musical style, provocative gyrating hips, and good looks. That same year, he signed with RCA Records, a deal worked out by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Presley was on a roll, scoring his first No. 1 single with "Heartbreak Hotel," as well as his first No. 1 album, Elvis Presley, and signing a movie contract with Paramount Pictures — all in 1956. Despite the uproar that his sexy dance moves caused, he also became a popular guest on a number of television variety shows.
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