Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Elvis Presley

Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977), was an American singer, musician and actor. He is a cultural icon, often known simply as Elvis; also "The King of Rock 'n' Roll", or simply "The King".

Presley began his career as one of the first performers of rockabilly, an uptempo fusion of country and rhythm and blues with a strong back beat. His novel versions of existing songs, mixing "black" and "white" sounds, made him popular — and controversial — as did his uninhibited stage and television performances. He recorded songs in the rock and roll genre, with tracks like "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock" later embodying the style. Presley had a versatile voice and had unusually wide success encompassing other genres, including gospel, blues, ballads and pop. To date, he is the only performer to have been inducted into four separate music halls of fame.

In the sixties, Presley made the majority of his thirty-three movies — mainly poorly reviewed musicals. 1968 saw a critically-acclaimed return to live music, followed by performances in Las Vegas and across the U.S. Throughout his career, he set records for concert attendance, television ratings and recordings sales. He is one of the best-selling and most influential artists in the history of popular music. Though known to have health problems later in life, his death — aged 42 — shocked his fans worldwide.
Early life
Presley was born in a two-room house, built by his father, in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was the second of identical twins — his brother was stillborn and given the name Jesse Garon. He grew up as an only child and "was, everyone agreed, unusually close to his mother".The family lived just above the poverty line in East Tupelo and attended the Assembly of God church. Vernon Presley has been described as "taciturn to the point of sullenness"and as "a weakling, a malingerer, always averse to work and responsibility". In 1938 he was convicted and jailed for an eight-dollar check forgery. He was released after serving eight months, but this event deeply influenced the life of the young family. During her husband's absence, Gladys, a wife who was "voluble, lively, full of spunk." lost the family home. Priscilla Presley describes her as "a surreptitious drinker and alcoholic."
At school, Presley was teased by his fellow classmates; they threw "things at him — rotten fruit and stuff — because he was different, because he was quiet and he stuttered and he was a mama's boy".

Aged ten, he made his first public performance in a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. Dressed as a cowboy, the young Presley had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone and sang Red Foley's "Old Shep". He won second prize.
In 1946, Presley's mother took Elvis to Tupelo Hardware to get him a birthday present. Although he wanted a rifle, he left the store with a $7.90 guitar. November 1948 saw the Presleys move to Memphis, allegedly because Vernon — as well as needing work — had to escape the law for transporting "bootlegger" liquor. In 1949, they lived at Lauderdale Courts — a public housing development — in one of Memphis, Tennessee's poorer sections. Presley practiced guitar playing in the basement laundry room and also played in a five-piece band with other tenants.Another resident, Johnny Burnette, recalled: "Wherever Elvis went he'd have his guitar slung across his back... He used to go down to the fire station and sing to the boys there... [H]e'd go in to one of the cafes or bars... Then some folks would say: 'Let's hear you sing, boy.'"
Presley attended L. C. Humes High school and occasionally worked evenings to boost the family income. He began to grow his sideburns longer and dress in the wild, flashy clothes of Lansky Brothers on Beale Street. Presley stood out, especially in the conservative Deep South of the 1950s and he was mocked and bullied for it. He enrolled in the school's ROTC and Christmas, 1952 saw Presley perform in the "Annual Minstrel Show" sponsored by the Humes High Band. Presley received most applause — he sang "Cold Cold Icy Fingers" and gave an encore of "Till I Waltz Again With You"
After graduation, Presley was still a rather shy person, a "kid who had spent scarcely a night away from home". His third job was driving a truck for the Crown Electric Company. He began wearing his hair longer with a "ducktail" — the style of truck drivers at that time.

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