Elvis Aaron Presley
(January 8, 1935 – August 16,
1977), alternately spelled Aron
, was an American singer
and actor. A cultural icon
, he is
widely known by the single name Elvis
addition, he is often referred to as the King of Rock and
or simply the King
Presley began his career in 1954 as one of the first performers of
, an uptempo fusion of country
with a strong back beat
novel versions of existing songs, mixing "black
" and "white
" sounds, made him popular—and
controversial—as did his uninhibited performances. Presley had a
versatile voice and he had unusually wide success encompassing many
genres, including rock and roll
. To date, he has been inducted
into four music halls of fame
In 1968, after making movies in Hollywood and having been away from
the stage for seven years, he returned to live performances in a
p. 215. which led to a string of successful tours across the U.S.,
notably in Las Vegas
for the remainder of his career. In 1973, Presley staged the first
global live concert via satellite (Aloha from Hawaii
), reaching at least
one billion viewers live and an additional 500 million on delay. It
remains the most watched broadcast by an individual entertainer in
Throughout his career, he set records for concert attendance,
television ratings and recordings sales. He is one of the
best-selling solo artists in the history of popular music, with
sales between 600 million and one billion worldwide, and he is
regarded as one of the most important figures of twentieth century
. Among his many
awards and accolades are 14 Grammy nominations (3 wins) from the
Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences
, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement
, which he received at age 36, and being named One of the
Ten Outstanding Young
Men of the Nation
for 1970 by the United States Jaycees
Health problems, prescription drug dependence, and other factors
led to his death at the age of 42.
1935–1953: Early life
Life in Tupelo
Presley's ancestry was a diverse European mix, primarily British
and German; Presley's lineage also included some Cherokee
descent. His father, Vernon Elvis Presley (April
10, 1916 – June 26, 1979), and his mother, Gladys Love Smith
(April 25, 1912 – August 14, 1958) met in Tupelo, Mississippi, and eloped to Pontotoc
County where they married on June 17, 1933.
is a distant cousin of President Jimmy
. He is also a direct descendant of Abraham Lincoln
's great-great grandfather,
Elvis Presley's birthplace.
Presley was born in a two-room shotgun
, built by his father, in East Tupelo. He was an identical
twin; his brother was stillborn and given the name Jesse Garon.
Growing up as an only child he became close to both parents,
although he would grow "unusually close" to his mother during
Vernon's imprisonment a few years later. The family lived just
above the poverty
line and attended an
Assembly of God
church where Presley
would find his initial musical influences.
Vernon has been described as work-shy, although there is much
documented evidence of work he took throughout the depression.
Gladys was, by most accounts, the dominant one who had a fondness
for drink. In 1938, Vernon, along with Gladys' brother Travis Smith
and a friend Lether Gable, was jailed for altering a check
. During his eight-month
incarceration, Gladys and her son lost the family home, and they
moved in with relatives.
In September 1942, Presley entered the first grade of elementary
education at Lawhorn School in Tupelo. He was considered a
"well-mannered and quiet child", but sometimes he would be bullied
by classmates because they viewed him as a "mama's boy".Guralnick
1994, p. 36.
Referring to an account by singer Barbara Pittman
in Humphries, Patrick (April
1, 2003). " Elvis The #1 Hits: The Secret History of the Classics
Andrews McMeel Publishing, p. 117. .
Early public performances
On October 3, 1945, at the suggestion of his teacher, Mrs. J.C.
Grimes, he made his first public performance in a singing contest
at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. Dressed as a
cowboy, Presley had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone and
sang Red Foley
's "Old Shep
." He came in fifth, winning $5 ($
in current dollar terms) and a free ticket to all the Fair rides. A
few months later, for his eleventh birthday, Presley received his
first guitar. He had wanted a rifle but his parents could only
afford a guitar. Over the following year, Vernon's brother, Vester,
gave Elvis basic guitar lessons.
Presley frequently listened to Mississippi Slim’s radio show on Tupelo’s
Before he was a teenager, music was already
his "consuming passion". In 1947, Mississippi Slim, one of
Presley's earliest musical heroes, agreed to let Elvis sing on two
occasions. However, the first time, Presley got such stage fright
that he couldn't go on. He did manage to go on the following
Move to Memphis
September 1948, the family (along with Gladys' brother and his
family) moved to Memphis, Tennessee, allegedly because Vernon—in addition to
needing work—had to escape the law for transporting bootleg
They found a home first at 370 Washington Street; a
boarding house where they shared their bathroom with three other
families, and then Adams Street. After applying for welfare
assistance and receiving a visit from a Memphis Housing Authority
inspector in 1949, the family were moved to Lauderdale Courts, a
public housing development in one of Memphis' poorer sections.
Presley practiced playing guitar in the laundry room and also
played in a five-piece band with other tenants. One resident,
another future rockabilly pioneer, Johnny Burnette
, recalled that the young
Presley would have his guitar with him at most times, wherever he
went.Carr and Farren, p. 10.
Presley enrolled at L. C. Humes High
where some fellow students viewed his performing
unfavorably; one recalled that he was a shy boy whose guitar
playing was not likely to win any prizes. Presley was made fun of
for playing "trashy" hillbilly music." Other children however,
"would beg him" to sing, but he was apparently too shy to
perform.Hopkins 2007, p. 33.
In September 1950, Presley occasionally worked evenings as an usher
at Loew's State Theater—his first job—to boost the family income,
but his mother made him quit as she feared it was affecting his
school work. He began to grow his sideburns and, when he
could afford to, dress in the wild, flashy clothes of Lansky
Brothers on Beale
He stood out, especially in the
conservative Deep South
of the 1950s, and
was mocked and bullied for it.Guralnick 1994, p. 50. Despite any
unpopularity or shyness, he was a contestant in his school's 1952
"Annual Minstrel Show" and won by receiving the most applause. His
prize was to sing encores, including "Cold Cold Icy Fingers" and
"Till I Waltz Again With You".
After graduation, Presley was still a rather shy "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.
Early musical influences
In Memphis, Presley went to record stores that had jukeboxes
and listening booths. He knew all of
’s songs and he loved records by
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
, Ted Daffan
, Jimmie Rodgers
, Jimmie Davis
. He was also an audience member at the all-night
white—and black—"gospel sings" downtown.(August 18, 1997). "Good
, pp. 54-5. The region's radio stations
played "race records" featuring music that became known as rhythm and blues
. Memphis had a strong
tradition of blues music and Presley frequented blues as well as
hillbilly venues. Many of his future recordings were inspired by
local African American composers and recording artists, including
and Rufus Thomas
King has recalled that he knew Presley before he
was popular when they both used to frequent Beale Street.
By that time Presley had also separated
himself from others by his changing appearance (sideburns, long
hair, flashy clothes) and he seems to have singled music out as his
Presley was an untrained musician who played by ear as he didn't
read music. Later, as a young singer, his recording sessions were
"still heavily influenced by the songs he had heard on the jukebox
1953–1955: First recordings and performances
Sun Records 1953–55
summer of 1953, Presley went to Sun Records' Memphis
Recording Service to record "My Happiness" with "That's When Your
Heartaches Begin," supposedly as a present for his mother although
it was months after her birthday.
When asked by receptionist
Marion Keisker what kind of singer he was, Presley told her that he
sang all kinds. Determined to pin him down to a particular style,
she then asked him who he sounded like, a question Presley
responded to by insisting that he didn't sound like anyone. After
his demo, she made herself a note: "Good ballad singer,
On January 4, 1954, he cut a second acetate
demo recording of "I'll Never Stand In
Your Way" and "It Wouldn't Be The Same Without You", but again
nothing came of the recording session. In April Presley began
working for the Crown Electric company as a truck driver, and
around this time he auditioned for the Songfelows, but was
disappointed when they turned him down and said he couldn't sing.
Years later the group insisted that they meant he couldn't sing
harmony, but Presley took the criticism to heart.
A few months later, Sun Records boss Sam
was on the lookout for someone who could deliver a
blend of black blues and boogie-woogie
music; he thought it would be very popular among white people. When
Phillips acquired a demo recording of "Without You" and was unable
to identify the vocalist, Marion Keisker reminded him about the
young truck driver. She called him on June 26, 1954. However,
Presley was not able to do justice to the song. Phillips would
later recall that Elvis was as nervous as anybody that he had seen
in front of a microphone. Despite this, Phillips asked Presley to
sing as many songs as he knew and, impressed enough by what he
heard, he invited local musicians Winfield
and Bill Black
audition Presley. Though they were not overly impressed, a studio
session was planned.
On July 5, during a recording break, Presley began "acting the
fool" with Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right
". Phillips quickly
got them all to restart, and began taping. This was the sound he
had been looking for. The following day the group recorded Bill Monroe
's "Blue Moon of Kentucky
", and it was
released as the B-side to That's All Right.
"That's All Right" was aired on July 8, 1954, by DJ Dewey Phillips
Red, Hot and Blue
show.Carr and Farren, p. 6. Listeners to
the show began phoning in, eager to find out who the singer was.
The interest was such that Phillips played the demo fourteen times.
During an interview on the show, Phillips asked Presley what high
school he attended—to clarify Presley's color for listeners who
assumed he must be black.
On July 12 Moore officially became Presley's manager and, along
with Black, began playing regularly with him. They gave
performances on July 17 and July 24, 1954 to promote the Sun single
at the Bon Air, a rowdy music club in Memphis, where the band was
not well-received. On July 30 the trio, billed as The Blue Moon
Boys, made their first paid appearance at the Overton Park Shell
, with Slim Whitman
headlining. With a natural feel
for rhythm, Presley shook his legs when performing: his wide-legged
pants emphasizing his leg movements, apparently causing females in
the audience to go "crazy." Presley was aware of the cause of the
audience's reaction and consciously incorporated similar movements
into future shows.
Soon after, Deejay and promoter Bob Neal became the trio's manager
(replacing Scotty Moore). Moore and Black left their band, the
Starlight Wranglers and, from August through October 1954, appeared
with Presley at The Eagle's Nest. Presley debuted at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on October 2; Hank Snow introduced Presley on
He performed "Blue Moon of Kentucky" but received
only a polite response. Afterwards, the singer was supposedly told
by the Opry's Jim Denny to not give up his day job.Naylor and
Halliday, pp. 43-6. though others deny it was Denny who made that
statement.Clayton and Heard, p. 69.
Country music promoter and manager Tillman Franks
booked Presley for October 16
's Louisiana Hayride
. Before Franks saw
Presley, he referred to him as "that new black singer with the
funny name." During Presley's first set, the reaction was muted;
Franks then advised Presley to "Let it all go!" for the second set.
House drummer D.J. Fontana
complemented Presley's movements with
accented beats which he had mastered during his time working as a
drummer in strip clubs. Bill Black also took an active part in
encouraging the audience, and the crowd became more
responsive.Clayton and Heard, p. 73. According to one source,
regarding Presley's engagements from that time, "Audiences had
never before heard [such] music... [or] seen anyone who performed
like Presley either. The shy, polite, mumbling boy gained
self-confidence with every appearance". Sam Phillips said Presley
put all his emotion into each song, as if he was unable to sing any
By August 1955, Sun Studios had released ten sides, credited to
"Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill," all typical of the developing
Presley style which seemed hard to categorize; he was billed or
labeled in the media as "The King of Western Bop," "The Hillbilly
Cat" and "The Memphis
Flash."Hopkins 2007, p. 53.
Signing to RCA
On August 15, 1955, "Colonel" Tom
became Presley's manager, signing him to a one year
contract, plus renewals.Stanley and Coffey, p. 28. Several record
labels had shown interest in signing Presley and, by the end of
October 1955, three major labels had made offers up to $25,000. On
November 21, 1955, Parker and Phillips negotiated a deal with
Records to acquire Presley's
Sun contract for an unprecedented $40,000 ($ in current dollar
terms), $5,000 of which was a bonus for the singer for back
royalties owed to him by Sun Records (Presley, at 20, was
officially still a minor, so his father had to sign the
To boost earnings for himself and Presley, Parker also cut a deal
with Hill and Range Publishing Company to create two separate
entities—"Elvis Presley Music, Inc" and "Gladys Music"—to handle
all of Presley's songs and accrued royalties. The owners of Hill
& Range, Julian and Jean Aberbach, agreed to split the
publishing and royalties rights of each song equally with Presley.
Hill & Range, Presley or Colonel Parker's partners then had to
convince unsecured songwriters that it was worthwhile for them to
give up one third of their due royalties in exchange for Presley
recording their compositions. One result of these dealings was the
appearance of Presley's name as co-writer of some songs he
recorded, even though Presley never had any hand in the songwriting
process. The only known exception to this rule is Heartbreak Hotel
, where Presley received
writing credits because Mae Boren
knew of his wish to buy his parents a Cadillac
. Because she liked Presley so much, she
offered him writing credits to help him raise the funds
By December 1955, RCA had begun to heavily promote its newest star,
and by the month's end had re-released many of his Sun
First recordings for RCA
10, 1956, Presley made his first recordings for RCA in Nashville, Tennessee.
Despite Scotty, Bill and D.J. being in the
studio with him, RCA enlisted the talents of already established
stars Floyd Cramer
and Chet Atkins
also to "...fatten the sound." The
session produced "Heartbreak
/I Was The One" which was released on January 27. The
public reaction to "Heartbreak Hotel" prompted RCA to release it as
a single in its own right (February 11). By April it had hit number
one in the U.S. charts, selling in excess of one million
3, 1955, Presley made his first television appearance on the TV
version of Louisiana Hayride on KSLA-TV in Shreveport, but failed an audition for Arthur Godfrey's Talent
Scouts on CBS-TV later that
To increase the singer's exposure, Parker finally
brought Presley to national television after booking six
appearances on CBS's Stage
in New York, beginning January 28, 1956. Presley was
introduced on the first program by Cleveland DJ Bill Randle.
He stayed in town and on January 30, he and the band headed for the
RCA's New York Studio. The sessions yielded eight songs, including
"My Baby Left Me" and "Blue Suede
". The latter was the only hit single from the collection,
but the recordings marked the point at which Presley started moving
away from the raw, pure Sun sound to the more commercial and
mainstream sound RCA had envisioned for him.
The iconic cover of Elvis Presley's
debut RCA Victor album.
Photo taken on January 31, 1955
Debut album and Hollywood
On March 23, RCA Victor released Presley's self-titled debut album
. Like the Sun
recordings, the majority of the tracks were country songs. The
album went on to top the pop album chart for 10 weeks and became
RCA's first million-dollar seller.
On April 1, Presley launched his acting career with a screen test
for Paramount Pictures
signed a seven year contract with them on April 25. His first
motion picture, Love Me
, was released on November 21 (See 'Acting career
Milton Berle Show and Las Vegas debut
Parker had also obtained a deal for two lucrative appearances on
NBC-TV's The Milton Berle Show
first appeared from the deck of the USS Hancock in San Diego on April 3.
His performance was cheered by a
live audience of appreciative sailors and their dates. A few days
after, a flight taking Presley and his band to Nashville for a
recording session left all three badly shaken when the plane lost
an engine and almost went down over Texas.
April 23, Presley was scheduled to perform four weeks at the
Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip—billed this time as "the Atomic Powered Singer"
because Parker thought the name would be catchy as Nevada was the home
of the U.S.'s atomic weapons
His shows were so badly received by critics and
the conservative, middle-aged guests, that Parker cut short the
engagement from four weeks to two.Stanley and Coffey, p. 32. D.J.
Fontana would later claim that the audience just weren't ready for
Elvis. While in Vegas, Presley saw Freddie Bell and the Bellboys
live, and liked their version of Leiber and Stoller
's "Hound Dog
". By May 16, he had added the
song to his own act.
After more hectic touring, Presley made his second appearance on
The Milton Berle Show
(June 5). Whilst delivering an
uptempo version of "Hound Dog" (without his guitar), he then
stopped, and immediately after began performing a slower version.
Presley's "gyrations" during this televised version of "Hound Dog"
created a storm of controversy—even eclipsing the "communist
threat" headlines prevalent at the time.
The press described his performance as "vulgar" and "obscene". The
furor was such that Presley was pressured to explain himself on the
local New York City TV show Hy
. After this performance he was dubbed
"Elvis the Pelvis". Presley disliked the name, calling it "one of
the most childish expressions I ever heard."Farren and Marchbank,
Appearance on Steve Allen
The Berle shows drew such huge ratings that Steve Allen
), not a fan
of rock and roll, booked him for one appearance in New York on July
1. Allen believed that his show should be one "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
in a top hat
. According to one author, "Allen thought
Presley was talentless and absurd... [he] set things up so that
Presley would show his contrition..." In his book "Hi-Ho
Steverino!" Allen defended his decision to present Presley this
way, stating that by simply changing Presley's attire it changed
the way he performed. The day after (July 2), the single "Hound
Dog" was recorded. Scotty Moore said they were "all angry about
their treatment the previous night", and Presley would later refer
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 gonna 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
", "Don't Be Cruel
" and "Hound
Dog". The Jordanaires would work with the singer through the
Ed Sullivan appearances
Though Presley had been unhappy, Allen's show had, for the first
time, beaten The Ed Sullivan
in the ratings, causing a critical Sullivan (CBS
) to book Presley for three appearances for an
Presley's first Ed Sullivan
appearance (September 9, 1956)
was seen by some 55–60 million viewers. Elvis mythology states that
Sullivan censored Presley by only shooting him from the waist up.
Sullivan may have helped create the myth when he told TV Guide, "as
for his gyrations, the whole thing can be controlled with camera
shots." In truth Presley's whole body was shown in the first and
second shows.Biographer Greil Marcus has written: "Compared to
moments on the Dorsey shows and on the Berle show, it was ice
cream." On the third Sullivan show, in spite of Presley's
established reputation as a "gyrating" performer, he sang only slow
paced ballads and a gospel song. Presley was nevertheless only
shown to the television audience 'from the waist up', as if to
censor the singer. According to Marlo
, the co-producer of the show, this decision was taken
because of a rumor that suggested he wore a Coke bottle in his
trousers to excite the girls as he danced. Based on that rumor
Sullivan gave the waist-up order for the final appearance." Others
have stated that he was shot in close up during this last broadcast
because Sullivan had tried to 'bury' the singer. However, other
commentators have claimed that Colonel Parker had himself
orchestrated the 'censorship' merely to generate publicity. In
spite of any misgivings about the controversial nature of his
performing style (see 'Sex symbol
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.
Million Dollar Quartet
On December 4, Presley dropped into Sun Records where Carl Perkins
and Jerry Lee Lewis
were recording. Sam Phillips
made sure the session of the three performing was recorded; the
results would later appear on a bootlegged recording titled
The Million Dollar
in 1977 (Johnny Cash
often thought to have performed with the trio, but he was only
present briefly at Phillips' instigation for a photo opportunity).
RCA would eventually iron out legal difficulties and release an
authorized version a few years later.
On December 29, Billboard
revealed that Presley
had placed more songs in the Top 100 than any other artist since
record charts began. This news was followed by a front page report
in the Wall Street
on December 31, that suggested Presley merchandise
had grossed more than $22 million in sales.
Controversy and cultural impact
When "That's All Right" was played, many listeners were sure
Presley must be black, prompting white disc-jockeys to ignore his
Sun singles. However, black disc-jockeys did not want anything to
do with any record they knew was made by a white man. To many black
adults, Presley had undoubtedly "stolen" or at least "derived his
style from the Negro rhythm-and-blues performers of the late
1940s", though such criticism ignored Presley's use of "white"
musical styles. Some black entertainers, notably Jackie Wilson
, argued: "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
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 [white] 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's unmatched hustle
onstage 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, fifty National Guardsmen
to the police security to prevent crowd trouble.
To many white 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
wrote that popular music "has reached its lowest
depths in the 'grunt and groin' antics of one Elvis Presley" and
denounced him in their
weekly magazine, America
. 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 responded to this (and other derogatory comments Sinatra
made) by saying: "I admire the man. He has a right to say what he
wants to say. He is a great success and a fine actor, but I think
he shouldn't have said it... This ... [rock and roll] ... is a
trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago."
According to the FBI files on the singer, 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." Presley would insist, however,
that there was nothing vulgar about his stage act, saying: "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." 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 recalls this
incident during the '68 Comeback
In 1957, despite Presley's demonstrable respect for "black" music
and performers, he faced accusations of racism. He was alleged to
have said in an interview: "The only thing Negro people can do for
me is to buy my records and shine my shoes." An African American
journalist at Jet
subsequently pursued the story. On the set of Jailhouse Rock
denied saying, or ever wanting to make, such a racist remark. The
journalist found no evidence that the remark had ever
been made, but did find testimony from many individuals indicating
that Presley was anything but racist. Despite the remark being
wholly discredited at the time, it was still being used against
Presley decades later.
1957–1960: Military service and mother's death
|Rank and Insignia
||Date of Rank
|Private (No insignia)
March 24, 1958
| Private First-Class
||November 27, 1958
| Specialist 4
||June 1, 1959
||January 20, 1960
On January 8, 1957, the Memphis Draft Board held a press conference
and announced Presley would be classified 1A and would probably be
drafted sometime that year. On December 20, 1957, Presley received
his draft notice
and Paramount Pictures
had already spent
$350,000 on the film King
, and did not want to suspend or cancel the project.
The Memphis Draft Board granted Presley a deferment to finish it.
24, 1958 he was inducted as US Army private, under the service number , at Fort Chaffee near Fort
Two Army officers Arlie Metheny
, coordinated the entry and
shielded Presley from bombardment by national media and free-lance
photographers. Presley completed basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, on
September 17, 1958, before being posted to Friedberg, Germany, with the 3rd Armored Division, where his service
took place from October 1, 1958 until March 2, 1960.
Fellow soldiers have attested to Presley's wish to be seen as an
able, ordinary soldier, despite his fame, and to his generosity
while in the service. To supplement meager under-clothing supplies,
Presley bought an extra set of fatigues for everyone in his outfit.
He also donated his Army pay to charity, and purchased all the TV
sets for personnel on the base at that time.Clayton and Heard, p.
Presley had chosen not to join "Special Services", which would have
allowed him to avoid certain duties and maintain his public
profile. However, several sources, including Priscilla Presley,
have said that Elvis was eager to join Special Services where he
"..could have sung and retained some rapport with the public." In
her autobiography Priscilla states that it was Parker and RCA who
convinced Presley he should serve his country as a regular soldier
to gain respect from the public, but that Elvis worried this
decision may have ruined his career back home. He continued to
receive massive media coverage, with much speculation echoing
Presley's own concerns about his enforced absence damaging his
career. However, early in 1958, RCA Victor producer Steve Sholes
and Freddy Bienstock of Hill and Range (Presley's main music
publishers) had both pushed for recording sessions and strong song
material, the aim being to release regular hit recordings during
Presley's two-year hiatus. Hit singles duly followed during
Presley's army service, like "One Night
"I Got Stung
" and " A Fool Such as I
as did hit albums of old material, including Elvis' Golden
and A Date With Elvis
As Presley's fame grew, his mother continued to drink excessively
and began to gain weight. She had wanted her son to succeed, "but
... [the] hysteria of the crowd frightened her." In early August
1958, doctors had diagnosed hepatitis
her condition worsened. Presley was granted emergency leave to
visit her, arriving in Memphis on August 12. Two days later, Gladys
Presley died of heart failure
forty-six. Presley was heartbroken, "grieving almost constantly"
months later, in Germany, "[a] sergeant had introduced [Presley] to
amphetamines when they were on
maneuvers at Grafenwöhr... it seemed like half the guys in the company were
Friends around Presley, like Diamond Joe Esposito
, 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
he studied seriously, even including it in his later live
First post-army recordings
Presley returned to the U.S. on March 2, 1960, and was honorably
discharged with the rank of sergeant on March 5. Back on U.S. soil,
the train which carried him from New Jersey to Memphis was mobbed all the way, with Presley
being called upon to appear at scheduled stops to please his
The first recording session, on March 20, 1960, was attended by all
of the significant businessmen involved with Presley; none had
heard him sing for two years, and there were inevitable concerns
about him being able to recapture his previous success. The session
was the first at which Presley was recorded using a three-track
machine, allowing better quality, postsession remixing and
stereophonic recording. This, and a further session in April,
yielded some of Presley's best-selling songs. "It's Now or Never
" ended with Presley "soaring
up to an incredible top G sharp ... pure magic." His voice on
"Are You Lonesome
" has been described as "natural, unforced, dead in
tune, and totally distinctive." Although some tracks were uptempo,
none could be described as "rock and roll", and many of them marked
a significant change in musical direction. Most tracks found their
way on to an album—Elvis is
—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
's acclaimed saxophone
playing on the blues songs "Like A Baby
and "Reconsider Baby
", the latter
being described as "a refutation of those who do not recognize what
a phenomenal artist Presley was."
Sinatra Timex Special
On March 26, 1960, Presley made a guest appearance on The Frank
, a somewhat ironic move for both
stars, given Sinatra's previously scathing criticism of "rock and
roll" singers. Also known as Welcome Home Elvis
, the show
was taped for airing on May 12. Parker had made the deal with the
show's producers months before Elvis was released from active duty,
and had secured an unheard of $125,000 pay-check for Presley's
six-minute appearance. He had hoped that appearing with Frank
Sinatra would help to boost Presley's popularity amongst an older
audience, as well as reminding the teenage audience that Presley
was back. Never one to take chances, Parker had packed the studio
audience with 400 members from one of the biggest fan clubs. The
broadcast on the ABC network gave ABC-TV a 41.5 share for that
evening and dispelled any fears Presley or Parker may have had
about his return.
Charity concerts 1961
In November 1960 Parker announced that Presley would be giving two
charity shows in Memphis to raise funds for twenty-four local
charities. Shortly afterwards he read an article that
stated no "...permanent memorial stands in salute to the dead of
Promptly he also announced a March benefit
to raise funds for the memorial. The Memphis shows took place on
February 25, 1961, and raised over $60,000. During a luncheon
organised before the concert, Presley was awarded a plaque by RCA
that recognised worldwide sales of over 75 million records.
The following month, on March 25, Presley arrived in Hawaii to give
his benefit concert at Bloch Arena in aid of the USS Arizona
Memorial Fund, which was $50,000 short of its target. The benefit
raised over $62,000 and was to be the last public performance
Presley would give for seven years.
In 1956, Presley launched his career as a film actor. He
screen-tested for Paramount Pictures by lip-syncing "Blue Suede Shoes
" and performing a scene as
'Bill Starbuck' in The
. Despite being quietly confident that The
would be his first film—even going as far as saying
so in an interview—the role eventually went to Burt Lancaster
. Of his dramatic performance,
screenwriter Allen Weiss later wrote that "Presley came across like
the lead in a high school play. However, with the music added, as
Elvis lip-syncs and gyrates to his recording of 'Blue Suede Shoes',
the transformation was incredible ... electricity bounced off the
walls of the sound stage, [it was] like an earthquake in progress,
only without the implicit threat."
After signing a seven-year contract with Paramount, Presley made
his big-screen début 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
changed to capitalize on 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
more dramatic films, like Jailhouse Rock
. The erotic, if not
homo-erotic, dance sequence to the song "Jailhouse Rock", which was
choreographed by Alex Romero after watching Presley himself, "is
considered by many as his greatest performance ever captured on
film." To maintain box office success, he would later even shift
formula comedy mode for a
few years." He also made one non-musical western, Charro!
In the Army, Presley had said on many occasions that "more than
anything, he wanted to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor." His
manager had negotiated the multi-picture seven-year contract with
with an eye on long-term
earnings. The singer would later star alongside several established
or up-and-coming actors, including Walter
, Carolyn Jones
, Angela Lansbury
, Charles Bronson
, Barbara Stanwyck
, Mary Tyler Moore
—and even a very young
in his screen debut.
Although Presley was praised by directors, like Michael Curtiz
, as polite and hardworking
(and as having an exceptional memory), "he was definitely not the
most talented actor around." Others were more charitable; critic
of the New York
said: "This boy can act," about his portrayal in
. Director Joe
believed "Elvis should be given more meaty parts. ...
He would be a good actor. He should do more important
pictures."Hopkins 2007, p. 185.
Presley's movies were generally poorly received, with one critic
dismissing them as a "pantheon of bad taste." The scripts of his
movies "were all the same, the songs progressively worse." For
, "fourteen songs
were cut in just three days." Julie Parrish, who appeared in
, says that Presley hated many of the songs chosen
for his films; he "couldn't stop laughing while he was recording"
one of them. Others noted that the songs seemed to be "written on
order by men who never really understood Elvis or rock and roll."
Sight and Sound
in his movies "Elvis Presley, aggressively bisexual in appeal,
knowingly erotic, [was] acting like a crucified houri and singing
with a kind of machine-made surrealism
However, several reputable songwriters/partnerships contributed
soundtrack songs, including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
, Sid Tepper
, and Otis Blackwell
and Winfield Scott
. Whatever the
quality of the material, some observers have argued that Presley
generally sang well in the studio, with commitment, and always
played with distinguished musicians and backing singers. Despite
this, critics maintained that "No major star suffered through more
bad movies than Elvis Presley."
Presley movies were nevertheless very popular, and he "became a
film genre of his own." Hal Wallis would later remark: "An Elvis
Presley picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood." Elvis on
celluloid was the only chance for his worldwide fans to see him, in
the absence of live appearances (the only time he toured outside of
the U.S. was in Canada in 1957). His Blue Hawaii
"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
"Viva Las Vegas
." His 1960s
films and soundtracks grossed some $280 million. On December 1,
1968, the New York Times
wrote: "Three times a year Elvis
Presley ... [makes] multi-million dollar feature-length films, with
holiday titles like Blue
, Fun in
, Viva Las
, Tickle Me
Easy Come, Easy
, Live a
Little, Love a Little
and The Trouble With Girls
. For each
film, Elvis receives a million dollars in wages and 50 per cent of
the profits. ... [E]very film yields an LP sound-track record which
may sell as many as two-million copies."
In 1964, Richard Burton
and Peter O'Toole
had starred in Hal 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. Elvis 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 similarly exploited the following year with the film
. Allied Artists
had serious financial problems
and hoped a Presley film would help them "stay afloat". Behind the Scenes of Tickle Me
agreeing to a lower fee, using previously recorded songs and
filming on the studio back-lot, Allied Artists were able to keep
costs very low. Considered one of the weakest of all Presley
pictures, it became the third highest grossing picture in Allied
Artists' history, and saved them from bankruptcy at the time.
By the late sixties, the Hippie
developed and musical acts like Jefferson Airplane
, Sly and the Family Stone
, Grateful Dead
and Janis Joplin
dominating the airwaves. Priscilla
recalls: "He blamed his fading popularity on his
humdrum movies" and "... loathed their stock plots and short
shooting schedules." She also notes: "He could have demanded
better, more substantial scripts, but he didn't."
Change of Habit
the singer's final movie role. His last two films were concert
documentaries in the early 1970s, though Presley was keen to
consider dramatic movie roles.George-Warren, Romanowski and
Pareles, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock And Roll
Excerpt in " Elvis Presley biography
. Retrieved on 2007-10-14. (See: 'Influence of Colonel
Parker and others
'). Presley was offered a co-starring role in
the 1976 remake of A Star is
, and he expressed interest. But the producers instead
turned to Kris Kristoferson
Colonel Parker began making greater and greater demands for salary
and billing for Presley.
As well as the formulaic movie songs of the 1960s, Presley added to
the studio recordings of Elvis Is Back
, by recording other
noteworthy songs like "She's Not You
," "Little Sister
", " Devil in Disguise
"It Hurts Me
." In 1966 he recorded a
cover of Bob Dylan
's "Tomorrow is a Long Time
" (which RCA
Victor relegated to a bonus track on the soundtrack album for
). He also produced two
gospel albums: His Hand in
(1960) and How Great Thou
(1966). In 1967, he recorded some well-received
singles, like Guitar Man
songwriter/guitar player Jerry Reed
However, "during the Beatles era (1963-70), only six Elvis singles
reached number ten or better. 'Suspicious Minds' was the lone
1965: "The Fab Four" meet "The King"
filming of Paradise, Hawaiian Style, Presley returned to
his Bel Air home. The Beatles
were at the end of their second U.S. tour. Colonel Parker had been
negotiating a meeting for some time, through The Beatles' manager
, though Parker simply
saw it as a valuable publicity opportunity. The group arrived in
Bel Air amid a flurry of elaborate security arrangements, made by
Parker, at 10 pm, on August 27, 1965.Guralnick 1999, p. 211. The
visit lasted about four hours. Many of Presley's closest and
trusted friends— members of the so-called "Memphis Mafia
"—were present, including school
friend and bodyguard Red West, Marty Lacker, Jerry Schilling
, Larry Geller and their
Biographer Peter Guralnick maintains that Presley was at best
"lukewarm" about playing host to people he did not really know, and
it took a while for everyone to feel comfortable. Paul McCartney
later said: "It was one of the
great meetings of my life. I think he liked us. I think at that
time, he may have felt a little bit threatened, but he didn't say
anything. We certainly didn't feel any antagonism. I only met him
that once, and then I think the success of our career started to
push him out a little, which we were very sad about, because we
wanted to coexist with him."
Marty Lacker recalls Presley saying: "'Quite frankly, if you guys
are going to stare at me all night, I'm going to bed. I thought
we'd talk a while and maybe jam a little.' And when he said that,
they [The Beatles] went nuts." The group told stories, joked and
listened to records. The five of them had an impromptu jam session.
"They all went to the piano," says Lacker, "and Elvis handed out a
couple of guitars. And they started singing Elvis songs, Beatle
songs, Chuck Berry
songs. Elvis played
Paul's bass part on "I Feel Fine
Paul said something like, 'You're coming along quite promising on
the bass there, Elvis.' I remember thinking later, 'Man, if we'd
only had a tape recorder.'"
played pool with two others
that night; George Harrison
to most of the guys to be stoned" on arrival and allegedly smoked a
joint with Larry Geller and talked about Hinduism
(see: 'Influence of Colonel
Parker and others
'). Parker played roulette with Epstein.
However, Guralnick claims The Beatles were, overall, disappointed
by the visit. They still reciprocated with an invitation for Elvis
to visit them, but only some of Presley's "Memphis Mafia" accepted.
went out of his way to tell
Jerry [Schilling] how much the evening had meant to him" and asked
Schilling to tell Presley, "'[I]f it hadn't been for him I would
have been nothing.'" Schilling says that when he told Presley he
did not say anything, but "just kind of smiled."(See: '1970–1972)
Marriage to Priscilla
Priscilla met in 1959 at a party in Bad Nauheim, Germany, during his stay in the army.
was 14 at the time, while he was 24. They quickly began a romantic
relationship and were frequently together until Elvis left Germany
in 1960.In her autobiography, Elvis and
, Priscilla says that Elvis refused to have sexual
intercourse with her until they were married. However, biographer
Priscilla and Elvis slept together on their second date, and that
she wasn't a virgin when she met him. Priscilla later won a lawsuit
against Currie Grant, a former Army buddy of Presley's, for his
claim in Finstad's book that he had sex with her in exchange for
introducing her to Presley. Grant, whom Priscilla had sued for at
least $10 million, was ordered to pay only $75,000. However,
neither Finstad nor her publisher were a party to the
Priscilla and Elvis stayed in contact over the phone, though they
would not see each other again until the summer of 1962, when
Priscilla's parents agreed to let her visit for two weeks. After
another visit at Christmas, Priscilla's parents finally let her
move to America for good. Part of the agreement was that she would
be privately educated, to complete her senior year, and live with
Elvis' father and his wife, Dee, in their home—due to Presley's
difficulty with accepting his stepmother, he arranged for them to
live in a separate house on the Graceland estate. Priscilla's
parents allowed her to live at Graceland only if Elvis promised to
eventually marry her. However, it wasn't long until Priscilla was
moved into Graceland to live with Elvis.
Shortly before Christmas 1966, Elvis proposed to Priscilla. They
married on May 1, 1967 at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas after an
eight-year courtship. In typical fashion, Colonel Parker had
arranged a photo session and press conference to be conducted
shortly after the ceremony. According to Finstad, this marriage was
part of a mastermind for fame hatched by Priscilla and her
Their only child, Lisa Marie
born on February 1, 1968.
Influence of Colonel Parker and others
By 1967, Colonel Tom Parker had negotiated a contract that gave him
50% of Presley's earnings. Parker's excessive gambling—and his
subsequent need to have Presley signed up to commercially lucrative
contracts—may well have adversely affected the course of Presley's
career. Parker's concerns about his own U.S. citizenship (he was a
Dutch immigrant) may have also been a factor in Parker and the
singer never exploiting Presley's popularity abroad (see: '1973–1976
It has been claimed that Presley's original band was fired in order
to isolate the singer: Parker wanted no one close to Presley to
suggest that a better management deal might exist. However, other
sources report the band members left voluntarily because of poor
pay, a lack of regular work and being banned from doing any solo
projects (they sent letters of resignation to Presley himself).
This led to Presley using more experienced musicians for his second
homecoming show in Tupelo, but after being dissatisfied with the
"sound and feel" of the performance, Parker arranged new terms with
Moore and Black a week later.
Due to Parker's deal with Hill & Range in 1955 (see First recordings and performances
apparently disliked several songs he sang— even some of the
earliest top sellers he became famous for (which suggests
commercial influences were sometimes greater than his own desires).
Presley's friend Jerry Schilling relates that one way to really
annoy the singer was to play a song, like "All Shook Up", on a
jukebox at one of his private parties. "Get that crap off," was his
Parker's role in Presley's marriage to Priscilla is disputed. Some
say that he persuaded Presley to get married for publicity reasons,
whilst others insist that Presley made the decision to marry on his
own. Parker is reported to have organized the wedding. It "was
rushed", and the guest list was "savagely brief" which led to a few
of Presley's entourage being upset at their exclusion. The
honeymoon, too, is alleged to have been disrupted by Parker.
Presley and Priscilla wanted a European honeymoon, but Parker
persuaded him that his fans "over there would be disappointed" if
he went there without performing.
In 1969, record producer Chips Moman
Presley recorded with Moman's own musicians at his American Sound
Studios in Memphis. Given the control exerted by RCA and the music
publishers, this was a significant departure. Moman still had to
deal with Hill and Range staff on site and was not happy with their
song choices. Moman could only get the best out of the singer when
he threatened to quit the sessions and asked Presley to remove the
"aggravating" publishing personnel from the studio. RCA Victor
executive Joan Deary was later full of praise for the song choices
and superior results of Moman's work, like "In the Ghetto
" and "Suspicious Minds
", but despite this, no
producer was to override Hill and Range's control again.
According to life-long friend and "Memphis
" member George Klein, over the years Presley was offered
lead roles in the film Midnight
and in West Side
. Robert Mitchum
personally offered him the lead in Thunder Road
.Clayton and Heard, p. 226. In
1974, Barbra Streisand
Presley to star with her in the remake of A Star is Born
. In each
case, any ambitions the singer may have had to play such parts were
thwarted by his manager's negotiating demands, or his flat
Marty Lacker regarded 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
Presley's father in turn distrusted Lacker and the other members of
the "Memphis Mafia"; he thought they collectively exercised an
unhealthy influence over his son. "[I]t 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." In the
"Memphis Mafia"'s defence, Marty Lacker has said: "[Presley] was
his own man. ... If we hadn't been around, he would have been dead
a lot earlier."Connolly 2007, p. 148.
Larry Geller became Presley's hairdresser in 1964. Unlike others in
the "Memphis Mafia", Geller was interested in 'spiritual studies',
and was subsequently viewed with suspicion and scorn by the
singer's manager and friends.Guralnick 1999, p. 173. From their
first conversation, Geller recalls how Presley revealed his secret
thoughts and anxieties, how "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.
In 1968, even Presley's version of Jerry Reed's hook-laden "Guitar
Man" had failed to enter the U.S. Top 40. He continued to issue
movie soundtrack albums that sold poorly compared to those of films
like Blue Hawaii
from 1961. It had also been nearly six
years since the single "Good Luck
" had topped the Billboard
Presley was, by now, "profoundly" unhappy with his career. Colonel
Parker's plans once again included television, and he arranged for
Presley to appear in his own special. The singer had not been on
television since Frank Sinatra's Timex special in May 1960. Parker
shrewdly maneuvered a deal with NBC
Sarnoff which included the network's commitment to financing a
future Presley feature film—something that Parker had found
increasingly difficult to secure.
The special was made in June, but was first aired on December 3,
1968 as a Christmas telecast called simply Elvis
dubbed the 68 Comeback Special by fans and critics, the
show featured some lavishly staged studio
productions. Other songs however, were
performed live with a band in front of a small audience—Presley's
first live appearance as a performer since 1961.
The live segments saw Presley clad in black leather,
singing and playing guitar in an uninhibited style—reminiscent of
his rock and roll days. Rolling Stone called it "a performance of
emotional grandeur and historical resonance."
Jon Landau in Eye magazine remarked: "There is
something magical about watching a man who has lost himself find
his way back home. He sang with the kind
of power people no longer expect of rock 'n' roll
singers. He moved his body with a lack of
pretension and effort that must have made Jim Morrison green with envy."Hopkins 2007, p.
215. 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 Colonel Parker had originally
By January, 1969, one of the key songs written specifically for the
special, "If I Can Dream
number 12. The soundtrack of the special also broke into the Top
10. On December 4, when the TV ratings were released, NBC reported
that Presley had captured 42 percent of the total viewing audience.
It was the network's number one rated show that season.
Jerry Schilling recalls that the special reminded Presley about
what "he had not been able to do for years, being able to choose
the people; being able to choose what songs and not being told what
had to be on the soundtrack. ... He was out of prison, man." Steve
Binder said of Presley's reaction: "I played Elvis the 60-minute
show, and he told me in the screening room, "Steve, it's the
greatest thing I've ever done in my life. I give you my word I will
never sing a song I don't believe in."
Buoyed by the experience, Presley engaged in the prolific series of
recording sessions at American
, which led to the acclaimed From Elvis in Memphis
was its uncredited producer). It was
followed by From Memphis To
Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis
, a double-album. The same
sessions lead to the hit singles "In the Ghetto", "Suspicious
Minds", "Kentucky Rain
" and "Don't Cry Daddy
Presley's sexual appeal and photogenic looks have been
acknowledged: for example, director Steve
, not a fan of Presley's music at the time, recalled from
the '68 Comeback
(when Presley was fit and tanned): "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
According to Marjorie Garber
"male rock critic writing in 1970 praised Elvis as 'The master of
the sexual simile, treating his guitar as both phallus and girl.'"
Rumor even "had it that into his skin-tight jeans was sewn a lead
bar to suggest a weapon of heroic proportions." She cites a boyhood
friend of Presley's who claims the singer actually used a cardboard
toilet roll tube to make it "look to the girls up front like he had
one helluva thing there inside his pants." According to other
sources, "Elvis has been hanging a small soft-drink bottle from his
groin underneath his pants, and when he wiggles his leg it looks as
though his pecker reaches down to his knee!" By way of explanation,
it has been stated that the singer did this in order "to earn more
shrieks from the crowd for his pelvic gyrations." Others consider
these rumors little more than urban legends as other versions of
the story insist that Elvis had placed an empty toilet paper roll
down his pants to produce a similar impression.
Accounts of Presley's numerous sexual conquests may be exaggerated.
reveals that Presley
kissed her all over her naked body - but refused to have oral sex
with her. Ex-Girlfriends Judy
and June Juanico
sexual relationships with Presley. Byron Raphael and Alanna Nash
have stated that the star "would
never put himself inside one of these girls..." Cassandra Peterson
("Elvira") says she
knew Presley for only one night, but all they did was talk.
regrets turning him down when he asked her
to stay with him in Las Vegas, because she was too nervous about
spending the night with him. Peggy
claims that he was "virtually impotent" with her, but
she attributed this to his boyishness and drug misuse.
, (Presley's co-star in
Viva Las Vegas
), refers to
Presley as her "soulmate" but has revealed little else. A publicity
campaign about Presley and Margret's romance was launched during
the filming of Viva Las Vegas
, which helped to increase
Margret's popularity.Gamson, p. 46. Presley apparently dated many
female co-stars 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."
Former partner Linda
says they did not consummate their relationship until
after a few months of dating. After they broke up in December 1976,
many say Presley never had sex again. His last girlfriend, Ginger Alden
claims that she was engaged to
Presley at the time of his death, but this is disputed.
Return to live performances
In 1969, Presley was keen to resume regular live performing.
Following the success of Elvis
, many new offers came in
from around the world. The London Palladium offered Parker $28,000 for a one week
He responded: "That's fine for me, now how much
can you get for Elvis?" By May, the brand new International Hotel in Las Vegas announced that it had booked Presley;
he was scheduled to perform from July 31, after Barbra Streisand opened the new
Presley duly delivered 57 shows over four weeks at the hotel, which
had the largest showroom in the city. He had assembled some of the
finest musicians—including an orchestra—and some of the best
/gospel back-up singers
Despite such a prestigious backing, Presley was nervous; his only
other engagement in Las Vegas (1956) had been a disaster,
critically. Parker therefore promoted the singer's appearances
heavily; he rented billboards and took out full-page advertisements
in local and trade papers. The lobby of the International displayed
Presley souvenirs; records, T-shirts, straw boaters and stuffed
animals. Parker intended to make Presley's return the show business
event of the year, and hotel
owner Kirk Kerkorian
planned to send
his own plane to New York to fly in the rock press for the debut
Presley took to the stage with no introduction. The audience of
2,200—which included Pat Boone
, Fats Domino
, Dick Clark
, George Hamilton
, Angie Dickinson
, and Henry Mancini
—gave him a standing ovation
before he sang one note. After a well-received performance, he
returned to give an encore, of "Can't Help Falling in Love", and
was given his third standing ovation Backstage, many well-wishers,
including Cary Grant
Presley on his triumphant return which, in the showroom alone, had
generated over $1,500,000.
commented: "There are
several unbelievable things about Elvis, but the most incredible is
his staying power in a world where meteoric careers fade like
shooting stars." Rolling Stone magazine declared Presley to be
"supernatural, his own resurrection", while Variety
proclaimed him a "superstar". At
a press conference after his opening show, when a reporter referred
to him as "The King", Presley pointed to Fats Domino
, standing at the back of the room.
"No," he said, "that’s the real king of rock and roll."Cook, p.
The next day, Parker's negotiations with the hotel resulted in a
five-year contract for Presley to play each February and August, at
a salary of $1 million per year.
In January 1970, Presley returned to the International Hotel for a
month-long engagement, performing two shows a night. RCA recorded
some shows and the best material appeared on the album On Stage - February
.Stanley and Coffey, p. 94. In late February,
Presley performed six more attendance-breaking shows at the
Astrodome in Texas.Stanley and Coffey, p. 95.
at the International Hotel, MGM filmed rehearsal and concert
footage for a documentary: Elvis - That's The Way It
. He wore a jumpsuit—a garment that would become a
trademark of Presley's live performances in the 1970s. Although he
had new hit singles in many countries, some were critical of his
song choices and accused him of being distant from trends within
Around this time Presley was threatened with kidnapping at the
International Hotel. Phone calls were received, one demanding
$50,000; if unpaid, Presley would be killed by a "crazy man".
FBI took the threat seriously and security was stepped
up for the next two shows.
Presley went on stage with a
in his right boot and a .45 in
his waistband, but nothing untoward transpired.Hopkins 2007, p.
254.Stanley and Coffey, p. 96. (The singer had had many threats of
varying degrees since the fifties, many of them made without the
singer's knowledge).Hopkins 2007, p. 253.
After closing his Las Vegas engagement on September 7, Presley
embarked on his first concert tour since 1958. Feeling exhausted,
Presley spent a month relaxing and recording before touring again
in October and November.Stanley and Coffey, p. 99. He would tour
extensively in the U.S. up to his death; many of the 1,145 concerts
setting attendance records.
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). Presley had engineered the encounter to
express his patriotism, his contempt for the hippie drug culture
and his wish to be appointed a "Federal Agent at Large". He also
wished to obtain a Bureau of Narcotics and
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 his concern to Presley that the singer needed to
"retain his credibility". Ringo Starr later said he found it very
sad to think Presley held such views. "This is Mr. Hips, the
, and he felt we were a danger. I think that the danger was
mainly to him and his career." Paul McCartney said also that he
"felt a bit betrayed ... The great joke was that we were taking
drugs, and look what happened to [Elvis]. ... It was sad, but I
still love him. ..."
On January 16, 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
In April 1972, MGM again filmed Presley, this time for Elvis on Tour
, which won a 1972 Golden
Globe for Best Documentary. A 14-date tour started with an unprecedented
four consecutive sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden, New York.
RCA taped the shows for a live
album. After the tour, Presley released the 1972 single "Burning Love
"—his last top ten hit in the U.S.
Divorce from Priscilla
Off stage, Presley had continuing problems. He and Priscilla became
increasingly distant due to Elvis being on the road so much. It was
widely reported that he had cheated on her both before and after
they married. In spite of his own infidelity, Presley was furious
that Priscilla was having an affair with a mutual acquaintance—Mike
Stone, a karate instructor she had met in 1971 backstage at one of
Presley's concerts. It was Presley himself who first suggested
Priscilla should take lessons from Stone. Once the news of their
affair came to his attention, he raged obsessively: "There's too
much pain in me ... Stone [must] die." A bodyguard, Red West
, felt compelled to get a price for a
contract killing and was relieved when Presley decided: "Aw hell
... Maybe it's a bit heavy ..." Priscilla later admitted in her
book Elvis and Me
that she had also had
a previous short affair with her private dance instructor in
The Presleys separated on February 23, 1972 after 13 years
together. Elvis filed for legal
in August 1972, and then filed for divorce in
January 1973. They were divorced on October 9, 1973, agreeing to
share custody of their daughter.
Following his separation from Priscilla, he lived with Linda Thompson
, a songwriter and
one-time Memphis beauty queen, from July 1972 until just a few
months before his death.Hopkins 2007, p. 291. Following their
breakup, he had a relationship with Ginger
, who has said that they were engaged.
1973: Aloha from Hawaii
In January 1973, Presley performed two charity concerts in Hawaii
for the Kui Lee
cancer foundation. The first
concert (January 12) was primarily a practice run for the main show
which was broadcast live on January 14. The first show also served
as a backup if technical problems affected the live broadcast. The
"Aloha from Hawaii
" concert was
the world's first live concert satellite broadcast, reaching at
least a billion viewers live and a further 500 million on delay.
The show raised $75,000 and the album went to number one, spending
a year in the charts. The album also proved to be Presley's last
U.S. Number One album during his lifetime.
In March 1973, Presley and Parker negotiated a deal with RCA that
resulted in Presley receiving a large lump sum payment of $5.4
million in lieu of all his future artist's royalties for any songs
recorded up to that time. Presley, however, would retain any future
royalties on material recorded after March 1973. Due to the current
contract that Presley had with his manager, Parker received 50% of
the payment. The deal also had no effect on Presley's publishing
deals, and he would continue to receive royalties from Elvis
Presley Music Inc. which included songs recorded prior to March
1973. Jack Soden of Elvis Presley Enterprises later described this
deal as "..right up there with the
Indians selling Manhattan for $24
", and in 1980 a lawyer for
the Presley estate concluded that Parker and RCA were
"... probably guilty of collusion, conspiracy, fraud [and]
After his divorce in 1973, Presley became increasingly unwell, with
prescription drugs affecting his health, mood and his stage act.
His diet had always been unhealthy, and he now had significant
weight problems. He overdosed twice on barbiturates
, spending three days in a coma in
his hotel suite after the first. According to Dr. George C. Nichopoulos
, Presley's main physician,
the singer was "near death" in November 1973 because of side
effects of Demerol
notes that the subsequent hospital admission "was crazy", because
of the enormous attention Presley attracted, and the measures
necessary to protect his medical details. Lab technicians were even
exploiting Presley's ill-health by selling samples of his blood and
urine.Clayton and Heard, p. 293.
In his book, Elvis: The Final Years
, Jerry Hopkins writes:
"Elvis' health plummeted as his weight ballooned." At a University
of Maryland concert on September 27 (1974), band members"had
trouble recognizing him....
'He walked on stage and held
onto the mike for the first thirty minutes like it was a post.
Everybody was scared.' Guitarist John Wilkinson ... recalled, ...
'He was all gut. He was slurring. ... It was obvious he was
drugged, that there was something terribly wrong with his body. It
was so bad, the words to the songs were barely intelligible.... We
were in a state of shock.' "
Despite this, his "thundering" live version of "How Great Thou Art
won him a Grammy award in 1974. Presley won three competitive
Grammys for his gospel
Great Thou Art"—the album, as well as the single—and for the album
He Touched Me
(1972). (He had
fourteen nominations during his career, though it has been claimed
that "Elvis has never been adequately appreciated by those who give
In April 1974, rumors began that he would actually be playing
overseas after years of offers.Stanley and Coffey, p. 123. A
$1,000,000 bid came in from a source in Australia for him to tour
there, but Colonel Parker was uncharacteristically reluctant to
accept such large sums. This prompted those closest to Presley to
speculate about Parker's past and circumstances, and the reasons
for his apparent unwillingness to apply for a passport to travel
abroad. He set aside any notions Presley had of overseas work by
citing poor security in other countries, and the lack of suitable
venues for a star of his status. Presley apparently accepted such
excuses, at the time.
continued to play to sell-out crowds in the U.S.; a 1975 tour ended
with a concert in Pontiac, Michigan, attended by over 62,000 fans.
singer now 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' and 'Time
Makes Listless Machine of Elvis' were not uncommon." According to
Marjorie Garber, when Presley made his later appearances in Las
Vegas, he appeared "heavier, in pancake make-up... with an
elaborate jewelled 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,... Mother's Day
special holiday for Elvis' fans."
On July 13, 1976, Presley's father fired "Memphis Mafia" bodyguards
Red West, Sonny West and David Hebler. All three were taken by
surprise, especially the Wests, who had been with Presley since the
beginning of his career.Stanley and Coffey, p. 139. Presley was away in
Springs when it happened, and some suggest the singer was
too cowardly to face them himself.Hopkins 2007, p. 354.
Vernon Presley cited the need to "cut back on expenses" when
dismissing the three, but David Stanley has claimed they were
really fired because of becoming more outspoken about Presley's
drug dependency.Stanley and Coffey, p. 140. A "trusted associate"
of Presley, John O'Grady, also stated, in agreement with Parker and
Vernon Presley, that the bodyguards "were too rough with the
fans... resulting in a lot of unnecessary lawsuits" and lawyers'
fees. The Wests and Hebler would later write a devastating
indictment of Presley, notably his drug-taking, in the book:
Elvis: What Happened?
published August 1, 1977.Stanley and Coffey, p. 148.
Almost throughout the 1970s, Presley's recording label had been
increasingly concerned about making money from Presley material:
RCA Victor often had to rely on live recordings because of problems
getting him to attend studio sessions. A mobile studio was
occasionally sent to Graceland in the hope of capturing an inspired
vocal performance. Once in a studio, he could lack interest or be
easily distracted; often this was linked to his health and drug
Final year and death
In 2006, a journalist recalled: "Elvis Presley had [in 1977] become
a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self... he
was barely able to pull himself through his abbreviated concerts."
Alexandria, Louisiana, the singer was on stage for less than an hour and
"was impossible to understand."Guralnick 1999, p. 628.
Rouge, Presley failed to appear: he was unable to get out
of his hotel bed, and the rest of the tour was
cancelled.In Knoxville, Tennessee on May 20, "there was no longer any pretence of
keeping up appearances.
The idea was simply to get Elvis out
on stage and keep him upright..." Despite his obvious problems, shows in
Omaha, Nebraska and Rapid City, South
Dakota were recorded for an album and a CBS-TV special:
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." His performance in Omaha "exceeded everyone's worst
fears... [giving] the impression of a man crying out for help ..."
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." A cousin, Billy Smith, recalled how
Presley would sit in his room and chat, recounting things like his
favorite Monty Python
sketches and his
own past japes, but "mostly there was a grim obsessiveness... a
paranoia about people, germs... future events", that reminded Smith
of Howard Hughes
The book Elvis: What
was the first exposé to detail Presley's years
of drug misuse, and served as the authors' revenge for them being
fired, as well a plea to get Presley to recognize the extent of his
drug problems. 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."
final performance was in Indianapolis at the Market Square Arena, on June 26, 1977.
According to many of his
entourage who accompanied him on tour, it was the "best show he had
given in a long time" with "some strong singing".
Another tour was scheduled to begin August 17, 1977, but at
Graceland the day before, Presley was found unresponsive on the
floor of his suite by fiancée, Ginger
, and attempts to revive the singer failed.Guralnick 1999,
p. 651. Death was officially pronounced at 3:30 pm at the Baptist
Before his funeral, hundreds of thousands of fans, the press and
celebrities lined the streets and many hoped to see the open casket
in Graceland. One of Presley's cousins, Billy Mann, accepted
$18,000 to secretly photograph the corpse; the picture duly
appeared on the cover of the National
, making it the largest and fastest selling issue of
all time.Hopkins 2007, p. 386. Two days after the singer's death, a
car plowed into a group of 2000 fans outside Presley's home,
killing two women and critically injuring a third. Among the
mourners at the funeral were Ann-Margret (who had remained close to
Presley) and his ex-wife.Clayton and Heard, p. 394. U.S. President Jimmy Carter
issued a statement (See 'Legacy
On Thursday, August 18, following a funeral service at Graceland,
Elvis Presley was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis, next
to his mother. After an attempt to steal the body on August 28, and
with no signs of security concerns at the cemetery abating, his—and
his mother's—remains were reburied at Graceland in the Meditation
Garden in October.
Presley had developed many health problems during his life, some of
. Opinions differ
regarding the onset of his drug abuse. He did take amphetamines
regularly in the army; it has been
claimed that pills of some form were first given to him by Memphis
DJ Dewey Phillips
, but Presley's
friend Lamar Fike has said: "Elvis got his first uppers from what
he stole from his mother. Gladys was given Dexedrine
to help her with her 'change of life'
problems." Priscilla Presley saw "problems in Elvis' life, all
magnified by taking prescribed drugs." Presley's physician, Dr.
Nichopoulos, has said: "[Elvis] 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
According to Guralnick: "[D]rug use was heavily implicated... no
one ruled out the possibility of anaphylactic shock
brought on by the
pills... to 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 medical profession has been seriously questioned. Medical Examiner
Dr. Jerry Francisco had publicly
offered a cause of death while the autopsy was still being
performed, but before toxicology
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 had been bribed
with gifts) and supplied him with pills, which simply fed his
addictions. The singer allegedly spent at least $1 million annually
during his latter years 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
[prescribed] more than 10,000 doses of sedatives, amphetamines, and
narcotics: all in Elvis' name. On January 20, 1980, the board found
[against] him... 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. In July 1995, it was permanently revoked
after it was found he had improperly dispensed drugs to several
patients including Jerry Lee
In 1994, the autopsy into Presley's death was re-opened. Coroner
Dr. Joseph Davis declared: "There is nothing in any of the data
that supports a death from drugs [i.e. drug overdose]. In fact,
everything points to a sudden, violent heart attack
." However, there is little doubt
caused his premature death.
Author Samuel Roy has argued: "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 was somehow lost."
His latter-day song choices had been seen as poor; many who
disliked Presley had long been dismissive because he did not write
his own songs. Such criticism of Presley continues.Cook, p. 20.
Presley "was an untrained musician who played [guitar and piano]
entirely by ear. 'I don't read music,' he confessed, 'but I know
what I like.' ... Because he was not a songwriter, Presley [would]
rarely [have] material prepared for recording sessions..." When
later, as a young singer, he "ventured into the recording studio he
was heavily influenced by the songs he had heard on the jukebox and
radio."The tabloids had ridiculed his obesity and his kitschy,
jump-suited performances. Comedian George
remarked, "America got what it deserved in Elvis
Presley: a big fat, drug-addicted squealer." Sade Adu
said about Presley: "when I see him in his
fifties movies, Jailhouse
and King Creole
that's an image I desire to look like. But when he's in his
jumpsuit I just think of him as a drag queen." His sixties' film
career was mocked. (In 1980, John Lennon said: "[Presley] 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 early recordings—and to the way he
said "Thankyouverymuch" after songs during live shows. This was
only countered by the uncritical adulation of die-hard 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."
Presley has featured prominently in a variety of polls and surveys
designed to measure popularity and influence. However, sociologist
Philip Ennis writes: "Perhaps it is an error of enthusiasm to
freight Elvis Presley with too heavy a historical load" because,
according to an opinion poll of high school students in 1957,
was nearly the "two-to-one
favorite over Elvis Presley among boys and preferred almost
three-to-one by girls..." Despite this, and unlike Pat Boone,
Presley's early music and live performances are credited with
helping to lay a commercial foundation which allowed established
black music acts of the 1950s to receive due recognition.
Performers like Fats Domino
, Chuck Berry
, came to national prominence after Presley's mix of
musical styles was accepted among White
teenagers. Rather than Presley being seen as a white
man who 'stole black music', Little Richard argued: "He was an
integrator, Elvis was a blessing. They wouldn't let black music
through. He opened the door for black music." Al Green
agreed, saying; "He broke the ice for all
of us." It has also been claimed that Presley's sound and persona
helped to relax the rigid color line and thereby fed the fires of
the civil rights
In the late 1960s, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein
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."
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
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
declared: "Elvis was the King. No doubt about it.
People like myself, Mick Jagger
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." Bob Dylan said: "When I first heard Elvis' voice I
just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody; and nobody was
going to be my boss. Hearing him for the first time was like
busting out of jail."
By 1958, singers obviously adopting Presley's style, like Marty Wilde
(the so-called "British Elvis"), were rising to
prominence in the UK. Elsewhere, France's Johnny Hallyday
and the Italians Adriano Celentano
and Bobby Solo were also
heavily influenced by Presley.
Presley's recorded voice is seen by many as his enduring legacy.
Music critic Henry
writes: "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." It has also been noted that
"Presley’s comprehensive musical knowledge and talent also
surprised and impressed songwriters
and Mike Stoller
... [They] considered Presley to be
an 'idiot savant
' because he knew so
many songs. His knowledge of the blues especially impressed them.
Leiber remembers that Presley "could imitate anything he heard. He
had a perfect ear,"... Presley could sing and/or play a song
on the piano after hearing it only once or twice. His natural ear
for music, ability to play by ear, and to improvise were well known
to his friends and musical associates."
Gospel tenor Shawn Nielsen, who sang backing vocals for Presley on
tour, 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
Presley's informal jamming in front of a small audience in the
'68 Comeback Special
regarded as a forerunner of the so-called 'Unplugged' concept,
later popularized by MTV
singer has been inducted into four music 'Halls of Fame': the
Roll Hall of Fame (1986), the Rockabilly Hall of Fame (1997), the
Music Hall of Fame (1998), and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame
In 1984, he received the W. C. Handy
Award from the Blues Foundation
and the Academy of Country Music
Golden Hat Award. In 1987, he received the American Music Awards
posthumous presentation of the Award of Merit.
has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard. He was also honored by the Mississippi Blues
Commission with a Mississippi
Blues Trail historic marker placed in Tupelo, his birth place, in recognition of his
contribution to the development of the blues in
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
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
", "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.
Paul F. Campos has written: "The Elvis cult touches on so many
crucial nerves of American popular culture: the ascent of a
workingclass boy from the most obscure backwater to international
fame and fortune; the white man with the soul of black music in his
voice; the performer whose music tied together the main strands of
American folk music—country, rhythm and blues, and gospel; and,
perhaps most compellingly for a weight-obsessed nation, the sexiest
man in America's gradual transformation into a fat, sweating parody
of his former self, straining the bounds of a jewel-encrusted
bodysuit on a Las Vegas stage. The images of fat Elvis and thin
Elvis live together in the popular imagination." The singer
continues to be imitated—and parodied—outside the main music
industry and Presley songs remain very popular on the karaoke
circuit. People from a diversity of cultures
and backgrounds work as Elvis
("the raw 1950s Elvis and the kitschy 1970s Elvis
are the favorites.")
In 2002, it was observed:
- Presley's genuine birth certificate reads "Elvis Aaron
Presley" (as written by a doctor). There is also a souvenir birth
certificate that reads "Elvis Aron Presley." When Presley
did sign his middle name, he used Aron. It reads 'Aron' on his
marriage certificate and on his army duffel bag. Aron was
apparently the spelling the Presleys used to make it similar to the
middle name of Elvis' stillborn twin, Jesse Garon. Elvis
later sought to change the name's spelling to the traditional and
biblical Aaron. In the process he learned that "official state
records had always listed it as Aaron. Therefore, he always was,
officially, Elvis Aaron Presley." Knowing Presley's plans for his
middle name, Aaron is the spelling his father chose for Elvis'
tombstone, and it is the spelling his estate has designated as the
official spelling whenever the middle name is used today. His death
certificate says "Elvis Aron Presley." This quirk has helped
inflame the "Elvis is not
dead" conspiracy theories.
- Presley's version dropped the word "Mama" from the title.
- Songs credited to Presley as a co-writer: "Heartbreak Hotel", all four songs from his
first film including title track "Love Me Tender" and "All Shook Up".
- The issue of whether Presley "stole" music of black origin
continued decades later. See: Kolawole, Helen (August 15, 2002). "
He wasn't my king". Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved on
- In 1973, Presley was keen to produce a karate
movie/documentary, enlisting the help of several top instructors
and film-makers. Instructor Rick Husky says: "...Basically [our
meeting] never went anywhere... Elvis got up and did some
demonstrations with Ed [Parker], you know stumbled around a little
bit, and it was very sad." Husky was aware that Presley was
"stoned." "Colonel" Parker thought the project was folly—and a
drain on their resources—from the start. (Guralnick 1994,
p. 531 and in passim). The film footage was finally edited,
restored and released as The New Gladiators in
Gladiators (2002) Yahoo!
Movies. Retrieved on 2007-10-12; Susan, King (November 17,
2002). " When Elvis bowed to karate kings" Los Angeles Times. Reprinted in
IssacFlorentine.com. Retrieved on 2007-10-12.
2008, it was claimed that Presley had flown to London in 1958
whilst in the Army for a one-day secret trip: his only visit to the
UK was thought to have been a stop-over at Prestwick
Airport, Scotland in 1960. Tommy Steele, Presley's alleged London
chaperone, said that he'd sworn not to divulge details of the
visit. Friends of Presley, including Army buddy Lamar Fike, insist
that the trip never took place.
- See also: Cook, Graceland National Historic Landmark
Nomination Form. Other analyses of Presley's voice credit him
with a three octave range.
- VH1 ranked Presley #8 on its 100
Greatest Artists in Rock and Roll in 1998 while CMT ranked him #15 on CMT's 40 Greatest Men in
Country Music. Presley is one of only three artists to make
both VH1's and CMT's lists, the others being Johnny Cash and
The Eagles. Elvis also ranked second for
BBC's "Voice of the Century", eighth on Discovery Channel's "Greatest American"
list, in the top ten of Variety's "100 Icons of the
century", sixty-sixth in The
Atlantic Monthly's "100 most influential figures in
American history", and third in Rolling Stone's "The Immortals: The Fifty
Greatest Artists of All Time" for which he was chosen by Bono.
- Alagna, Magdalena (2002). Elvis Presley. Rosen
Publishing Group. .
- Austen, Jake (2005). TV-A-Go-Go: Rock on TV from American
Bandstand to American Idol. Chicago Review Press. .
- Baden, Michael M.; Judith Adler Hennessee (1992). Unnatural
Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner. New York: Random
- Bayles, Martha (1996). Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty
and Meaning in American Popular Music. University of Chicago Press.
- Bertrand, Michael T. (2000). Race, Rock, and Elvis.
University of Illinois
- Beebe, R.; D. Fulbrook, B. Saunders (eds.) (2002). Rock
over the Edge. Duke
University Press. .
- Brown, Peter Harry; Pat H. Broeske (1998). Down at the End
of Lonely Street: The Life and Death of Elvis Presley. Signet.
- Caine, A. (2005). Interpreting Rock Movies: The Pop Film
and Its Critics in Britain. Palgrave Macmillan. .
- Carr, Roy; Mick Farren (1982). Elvis: The complete
illustrated record. Eel Pie
- Clayton, Rose; Dick Heard (2003). Elvis: By Those Who Knew
Him Best. Virgin Publishing Limited. .
- Connolly, Charlie (2007). In search of Elvis. Abacus.
- Cook, J., Henry, P. (ed.) (2004). Graceland National Historic Landmark Nomination
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