Born in: Tupelo, Mississippi
Career: Singer, Actor
Died On: August 16, 1977
Elvis Presley, often referred as ‘Aron’, was an American singer, musician and actor. He is designated as a cultural icon and is popularly renowned as “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” or just “The King”. He began his career as one of the first performers of rock, which was largely a un-tempo blend of fusion of country and rhythm and blues, with a strong back beat. His popularity can be attributed to his mixing of ‘black’ and ‘white’ sounds, along with his controversial stage and television appearances. Presley had an unusual voice and recorded songs in rock and roll style. His versatility can be seen in the various form of music he practiced, such as gospels, blues, ballads and pop. In effect, he has been inducted in four halls of fame. Presley is known for setting records for concert attendance, television ratings and recordings sales, throughout his life
Elvis Presley was born as ‘Elvis Aaron Presley’ on 8th January 1935 in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. His father Vernon undertook many low paying jobs, such as truck driving and sharecropping, while his mother Gladys Love Smith was a sewing machine operator. Elvis was one of the two identical twins his mother delivered, but as the second child was stillborn, he grew up as the only child and was very close to his mother. At the age of ten, he made his first public performance in a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. He sang Red Foley's "Old Shep" and won second prize.
In 1946, Presley got his first guitar. He attended L. C. Humes High School and despite his unpopularity, contested in the school's 1952 "Annual Minstrel Show". Needless to tell, he won by receiving the most applause, as he sang "Cold Cold Icy Fingers" and "Till I Waltz Again With You". After graduation, Presley was still a shy individual and worked as a truck driver for Crown Electric Company. He was quite influenced by the Assembly of God, a Pentecostal Holiness Church, and attended informal gospel music sessions in private.
In July 1953, the owner of Sun Records' Memphis Recording Service,Sam Philips, was looking for budding singer who could deliver a blend of black blues and boogie-woogie music. Hence, Presley was called and auditioned by local musicians, which was followed by a studio session. He sang ‘That’s All Right’ and ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’, which became hits across the South. After this, Presley, along with the two musicians, came to be known as ‘The Blue Moon Boys’ and first appeared at the Overton Park. The show was quite a success and DJ cum promoter Bob Neal became the trio's manager.
Owing to the unique style of Presley’s singing, he was termed as ‘The King of Western Bop’, ‘The Hillbilly Cat’ and ‘The Memphis Flash’, by the media. In November 1955, Tom Parker became Presley’s manager and worked a deal with RCA Victor Records, to acquire Presley’s Sun contract for an exceptional $35,000. In January 1956, Presley's first RCA Victor single, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ came out and became number one in the U.S. It sold one million copies, by April. In March, RCA Victor released his first album, named ‘Elvis Presley’, which primarily contained country songs.
It was in 1956 only that Presley kick-started his acting career. His first film was a musical western, ‘Love Me Tender’. Though it did not appeal to the critics, the movie did well at the box office. Majority of his films were usually musical comedies, aimed at commercial success. However, Presley also appeared in dramatic films, like ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ ‘King Creole’ and non-musical western, ‘Charro’. His dance sequence in the song ‘Jailhouse Rock’ is considered to be his greatest performance ever captured on film.
In spite of widespread criticism, Presley’s movies gained popularity, proven by the fact that his 1960s films and soundtracks grossed some $280 million. Though he was the highest paid actor in 1960s, times gradually changed and he made his final appearance in ‘Change of Habit’, in 1969. He also did some noteworthy studio recordings in 1960s, giving songs like ‘Suspicion,’ ‘(You're the) Devil in Disguise’ and ‘It Hurts Me’. He released two albums ‘His Hand in Mine’, in 1960, and ‘How Great Thou Art’, in 1966. In 1967 also, he recorded some popular songs, but faced much competition from the new band ‘Beetles’.
In 1968 summer, Presley made a Christmas telecast on NBC, which was later dubbed as the '68 Comeback Special’. The show was aired in December 1968 and featured lavish staged productions. It also presented Elvis clad in black leather, performing live in an uninhibited style, reminiscent of his rock and roll days. After this, Elvis once again indulged in recording and gave some remarkable albums, which featured songs like ‘In the Ghetto’, ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘Kentucky Rain’ and ‘Don't Cry Daddy’.
In 1969, Presley made record breaking appearances in Las Vegas. This was followed by extensive touring across the U.S. With his tours, more Gold Record awards followed. In 1972, MGM filmed a documentary ‘Elvis on Tour’, which won a Golden Globe for Best Documentary. After his fourteen day tour to New York, Presley released the 1972 single ‘Burning Love’, which became his last top ten hit in the U.S. charts.
Elvis Presley met Priscilla Beaulieu Presley during the 1960s. Their meeting was in Germany, when she was only fourteen. The couple got married on 1st May 1967, in Las Vegas. After nine months, their daughter Lisa Marie was born. However, in 1970s, Presley faced problems at the domestic front. His wife was found involved with a mutual acquaintance, Mike Stone, a karate instructor. This infuriated Presley, which led to the separation of the couple in 1972 and later divorce in 1973.
Final Year and Demise
Soon after his divorce, Presley became isolated and overweight. His prescription drugs adversely affected his health, mood and stage performances. Despite this, he grabbed a Grammy Award for ‘How Great Thou Art’ in 1974. As a result, it became difficult to get studio recording done with Elvis and the companies relied on live concerts. With time, Elvis confined himself to his room and spiritual books. His final performance took place in Indianapolis, at the Market Square Arena, in June 1977. His next tour was scheduled for August at Graceland, but before that he was found dead in his bathroom by fiancée Ginger Alden.
Presley’s funeral, in Graceland, was attended by millions of fans, who craved for one glimpse of the open casket. He was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery, Memphis, next to his mother, but later his and his mother's remains were reburied at Graceland, in the Meditation Gardens. There was even a controversy regarding the cause of his death. The varied views with regard to his death were drug misuse, combined drug intoxication, etc. In 1994, Presley’s autopsy reports were reopened and it was declared that long term drug misuse contributed to his demise, the major reason being a fatal heart attack.