Elvis Presley: The King of Rock and Roll
“Music should be something that makes you gotta move, inside and out,” said Elvis Presley. Elvis’s quote was spot on, and he too danced to his own music.
Elvis Presley is even commonly referred to as the King of Rock and Roll. Elvis’s adult life was luscious; it was a dream life. However, his childhood was anything but that. He always wanted to be famous, and gradually, he was. In his 42 years, he accomplished many things, some of which continued even after he tragically died. Elvis Presley was a remarkable man that will never be forgotten, especially in the career of music.
Elvis’s childhood was a hard one, and it helped mold who he was as an adult. Vernon Elvis Presley dropped out of school as a teen, and was a sharecropper when he met Gladys Love Smith, also a sharecropper. Gladys’s father had died when she was a teen, and she too dropped out of school. The two met in Tupelo, Mississippi, where they got married. Vernon built them a two room house with dirt floors. It didn’t have running water or electricity, so they relied on an outhouse and oil lamps.
Gladys kept a cow and chickens in the backyard. Then, on January 8, 1935 at 4 a.m., Gladys gave birth to twins. First out was Jesse Garon Presley, who was unfortunately born stillborn.
He was buried in the backyard. Second was Elvis Aron Presley, perfectly healthy. He was named after his father’s middle name, and Aron from the Bible. Usually, it is spelled ‘Aaron’, but having dropped out of school, Vernon misspelled it on the birth certificate. Elvis Presley may have been born in a dirt floor home, but it helped him become a good role model. Elvis always had a rough childhood.
As he grew up, Vernon was arrested for forging a $4 check. He was sentenced three years at Parchman Penitentiary, a work camp. He wound up only serving for 8 months, but he gave the Presleys shame. In the 8 months Vernon was away, the Presleys lost their house. It was just Gladys and Elvis, and they moved from one place to another. The two of them often starved, usually just surviving on water and cornbread.
Through these tough times, Elvis and his mother became very close. One evening, he told his mother, “Don’t you worry none, baby. When I grow up, I’m going to buy you a fine house and pay for everything you owe at the grocery store and get two Cadillac’s-one for you and Daddy and one for me.” He knew that his talent could dig his way out of his troubles. Luckily, Elvis had the chance to leave his past behind. In 1948, Gladys, Vernon, and Elvis packed in their 1937 Plymouth and drove all the way to Memphis, Tennessee.
Elvis was 13, and was enrolled in L.C. Humes Highschool, which held grades 7-12. In school, Elvis was quiet and shy, with only a few friends. Once of his teachers said he was an ‘average student’.
In 1953, he went to prom with his current girlfriend, Regis Wilson. His new life in Memphis was a blank slate- his future depended on him. Elvis was always talking about music. He dreamed of being famous. He also liked reading comic books, his favorite was Captain Marvel. Of course, he loved music more.
Every Saturday night he would listen to the radio show, the Grand Old Opry. “He was crazy about music,” said one of his fellow students. Elvis was also obsessed with his hair. He used three different types of oil, including Vaseline and Rose Tonic oil. He even got kicked off of the football team when he refused to cut it off.
His hair was a unique part of him. Elvis worked unusual jobs as a high school student. He gave blood for money and ushered at the movies. He also worked a 3 p.m.
-11:30p.m. shift at a furniture store. However, after he fell asleep in class, he had to quit. In addition, he was a truck driver for Crown Electric Company.
Out of all of his first jobs, none of them fulfilled his passion for music. Elvis’s singing career started long before anyone could decipher it, but it didn’t become official for a while. When he was just a toddler, he would bounce up from his mother’s lap in church and run up and sing with the gospel choir. Although he was too young to know any of the words, he would dance and hum the tune. His career began to take off On October 3rd, 1945, when 10 year old Elvis sang “Old Shap” in front of a crowd of hundreds at a talent show. He won 5th place, which meant he won $5 dollars of tickets for a local fair.
His performance was broadcasted over WELO radio station. Later, he got his first guitar for $12. He learned to play it from his Uncle Vester, his pastor, a WELO disc jockey, Mississippi Slim, and a book of chords. On one sunny afternoon, Elvis walked to 706 Union Avenue, which was known as Memphis Recording Service. There, he was hoping to catch Sam Phillips.
Phillips was the most important music producer in Memphis. He was the owner of Memphis Recording Service, and started Sun Records. It was a recording studio for amateurs. Elvis recorded over 20 songs there. However, it all started when Marion Kiesker, Phillips’s secretary, was the first person to ever record Elvis. She started recording him in the middle of “My Happiness”, to give to Sam Phillips, who wasn’t there at the time.
After Sam and Elvis met and recorded a few songs, it was time to go public. On January 8th, 1954, “That’s All Right (Mama)” played on Memphis Radio at 9:30 p.m. The listeners went wild. Disc jockey Dewey Phillips (with no relation to Sam Phillips), received 47 phone calls and 14 telegrams.
It is said that he played it 7, 11, or 13 times in a row. While all of this was happening, Elvis was at the movie theater, unaware of his explosion of fame. His career really launched when eleven days later, Elvis released his first record, “That’s All Right (Mama). There had been 6,000 preordered copies. Eleven days after that, he performed his first concert at the outdoor Overton Park band shell in Memphis. Then, Sam Phillips booked Elvis to play his favorite show, the Grand Ole Opry.
After Elvis made enough money, he kept his promise to his mother and bought her a pink Cadillac in 1955. Elvis had become officially famous. Elvis’s long journey to success may have been bumpy, but when it mattered most, he accomplished amazing things. First, Elvis’s music was very popular among the world. His songs made it onto many charts. It is estimated he has over one billion records sold worldwide.
Also, he had 18 number 1 songs, 149 of his songs were in the Top 100 Hits, 114 of his songs were on the Top 40, and 40 of his songs were in the Top 10. In addition, he had a private room in his mansion, Graceland. It was fulled with awards from all over the world, from countries such as Norway, Germany, France, Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Elvis wasn’t just accomplished as a singer; he was an accomplished actor as well. He appeared in 31 films, and two documentaries.
He was also on three TV Specials: Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii, Elvis in Concert and Jailhouse Rock and King Creole. Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii was watched in 40 countries, and had between 1 and 1.5 billion views, which were more than the amount that watched when man first walked on the moon. Elvis also had fourteen Grammy nominations, and three wins. In 1971, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, (NARAS), presented Elvis with their lifetime achievement award. Elvis was 36 at the time.
The NARAS Hall of Fame also held six of his recordings. Elvis’s talents took him far in the world. Elvis wasn’t just a good actor, he was a good person. He was known for randomly giving away Cadillac’s, money, and jewelry. He would also pay hospital bills, buy homes, pay off debts, and more towards his family, friends, and even strangers.
Every year, he gave $1,000 or more to Memphis charities. In 1961, Elvis performed at the Block Arena in Hawaii for a benefit concert, which raised money for the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. His kind heart made him even more of a good role model.
Not all of Elvis’s achievements were big. In 1992, the U.S. Postal Service made an Elvis stamp with his picture on it. It was released January 8, 1993, and 500 million of them were printed, which was 3 times the usual stamp. Plus, Elvis was the first to be a part of three Music Halls of Fame: Rock and Roll, Country, and Gospel.
One of his personal achievements was marrying Priscilla Beaulieu on May 1, 1967 at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. Then, exactly 9 months later on February 1, 1968, Priscilla Presley gave birth to Lisa Marie Presley. Elvis lived his live to the fullest, and the world will remember him for what he left behind. Most stars have a decline, and unfortunately, Elvis was one of them. His downfall may have started when his mother died, or it could have been when he and Priscilla were divorced. Elvis was cut off from the world.
He had little to none contact with people, except from performing. He also had a drug problem. When he was in the army, he used Dexedrine to stay awake, and when he came back to Hollywood, he took amphetamines to keep his weight down. When he could not fall asleep, his doctor prescribed him with sleeping pills. He became depressed, and was treated with antidepressant drugs. Eventually, he started to get sick, so he was prescribed painkillers and other drugs.
Even without the drugs, Elvis had bad health. His diet consisted of mostly big portions of fried, fatty foods like bacon, eggs, and cheeseburgers. His favorite food was a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, washed down with Pepsi. He went from 185 lbs., to 250 lbs.
Elvis’s downward spiral was a fatal one, literally. Elvis had lived a full life, even if it was only 42 years. His last concert was at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis on June 2, 1977. After his performance, he flew home to Memphis. On August 16, at 4 a.m.
, Elvis played racquetball on his private court. When he was done, he came in and went to the bathroom with a book. His girlfriend, Ginger Alden, warned him not to fall asleep. His last words were, “Okay, I won’t.” At around 2:30 that day, Ginger found him face down on the red shag carpet.
He was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. Elvis Presley was announced dead at 3:30 p.m. on August 16, 1977. His cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia. Elvis’s death was a tragic ending to his thriving life.
Elvis Presley was an astonishing, unforgettable man that changed music history. His difficult childhood sculpted him into the polite star he was, and his journey to fame was remarkable. His achievements were mind-blowing, and his music was awe-inspiring. Even though his life was snipped short in his death, music wouldn’t be the same without him. He might not have invented rock and roll, but he made it his own and perfected it.