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Who Was Elvis Presley?
Elvis Presley came from very humble beginnings and grew up to become one of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll. By the mid-1950s, he appeared on the radio, television and the silver screen. On August 16, 1977, at age 42, he died of heart failure, which was related to his drug addiction. Since his death, Presley has remained one of the world’s most popular music icons.
Elvis Aron Presley was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi. (He later changed the spelling of his middle name to the biblical form of Aaron.)
Presley was supposed to be a twin, but his brother, Jesse Garon (sometimes spelled Jessie) was stillborn. From very humble beginnings, Presley grew up to become one of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll.
Raised by loving, working-class parents, Presley’s family had little money, and they moved from place to place frequently.
He was deeply devoted to his parents, especially his mother, Gladys, and was raised to have a strong faith in God. Presley attended the Assembly of God Church with his parents, where gospel music became an important influence for him.
first guitar as a gift
Presley received his first guitar as a gift from his mother on his 11th birthday in 1946 and had his first taste of musical success a few years later when he won a talent show at Humes High School in Memphis.
After graduating in 1953, he worked a number of jobs while pursuing his musical dream.
He cut his first demo record at what later became known as Sun Studio that year, and before long, Sam Phillips, the record label owner, decided to take the young performer under his wing.
Presley soon began touring and recording, trying to catch his first big break. “That’s All Right” was Presley’s first single in 1954.
Elvis’ Family Photos
First No. 1 Hit: ‘Heartbreak Hotel’
In 1955, Presley began to develop a following with fans being drawn to his unusual musical style, provocative gyrating hips and good looks. That same year, he signed with RCA Records, a deal worked out by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Presley was on a roll, scoring his first No. 1 single with “Heartbreak Hotel,” as well as his first No. 1 album, Elvis Presley, and signing a movie contract with Paramount Pictures — all in 1956. Despite the uproar that his sexy dance moves caused, he also became a popular guest on a number of television variety shows.
Soon, Presley was everywhere, working as a musician and actor. His first film, Love Me Tender (1956), was a box office hit. Even a stint in the U.S. military couldn’t put a damper on Presley’s thriving career.
He received his draft notice in 1957 and was inducted into the Army the following March.
He eventually served in Germany for about a year and a half. Shortly before Presley left for Europe, his beloved mother, Gladys, died. He was granted a leave and returned to Memphis for the funeral.
Deeply saddened by her death, Presley returned to duty. While in Germany, his spirits were lifted slightly when he met a young teenager named Priscilla Beaulieu. The pair fell in love and married on May 1, 1967, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Elvis in the Army
Movies and Soundtracks
After leaving the Army in 1960, Presley resumed his career and was soon back at the top of the charts with the soundtrack for his film GI Blues. He continued recording music and acting in such films as Blue Hawaii (1961), Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) and Viva Las Vegas (1964).
Though his films were often hit or miss with both critics and audiences, they brought in a profit and the soundtracks usually sold well.
By the late 1960s, however, the enigmatic performer appeared to be losing his box office appeal. Proving he was still the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” he recorded his first TV special in 1968, often referred to as the “’68 Comeback.” He wowed audiences with his performance, which showcased his talents as a singer and a guitarist.
Daughter, Divorce From Priscilla and Drug Addiction
Around this time, Presley’s personal life also seemed to be on an upswing. He and Priscilla wed in 1967 and had a daughter, Lisa Marie, the following year. Unfortunately, this joyous time would not last. By the early 1970s, Presley’s marriage was falling apart. The couple divorced in 1973, and Priscilla received custody of Lisa Marie. Presley was also wrestling with other personal problems, including a growing addiction to prescription drugs; the once-thin rock star was battling a weight problem, and his destructive lifestyle caught up with him that fall when he was hospitalized for drug-related health problems.
Death and Legacy
It Happened at the World‘s Fair
Mike and Danny hitch a ride to the World’s Fair in Seattle after the sheriff seizes their crop duster biplane to cover Danny’s gambling debts. Mike looks after the driver’s 7 y.o. niece at the fair, where he meets a cute nurse.
Presley’s Memphis home, Graceland, is open to the public, and numerous fans from around the world visit the legendary residence annually, especially around Presley’s birthday and the anniversary of his death.
Thousands of fans traveled to Graceland on August 16, 2012 — the 35th anniversary of Presley’s death — for a special vigil in honor of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. During the gathering, fans held lit candles and stood outside of Presley’s home. Though the Presley family holds a tribute event each year to mark the anniversary of Presley’s death, the 2012 gathering was unique: Presley’s estranged wife, Priscilla, and daughter Lisa Marie appeared together for the first time at the annual event.