Saturday, October 3, 2020

We Didn't Start the Fire, continued: Elvis Presley

 

Continuing a brief look at the events and persons listed in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. 

Each two lines represent a year. 

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev 
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc 
Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, dacron 
Dien Bien Phu falls, "Rock Around the Clock" 
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team. 
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland 
Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev 
Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", trouble in the Suez 

1955:
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team. 
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland 

Today's item: Elvis Presley


E
Elvis through the ages 

Relevance to 1955: 

Elvis “The Pelvis” Presley (1935-1977) had had a success with his first release, not Heartbreak Hotel or Jailhouse Rock but That’s All Right Mama, released in 1954. In 1955 Elvis signed with Colonel Tom Parker and RCA. 

Link for That’s All Right Mama: 

By the way, it’s not true that Forrest Gump inspired his suggested his thrusts and gyrations. 

Some other facts about Elvis: 

Elvis was born In Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935 to Gladys Presley in a two-room house built by her husband, Vernon Presley, and her brother-in-law. Gladys Presley gives birth to twin sons. The first, Jessie Garon, is stillborn. The second, Elvis Aaron, is born alive and healthy. Elvis will be their only child.


Above: Elvis, aged 2, with parents


Above: Elvis's birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi


Above: Elvis, aged 10, with parents

Elvis purchased his first guitar when he was 11 years old. He wanted a rifle, but his mother convinced him to get a guitar instead. 


Above: Elvis, age 11 

Elvis' famous black hair was dyed - his natural colour was brown. 

In 1947, a local radio show offered a young Elvis (age 12) a chance to sing live on air, but he was too shy to go on. 

At 18, Elvis paid $4 to make his first record, a gift for his mother. 


Above: Elvis, 1953, Yearbook photo 

In 1954, Elvis auditioned for a gospel quartet named the Songfellows. They said no. 

That same year, a local radio DJ played Elvis' version of That's All Right. He went on to play it 13 more times that day, but had trouble convincing his audience that Elvis was white. 


Above: Record cover 

Hear the flip side, Blue Moon of Kentucky, by clicking on: 
It's very good.

His nickname for his manhood was reportedly Little Elvis. 

His breakthrough hit was Heartbreak Hotel, released in 1956 - a song inspired by a newspaper article about a local suicide. 

When performing on TV in 1956, host Milton Berle advised Elvis to perform without his guitar, reportedly saying, "Let 'em see you, son." Elvis' gyrating hips caused outrage across the U.S. and within days he was nicknamed Elvis the Pelvis. 

A Florida judge called Elvis "a savage" that same year because he said that his music was "undermining the youth." He was subsequently forbidden from shaking his body at a gig, so he waggled his finger instead in protest. 

He played only five concerts outside the U.S., all on a 3-day tour of Canada in 1957. Many believe that the reason why he never toured abroad again was that his longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was an illegal immigrant from Holland who would have been deported had he applied for a U.S. passport. 

Col. Parker is said to have always had an eye for talent and for a quick buck - prior to managing Elvis, Parker reportedly painted sparrows yellow to sell them as canaries. 

Elvis was 6 feet tall and wore a size 11 shoe. 

Recording Hound Dog in the studio, Elvis reportedly demanded 31 takes. 

Elvis bought his mansion, Graceland, in Memphis, TN in 1957 for $100,000. It was named by its previous owner after his daughter, Grace. 

Performing "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" in Las Vegas in 1969, Elvis did one of his frequent lyric changes to amuse himself. Instead of "Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?", he sang "Do you look at your bald head and wish you had hair?" The version is hilarious and will have you laughing as well. Hear it by clicking on the following link: 

The backing singer, Cissy Houston, never misses a beat, which cracks him up further. 

In 1956, he began his film career with a western, Love Me Tender. His second film, Loving You, featured his parents as audience members. Following his mother's death in 1957, he never watched the film again. He went on to make a total of 31 movies in his career. 


In December 1957, Elvis was drafted into the U.S. Army, earning a $78 monthly salary. During his brief two-year stint on active duty, he was unable to access his music-generated income of $400,000. 


Above: Elvis's goodbye to his parents on going into the Army

 


Above: Elvis with his father

In 1959, while serving overseas in Germany, Elvis (then 24 years old) met his future wife, 14 year-old Priscilla Beaulieu. They were married 8 years later. 



Elvis' 1960 hit "It's Now or Never" so inspired a prisoner who heard it in jail that he vowed to pursue a career in music upon his release. The artist, Barry White, was then serving a 4-month sentence for stealing tyres. 

Elvis and Priscilla's only daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, was born in 1968. Lisa Marie later married Michael Jackson and actor (and Elvis obsessive) Nicholas Cage. Cage is reportedly the only person outside of Presley's immediate family to have ever seen Elvis' Graceland bedroom. 


Above: Lisa Marie Presley with Nicolas Cage

Following his divorce from Priscilla in 1972, Elvis was said to have allowed 'good-looking girls' who waited outside Graceland to enter afterhours. One night it was 152 women! 

Elvis' popularity faded in the 1960's with the rise of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and others. He successfully relaunched his career with a 1968 television special that came about because Elvis had walked down a busy Los Angeles street and had no one recognize or approach him. 

He was distantly related to former U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jimmy Carter. 

Elvis recorded more than 600 songs, but did not write any of them. 


By the way: 


On December 21, 1970, Presley engineered a meeting with President Richard Nixon at the White House. Wearing a purple velvet suit, a gold belt and a Colt. 45 pistol — he came bearing a personal letter to the President explaining his reasons. “I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good,” the 35-year-old singer wrote in the letter, which noted that young people see him as one of them, thus making him the perfect person to help fight the war on illegal drugs. “I would love to meet you just to say hello if you’re not too busy.” 

He asked Nixon for a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, to add to similar items he had begun collecting and to signify official sanction of his patriotic efforts. “The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him,” Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ then-wife, wrote in her memoir Elvis and Me. “With the federal narcotics badge, he [believed he] could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.” The badge given to Presley, aides later wrote, was an “honorary” one, but Elvis thought it was the real thing. 

Nixon, who apparently found the encounter awkward, expressed a belief that Presley could send a positive message to young people and that it was, therefore, important that he "retain his credibility". Presley told Nixon that The Beatles, whose songs he regularly performed in concert during the era, exemplified what he saw as a trend of anti-Americanism. Presley and his friends previously had a four-hour get-together with The Beatles at his home in Bel Air, California in August 1965. On hearing reports of the meeting, Paul McCartney later said that he "felt a bit betrayed. ... The great joke was that we were taking [illegal] drugs, and look what happened to him", a reference to Presley's early death, linked to prescription drug abuse.

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