- ELVIS PRESLEY -
Rockabilly Legends Exclusive
The Big Bang
Jerry Naylor and Kris Kristofferson talk about the birth of Rockabilly Music, a kind of music with a passion and
electricity that grabbed hold of a person. Jerry Naylor calls it "The Real Magic''.
ELVIS ARON PRESLEY - (1935-1977) Nicknamed as "The King Of Rock And Roll", Elvis Presley is probably the most famous singer and entertainer of the 20th century. Born at 4:35 a.m. on January 8, 1935 (Astrological sign of Elvis is Capricorn) in East Tupelo, Mississippi, the son of Vernon Elvis and Gladys Love Smith Presley, and reared in Memphis in near poverty, he became an international celebrity and one of the wealthiest entertainers in history. Elvis' twin brother, Jesse Garon, was stillborn and buried in an unmarked grave in the Priceville Cemetery the next day.
In his early childhood, Elvis Presley loved to sing the gospel songs that were sung in the First Assembly of God Church just one block from his family's home. Elvis attended the church with his parents, who also enjoyed joining in on the musical praises.
While in the fifth grade at Lawhon Elementary School, Elvis' teacher, Mrs. J.C. Oleta Grimes, discovered that Elvis had an unusual singing talent when he extemporaneously sang "Old Shep" in class one day. Grimes informed the school's principal, J.D. Cole, of Elvis' talent and, on October 3, 1945, he entered Elvis Presley in the annual talent contest at the Mississippi- Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. The talent contest was sponsored and broadcast live by Tupelo radio station WELO. Singing "Old Shep", Elvis Presley did not win second place, five dollars. Nubin Payne actually won second price that year, she still has her trophy.
On Elvis' birthday on January 8, 1946, he received his first guitar - a $7.75 model purchased by his mother at the Tupelo Hardware Store. According to the proprietor, Forrest L. Bobo, Elvis wanted a rifle and raised quite a ruckus in the store when it became evident that Gladys was not about to buy him the gun.
Elvis Presley was influenced by many country, gospel, and blues artists from his area, and in the summer of 1948 the Presley's moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Though the circumstances remain clouded, it appears that Vernon Presley was in trouble with the law. Apparently he had been selling moonshine whiskey. Reportedly, Tupelo authorities gave Vernon two weeks to leave town. In any case, the Presley's moved from Tupelo to Memphis in September 1948, and Elvis Presley was enrolled at the Christine School. The following year he entered Humes High School.
From 1948 to 1953, Elvis Presley frequent on Beale Street and he joins the black bars and jukes listening to the black musicians, and his years at Humes High were unevenly, except for his senior year. During that year, 1952 to 1953, Elvis Presley was persuaded by his history and homeroom teacher Mrs. Mildred Scrivener, to perform in the annual Humes High Minstrel Show, which she produced.
While attending Humes High School, Elvis Presley went to work for the Precision Tool Company on June 3, 1951. He was employed there only a month. After graduating from high school, Elvis Presley frequently in the Beale Street area's, and was hired by the Crown Electric Company as a truck driver. His job consisted primarily of delivering supplies to the men on construction sites.
During a lunch break on a Saturday afternoon in July 1953, Elvis Presley stopped in front of the Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union Avenue. The Memphis Recording Service was a lucrative sideline for Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records. While there were several similar companies in Memphis. Elvis chose the Memphis Recording Service because it was owned by Sam Phillips. Legend has it that Elvis wanted to make a record for his mother's birthday; however, Gladys Presley's birthday was on April 25, so that story can be discounted.
Marion Keisker, a former "Miss Radio of Memphis" and then Sam Phillips' studio manager, was in the studio when Elvis Presley proceeded to record two songs "My Happiness", and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". Midway through "My Happiness", Keisker recognized in Elvis Presley the quality that Sam Phillips was looking for: "A white singer with a Negro voice". She immediately threaded a piece of discarded recording tape onto the Ampex tape recorder used in the studio and succeeded in recording the last third of "My Happiness" and all of "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". Before Elvis left the studio with his record, Keisker asked for his address and telephone number.
On Monday, January 4, 1954, Elvis Presley again returned to the Memphis Recording Service to make another four-dollar demo. In early June of 1954, Sam Phillips couldn't locate the black singer of a demo record of "Without Love" that he brought back from Peer Music in Nashville. He decided to record it with someone else, and Marion Keisker suggested he try Elvis Presley.
On Monday, July 5, 1954, Elvis Presley made his first commercial recording session at Sun Records. The first song he put on tape was "Harbor Lights". During a refreshment break, Elvis began cutting up and singing an upbeat version of Arthur Crudup's blues standard "That's All Right", and his musicians Scotty Moore and Bill Black joined in. The next evening they decided on an up-tempo version of Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" for the flip-side of the record.
Sam Phillips took acetates of Elvis' first record to many of the local disc jockeys. On the evening of July 7, 1954 on his WHBQ radio program, "Red Hot and Blue", disc jockey Dewey Phillips played "That's All Right". The response was so terrific that Dewey Phillips called Elvis at home to arrange an interview. The interview and record made Elvis an overnight celebrity in Memphis.
On July 12, 1954, Elvis Presley signed a managerial contract with Scotty Moore, and later that week signed a recording contract with Sun Records. The following week, on July 19, "That's All Right"/"Blue Moon Of Kentucky" (SUN 209) was released. Eventually sales totaled less than twenty thousand copies, but it was the beginning of a career that would be unmatched by anyone in the history of the entertainment industry.
Elvis Presley's first professional appearance after signing with Sun Records was at the Overton Park Shell on July 30, 1954. Slim Whitman was the featured performer that day.
Elvis soon began making many professional appearances, among them the grand opening of the Katz Drug Store in September 1954. On October 2, 1954, he made his first and only appearance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, singing "Blue Moon Of Kentucky". The audience response was lukewarm and Jim Denny, the talent coordinator for the Grand Ole Opry, suggested that Elvis Presley go back to driving a truck. Two weeks later, however, Elvis performed on the "Louisiana Hayride", and the response was so good that he was asked to become a regular.
On January 1, 1955, Scotty Moore, no longer able to fully devote his time to the management of Elvis Presley's career, relinquished his managerial duties to WMPS disc jockey Bob Neal.
Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black auditioned for "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" in New York City in April 1955, failing to make the show.
In the fall of 1955, Sam Phillips was faced with a problem: should he continue to devote his energies to promoting Elvis, or should he sell Elvis' contract to the highest bidder and use the money to develop several of the potential stars he had at Sun Records. He chose the latter. At the Warwick Hotel in New York City, on November 20, 1955, Sam Phillips sold Elvis' Sun contract to RCA Victor for the total sum of $40,000 ($25,000 from RCA and $15,000 from the Hill and Range Music Company), plus a $5,000 bonus to Elvis Presley to cover the amount he would have received in royalties from Sun Records.
Though he was with Sun Records for only sixteen months, Elvis Presley recorded five records: SUN 209 ("That's All Right"/"Blue Moon Of Kentucky''); SUN 210 ("Good Rockin' Tonight"/"I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine"); SUN 215 ("Milkcow Blues Boogie"/"You're A Heartbreaker"); SUN 217 ("Baby, Let's Play House"/"I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone"); SUN 233 ("Mystery Train"/"I Forgot To Remember To Forget").
In late 1954, Colonel Thomas Andrew Parker, a former carnival worker, began taking an interest in Elvis' career, and it was Parker who helped to secure the RCA Victor contract. In 1955, Parker assisted Bob Neal in booking several performances for Elvis Presley. Although Bob Neal was Elvis' legal manager, Parker began to guide his career in mid-1955. On March 15, 1956, Tom Parker officially took over the managerial duties.
After signing with RCA Victor, all of Elvis' Sun singles were re-released on RCA's label, and on January 10, 1956, Elvis Presley had his first recording session for RCA Victor in Nashville, Tennessee. The first song put on tape was "I Got A Woman", but the big hit from the session was "Heartbreak Hotel", a tune written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton. "Heartbreak Hotel", backed with "I Was The One", was released on January 27, 1956, and the following evening, Elvis, Scotty, and Bill made their national television debut on the Dorsey Brothers "Stage Show". Five more appearances followed. By the time of the last appearance, on March 24, "Heartbreak Hotel" was the number one song on Billboard magazine's popularity chart, and Elvis Presley was on his way to becoming a millionaire.
Elvis Presley made a screen test for Hal Wallis of Paramount studios on April 1, 1956. He did a scene from "The Rainmaker" with veteran actor Frank Faylen and sang "Blue Suede Shoes". Two days later, Elvis made the first of two appearances on "The Milton Berle Show". A disastrous two-week stand at the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, followed later in April and early May. Originally scheduled for four weeks. Elvis' last Las Vegas debut was cut short after the second week because of poor audience response. On June 5, 1956, Elvis made his second appearance on "The Milton Berle Show", and "The Steve Allen Show" followed on July 5, 1956. Elvis Presley's big break came when he performed on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on September 9, 1956. After that he was truly a national phenomenon. His performance was viewed by an estimated 54 million people.
Elvis' first movie, Love Me Tender, premiered in November 1956, and he was on his way to becoming a successful movie star. Three other films were made in the 1950s: Loving You, Jailhouse Rock, and King Creole.
Before filming King Creole, Elvis Presley received his draft notice. Originally scheduled to report for duty on January 20, 1958, Elvis requested and received a deferment to March 24, 1958 so that he could finish filming King Creole.
On Monday morning, March 24, 1958, Elvis Presley was inducted into the U.S. Army. He received his indoctrination at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and was then sent to Fort Wood, Texas, for boot camp. Though Elvis' Army career was primarily uneventual, two events did occur that were to change his life.
While Elvis was stationed at Fort Wood, Texas, his mother Gladys became ill. She died on August 14, 1958, at the Methodist Hospital in Memphis. Gladys Presley was forty-six, though it was erroneously believed she was forty-two.
In September 1958, Elvis Presley was assigned to the Second Armored Division in West Germany. During his stay in Germany, Airman Currie Grant introduced Elvis to his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu.
Vernon Presley also met his future wife in West Germany. Davada (Dee) Stanley was in the process of divorcing her husband, an Army sergeant, when Vernon met her. On July 3, 1960, Vernon Presley and Dee Stanley were married in a private ceremony in Huntsville, Alabama. Elvis Presley did not attend.
Soon after Elvis' discharge on March 5, 1960, he travelled to Miami, Florida, to film the Frank Sinatra-Timex Special "Welcome Home, Elvis" for ABC-TV. Just before Christmas 1960, Elvis placed a call to Colonel Joseph Beaulieu to ask for permission for Priscilla to spend the holiday at Graceland. After talking with Vernon Presley, Colonel Beaulieu agreed. More that a year later, Elvis arranged Priscilla to live at Graceland, enroling her in Immaculate Conception High School in Memphis.
Elvis Presley gave a benefit concert for the USS Arizona Memorial Fund in Honolulu, Hawaii, on March 25, 1961. It was to be his last live performance for eight years. "Good Luck Charm", was Elvis' last number one single until 1969, was released the following year.
During the 1960s, Elvis busied himself with making movies, filming twenty-seven of them during the decade. His most successful film was Viva Las Vegas in 1964. None of the movies received rave reviews from the critics, but Elvis' legion of fans made certain that they all showed a profit at the box office.
Musically, the mid-1960s was a period of decline for Elvis Presley. None of his singles released reached number one and almost all of them were from his movies. His records weren't the giant hits they were in his golden years of the 1950s and early 1960s. Elvis' decline can be attributed to several factors. Foremost among them is the advent of the British invasion and, specifically, the Beatles. The sheer number of instrumental and vocal groups and single performers on the music charts simply diluted the market. There was more competition for the public's record-buying dollar, and it took a much stronger record to reach number one or to become a million-seller.
On May 1, 1967, Elvis and Priscilla were married at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nine months later, on February 1, 1968, their child, Lisa Marie, was born. Elvis' marriage and the birth of Lisa Marie seemed to give him a new drive for success and the urge to perform before a live audience again.
After seven years of concert inactivity, Elvis Presley decided to start performing before the public once again. The first step on his comeback trail was an NBC television special titled "Elvis". He filmed the special in June of 1968 at NBC's Burbank, California, studios. The special, which aired on December 3, 1968, received critical acclaim and good ratings.
In January and February 1969, Elvis Presley had his first Memphis recording session since his days with Sun Records. His recordings at the American Sound Studios were among the most dynamic of his career. On July 31, 1969, Elvis began a spectacular one-month engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada - his first appearance in Las Vegas since the disastrous booking at the New Frontier Hotel thirteen years earlier.
In November 1969 Elvis Presley once again reached the top of the music charts with "Suspicious Minds" his first number one song since 1962. At the same time, Change Of Habit", his last movie (except for two documentaries), was released.
Elvis Presley was presented an award by the U.S. Jaycees for being one of the "Ten Outstanding Young Man of America" in 1971. Two years later one of the crowning achievements of Elvis' career occurred. On January 14, 1973, Elvis performed before a worldwide television audience in a special called "Elvis - Aloha From Hawaii". A taped and expanded version of the special was aired by NBC-TV in the United States on April 4, 1973.
Everything seemed to be coming up roses for Elvis Presley in the early 1970s - at least professionally. But the constant touring, filming, and long periods of separation from Priscilla put a strain on their marriage. In addition, Priscilla had to compete with Elvis' entourage, the Memphis Maffia, for his attention. In 1972, Priscilla left Elvis for Mike Stone, her karate instructor. Elvis and Priscilla were divorced in October 1973.
Even before his divorce, and shortly after his separation, Elvis began dating other woman. Although he dated Sheila Ryan, Malessa Blackwood, and several others. Linda Thompson was foremost in Elvis' life and was his steady companion from 1972 to 1976. Linda had been a Miss Tennessee.
Toward the end of 1976, Elvis had a new steady girl-friend - Ginger Alden, a first runner-up in the 1976 Miss Tennessee beauty pageant. According to Ginger Alden, Elvis proposed to her on January 26, 1977, and they were to be married on Christmas Day of 1977, That day never came. Elvis Presley made several concert appearances in 1977, the last in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977.
On the night of August 15-16, 1977, just one day before leaving on yet another tour, Elvis visited the office of dentist Lester Hoffman to get a cavity filled. A few hours later, he played racquetball with his cousin Billy Smith and his wife, Jo. After playing racquetball, Elvis went to bed. He awoke late in the morning to go to the bathroom, taking a book, "The Scientific Search For The Face Of Jesus", with him to read.
Shortly after 2:00 p.m., Ginger Alden found Elvis slumped on the floor. She called Joe Esposito, who tried to revive Elvis Presley. At approximately 2:30 paramedics Charlie Crosby and Ulysses S. Jones arrived at Graceland to render assistance and to take Elvis Presley to the Baptist Memorial Hospital. All attempts at resuscitation by the doctors failed, and Elvis Presley was pronounced dead at 3:30.
Throughout the world, Elvis' fans went into mourning, and many booked flights to Memphis. Reverend C.W. Bradley officiated at the private funeral services at Graceland an Thursday, August 18, 1977, and Elvis Presley's body was later entombed at Forest Hill Cemetery next to that of his mother. Because of an attempted body snatching on August 29, and the tremendous crowds at Forest Hill Cemetery, the bodies of Elvis and Gladys Presley were moved to the grounds of Graceland on the night of October 2, 1977.
Much speculation surrounds the death of Elvis Presley. He did have a history of health problems, three previous heart attacks (cardiac arrythmia, and drug did contribute to his death, some claim he had been taking prescription drugs because he was slowly dying of bone cancer. No matter what the cause of death, the world lost a greatest entertainer and the King Of Rock And Roll - Elvis Presley.
His Memphis home, Graceland (open to the public since 1982), one of the most popular tourist attractions in the South, is an enduring reminder of the quintessentially southern character of Elvis Presley.
On August 12, 1992, RCA and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) posthumously awarded to Elvis Presley 110 gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums and singles, the largest presentation of gold and platinum records in history. Included was a gold award for a new box set, Elvis, The King Of Rock And Roll, The Complete 50s Masters, for which there had been enough advance orders to prompt the RIAA to give it platinum status. In late 1993 another box set, Elvis: From Nashville to Memphis, The Essential 60s Master I, went gold, selling over 100,000 units of this five-disc collection. This brings Elvis Presley's total of gold, platinum, or multi-platinum titles to 111. This brings his total of times to go gold or platinum to 274 units, as one must go gold twice to go platinum, and some of the titles are multi-platinum.
Elvis Presley stood at number one on the list of certifications, with more than twice as many certifications as any of the nearest contenders. As of August 1992, the Beatles came in at number two with 41 titles, followed by the Rolling Stones with 39, Barbara Streisand with 37, and Elton John with 37.
It is estimated that Elvis Presley has sold in excess of one billion records worldwide, more than any other artist in the history of recorded voice.
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