Wednesday, January 8, 2014

January 8: Elvis Presley - the "King of Rock and Roll" - was born on this date in 1935...

... he died on August 16, 1977 at the age of 42.

"The King" is the best-selling solo artist in the history of popular music. He garnered wide success in a multitude of musical genres - besides Rock and Roll - including country, pop ballads, gospel, and blues.

Elvis was nominated for 14 competitive Grammys - winning three - and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award when he was 36.

Elvis has been inducted into FOUR music halls of fame.


Elvis Aaron Presley may be the single most important figure in American 20th century popular music. his impact was phenomenal. Scores of international hits from the mid-'50s to the mid-'70s, as well as steady demand and reissues since his death in 1977, may make him the single highest-selling performer in history.

He had a long list of musical achievements proving his talent and versatility. Elvis was the first singer to combine country and blues music into the rockabilly genre. During his career, he merged pop, gospel, and even bluegrass and operatic flavors to his songs. While his early recordings set the bar for rock & roll; his overwhelming stage presence set the bar even higher for visual image.

Born to a poor Mississippi family in the heart of Depression, Elvis moved to Memphis in his teens, where he absorbed the vibrant melting pot of Southern popular music in the form of blues, country, bluegrass, and gospel. After graduating from high school, he became a truck driver.

Demos recorded in 1953 and 1954 at Sun label in Memphis stirred interest in Sun owner Sam Phillips. In mid-1954, Phillips, looking for a white singer with a black feel, teamed Presley with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black. The trio hit upon a version of an Arthur Crudup blues tune, "That's All Right Mama," that became Elvis' first single.

Elvis' five Sun singles - with the pulsing beat, echo, and Elvis' powerful vocals - pioneered the blend of R&B and Country & Western that would characterize rockabilly music. "That's All Right Mama," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Good Rockin' Tonight," "Baby Let's Play House," and "Mystery Train" remain core early rock classics.

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):
Elv1s 30 #1 Hits

The singles sold well in the Memphis area immediately, and by 1955 were starting to sell well to country audiences throughout the South. Presley, Moore, and Black hit the road with a stage show that grew ever wilder and more provocative, Elvis' swiveling hips causing enormous controversy. The move to all-out rock was hastened by the addition of drums. The last Sun single, "I Forgot to Remember Forget"/"Mystery Train," hit number one on the national country charts in late 1955.

Presley was obviously a performer with superstar potential, attracting the interest of bigger labels and Colonel Tom Parker, who became Elvis' manager. In need of capital to expand the Sun label, Sam Phillips sold Presley's contract to RCA in late 1955 for $35,000 - a huge sum at the time.

Elvis realized his songs needed more of a pop sound. "Heartbreak Hotel," his first single, rose to number one and, aided by some national television appearances, helped make Elvis an instant superstar. "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" was a number one follow-up; the double-sided monster "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel" was one of the biggest-selling singles the industry had ever experienced up to that point.

Albums and EPs were also chart-toppers, not just in the U.S., but throughout the world. Elvis' and the Colonel's goals were not limited to records and live appearances. By late 1956, his first Hollywood movie, Love Me Tender, had been released. Other movies followed. The hits continued including "Jailhouse Rock," "All Shook Up" and "Too Much."

Presley's recording and movie careers were interrupted by his induction into the Army in early 1958. There was enough material in the can to flood the charts throughout his two-year absence. When his enlistment was up in 1960, his popularity, remarkably, was at just as high a level as when he left.

Shortly after leaving the Army, Presley gave up live performing altogether for nearly a decade to concentrate on movie-making. For the rest of the '60s, Presley made two or three movies a year that, while mostly profitable, had little going for them in the way of story or acting.

While there were some quality efforts on Presley's early-'60s albums, he seemed disinterested in devoting much time in the studio. There were some good singles in the early '60s, like "Return to Sender"; once in a while there was even a flash of superb, tough rock, like "Little Sister" or "(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame." But despite this, by 1963 he continued to sell millions of records.

The Beatles, all big Elvis fans, displaced Presley as the biggest rock act in the world in 1964. What's more, they did so by writing their own material and playing their own instruments. They, and the British and American groups the Beatles influenced, made Elvis Presley seem less important as a rock standard bearer.

By 1967 and 1968, there were slight stirrings of an artistic reawakening by Elvis. Singles like "Guitar Man," "Big Boss Man," and "U.S. Male," were genuine rock & roll that sounded better than much of what he'd been producing until then.

For the 1968 album Elvis in Memphis, he updated his sounds with contemporary compositions and touches of soul to create some reasonably gutsy late-'60s pop/rock. This material, and 1969 hits like "Suspicious Minds" and "In the Ghetto," returned him to the top of the charts.

He returned to live performing in 1969, breaking in with weeks of shows in Las Vegas. This was followed by national tours that proved him to still be an excellent live entertainer, even if the exercises often reeked of show-biz extravaganza. Suddenly, studio and live albums were generated at a rapid pace, usually selling reasonably well, although Presley never had a Top Ten hit after 1972's "Burning Love."

During Elvis' final years his behavior was becoming increasingly unstable. His weight fluctuated wildly; his marriage broke up; he became dependent upon a variety of prescription drugs. Worst of all, he became isolated from the outside world except for professional purposes rarely venturing outside of his Graceland mansion in Memphis.

On August 16, 1977, Presley was found dead in Graceland. The cause of death remains a subject of widespread speculation, although it seems likely that drugs played a part. Even today, hundreds of thousands of visitors make the pilgrimage to Graceland annually.


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