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CV - Key Facts
His Life And Art
TWENTY THREE years have passed since the death of Elvis Presley, yet the deceased singer, still widely acclaimed as The King of rock and roll, continues to sell records, inspire legions of worshiping fans, and preside over quickie weddings in Vegas. How does one become the King? Well, for starters, it helps to have a distinctive style. Elvis "The Pelvis" won the madly thumping hearts of teenage girls everywhere by packaging his smoky-voiced singing with some scandalously sensual hip-swinging. It never hurts to crank out some hit singles, as well. Elvis is the fella who gave us everything from Blue Suede Shoes and Hound Dog to Heartbreak Hotel and Love Me Tender. A high-profile career in Hollywood is certainly a plus. Over the course of his career, Elvis appeared in thirty-one movies, each one a smashing financial, if not critical, success. Perhaps most importantly, however, if you want to be the King, you've got to live like the King. No celebrity before or since has done as much to redefine the notion of living large as Presley. Ever in the company of his rowdy entourage, the so-called Memphis Mafia, Elvis partied hearty: he wrecked hotel rooms; blasted holes in TV sets; popped pills; dated some of the most glamorous women in the country; consumed mountains of deep-fried food; and traveled between his swanky Bel Air digs and his sprawling Memphis mansion, Graceland, in a private Convair 880 named after his daughter, Lisa Marie. Is it any wonder that the tabloids are still trying to get all the details straight?
Irish-descended Elvis Aaron Presley, son of Vernon and Gladys Presley of Tupelo, Mississippi, was born (or, as some maintain, arrived) on January 8, 1935. His identical-twin brother, Jesse Garon, died at birth; consequently, Elvis's parents were fiercely protective of their surviving son and raised him up to be a God-fearing, right-thinking young man. Singing came naturally to Elvis, and he seasoned his vocal gifts in the choir at the local Assembly of God meetinghouse and later performed at revivals and camp meetings. At the tender age of ten, Elvis took second prize for his soulful rendition of the deep-South ditty Old Shep in a talent contest sponsored by radio station WELO at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. Pleased that their son had discovered a respectable hobby, his proud parents bought him an acoustic guitar for his next birthday; he taught himself to strum chords by listening to blues tunes and old spirituals. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1949, shortly before Elvis entered high school. Following graduation, he found work driving a truck for the Crown Electric Company (for a whopping $1.25 an hour), and started evening classes with the aim of becoming an electrical repairman.
But Elvis's career path was eventually sidetracked by a dip into the recording studio at Sun Records, where he coughed up four dollars to cut a two-song disc containing covers of the Ink Spots ballads My Happiness and That's When Your Heartaches Begin. Ostensibly made as a birthday present for his doting mother, a copy of the record found its way into the hands of Sun president Sam Phillips, who had an epiphany: he had been looking to find "a white man with the Negro sound and the Negro feel," and he believed he had found just such a wonder in young Elvis Aaron Presley. And how! After Elvis laid down his first two-song recording for Sun, Memphis-area stores sold six thousand copies in one week. A star had been born. Under the management of illegal Dutch immigrant Andreas van Kuijk, who called himself "Colonel" Thomas A. Parker and who was to have a long and arguably detrimental relationship with his protégé, the young Memphis sensation toured across the South as The Hillbilly Cat, and produced four more records.
In 1955, Parker orchestrated for his promising young client a $35,000 recording contract with RCA Victor, which set about the business of making regional sensation Elvis Presley a star at the national level. A string of television appearances--in which he was photographed from the waist up to keep his undulating hips from polluting the minds of impressionable young viewers--culminated in a performance of Heartbreak Hotel on The Milton Berle Show that ignited a nationwide Elvis craze. For the next seven years, Elvis simultaneously ruled the pop-music charts and the box office. In 1956 alone, he scored five No. 1 hits that spent a combined thirty-six weeks at the top of the chart. His energetic singing, combined with his brazenly rebellious gyrating, sold millions of records; his runaway success helped establish rock and roll as a wildly lucrative musical genre and paved the way for an entire generation of recording artists.
In 1957, at the height of his newfound success, Uncle Sam gave Elvis a new job: serving as a jeep and truck driver in the 3rd Armored Division, stationed in Germany. While overseas, he met and briefly wooed-- On August 16, 1977, at 2:30 p.m., Elvis Presley was discovered passed-out on the seat of a Graceland toilet and was pronounced dead an hour later at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis. At the time of his (purported) death from a heart attack, the King was dressed in blue pajamas and had been thumbing through a copy of The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus. Autopsies performed on the body turned up traces of ten different "recreational pharmaceuticals" in his bloodstream. Hundreds of thousands of visitors reflect on the splendour of Graceland (now a prosperous tourist attraction) each year, and the King remains alive in the hearts of those who knew him and in the minds of those who still buy his albums (a commemorative, four-CD box set hit stores in July of 1997).
On August 16, 1977, at 2:30 p.m., Elvis Presley was discovered passed-out on the seat of a Graceland toilet and was pronounced dead an hour later at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis. At the time of his (purported) death from a heart attack, the King was dressed in blue pajamas and had been thumbing through a copy of The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus. Autopsies performed on the body turned up traces of ten different "recreational pharmaceuticals" in his bloodstream.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors reflect on the splendour of Graceland (now a prosperous tourist attraction) each year, and the King remains alive in the hearts of those who knew him and in the minds of those who still buy his albums (a commemorative, four-CD box set hit stores in July of 1997).
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