At the time, no one realized that The world of music and entertainment would foreverchange.
It was noon, on January 8, 1935, when Gladys Smith Presley, a poor MississippiGod-fearing sewing machine operator and wife of farm hand Vernon Elvis Presley, gave birth totwin sons Elvis Aron and Jesse Garon Presley. Buried in an unmarked Priceville, Mississippigrave, Jesse Garon died within six hours of birth. Jesse’s twin, Elvis Aron, was to become the most influential force in the history ofpopular music and a melding force between cultures. As the world’s most endearing andsuccessful entertainer of his age, Elvis sold over three hundred million records, and createdthirty-three films. Today, Elvis is known world wide as ??The King of Rock n’ Roll.
? The dirt-poor withhis polite and well-mannered ways, patterned his famous ?wiggle? and early singing style formthe gospel revival preachers he grew up with at the family’s First Assembly of God Church. ?We were broke, man, broke, and we left Tupelo overnight,? Elvis said, a quote whichtypifies his early life, following his parents from job to job. In 1939 the total combined Presley salary was $35 a week, when young Elvis wasenrolled in L. C.
Humes High School in Memphis, Tennessee. After graduation from HumesHigh School in 1953, while driving a truck for an electric company, Elvis passed a sign thatwould lead him to fame. The sign read, ?Memphis Recording Service-Make your ownrecords. . .
Four dollars for two songs. ?This is where Sam Phillips of Sun Records found his man. In August 1954, WHBQ radioin Memphis released the birth of a Rock n’ Roll legend with, ?That’s All Right, Mama. ?After an unsuccessful Grand Ol’ Opry stint, 1955 brought ?Good Rockin’ Tonite? and?Milk Cow Blues Boogie. ? The flamboyant personal manager/promoter, Colonel Tom Parker,who was managing the big talents of the day like Eddie Arnold and Hank Snow, started quietlyhelping Elvis with bookings. My July 1955, ?Baby, Let’s Play House? hit the national best sellercharts.
In 1957, Elvis moved from his suburban East Memphis home on Audubon Drive, to hisnew home, Graceland. March 1960 brought Elvis home from the war as a civilian. Huge crowds followed himhome to Graceland. The Colonel worked hard to gain Elvis’ favor back, and by mid 1960, fivethousand fan clubs were generating 30,000 fan letters a month. Elvis was forced into seclusion, as any public appearance would cause a riot.
Anentourage of Memphis men soon referred to as the ?Memphis Mafia? escorted him everywhere. Endless work and strange eating habits followed. Too much peanut butter and bananasandwiches, burnt bacon, olives and vegetable soup pushed his weight up dramatically. On October 19, 1973, Elvis and Priscilla separated after five years of marriage. Elvissited the tremendous strain of six months on the road. Priscilla was awarded custody of theironly child, Lisa Marie.
Nights were filled with Gospel signing, and days were spent sleeping, asElvis entered into his forties. Extreme dieting and exhaustion landed him in the hospital, andVegas gigs became predictable while fanatical fandom worshipped him overseas. In 1975 Elvis bought a jet airliner and named in after his daughter, ?The Lisa Marie?. His meteoric rise to fame, and the following legions of idolizing fans, is truly a phenomenonbeyond this world’s experience. We can only marvel at his achievements, and live along side hismystic legend and following.
Elvis and his fans were symbiotic, each depending, sharing, andsupporting the other. On August 16, 1977, a shocked world would learn of his death. Rushed to BaptistMemorial Hospital in Memphis, from Graceland, Elvis was pronounced dead on arrival ofcardiac arrhythmia–erratic heart beat. Thousands gathered at his home in Graceland to mournand weep in disbelief.
Thousands more still made the pilgrimage to the Graceland grave eachyear for the ritual August Candlelight Vigil. The King lives on today in our memories, hisfamily, his films, his recordings, and in our hearts. It is rare in this world, that such animpression is made on the people in one’s own time.