Today would’ve been Elvis Presley’s 78th birthday, so it’s only fitting that I pay tribute to the man who helped shape my musical landscape!
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, the man known simply as “Elvis” was discovered in 1953 by Sam Phillips of Sun Records after Elvis booked some studio time to record a track for his mother as a gift. Wanting to bring the sound of African-American music to a broader audience, Phillips began working with Elvis in ’54 and became the man who brought the style known as rockabilly (backbeat-driven fusion of country, rhythm and blues) to the forefront.
But it was when he signed with RCA Victor arranged through Colonel Tom Parker (who would be his manager for the next 20 years) and when his first single for RCA “Heartbreak Hotel” was released in January of 1956, the world was only moments away from knowing the man who would be forever known for his signature voice and controversial dance moves that would later earn him the name “Elvis The Pelvis”.
In November 1956, Elvis made his acting debut in the cowboy drama Love Me Tender and while the film did well, it was the title track that shot Elvis to stardom.
The story goes that on September 9th, Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show during a break in filming of said film and performed “Love Me Tender” for the first time with RCA confirming that within two weeks, advanced sales made the single go Gold before it even hit record stores — an industry first and even by today’s standards is still quite impressive.
Luckily for you, I have said performance!
In 1957, Elvis did two more films, King Creole and the iconic (and often replicated in music videos/cartoons/etc) Jailhouse Rock followed by 1958’s King Creole…then it happened.
Elvis joined the Army.
Although his hair wasn’t always regulation…heh heh.
Drafted in 1958, Elvis did his duty and served two years abroad…which is also where in 1959 he met (and in 1966, married) Priscilla Beaulieu and had the only true heir, Lisa Marie.
Once back from serving, Elvis spent the most of the 60’s in the Hollywood machine cranking out the bulk of his films (often up to three a year) like Double Trouble, Clambake, Frankie and Johnny, and of course, Viva Las Vegas with “sex kitten” Ann-Margret (below). And while fans ate up his films like candy, the critics hated them.
After seven years of making films, Elvis wanted to go back to do what he did best: performing live. 1968 saw the Comeback Special and in turn led to not only a nice little hotel residency in Vegas but a number of tours (including the first via satellite globalcast concert, Aloha From Hawaii – another place that Elvis loved dearly) as well.
No one could rock an all black leather suit like The King, man.
Blue Suede Shoes (’68 Comeback Special)
Sadly, we lost Elvis in 1977 at the age of 42. I was 6 and remember how the networks broadcast footage of his funeral procession where 80,000 heartbroken fans lined the route to his final resting place at Forest Hill Cemetery, where he was buried next to his beloved mother.
Since his death, Elvis still has a major influence…with the myriads of Elvis fan clubs, impersonators (including The Flying Elvi, a parachute troupe who skydive dressed as 1970’s Elvis aka “Jumpsuit Elvis”), postage stamps, soundtracks, films about or inspired by him, and yes, the occasional sighting are still around today.
3000 Miles To Graceland (starring Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner), about a gang who not only pull robberies dressed as Jumpsuit Elvis but one of them is convinced that he is the illegitimate child of Elvis wasn’t well received by critics but fans of Elvis (myself included) LOVE this film.
The fun part about the cast lip syncing in the end credits is Kurt Russell’s dead on impression of The King – as well if effin’ should be…Russell was an extra in It Happened At The World’s Fair with Presley in ’63, then nominated for an Emmy Award 16 years later for his portrayal of The King in the made-for-tv film Elvis.
It Was A Night – 3000 Miles To Graceland
31 films, 18 number one hits, 149 songs made Billboard’s Hot 100 and (as of 2012) 375 different appearances in film soundtracks (including the film I’m watching as I write this, Clay Pigeons), it’s damn clear that alive or dead, Elvis will ALWAYS be The King.
Enjoy this final tribute lovingly put together by a fan.
And although Elvis didn’t exactly look his best when he passed, here’s how I like to remember him; tall, dark and handsome with a bit of a silly side.
Happy Birthday, E.
Long live The King.
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