Elvis Presley was no ordinary musician. He was referred to constantly as “The King of Rock and Roll”, or “The King”, and even to this day is still known worldwide by his first name “Elvis”. Elvis Presley is the best selling solo artist in history, having sold around 600 million albums worldwide. One of the most popular musicians of all time, he was inducted into multiple music halls of fame, and was nominated for 14 Grammys. He also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He greatly increased the popularity of rock & roll, is the number one influence of most rock & artists still to this day, is widely recognized within popular culture as the most significant cultural icon in the modern era.
Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. His family grew up in relative poverty but he loved music and often brought his guitar to his junior high school, playing and singing during lunchtime much to the delight of his classmates. He was a music fanatic, and described by friends as “Crazy about music.” By the time he was 12 years old, he had already played on the radio twice. When he was 13 years old, the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. They lived in public housing for a while. And while he was already a music fanatic, his music teachers did not appreciate his talent at the time, awarding him a “C” in music class. Little did they know however, that a King was in their midst.
He spent a lot of time in the African-American community on Beale Street, the heart of the Memphis Blues scene, where he was heavily influenced by the style of African-American blues artists he found there. Some of his many musical influences were Sister Rosetta Thorpe, Jake Hess, Hank Snow, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Ted Daffan, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmie Davis, and Bob Wills. He regularly attended the monthly All-Night Singings where he listened to gospel music that was influenced by American spiritual music. He also broke color barriers and attended many blues venues. By the time he graduated high school, Elvis already knew that music was his destiny.
Elvis Becomes the King
In 1954 Elvis walks into the offices of legendary Sun Records and is hired by Sun boss Sam Phillips. By 1955 he is a regional star with his own sound, and had already performed from Tennessee to West Texas. He was known for blending R&B, country, and blues, and was difficult to categorize in those days. Little did people know that Elvis was to be one of the strongest influences on this new type of music the future would call “Rock & Roll”. In 1955 he was voted Most Promising Male Artist at the Country Disc Jockey Convention, and his contract was sold to RCA.
RCA was the first to finally get Elvis exposed to on a national level, getting him booked on CBS’s Stage Show for six appearances. He recorded his first hit: “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”, which reached the top of the Billboard Country Chart. RCA released Presley’s first self-titled debut album, which became the first rock-and-roll album to the top of the Billboard chart, and held that position for 10 weeks. It was thus that “The King” was born.
Elvis without a doubt heavily influenced popular music and popular culture. He did this by being central to the popularization of rock & roll music, which had become a cornerstone of youth culture and youth rebellion. He helped earn rock & roll a central position in mainstream American culture and due its multiracial origins, helped African-American music find wider acceptance and appreciation of black music and black culture. In the words of Little Richard: “He was an integrator. Elvis was a blessing. They wouldn’t let black music through. He opened the door for black music.”
He became world famous and to quote President Jimmy Carter: “His following was immense, and he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness, and good humor of his country.” He also redefined what it meant to be a celebrity in the early ages of mass communication. To this day, his name, image, and likeness are instantly recognizable all across the globe. Some even say that Elvis was the single biggest cultural influencer in the 20th century. He is considered by most rock & roll artists to be their number one influence. He had 10 albums on the Billboard chart and 7 on the Billboard country chart. He also had 18 hit singles on the Billboard chart and 11 hit singles on the Billboard country charts. He also had countless hit albums and hit singles of the UK billboard tracks as well.
Enter the Elvis Wedding
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