Born Elvis Aron Presley
( 1935 – 1977 )
musician, actor. Born Elvis Aron Presley on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo,
Mississippi. (He later changed the spelling of his middle name to
the biblical form of Aaron.) From very humble beginnings, Elvis Presley
grew up to become one of the biggest names in rock and roll. He was
originally supposed to be a twin, but his brother Jesse Garon (sometimes
spelled Jessie) was stillborn.
by loving, working-class parents, Presley's family had little money,
and they moved around a lot. 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 the gospel music became an important influence on him.
got his first guitar at the age of ten, and had his first taste of
musical success by winning 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. "That's All Right" was Presley's first single in 1954.
Presley began touring and recording, trying to get his first big break.
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
number one single with "Heartbreak Hotel" and first number
one album, Elvis Presley, and signing a movie contract with Paramount
Pictures—all in 1956. Despite the uproar his sexy dance moves
caused, he also becomes a popular guest on a number of television
Presley appeared to be everywhere—on the radio, television,
and on screen. 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
about a year and a half. Shortly before Presley left for Europe, his
beloved mother died. He was granted a leave and returned to Memphis
for the funeral. Deeply saddened by her death, he returned to duty.
While in Germany, his spirits lifted a bit when he met a young teenager
named Priscilla Beaulieu.
leaving the army in 1960, Presley resumed his career and soon rose
right back to 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). His films were often hit or miss with critics and audiences
alike, but they made a profit and the soundtracks usually sold well.
By the late 1960s, however, Presley appeared to be losing his box
office appeal. Proving he was still the king of rock and rock, he
did his first television special in 1968, which is often referred
to as the '68 Comeback. He wowed audiences with
his performance, which showcased his talents as a singer and a musician.
Around this time, his personal life also seemed to be on an upswing.
He and Priscilla wed in 1967 and had a daughter, Lisa Marie, together
the next 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. He
was also wrestling with other personal problems, including a growing
addiction to prescription drugs. The once thin rock star now battled
a weight problem. His destructive lifestyle caught up with him that
fall—he was hospitalized for related health problems.
his personal obstacles, Presley remained a popular draw in Las Vegas
and on tour. He gave his last concert in June 1977 in Indianapolis,
Indiana. After the concert, Presley returned home to his Memphis mansion,
Graceland, to prepare for another tour. Sometime on the morning of
August 16, 1977 Elvis Presley died of heart failure. He was 42 years
his amazing career, Presley helped popularize rock and roll music
in America. He also won three Grammy Awards for his gospel recordings.
A major musical force, Presley had 18 number one singles, including
"Don't Be Cruel," "Good Luck Charm," and "Suspicious
Minds" as well as countless gold and platinum albums. He was
one of the first performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame in 1986. More recently, Presley has been inducted into the Country
Music Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Gospel Music Association's Gospel
Music Hall of Fame in 2001 in recognition of his contributions to
both genres of music.
after his death, Presley has remained a popular music icon. Over the
years, several documentaries and films have explored the film of this
enigmatic performer, including the 2005 television miniseries starring
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Elvis. His Memphis home, Graceland, is open
to the public and numerous fans from around the world visit the legendary
residence each year, especially around Presley's birthday and the
anniversary of his death.
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