2. The King of Rock
Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1938. Elvis grew up in a close-knit, working class family, consisting of his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, who all live near one another in Tupelo.
As a boy, Elvis was interested in music and performing. At the age of ten, Elvis won fifth place in a radio talent show. The next year, Elvis received his first guitar. Elvis loved listening to country music on the radio and especially liked the black blues singers that were in his neighborhood.
At the age of eighteen, Elvis decided to record a few songs as a Christmas gift for his mother. After his session ended, a copy of his record was passed along to the head of Sun Recorder, Sam Phillips. Sam Phillips had been looking for young, white male who had the sound of a black rhythm & blues singer. He found exactly what he was looking for in Elvis Presley.
After discovering Elvis, Sam Phillips had him record covers of a number of famous songs. Within days of playing them on air at the local radio station, Elvis became an overnight success. This video has one of those songs; "That's All Right Mamma", with pictures of Elvis in his early years.
Elvis the Pelvis
After his radio success, Elvis began performing with two other musicians. It is said that in his first shows, Presley's legs shook uncontrollably with nerves, causing teenage girls to "go crazy". These moves became an Elvis trademark and along with some other cowboy antics, were incorporated into his shows. "Elvis the Pelvis" became a common nickname for him.
Here is a video of Elvis performing "Hound Dog" on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, two years after his discovery. Look for the way his legs move around the one minute mark.
By 1956-57, Elvis had become a nation star and teen idol. He sang in prime time television shows and debuted on popular local radio stations. All of his singles went "gold" in that year. Here were some of his biggest hits:
- Blue Suede Shoes
- Hound Dog
- My Baby Left Me
- Love Me Tender
- Jailhouse Rock
Love Me Tender and time in Military
Elvis was also a movie star. A number of movies were made with Elvis in a main role. These films were usually musicals, a genre that was very popular in the 1950's.
In 1958, Elvis was drafted into the US Army. He served in Germany for three years. His fans were still able to see him in the many films he had made prior to leaving, and when he came back he was more popular than ever.
Here is a clip from one of Elvis' movies; Love Me Tender.
Graceland and Later Years
As Elvis became older, he returned back to his blues and country roots. He bought a large mansion in Tennessee called Graceland. Many Elvis fans still visit it to this day.
In his later years, Elvis became increasingly more unfit on stage and died in 1977 of a prescription drug overdose. Today, more than 30 years after his death, millions of people come from all over the world to pay homage to this remarkable artist at his former residence, Graceland.
Here is a video of Elvis' last performance before his death: