Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy Birthday, Elvis

To commemorate Elvis Presley's birthday today, I am reposting an article I posted as a Super Seventies in memory of my Momma.

The “King of Rock and Roll’s” died on August 16, 1977 at the age of 42. Since he was my mother's favorite singer, I thought it was worthwhile to post about him today.

Elvis began his career in Memphis, Tennessee in 1954 when Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, wanted to bring “rockabilly” music to a  wider audition. Rockabilly was a mixture of country, rhythm and blues with an upbeat tempo. In 1955, RCA Victor bought out Elvis’ contract in a deal made by Colonel Tom Parker, who would go on to manage Elvis’ career for over 20 years.

Elvis’ first RCA single, “Heartbreak Hotel”, was released in January 1956 and was a number one hit. He soon became the face of rock and roll, appearing in a series of network television appearances and more chart-topping records. He made his first movie, “Love Me Tender” was released in November 1956.

In 1958, Elvis was inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas. The Army was not prepared for the onslaught of people descending upon Elvis as he stepped off the bus at the Army base. He was soon sent to Fort Hood, Texas to begin his basic training. In August, Elvis received word his mother had been diagnosed with hepatitis, and he was granted an emergency leave to visit her. She died on August 14 from heart failure – she was only 46 years old. Elvis took her passing very hard because he had always been close to his mother.

In October 1958, Elvis joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. It was here that he first met 14-year old Priscilla Beaulieu. After a seven and a half year romance, they finally married.

Elvis returned to the United States in March, 1960, and was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant. Once back in Memphis, Elvis jumped right into the recording studio. Sessions in March and April produced two of his best-selling singles, the ballads “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”

From 1960 to 1967, Colonel Parker pushed Elvis more in the direction of movie making than producing albums. “G.I. Blues” was the first movie Elvis made after leaving the Army and the soundtrack album went to number one. Of Elvis’ movies in the 1960s, 15 were accompanied by bestselling soundtrack albums.

Elvis’ only child, Lisa Marie, was born in February, 1968. This was during a period of his life when he was very depressed and unhappy with his career. Singles released between January 1967 and May 1968 never made it past 40 on the top chart lists and his album “Speedway” never made it past number 82.

Elvis and his young wife were having increasing martial problems and eventually separated in February, 1972. In January 1973, Elvis performed the groundbreaking TV special, Aloha From Hawaii. This special was the first global concert satellite broadcast, reaching approximately 1.5 billion viewers live and on tape delay. His elaborate concert costumers were so elaborate, that Kentucky author Bobbie Ann Mason is quoted as saying, “At the end of the show, when he spreads out his American Eagle cape, with the full stretched wings of the eagle studded on the back, he becomes a god figure.” The accompanying double album was released the next month and went straight to number one, eventually selling over 5 million copies in the United States.

After his divorce, Elvis became heavily dependent on barbiturates, resulting in several hospital admissions. He began missing concerts and many times when he did appear on stage, he was incoherent and kept his performances short.

Elvis was scheduled to fly out of Memphis on the evening of August 16, 1977, to start another tour, but that afternoon he was discovered unresponsive on his bathroom floor. All attempts to revive him failed, and he was officially pronounced dead at 3:30 pm at Baptist Memorial Hospital. President Jimmy Carter issued a statement that credited Presley with having "permanently changed the face of American popular culture".

During his recording career, Elvis made a total of 20 number one albums and 37 number one singles. As my Momma’s favorite singer, she loved collecting anything that had to do with Elvis, from dolls to figurines to plates.

This Super 70s is dedicated to you, Momma.

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