In August, 1956 in Jacksonville, Florida a local Juvenile Court judge called Presley a "savage" and threatened to arrest him if he shook his body while performing at Jacksonville's Florida Theatre, justifying the restrictions by saying his music was undermining the youth of America. Throughout the performance, Presley stood still as ordered but poked fun at the judge by wiggling a finger. Similar attempts to stop his "sinful gyrations" continued for more than a year and included his often-noted January 6, 1957 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (during which he performed the spiritual number "Peace in the Valley"), when he was filmed only from the waist up.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, "it was Elvis who made rock 'n' roll the international language of pop." A PBS documentary described Presley as "an American music giant of the 20th century who singlehandedly changed the course of music and culture in the mid-1950s." His recordings, dance moves, attitude and clothing came to be seen as embodiments of rock and roll. His music was heavily influenced by African-American blues, Christian gospel, and Southern country.
Presley sang both hard driving rockabilly, rock and roll dance songs and ballads, laying a commercial foundation upon which other rock musicians would build their careers. African-American performers like Little Richard and Chuck Berry came to national prominence after Presley's acceptance among mass audiences of white teenagers. Singers like Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and others immediately followed in his wake. The Beatles superstar John Lennon later observed, "Before Elvis, there was nothing."
During the post-WWII economic boom of the 1950s, many parents were able to give their teenaged children much higher weekly allowances, signalling a shift in the buying power and purchasing habits of American teens. During the 1940s bobby soxers had idolized Frank Sinatra, but the buyers of his records were mostly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. Presley triggered a juggernaut of demand for his records by near-teens and early teens aged ten and up. Along with Presley's "ducktail" haircut, the demand for black slacks and loose, open-necked shirts resulted in new lines of clothing for teenaged boys whereas a girl might get a pink portable 45 rpm record player for her bedroom. Meanwhile American teenagers began buying newly available portable transistor radios and listened to rock 'n' roll on them (helping to propel that fledgling industry from an estimated 100,000 units sold in 1955 to 5,000,000 units by the end of 1958). Teens were asserting more independence and Presley became a national symbol of their parents' consternation.
Presley in 1957
Presley's impact on the American youth consumer market was noted on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on December 31, 1956 when business journalist Louis M. Kohlmeier wrote, "Elvis Presley today is a business," and reported on the singer's record and merchandise sales. Half a century later, historian Ian Brailsford (University of Auckland, New Zealand) commented, "The phenomenal success of Elvis Presley in 1956 convinced many doubters of the financial opportunities existing in the youth market."
On December 20, 1957, at the peak of his career, Presley received his draft board notice for his mandatory service in the United States Army. He was worried that his absence in the public eye for 2 years, while serving in the Army, might end his career. Even more worried were Hal Wallis and Paramount who already spent $350,000 on pre-production of Presley's latest film King Creole and they feared of suspending the project or worse canceling it. Fortunately, the Memphis Draft Board granted Wallis and Colonel Parker a deferment until March 20 so Presley could complete his film project. On 24 March 1958, Presley joined his unit, 1st Battalion, 32nd Armored Regiment and was posted to Germany.
While serving in Germany, Presley met his wife-to-be - the then 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu; noted International Herald Tribune correspondent and humorist Art Buchwald; future US Secretary of State Colin Powell (then a lieutenant with the Third Army Division in Germany); and Walter Alden, the father of Presley's fiancee Ginger Alden who inducted Presley into the Army.
His rankings and dates of promotions were as follows: Private (upon draft March 24, 1958), Private First Class (November 27, 1958), Specialist Fourth Class (June 1, 1959), Sergeant (January 20, 1960). While in the Army, he earned sharpshooter badges for both the .45 pistol and the M1 rifle, and a marksman badge for the M2 carbine, as well as a Good Conduct Medal.
Presley returned to the United States on March 2, 1960, and was honorably discharged with the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-5) on March 5.
After serving his duty in the military, he became more mature and lost his raw and rebellious edge. However, he gained respect from older and more conservative crowds who initially disliked him before he entered the Army.
1960s film career
Presley admired James Dean and Tony Curtis style and returned from the military eager to make a career as a movie star. Although "he was definitely not the most talented actor around.", he "became a film genre of his own." Pop film staples of the early sixties, such