Elvis Presley at the White House in 1970
Birth name Elvis Aron Presley
Born January 8, 1935
Tupelo, Mississippi, USA
Died August 16, 1977,Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Singer, Actor, American soldier
Guitar and Piano
Years active 1954-1977
Sun, (1953-1955), RCA Victor,(1956-1977)
1 Parents, childhood and youth
2 Musical roots
3 Voice characteristics
4 Sun recordings
5 Presley and his manager "Colonel" Tom Parker
6 Cultural impact
6.1 Presley and African American music
6.2 "A danger to American culture"
6.3 American icon
7 Military service
8 1960s film career
9 1968 comeback
10 The final years
11 Death and burial
Elvis Aron Presley (January 8, 1935 - August 16, 1977) often known simply as Elvis and also called "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" or simply "The King", was an American singer and actor. He is regarded by many to be the greatest entertainer of the 20th century. (Presley's birth certificate uses the spelling Aron, but his estate has designated Aaron as the official spelling of his middle name.)
Presley started as a singer of rockabilly, singing many songs from rhythm and blues (R&B), gospel and country. He was first billed as "The Hilbilly Cat". His combination of country music with bluesy vocals and a strong back beat marked a clear path toward rock & roll. He was the most commercially successful singer of rock and roll, but he also had success with ballads, country, gospel, blues, pop, folk and even semi-operatic and jazz standards. His voice, which developed into many voices as his career progressed, had always a unique tonality and an extraordinary unusual center of gravity, leading to his being able to tackle a range of songs and melodies which would be nearly impossible for most other popular singers to achieve. In a musical career of over two decades, Presley set many records, such as concert attendance, television ratings, and record sales, and became one of the best-selling artists in music history.
Elvis Presley is an icon of modern American pop culture. During the late 1960's and through a large portion of the 1970's, Presley re-emerged as a live performer of old and new hit songs, both on tour and in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was known for his on-stage highly energetic performances both vocally and physically, his sartorial jump-suits and capes adding to the drama. He attracted massive attendance figures. His concert performances were staggering in quantity, considering they numbered over 1,100 in 8 years. He continued to perform before sell-out audiences around the U.S. until his death in 1977. His death was premature at 42, despite alarming concerns about his health. When he died on August 16, 1977, it was a huge shock to his fans. However, it soon became clear that a combination of over-work, obesity, depression, bad diet and severe abuse of prescription drugs, accelerated his premature departure. His popularity as a singer has survived his death.
Parents, childhood and youth
Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 at around 4:13 a.m. in a two-room shotgun house in East Tupelo, Mississippi to Vernon Presley, a truck driver, and Gladys Love Smith, a sewing machine operator. Vernon Presley is described as a "taciturn to the point of sullenness," whereas his mother Gladys "was voluble, lively, full of spunk." Priscilla Presley describes her as "a surreptitious drinker and alcoholic." When she was angry, "she cussed like a sailor". Presley's twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, was stillborn, thus leaving him to grow up as an only child. The surname Presley was Anglicized from the German name "Pressler" during the Civil War. His ancestor Johann Valentin Pressler emigrated to America in 1710. Presley was mostly of Scottish,Native American, Irish, Jewish, and German roots.
Presley's parents were very protective of their only surviving child. The little boy "grew up a loved and precious child. He was, everyone agreed, unusually close to his mother." His mother Gladys "worshipped him", said a neighbor, "from the day he was born." Elvis himself said, "My mama never let me out of her sight. I couldn't go down to the creek with the other kids." In his teens he was still a very shy person, a "kid who had spent scarcely a night away from home in his nineteen years." He was teased by his fellow classmates who threw "things at him - rotten fruit and stuff - because he was different, because he was quiet and he stuttered and he was a mama's boy." Gladys was so proud of her son, that, years later, she "would get up early in the morning to run off the fans so Elvis could sleep". She was frightened of Elvis being hurt: "She knew her boy, and she knew he could take care of himself, but what if some crazy man came after him with a gun? she said...tears streaming down her face."
In 1938, when Presley was three years old, his father was convicted of forgery. Vernon, Gladys's brother Travis Smith, and Luther Gable went to prison for altering a check from Orville Bean, Vernon's boss, from $3 to $8 and then cashing it at a local bank. Vernon was sentenced to three years at Mississippi State Penitentiary. Though Vernon was released after serving eight months, this event deeply influenced the life of the young family. During her husband's absence, Gladys lost the house and was forced to move in briefly with her in-laws next door. The Presley family lived just above the poverty line during their years in East Tupelo.
In 1941 Presley started school at the East Tupelo Consolidated. There he seems to have been an outsider. His few friends relate that he was separate from any crowd and did not belong to any "gang", but, according to his teachers, he was a sweet and average student, and he loved comic books. In 1943 Vernon moved to Memphis, where he found work and stayed throughout the war, coming home only on weekends.
In January 1945 Gladys took Elvis shopping for a birthday present at Tupelo hardware. And she bought him his first guitar, in lieu of a bike and rifle, for $12.75.
In 1946 Presley started at a new school, Milam, which went from grades 5 through 9, but in 1948 the family left Tupelo, moving 110 miles northwest to Memphis, Tennessee. Here too, the thirteen-year-old lived in the city's poorer section of town and attended a Pentecostal church. At this time, he was very much influenced by the Memphis blues music and the gospel sung at his church.