Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley
Presley at the White House in 1970
Presley at the White House in 1970
Background information
Birth name Elvis Aaron Presley
Born January 8, 1935
Origin Tupelo, Mississippi, USA
Died August 16, 1977
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Genre(s) Rock and roll, country, gospel, blues
Occupation(s) singer, musician, actor, American soldier,
Instrument(s) Guitar and piano
Years active 1954–1977
Label(s) Sun, RCA Victor
Website Elvis.com

Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977), often known simply as Elvis and also called "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" or simply "The King", was an American singer, musician and actor. He remains a pop icon and is regarded by some to be the most important, original entertainer of the last fifty years. Presley is one of the most talked about and written about performers of the 20th Century. (Presley's birth certificate uses the spelling Aaron, and his estate has designated Aaron as the official spelling of his middle name. He used "Aron" because of his twin brother that died at birth, Garon, so Elvis would always have a part of his brother with him.)

Presley started as a singer of rockabilly, singing many songs from rhythm and blues, gospel and country. He was first billed as "The Hilbilly Cat". His combination of country music with bluesy vocals and a strong back beat marked a clear path toward rock & roll. He was the most commercially successful singer of rock and roll, but he also had success with ballads, country, gospel, blues, pop, folk and even semi-operatic and jazz standards. His voice, which developed into many voices as his career progressed, had always a unique tonality and an extraordinary unusual center of gravity, leading to his ability to tackle a range of songs and melodies which would be nearly impossible for most other popular singers to achieve. In a musical career of over two decades, Presley set many records, such as concert attendance, television ratings, and records sales, and became one of the best-selling artists in music history.

He is an icon of modern American pop culture. In the late 1960s, Presley re-emerged as a live performer of old and new hit songs, both on tour and in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was known for his on-stage highly energetic performances both vocally and physically, his sartorial jump-suits and capes adding to the drama. He attracted massive attendance figures. His concert performances were staggering in quantity, considering they numbered 1,145 in 8 years, 1969-1977. He continued to perform before sell-out audiences around the U.S. until his death in 1977.[1][2][3] His death was premature at 42, despite alarming concerns about his health. When he died on August 16, 1977, it was a huge shock to his fans. However, it soon became clear that a combination of over-work, obesity, depression, bad diet and severe abuse of prescription drugs, accelerated his premature departure. However, much confusion, conflict, contradictions and general controversy still surrounds his death. Regardless, his popularity as a singer has survived his death.



Origin of the surname

The surname Presley was Anglicized from the German name "Pressler" during the Civil War. His ancestor Johann Valentin Pressler emigrated to America in 1710. Presley was mostly of Scottish,[4]Native American, Irish, Jewish, and German roots.


Early life

Elvis Presley was born on January 8 1935 at around 4:35 a.m. in a two-room shotgun house in Tupelo, Mississippi, to Vernon Presley, a truck driver, and Gladys Love Smith, a sewing machine operator. Vernon Presley is described as "taciturn to the point of sullenness"[5] and as "a weakling, a malingerer, always averse to work and responsibility,"[6] whereas his mother, Gladys, was "voluble, lively, full of spunk."[7] Priscilla Presley describes her as "a surreptitious drinker and alcoholic." When she was angry, "she cussed like a sailor."[8] Presley's twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, was stillborn, thus leaving him to grow up as an only child.

Presley's parents were very protective of their only surviving child. The little boy "grew up a loved and precious child. He was, everyone agreed, unusually close to his mother."[9] His mother Gladys "worshipped him," said a neighbor, "from the day he was born." Elvis himself said, "My mama never let me out of her sight. I couldn't go down to the creek with the other kids."[10] In his teens he was still a very shy person, a "kid who had spent scarcely a night away from home in his nineteen years."[11]

He was teased by his fellow classmates who 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."[12] Gladys was so proud of her son, that, years later, she "would get up early in the morning to run off the fans so Elvis could sleep".[13] She was frightened of Elvis being hurt: "She knew her boy, and she knew he could take care of himself, but what if some crazy man came after him with a gun? she said... tears streaming down her face."[14]

In 1938, when Presley was three years old, his father was convicted of forgery. Vernon, Gladys's brother Travis Smith, and Luther Gable went to prison for altering a check from Orville Bean, Vernon's boss, from $3 to $8 and then cashing it at a local bank. Vernon was sentenced to three years at Mississippi State Penitentiary.[15] Though Vernon was released after serving eight months, this event deeply influenced the life of the young family. During her husband's absence, Gladys lost the house and was forced to move in briefly with her in-laws next door. The Presley family lived just above the poverty line during their years in East Tupelo.

In 1941 Presley started school at the East Tupelo Consolidated. There he seems to have been an outsider. His few friends relate that he was separate from any crowd and did not belong to any "gang", but, according to his teachers, he was a sweet and average student, and he loved comic books. In 1943 Vernon moved to Memphis, where he found work and stayed throughout the war, coming home only on weekends.

In January 1945 Gladys took Elvis shopping for a birthday present at Tupelo hardware. She bought him his first guitar, in lieu of a bike and rifle, for $12.75.

In 1946 Presley started at a new school, Milam, which went from grades 5 through 9, but in 1948 the family left Tupelo, moving 110 miles northwest to Memphis, Tennessee. Here, too, the thirteen-year-old lived in the city's poorer section of town and attended a Pentecostal church. At this time, he was very much influenced by the Memphis blues music and the gospel sung at his church. His only reason for waking up in the morning was to give those he deemed "squares" a "haircut on the neckline."

Presley entered Humes High School in Memphis and worked at the school library and after school at Loew's State Theatre. In 1951 he enrolled in the school's ROTC unit and tried unsuccessfully to qualify for the high school football team, (the coach supposedly cut him from the team for not trimming his sideburns and ducktail). He spent his spare time around the African-American section of Memphis, especially on Beale Street. In 1953 he graduated from Humes, majoring in History, English, and Shop.

After graduation Presley worked at the Parker Machinists Shop, and, after working at the Precision Tool Company with his father, worked for the Crown Electric Company driving a truck. Here he began wearing his hair in his signature pompadour style.


Voice characteristics

Elvis Presley was a baritone whose voice had an extraordinary compass — the so-called register — and a very wide range of vocal color.[16] It covered two octaves and a third, from the baritone low-G to the tenor high B, with an upward extension in falsetto to at least a D flat. Presley's best octave was in the middle, D-flat to D-flat. "He has always been able to duplicate the open, hoarse, ecstatic, screaming, shouting, wailing, reckless sound of the black rhythm-and-blues and gospel singers. But he has not been confined to that one type of vocal production." In ballads and country songs he was able to belt out "full-voiced high Gs and As that an opera baritone might envy," showing a remarkable ability to naturally assimilate styles. His "voice has always been weak at the bottom, variable and unpredictable. At the top it is often brilliant. His upward passage would seem to lie in the area of E flat, E and F."[17]

Presley's range, though impressive in its own right, did not in itself make his voice that remarkable, at least in terms of how it measured against musical notation. What made it extraordinary, was where its center of gravity lay. By that measure, and according to Gregory Sandows, Music Professor at Columbia University, Presley was at once a bass, a baritone, and a tenor, most unusual among singers in either classical or popular music.


Sun recordings

On July 18, 1953 Presley paid $3.25 to record the first of two double-sided demo acetates at Sun Studios, "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin", which were popular ballads at the time. According to the official Presley website, Presley gave it to his mother as a much-belated birthday present. Presley returned to Sun Studios (706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee) on January 4, 1954. He again paid $8.25 to record a second demo, "I'll Never Stand in Your Way" and "It Wouldn't Be the Same Without You" (master 0812).

Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, who had already recorded blues artists such as Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton, B.B. King, Little Milton, and Junior Parker [7], was looking for "a white man with a Negro sound and the Negro feel," with whom he "could make a billion dollars," because he thought black blues and boogie-woogie music might become tremendously popular among white people if presented in the right way.[18] The Sun Records producer felt that a black rhythm and blues act stood little chance at the time of gaining the broad exposure needed to achieve large-scale commercial success."[19]

Phillips and assistant Marion Keisker heard the Presley discs and called him on June 26, 1954, to fill in for a missing ballad singer. Although that session was not productive, Phillips put Presley together with local musicians Scotty Moore and Bill Black to see what might develop. During a rehearsal break on July 5, 1954, Presley began singing a blues song written by Arthur Crudup called "That's All Right". Phillips liked the resulting record and on July 19, 1954, he released it as a 78-rpm single backed with Presley's hopped-up version of Bill Monroe's bluegrass song "Blue Moon of Kentucky". Memphis radio station WHBQ began playing it two days later; the record became a local hit and Presley began a regular touring schedule hoping to expand his fame beyond Tennessee.

However, Sam Phillips had difficulty persuading Southern white disc jockeys to play Presley's first recordings. The only places that played his records at first were in the Negro sections of Chicago and Detroit and in California. However, his music and style began to draw larger and larger audiences as he toured the South in 1955. Soon, demands by white teenagers that their local radio stations play his music overcame much of that resistance and as Rolling Stone magazine wrote years later in Presley's biography: "Overnight, it seemed, 'race music', as the music industry had labeled the work of black artists, became a thing of the past, as did the pejorative 'hillbilly' music." [8] Still, throughout 1955 and even well into 1956 when he had become a national phenomenon, Presley had to deal with an entrenched racism of die-hard segregationists and their continued labeling of his sound and style as vulgar "jungle music". Allegations of racism were made against Presley, possibly by those segregationist elements who hated what he was doing. Jet examined the issue and in its August 1, 1957 edition, the African American magazine concluded that: "To Elvis, people are people regardless of race, color or creed."[20]

Country music star Hank Snow arranged to have Presley perform at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry and his performance was well received. Nonetheless, one of the show's executives allegedly told Presley, "You ain't going nowhere, son. You may as well stick to driving a truck."

Presley's second single, "Good Rockin' Tonight", with "I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine" on the B-side, was released on September 25, 1954. He then continued to tour the South. On October 16, 1954, he made his first appearance on Louisiana Hayride, a radio broadcast of live country music in Shreveport, Louisiana, and was a hit with the large audience. His releases began to reach the top of the country charts. Following this, Presley was signed to a one-year contract for a weekly performance, during which time he was introduced to Colonel Tom Parker.

National exposure began on January 28, 1956, when Presley, Moore, Black, and drummer D.J. Fontana made their first National Television appearance on the Dorsey brothers' Stage Show. It was the first of six appearances on the show and the first of eight performances recorded and broadcast from CBS TV Studio 50 at 1697 Broadway, New York. After the success of their first appearance, they were signed to five more in early 1956 (February 4, 11, 18 and March 17 and 24


Presley and his manager "Colonel" Tom Parker

On August 15, 1955, Presley was signed by "Hank Snow Attractions", a management company jointly owned by singer Hank Snow and "Colonel" Tom Parker. Shortly thereafter, "Colonel" Parker took full control and, recognizing the limitations of Sun Studios, negotiated a deal with RCA Victor Records to acquire Presley's Sun contract for $35,000 on November 21, 1955. Presley's first single for RCA "Heartbreak Hotel" quickly sold one million copies and within a year RCA would go on to sell ten million Presley singles.

Parker was a master promoter who wasted no time in furthering Presley's image, licensing everything from guitars to cookware. Parker's first major coup was to market Presley on television. First, he had Presley booked in six of the Dorsey Shows (CBS). Presley appeared on the show on January 28, 1956, then on February 4, 11 & 18, 1956, with two more appearances on March 17 & 24, 1956. In March, he was able to obtain a lucrative deal with Milton Berle (NBC) for two appearances. The first appearance was on April 3, 1956. The second appearance was controversial due to Presley's performance of "Hound Dog" on June 5, 1956. It sparked a storm over his "gyrations" while singing. The controversy lasted through the rest of the 50's. However, that show drew such huge ratings that Steve Allen (ABC) booked him for one appearance, which took place early on July 1, 1956. That night, Allen had for the first time beaten The Ed Sullivan Show in the Sunday night ratings, prompting Sullivan (CBS) to book Presley for three appearances: September 9, and October 28, 1956 as well as January 6, 1957, for an unprecedented fee of $50,000. On September 9, 1956, at his first of three appearances on the Sullivan show, Presley drew an estimated 82.5% percent of the television audience, calculated at between 55-60 million viewers. On his third and final appearance (January 6, 1957) on the The Ed Sullivan Show, Sullivan was so impressed by Presley that he pointed to him and told the audience "This is a real decent, fine boy. We've never had a pleasanter experience on our show with a big name than we've had with you ... You're thoroughly all right." Presley remains the only one on Sullivan's show to have received such a warm and personal accolade. However, it has also been said that Presley's manager orchestrated the compliment in exchange for permitting Presley to appear, after Sullivan had earlier publicly stated his refusal to allow Presley on his program.

Parker eventually negotiated a multi-picture seven-year contract with Hal Wallis that shifted Presley's focus from music to films. Under the terms of his contract, Presley earned a fee for performing plus a percentage of the profits on the films, most of which were huge moneymakers. These were usually musicals based around Presley performances, and marked the beginning of his transition from rebellious rock and roller to all-round family entertainer. Presley was praised by all his directors, including the highly respected Michael Curtiz, as unfailingly polite and extremely hardworking.

Presley began his movie career with Love Me Tender which opened on November 15, 1956. The movies Jailhouse Rock (1957) and King Creole (1958) are regarded as among his best early films.

Parker's success led to Presley expanding the "Colonel's" management contract to an even 50/50 split. Over the years, much has been written about "Colonel" Parker, most of it critical. Marty Lacker, a lifelong friend and a member of the Memphis Mafia, says he thought of Parker as a "hustler and scam artist" who abused Presley's reliance on him. Priscilla Presley admits that "Elvis detested the business side of his career. He would sign a contract without even reading it."[21] This would explain the strong influence the Colonel had on Presley. Nonetheless, Lacker acknowledged that Parker was a master promoter.[22]


Cultural impact


Presley and African American music

Even in the 1950s era of blatant racism, Presley would publicly cite his debt to African American music, pointing to artists such as B. B. King, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Jackie Wilson, Robert Johnson, Ivory Joe Hunter, and Fats Domino. The reporter who conducted Presley's first interview in New York City in 1956 noted that he named blues singers who "obviously meant a lot to him. I was very surprised to hear him talk about the black performers down there and about how he tried to carry on their music."[citation needed] Later that year in Charlotte, North Carolina, Presley was quoted as saying: "The colored folks been singing it and playing it just like I’m doin' now, man, for more years than I know. They played it like that in their shanties and in their juke joints and nobody paid it no mind 'til I goosed it up. I got it from them. Down in Tupelo, Mississippi, I used to hear old Arthur Crudup bang his box the way I do now and I said if I ever got to a place I could feel all old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody ever saw."[23] Little Richard said of Presley: "He was an integrator. Elvis was a blessing. They wouldn’t let black music through. He opened the door for black music."[24] B. B. King said he began to respect Presley after he did Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup material and that after he met him, he thought the singer really was something else and was someone whose music was growing all the time right up to his death.[25]

Up to the mid 1950s black artists had sold minuscule amounts of their recorded music relative to the national market potential. Black songwriters had mostly limited horizons and could only eke out a living. But after Presley purchased the music of African American Otis Blackwell and had his "Gladys Music" company hire talented black songwriter Claude Demetrius, the industry underwent a dramatic change. In the spring of 1957 Presley invited African American performer Ivory Joe Hunter to visit Graceland and the two spent the day together, singing "I Almost Lost My Mind" and other songs. Of Presley, Hunter commented, "He showed me every courtesy, and I think he's one of the greatest."[26]

However, certain elements in American society began to simply dismiss Presley as no more than a racist Southerner who stole black music, but in the words of Black R&B artist Jackie Wilson, "A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man's music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis."

"Racists attacked rock and roll because of the mingling of black and white people it implied and achieved, and because of what they saw as black music's power to corrupt through vulgar and animalistic rhythms. ... The popularity of Elvis Presley was similarly founded on his transgressive position with respect to racial and sexual boundaries. ... White cover versions of hits by black musicians ... often outsold the originals; it seems that many Americans wanted black music without the black people in it,"[27] and Elvis had undoubtedly "derived his style from the Negro rhythm-and-blues performers of the late 1940s."[28]

The Elvis stole black music theme is an enduring one with arguments for and against published in books (see: "Dispelling The Myths An analysis of American Attitudes and Prejudices", Todd Rheingold, Believe In The Dream Publications, USA, 1992, LOCC:93-090296, and on Elvis websites and popular music messageboards. Several arguments are presented on the Elvis Information Network website [9]in its Spotlight On The King section.

"Many White people would be surprised to learn that Elvis Presley's hit 'Hound Dog' was first popularized by a Black woman, Big Mama Thornton. Elvis and his music live on the collective memory of Whites, yet Little Richard, some of whose work Elvis borrowed, has been forgotten."[29] A southern background combined with a performing style largely associated with African Americans had led to "bitter criticism by those who feel he stole a good thing," as Tan magazine surmised.[30] No wonder that Elvis became "a symbol of all that was oppressive to the black experience in the Western Hemisphere".[31] What is more, Presley was widely believed to have said, "The only thing black people can do for me is shine my shoes and buy my records."[32] It was claimed that the alleged comment was made either in Boston or on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person.[33] A black southerner in the late 1980s even captured that sentiment: "To talk to Presley about blacks was like talking to Adolf Hitler about the Jews."[34]

In his scholarly work Race, Rock, and Elvis,[35] Tennessee State University professor Michael T. Bertrand examined the relationship between popular culture and social change in America and these allegations against Presley. Professor Bertrand postulated that Presley's rock and roll music brought an unprecedented access to African American culture that challenged the 1950s segregated generation to reassess ingrained segregationist stereotypes. The American Historical Review wrote that the author "convincingly argues that the black-and-white character of the sound, as well as Presley's own persona, helped to relax the rigid color line and thereby fed the fires of the civil rights movement." The U.S. government report stated: "Presley has been accused of "stealing" black rhythm and blues, but such accusations indicate little knowledge of his many musical influences." "However much Elvis may have 'borrowed' from black blues performers (e.g., 'Big Boy' Crudup, 'Big Mama' Thornton), he borrowed no less from white country stars (e.g., Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe) and white pop singers (e.g., Mario Lanza, Dean Martin)," and most of his borrowings came from the church; its gospel music was his primary musical influence and foundation."


"A danger to American culture"

By the spring of 1956, Presley was fast becoming a national phenomenon[36] and teenagers came to his concerts in unprecedented numbers. There were many riots at his early concerts. Scotty Moore says, "He’d start out, 'You ain’t nothin’ but a Hound Dog,' and they’d just go to pieces. They’d always react the same way. There’d be a riot every time."[37] When he performed at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair in 1956, 100 National Guardsmen surrounded the stage to control crowds of excited fans. The singer was considered to represent a threat to the moral well-being of young American women, because "Elvis Presley didn’t just represent a new type of music; he represented sexual liberation."[38] In 1956, a critic for the New York Daily News wrote that popular music "has reached its lowest depths in the 'grunt and groin' antics of one Elvis Presley." The Roman Catholic Church denounced him in its weekly magazine in an article headlined "Beware Elvis Presley."[39]

In an interview with PBS television, social historian Eric Lott said, "all the citizens' councils in the South called Elvis 'nigger music' and were terribly afraid that Elvis, white as he was, being ambiguously raced just by being working-class, was going to corrupt the youth of America."[40] Robert Kaiser says he was the first who gave the people "a music that hit them where they lived, deep in their emotions, yes, even below their belts. Other singers had been doing this for generations, but they were black."[41] Therefore, his performance style was frequently criticized. Social guardians blasted anyone responsible for exposing impressionable teenagers to his "gyrating figure and suggestive gestures." The Louisville chief of police, for instance, called for a no-wiggle rule, so as to halt "any lewd, lascivious contortions that would excite the crowd."[42] Even Priscilla Presley confirms that "his performances were labeled obscene. My mother stated emphatically that he was 'a bad influence for teenage girls. He arouses things in them that shouldn't be aroused.'"[43]

According to rhythm and blues artist Hank Ballard, "In white society, the movement of the butt, the shaking of the leg, all that was considered obscene. Now here's this white boy that's grinding and rolling his belly and shaking that notorious leg. I hadn't even seen the black dudes doing that."[44] Presley complained bitterly in a June 27, 1956, interview about being singled out as “obscene”.[45] Due to his controversial style of song and stage performances, municipal politicians began denying permits for Presley appearances. This caused teens to pile into cars and travel elsewhere to see him perform. Adult programmers announced they would not play Presley's music on their radio stations due to religious convictions that his music was "devil music" and to racist beliefs that it was "nigger music." Many of Presley's records were condemned as wicked by Pentecostal preachers, warning congregations to keep heathen rock and roll music out of their homes and away from their children's ears (especially the music of "that backslidden Pentecostal pup.") However, the economic power of Presley's fans became evident when they tuned in alternative radio stations playing his records. In an era when radio stations were shifting to an all-music format, in reaction to competition from television, profit-conscious radio station owners learned quickly when sponsors bought more advertising time on new all "rock and roll" stations, some of which reached enormous markets at night with clear channel signals from AM broadcasts.

In August, 1956 in Jacksonville, Florida a local Juvenile Court judge called Presley a "savage" and threatened to arrest him if he shook his body while performing at Jacksonville's Florida Theatre, justifying the restrictions by saying his music was undermining the youth of America. Throughout the performance, Presley stood still as ordered but poked fun at the judge by wiggling a finger. Similar attempts to stop his "sinful gyrations" continued for more than a year and included his often-noted January 6, 1957 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (during which he performed the spiritual number "Peace in the Valley"), when he was filmed only from the waist up.


American icon

According to Rolling Stone magazine, "it was Elvis who made rock 'n' roll the international language of pop." A PBS documentary described Presley as "an American music giant of the 20th century who single-handedly changed the course of music and culture in the mid-1950s."[46] His recordings, dance moves, attitude and clothing came to be seen as embodiments of rock and roll. His music was heavily influenced by African-American blues, Christian gospel, and Southern country.

Presley sang both hard driving rockabilly, rock and roll dance songs and ballads, laying a commercial foundation upon which other rock musicians would build their careers. African-American performers like Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Chuck Berry came to national prominence after Presley's acceptance among mass audiences of White American teenagers. Singers like Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and others immediately followed in his wake. John Lennon later observed, "Before Elvis, there was nothing."

During the post-WWII economic boom of the 1950s, many parents were able to give their teenage children much higher weekly allowances, signaling a shift in the buying power and purchasing habits of American teens. During the 1940s bobby soxers had idolized Frank Sinatra, but the buyers of his records were mostly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. Presley triggered a juggernaut of demand for his records by near-teens and early teens aged ten and up. Along with Presley's "ducktail" haircut, the demand for black slacks and loose, open-necked shirts resulted in new lines of clothing for teenage boys whereas a girl might get a pink portable 45 rpm record player for her bedroom. Meanwhile American teenagers began buying newly available portable transistor radios[47] and listened to rock 'n' roll on them (helping to propel that fledgling industry from an estimated 100,000 units sold in 1955 to 5,000,000 units by the end of 1958). Teens were asserting more independence and Presley became a national symbol of their parents' consternation.

Elvis Presley in the 1957 musical drama Jailhouse Rock
Elvis Presley in the 1957 musical drama Jailhouse Rock

Presley's impact on the American youth consumer market was noted on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on December 31, 1956 when business journalist Louis M. Kohlmeier wrote, "Elvis Presley today is a business," and reported on the singer's record and merchandise sales. Half a century later, historian Ian Brailsford (University of Auckland, New Zealand) commented, "The phenomenal success of Elvis Presley in 1956 convinced many doubters of the financial opportunities existing in the youth market."[48] Elvis even became very popular to British audiences as well.


Military service

On December 20 1957, Presley received his draft board notice for his mandatory service in the United States Army. He was worried that his absence in the public eye for 2 years, while serving in the Army, might end his career. Even more worried were Hal Wallis and Paramount who already spent $350,000 on pre-production of Presley's latest film King Creole and they feared of suspending the project or worse canceling it. Fortunately, the Memphis Draft Board granted Wallis and Colonel Parker a deferment until March 20 so Presley could complete his film project.[49] On 24 March 1958, Presley joined his unit, 1st Battalion, US 32nd Armored Regiment and was posted to Ray Barracks, Friedberg, Germany.

"In the army he was forced into interaction with strangers. This is where Elvis developed the gruff, macho and boastful nature as a mode of survival," says Peter Guralnick. "He'd always been the chief and now he had to be a scout." While serving in Germany, Presley met his wife-to-be, the 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, and also the noted International Herald Tribune correspondent and humorist Art Buchwald, future US Secretary of State Colin Powell (then a lieutenant with the Third Army Division in Germany), and Walter Alden, the father of Presley's fiancee Ginger Alden who inducted Presley into the Army.

His rankings and dates of promotions were as follows: Private (upon draft March 24, 1958); Private First Class (November 27, 1958); Specialist Fourth Class (June 1, 1959); and Sergeant (January 20, 1960). While in the Army, he earned sharpshooter badges for both the .45 pistol and the M1 rifle, and a marksman badge for the M2 carbine, as well as a Good Conduct Medal.[50]

Presley returned to the United States on March 2, 1960, and was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant (E-5) on March 5.[51] One of his post-discharge photos shows him wearing dress blues with the grade of Staff Sergeant (E-6), but this was a tailor's error.[52]

After serving his duty in the military, he became more mature and lost his raw and rebellious edge.[53] However, he gained respect from older and more conservative crowds who initially disliked him before he entered the Army.


1960s film career

Presley admired the style of Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Tony Curtis and returned from the military eager to make a career as a movie star. Although "he was definitely not the most talented actor around",[54] he "became a film genre of his own."[55] Pop film staples of the early sixties, such as the Presley musicals and the AIP beach movies were mainly produced for a teenage audience and called by film critics a "pantheon of bad taste".[56] In the sixties, at Colonel Parker's command, Presley withdrew from concerts and television appearances, with the exception of a charity concert (Pearl Harbor, 1961) and a TV appearance with Frank Sinatra on NBC entitled "Welcome Home Elvis" where he sang "Witchcraft/Love Me Tender" with Sinatra. From then on it was full-time movies. "He blamed his fading popularity on his humdrum movies," Priscilla Presley recalled in her 1985 autobiography, Elvis and Me. "He loathed their stock plots and short shooting schedules. He could have demanded better, more substantial scripts, but he didn't." According to most critics, the scripts of the movies "were all the same, the songs progressively worse."[57] The latter were "written on order by men who never really understood Elvis or rock and roll."[58] For Blue Hawaii and its soundtrack LP, "fourteen songs were cut in just three days."[59] Julie Parrish, starring in Paradise, Hawaiian Style, says that Presley hated such songs and that he "couldn't stop laughing while he was recording" one of them.[60]

Although some film critics chastised these movies for their lack of depth, the fans turned out and they were enormously profitable. According to Jerry Hopkins's book, Elvis in Hawaii, Presley's "pretty-as-a-postcard movies" even "boosted the new state's (Hawaii) tourism. Some of his most enduring and popular songs came from those movies."[61] Altogether, Presley had made 27 movies during the 1960s, "which had grossed about $130 million, and he had sold a hundred million records, which had made $150 million."[62] Overall, he was one of the highest paid Hollywood actors during the 1960s. However, during the later sixties, "the Elvis Presley film was becoming passé. Young people were tuning in, dropping out and doing acid. Musical acts like the Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, the Doors, Janis Joplin and many others were dominating the airwaves. Elvis Presley was not considered as cool as he once was."[63]

For an interesting and diverse look at Elvis's film career and films about him see Elvis Information Network, specifically its Celluloid Elvis section [10]


1968 comeback

Presley's star had increasingly faded over the 1960s as he made his movies and America was struck by changing styles and tastes after the "British Invasion" spearheaded by the Beatles.

Until the late sixties Presley continued to star in many B-movies that, although profitable, featured soundtracks that were of increasingly lower quality. Chart statistics for the summer of 1968 show that his recording career was floundering badly. He had apparently become deeply dissatisfied with the direction his career had taken over the preceding seven years, most notably the film contracts with a demanding schedule that eliminated creative recording and giving public concerts. This lead to a triumphant televised performance later dubbed the '68 Comeback Special, aired on the NBC television network on December 3, 1968, and released as an album by RCA. Although the Special featured big, lavish production numbers (not dissimilar to those in his movies), it also featured intimate and emotionally charged live sessions that saw him return to his rock and roll roots (he had not performed live since the Pearl Harbor concert of 1961). Rolling Stone magazine called it "a performance of emotional grandeur and historical resonance." [11] Presley was greatly assisted in the success of the '68 Comeback by the fact that the director and co-producer, Steve Binder, worked hard to make sure the show was not just a selection of Christmas songs, as Presley's manager had originally planned.

The comeback of 1968 was followed by a 1969 return to live performances, first in Las Vegas and then across the United States. The return concerts were noted for the constant stream of sold-out shows, with many setting attendance records in the venues where he performed.

However, this was also the beginning of the singer's "jumpsuit era". In that era, Presley was distanced from the main currents of rock 'n' roll, which were seized by groups such as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones during the 1960s. This moving away from his roots was much criticized by critics and other rock musicians. "There was so little of it that was actually good," David Bowie says. "Those first two or three years, and then he lost me completely."[64]

Two concert films were also released: Elvis: That's the Way It Is (1970) and Elvis on Tour (1972).


1969-1977 - Elvis's final years

After seven years off the top of the charts, Presley's song "Suspicious Minds" hit number one on the Billboard music charts on November 1, 1969.[65] He also reached number one on charts elsewhere: "In the Ghetto" did so in West Germany in 1969 and "The Wonder of You" did so in the UK in 1970.

From 1969 to 1971 Presley would dominate singles charts in many countries with a string of Top 20 hits, although this was at a time when album sales were growing significantly. Album sales was not an area where Presley (at the time) competed at the same level with artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and The Monkees.

After a decade dominated by making films, 1970 saw Presley embark on more of a musical career beginning with the release of his single Kentucky Rain which sold over 500,000 copies in the US alone, going Gold. The same month the singer returned to the International Hotel in Las Vegas for another series of performances. Presley broke his own attendance records with his shows (which he set in 1969). The following month he released his single The Wonder of You. The single became a Top 10 Gold hit in the US and went to #1 in the UK. Presley also released his album On Stage. The album was recorded live the previous month in Las Vegas. The album went platinum (1 million copies sold) in the US and sold over 2.5 million worldwide. That month he played to over 200,000 fans during 6 shows at the Houston Astrodome. The summer of 1970 saw him release his single I’ve lost You/The Next Step is Love which won a gold record award. The song is taken form the up coming That’s The Way It Is album. Following this Presley returned to the International Hotel for more performances. This time MGM was there to film some of the shows and behind the scenes footage for a documentary called Elvis: That’s The Way It Is. He released an album later on of the same name. That fall he embarked on his first tour since 1957. It was an 8 date sold-out US tour. The following month he released the gold award single You Don't Have To Say You Love Me. That November he went back on the road for another tour and the year ended with the release of the album That’s The Way It Is, the live album In Person at the International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada and the single I Really Don’t Want To Know. Both albums and the single achieved a gold award.

In 1971 Presley released the album Elvis Country which became another gold award record. The album contains the previous year's hit I Really Don’t Want To Know. He went back to the International Hotel for more performances. When he finished these dates, the new single Rags To Riches was released. The single sold over 100,000 copies. That May he released the single Life, taken from the forthcoming Love Letters album. The album Love Letters sold a claimed 2 million+ copies worldwide. However, the album only sold 300,000 units in the USA according to Sony-BMG executive, Ernst Jorgensen, in his book with Peter Guralnick, Elvis Day By Day The Definitive Record of His Life and Music (Ballantine Books, 1999, ISBN 0345420896, page 295).

The next month Presley went to Lake Tahoe for a series of performances. Once again he broke attendance records. The following month he went the International Hotel for more performances and the single I’m Leavin was released (selling a poor 275,000 copies in the US according to Guralnick & Jorgensen). While Presley's record sales were falling his performance career was consistently strong. He ended the year with a 15 date U.S. tour - all the dates being sold-out. The single Its Only Love was released. 1971 saw Presley named 'One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation' by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (The Jaycees) and he won the Bing Crosby Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the organization that also presents Grammy awards).

Elvis started 1972 off at the International in Vegas for more performances and released his new album Elvis Now which achieved a gold record. The same month the Top 40 hit single Until Its Time For You To Go was released, selling over 200,000 copies in the US alone. That March the single He Touched Me was released, followed in April by an album with the same name. The He Touched Me album achieved platinum status in the US and went on to win Elvis his second Grammy Award, (Best Inspirational Performance). On April 5, 1972 (in Buffalo, New York) Elvis embarked on a 15 date US tour ending on April 18, 1972 in San Antonio, Texas. MGM filmed some of the shows for the film Elvis On Tour, which won a Golden Globe Award for Best Documentary of 1972. The day before the tour began Elvis released the single American Trilogy. The next month he began a 14 date US tour which started with 4 consecutive sold out shows at Madison Square Gardens in New York - the first artist ever to achieve this. A live album was recorded on June 10th and was rush released on June 18th. The album As Recorded Live At Madison Square Garden became a triple-platinum seller in the US and sold over 5 million copies worldwide. After the tour, Presley returned to Lake Tahoe for more performances and, on August 1, 1972, released the single Burning Love / "It's A Matter Of Time". The single achieved platinum status in the US and went to #2 on the charts. It would be his last top 10 hit. In November he began another sold-out tour and released the single Separate Ways, which earned him another gold record.

In 1973 Presley began the year with two sold-out January shows in Hawaii. The second show was broadcast live around the world. Known as the "Aloha from Hawaii" concert, it was the first of its kind to be broadcast worldwide via satellite and was seen by at least one billion viewers worldwide - a quarter of 1973's world population. The same month Presley was back in Vegas for more performances. In February he released the album Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite. The album went to #1 and spent 52 weeks on the charts. The album went 5x platinum in the U.S. In March the single Steamroller Blues (with B-Side song Fool) was released and it became a Top 40 hit. The following month Elvis was back on a 12 date US tour. In May the singer was back in Lake Tahoe for more performances. The next month Presley was on the road again with a 17-date sold-out US tour. During the tour the album Elvis was released. The album sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide. The year finished with him going back to Vegas for more performances and the releases of the single Raised on Rock and the album of the same name. Raised on Rock sold another 1.5 million copies worldwide.

However, after his divorce in 1973 Presley became increasingly isolated, overweight, and was battling an addiction to prescription drugs which took a heavy toll on his appearance, health, and performances. According to Anna Paterson, "binge eating led him to gain large amounts of weight. It wasn't just the quantity of food that he was eating which caused the problems. Elvis frequently consumed very high fat foods. His favourite meal was reportedly peanut butter and banana sandwiches grilled in butter. Another famous meal he enjoyed was 'Fool's Gold Loaf'. This was a hollowed out white loaf, drenched in butter and then stuffed with peanut butter, jam and bacon.

Regardless of such problems, the star continued performing concerts. In 1974, Presley went to Vegas for more performances with packed houses. The new single I've Got A Thing About You Baby was released on January 11. On March 20 the album Good Times was released, despite the fact it was the third new album released in just 8 months. He embarked on a 25-date sold-out U.S. tour. In May the singer was back playing a 5-date tour and the single If You Talk in Your Sleep / Help Me was released on May 10th. The same month he went back to Vegas for more performances. The next month saw another massive sold-out U.S. tour. The album Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis was recorded on March 20th and released on July 7th and achieved gold status. When the tour ended Presley went back to Lake Tahoe for more shows and followed this with another successful U.S. tour. The single Promised Land was released during the tour, on September 27th. The song becomes a Top 20 hit and sold well. The year ended with him returning to Lake Tahoe for more performances.

1975 started with the album Promised Land being released on his 40th birthday. The album contains the single of the same name. The album sells well over 1 million copies worldwide. The Top 20 hit My Boy was released. In March Presley went to Vegas for more performances. The next month he set out on another successful tour and the single T-R-O-U-B-L-E was released. The single was taken from the album Today which was released in May of 1975. He spends May, June and July on tour. In August, he was back in Vegas for more performances. In October, the single Bringing It Back was released. The year ended with Elvis playing more shows in Vegas and a massive sold-out concert in Michigan where he played to over 62,000 fans. His live recording of "How Great Thou Art" from the album recorded at one of his Memphis concerts in 1974 wins the Grammy for 'Best Inspirational Performance'. This is his third and final Grammy win out of fourteen nominations.

After taking a break from releasing records and touring, he returned on March 12, 1976 with his new single Hurt/ "For The Heart" Both songs were featured on an upcoming album. He also went back on tour for March and April playing to sell-out crowds all across the U.S. In May he was back in Lake Tahoe for more performances and the album From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee was released. The album went 'gold' in the U.S. From the end of May till November he tour extensively across the U.S. to sold-out shows. In December he returned to Vegas for more shows and the single Moody Blue was released. The month ended with another 5-date tour.

Presley took a break for the month of January, 1977 but began touring again in February. He spent the rest of the year till his death on tour and Billboard Magazine rates him the year’s top grossing live act. However, by the beginning of 1977, "Elvis Presley had become a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self. Hugely overweight, his mind dulled by the pharmacopoeia he daily ingested, he was barely able to pull himself through his abbreviated concerts."[66] When he was in Alexandria, Louisiana, a local journalist complained that the star was on stage for less than an hour and "was impossible to understand." In Baton Rouge, Presley didn’t go on at all. He was unable to get out of his hotel bed, and his manager Parker cancelled the rest of the tour.

On April 21 the year’s third tour began, a Midwestern swing. The reviews "ranged from concern for his health to perplexity over how little he seemed to care," writes Peter Guralnick. According to a Detroit journalist, Elvis "stunk the joint out" in that city. Fans, too, Guralnick relates, "were becoming increasingly voluble about their disappointment, but it all seemed to go right past Elvis, whose world was now confined almost entirely to his room and his [spiritualism] books." In Knoxville, Tennessee, on May 20, "there was no longer any pretense of keeping up appearances," Guralnick writes. "The idea was simply to get Elvis out onstage and keep him upright for the hour he was scheduled to perform." So it went for the rest of that spring, with Presley stumbling and lurching through show after show.

Notwithstanding, shows on June 19, in Omaha, Nebraska & 21 (in Rapid City, South Dakota) were recorded by RCA for an upcoming live album and videotaped for an upcoming CBS-TV television special: “Elvis In Concert’’. The live album Elvis In Concert, which will be recorded during the CBS special, eventually sold 3 million copies in the US alone, but wasn't released until October 3, 1977. In June the single Way Down was released. The single became a platinum seller in the US and went to #1 in the UK. The following month the album Moody Blue was released. It is the last album Presley released whilst he was alive. It sold well, going 'gold' in his lifetime but after his untimely death the album sold another 1.5 million copies in the US and 14 million worldwide.

Following the June 21, 1977 show in Rapid City, South Dakota, he performed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on June 22. Then followed concerts in Des Moines, Iowa on June 23, Madison, Wisconsin on June 24 and Cincinnati, Ohio on June 25. On June 26, 1977, he performed in Indianapolis, Indiana to end the tour. He returned to Graceland for a two month vacation. There he rarely left his bedroom. On August 17, 1977 he was scheduled to begin another tour in Portland, Maine.

Presley recorded a number of country hits in his final years. Way Down was languishing in the American Country Music chart shortly before his death in 1977, and reached number one the week after his death. It also topped the UK pop charts at the same time.

Between 1970 and 1977 Presley gave 1,096 sold-out performances in Las Vegas and on tour. He was the first artist to have four shows in a row sold to capacity crowds at New York's Madison Square Garden, on June 9-11, 1972.

From 1971 to his death in 1977 Presley employed the Stamps Quartet, a gospel group, for his backup vocals. He recorded several gospel albums, earning three Grammy Awards for his gospel music. In his later years his live stage performances almost always included a rendition of How Great Thou Art, the 19th century gospel song made famous by George Beverly Shea. Although some critics say that the singer travestied, commercialized and soft-soaped gospel "to the point where it became nauseating.",[67] twenty-four years after his death, the Gospel Music Association inducted him into its Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2001).

Presley made his last live concert appearance in Indianapolis at the Market Square Arena on June 26, 1977. The Indianapolis Star wrote: "The big question was ..., had he lost weight? His last concert here, nearly 2 years ago, found Elvis overweight, sick and prone to give a lethargic performance. As the lights in the Arena was turned down after intermission, you could feel a silent plea rippling through the audience: Please, Elvis, don't be fat. And then he appeared, in a gold and white jumpsuit and white boots, bounding onstage with energy that was a relief to everyone. At 42, Elvis is still carrying around some excess baggage on his mid-section, but it didn't stop him from giving a performance in true Presley style."


Death and burial

On August 16, 1977, at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, Presley was found lying on the floor of his bedroom's bathroom by his fiancee, Ginger Alden, who had been asleep. A stain on the bathroom carpeting was found that indicated "where Elvis had thrown up after being stricken, apparently while seated on the toilet. It looked to the medical investigator as if he had 'stumbled or crawled several feet before he died'." [68] He was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where at 3:30 P.M. doctors pronounced him dead. Presley was 42 years old.

At a press conference following his death, one of the medical examiners declared that he had died of a cardiac arrhythmia from an intake of a large amount of drugs.

Rolling Stone magazine devoted an entire issue to Presley (RS 248) and his funeral was a national media event. [12] Hundreds of thousands of Presley fans, the press, and celebrities lined the street to witness Presley's funeral and Jackie Cahane gave the eulogy.

Presley was originally buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis next to his mother. After an attempted theft of the body, his remains and his mother's remains were moved to Graceland to the "meditation gardens."

Following Presley's death in 1977, US President Jimmy Carter said, "Elvis Presley's death deprives our country of a part of itself. He was unique and irreplaceable. More than 20 years ago, he burst upon the scene with an impact that was unprecedented and will probably never be equaled. His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. His following was immense, and he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness, and good humor of his country."[69]


Controversy surrounding death

In her 1987 book Elvis and Kathy, friend and backup vocalist Kathy Westmoreland wrote "Everyone knew he was sick, that each public appearance brought him to the point of exhaustion." Kathy has been known to counter common misconceptions concerning Elvis's lifestyle and health leading up to his death.

According to Peter Guralnick's book, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley (1999), "drug use was heavily implicated in this unanticipated death of a middle-aged man with no known history of heart disease...no one ruled out the possibility of anaphylactic shock brought on by the codeine pills he had gotten from his dentist, to which he was known to have had a mild allergy of long standing...There was little disagreement in fact between the two principal laboratory reports and analyses filed two months later, with each stating a strong belief that the primary cause of death was polypharmacy, and the BioScience Laboratories report...indicating the detection of fourteen drugs in Elvis's system, ten in significant quantity."

In his book, Elvis: The Last 24 Hours, Albert Goldman even went as far as to suggest that Presley committed suicide by overdosing on a stash of drugs that he stockpiled. David Stanley, Presley's stepbrother, who was at Graceland the day Presley died, is alleged to have removed the needles and drug packets near Presley's body before the paramedics arrived, suggesting that he did not want to see Presley's name tarred with the brush of suicide. These rumors have been strongly rejected by some of Elvis's family and friends such as Joe Espositio during past appearances on the Larry King Show.

On the other hand, some of his closest family members, friends, band members, and background singers have long disputed stories concerning Presley's alleged prescription drug abuse and "self-destructive" lifestyle. At the same time, they have not denied that he did take prescription medications for bona fide or suspected health problems. For instance, Vernon Presley, Kathy Westmoreland, Charlie Hodge, and J.D. Sumner pointed out that Presley also suffered from severe health problems unrelated to drug abuse. These health problems included glaucoma, chronic insomnia, and perhaps even bone cancer. The illness may have increased his dependency on prescription medication. In 1977 alone, his personal physician Dr. George Constantine Nichopoulos (usually referred to as "Dr Nick") had prescribed 10,000 hits of amphetamines, barbiturates, narcotics, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, laxatives, and hormones.


Political beliefs

President Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley December, 1970.
President Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley December, 1970.

Not much has been written about Elvis's political views. In the early 1960s he described himself as an admirer of the Democratic President John F. Kennedy. In 1970 however he wrote to J. Edgar Hoover requesting to join the FBI at the height of its campaign against political activism. Most people were shocked at this, but his fans had mixed emotions. They wanted their hero making new movies and songs, but they were happy that Elvis had his feet firmly on the ground. In December of that year he met with President Richard Nixon. According to the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation, the photograph of President Nixon's meeting with Presley in the Oval Office is the most requested image in the history of the U.S. Government. [13]

It is known[citation needed] that Elvis supported Adlai Stevenson in the 1956 election. Elvis also supported John F. Kennedy in 1960 and reportedly cried when he learned of his death. There is a picture of Elvis with President Lyndon B. Johnson, who he met in 1965. Elvis also supported Robert Kennedy in the 1968 election until his assassination. Between 1968 and 1970, Elvis recorded several political songs including "If I Can Dream", "In the Ghetto", "Change of Habit", and "Walk a Mile in My Shoes". He also starred in the political film Change Of Habit. Elvis also met and became friends with John Lennon and Bob Dylan in the 1960s.

In the 1970s he was a strong supporter of Republican President Richard Nixon and even met him in the White House. In a letter that Presley wrote to Nixon, requesting that they should meet, Presley told the President he was a huge admirer of everything he was doing, and asked to be made a "Federal Agent at Large" in order to help get the country off drugs.[70] Nixon duly made Presley a "Federal Agent at large" in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, presenting him with the appropriate badge. Extraordinarily, Presley was likewise able to present Nixon with a gift of a Colt .45 handgun in the Oval Office.[71] Although it probably has no relevance to his political beliefs, Elvis also met future President George H.W. Bush at an awards banquet.

Nothing is known of Elvis's views on Gerald Ford, but Elvis became a friend of Democratic President Jimmy Carter when he was Governor of Georgia. After Carter was elected to the Presidency, Elvis called him on the telephone at the White House several times. When Presley died in August 1977, "Carter said, 'He was unique and irreplaceable. He burst on the scene with an impact that was unprecedented and will probably never be equaled.' "[72]




Devotion to his mother

The first woman in Presley's life was his mother Gladys. In a newspaper interview with The Memphis Press Scimitar, Elvis himself was open about the close relationship to his mother. "She was the number-one girl in his life, and he was dedicating his career to her."[73] Throughout her life, "the son would call her by pet names", and they communicated by baby talk.[74] Presley even shared his mother's bed "up until Elvis was a young teen."[75] According to Elaine Dundy, "it was agony for her to leave her child even for a moment with anyone else, to let anyone else touch Elvis."[76] His father still openly talked about Elvis's close relationship to his mother after his son had become famous.[77] When his mother died, Elvis was "sobbing and crying hysterically",[78] and eye-witnesses relate that he was "grieving almost constantly" for days.[79]


High school and early stardom

Presley's early experiences being teased by his fellow classmates for being a "mama's boy" had a deep influence on his clumsy advances to girls. He didn't have any friends as a teen. Beginning in his early teens, Presley embarked upon the "indefatigable pursuit of girls", but was totally rebuffed. At school, anyone "wishing to provoke a little girl to tears of rage had only to chalk "Elvis loves -" and then the girl's name on the blackboard when the teacher was out of the room."[80] Presley's first sweetheart was the fifteen-year-old Dixie Locke, whom the singer dated steadily since graduating from Humes and during his Sun Records time. While still a rising star, Presley also had a relationship with June Juanico, who is said to have been the only girl his mother ever approved of, but according to Juanico's own words, she "never had sex with Presley." However, since the singer's death many claims to relationships have been made by women who were no more than acquaintances or had short affairs which were exaggerated for personal gain. Juanico even blames Elvis's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, for encouraging Presley to go out with beautiful women only "for the publicity".[81] Between 1954 and 1956, when his stardom began to rise, Presley became the subject of adulation and adoration of young Hollywood starlets such as Natalie Wood, Judy Tyler, Shelley Fabares, and Connie Stevens. His mother believed that Wood was a schemer who hoped to "snare" the singer only "for publicity purposes."[82] When a columnist wanted to know if the romance with Presley was "serious," Natalie's cool answer was, "Not right now." "But who knows what will happen?"[83] One of her judgments of Elvis was, "He can sing but he can't do much else."[84]


The women in his life

Several authors have written that "Elvis busied his evenings with various girlfriends"[85] or that his "list of one-night stands would fill volumes."[86] According to eyewitness Byron Raphael, who worked for Presley's manager Parker, the star even had a secret one-night stand with Marilyn Monroe in a hotel room.[87] However, it is unclear whether the "sex symbol" actually had sex with most of the women he dated. His early girlfriends Judy Spreckels and June Juanico say that they had no sexual relationships with Presley. Raphael and Alanna Nash have stated that the star "would never put himself inside one of these girls..."[88] June Juanico "recalls a time when she stood up to Elvis in front of his band of hangers-on, who even then were beginning to accompany him everywhere. He grabbed her arm, took her into the bathroom and declared: 'Look, you are so right, I am really sorry.' He kept her there for five minutes, then swaggered out, his image intact." Julie Parrish, Presley's co-star in Paradise Hawaiian Style, relates, "One time on set I had a real pain in my side - a side-effect, I think - and Elvis scooped me up, carried me into his trailer and shut the door. Outside the crew was waiting and wondering, but Elvis was oblivious to the innuendo. He placed his hand over my side and tried to do some healing on me."[89] Peggy Lipton claims that Presley was "virtually impotent" with her. She attributed his impotence to his heavy drug abuse.[90] Cassandra Peterson, better known as "Elvira', says she knew Presley for only one night and all they did was talk.[91] Priscilla Presley and Suzanne Finstad also claim that the singer wasn't overtly sexually active.[92] These claims are directly contradicted by comments from actresses like Cybill Shepherd, who acknowledged her affair with the singer and said to have introduced Elvis to certain amorous techniques.[93] However, "Shepherd's much-quoted claims that she taught him the joys of oral sex is viewed with skepticism by other lovers of the King."[94] In her memoir, Ann-Margret (Presley's co-star in Viva Las Vegas) refers to Presley as her "soulmate", but very little is revealed about their long-rumored romance, only that "in a moment of tenderness" he bought her a round bed in hot pink colors.[95] On the other hand, Elvis dated many female co-stars from his movies primarily for publicity purposes.[96] Lori Williams and the singer, for instance, went together for a while "between the making of Roustabout and Kissin' Cousins." She says their "courtship was not some bizarre story. It was very sweet and Elvis was the perfect gentleman." She also claims that Ann-Margret "was the love of his life."[97] Significantly, there was a great publicity campaign about the romance between Elvis and Ann-Margret during the 1963 filming of Viva Las Vegas and the following weeks,[98] which helped to increase the popularity of the young Hollywood beauty.[99] Ann-Margret remained close to Presley for the remainder of his life and also attended his funeral. It should be noted that the vast majority of books (including both of Guralnick's books) on Presley contain details of his many romances and alleged affairs including many while he was married to Priscilla. It has also been reported that Presley "adored to fondle and suck women's toes, and those in his entourage who were given the job of choosing companions for him would often be asked to check the girls' feet."[100] Guralnick writes that for "the more experienced girls it wasn't like with other Hollywood stars or even with other more sophisticated boys they knew." Although they offered to do things for Presley, "he wasn't really interested."[101]


Anita Wood and Priscilla Beaulieu

Anita Wood, another girl whom the singer's mother hoped Presley would eventually marry, was with him as he rose to superstardom, served in the US military and returned home in 1960. If he was planning to marry a girl he wanted her to remain a virgin. Anita Wood lived at Graceland for a time, though the star, according to his own words, didn't make love to her.[102] She moved out after confronting him over Priscilla Beaulieu. Presley had met Beaulieu in Germany while stationed there with the U.S. Army. She was only 14 years old when the singer began dating her. At that time, he even had a younger girl living in his house.[103] Therefore, authors such as Albert Goldman have gone so far as to call Presley a "pedophile", [104] Indeed, Elvis relationships were primarily with relatively young women. However, his relationship with Priscilla seems to have remained platonic until she was of age.[105]

Presley and Beaulieu were married on May 1, 1967 in Las Vegas, Nevada and daughter Lisa Marie was born nine months later on February 1, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. After five years of marriage Presley and Beaulieu separated on February 23, 1972, agreeing to share custody of their daughter.


Last relationships

Six months after Priscilla left, Presley dated beauty queen Linda Thompson. Although she was a virgin when they met, it has been claimed that they "started with marathon love-making sessions in Vegas hotel rooms." However, their relationship "disintegrated into a sexless and gloomy existence." According to Thompson, "There were times when he was very, very, difficult. There was a lot of heartache and he exhibited a lot of self-destructive behaviour, which was very difficult for me, you know, watching someone I loved so much destroy himself." In 1976, she left Presley. "Some doubt he ever had sex again," and his final live-in girlfriend, beauty queen Ginger Alden, "is too polite to say."[106]


The Memphis Mafia and other male friends

Apart from his relationships with women, Presley had many male friends. He reportedly spent day and night with friends and employees whom the news media affectionately dubbed the Memphis Mafia. Among them were Sonny West, Red West, Billy Smith, Marty Lacker and Lamar Fike. Gerald Marzorati says that Elvis "couldn't go anywhere else without a phalanx of boyhood friends."[107] Even the girls he dated deplored, "Whenever you were with Elvis for the most part you were with his entourage. Those guys were always around..."[108] According to Peter Guralnick, for Elvis and the guys "Hollywood was just an open invitation to party all night long. Sometimes they would hang out with Sammy Davis, Jr., or check out Bobby Darin at the Cloister. Nick Adams and his gang came by the suite all the time, not to mention the eccentric actor Billy Murphy ..."[109] Samuel Roy says that "Elvis' bodyguards, Red and Sonny West and Dave Hebler, apparently loved Elvis—especially Red ... ; these bodyguards showed loyalty to Elvis and demonstrated it in the ultimate test. When bullets were apparently fired at Elvis in Las Vegas, the bodyguards threw themselves in front of Elvis, forming a shield to protect him."[110] According to Presley expert Elaine Dundy, "Of all Elvis' new friends, Nick Adams, by background and temperament the most insecure, was also his closest."[111] All of the singer's friendships are documented by many photographs.


Lasting legacy

Further information: Cultural depictions of Elvis Presley

By 1957 Presley was the most famous entertainer in the world. After pioneer band leader Bill Haley spawned interest in rock and roll in Western Europe, Presley's records triggered a wide shift in tastes with effects lasting many decades. Singers in dozens of countries made Presley-influenced recordings in many languages and his own records were sold around the globe, even behind the former Iron Curtain. By 1958 Cliff Richard, the so-called "British Elvis", was rising to prominence in the UK, and in France Johnny Hallyday, known as the "Elvis of France", became a rock and roll idol singing in French, soon to be followed by others like Claude François and, in Italy, by Adriano Celentano and Bobby Solo, all of whom were heavily influenced by Presley's early style. Later, as his first movies were shown throughout the world, Presley-mannered stage performers and singers appeared everywhere, from Latin America to Asia, the Middle East, and even in some parts of Africa. Airplay and sales of Presley recordings across Europe were followed by those of other American rockers who began touring there. Teenagers around the world copied his "ducktail" hair style.

For the next 21 years, until he died, Presley's singing style, mannerisms and look continued to be imitated with surprising regularity, wherever his image, songs, or movies happened to be shown, regardless of major shifts in popular culture, music, and manner of dress, all of which he had helped influence in the first place. But it was only after his death that an industry built itself around him. Many people of every race, creed and nationality taking up a career as professional Elvis impersonators — or Elvis Tribute Artists (ETAs) as they now prefer to be called.

Conversely, a parallel industry, mostly kitsch, continues to grow around his memory, chronicling his dietary and chemical predilections along with the trappings of his wide celebrity. Many impersonators still sing his songs. "While some of the impersonators perform a whole range of Presley music, the raw 1950s Elvis and the kitschy 1970s Elvis are the favorites."[112]

Among his many accomplishments, Presley is only one of four artists (Roy Orbison, Guns N' Roses and Nelly being the others) to ever have two top five albums on the charts simultaneously.

He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986), the Country Music Hall of Fame (1998), and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2001).

In 1993, Presley's image appeared on a United States postage stamp. According to a 2006 survey for the USPS, the Elvis Presley stamp is their most popular stamp. [113]

Upon announcing that Presley's home, the Graceland Mansion, was being designated as a National Historic Landmark, U.S Interior Secretary Gale Norton noted on 27 March, 2006, that “It didn’t take Americans and the rest of the world long to discover Elvis Presley; and it is clear they will never forget him. His popularity continues to thrive nearly 29 years after his passing, with each new generation connecting with him in a significant way.”


The Elvis cult and its critics


The fans

It has been claimed that there are over 500 US fan clubs and that they exist in every state except three: North Dakota, Idaho and Wyoming. According to the American Demographics magazine, 84% of the US people say that their lives have been touched by Elvis Presley in some way, 70% have watched a movie starring Presley, 44% have danced to one of his songs, 31% have bought an Elvis record, CD or video, 10% have visited Graceland, 9% have bought Elvis memorabilia, 9% have read a book about Presley, and 5% have seen the singer in concert.[114] Not all of these people are Presley fans.

Music critic and Presley biographer Dave Marsh says about the singer's fans: "There are people in places that count in the world, and people in places that don't. He is the son of the people who don't count, and their shining star. That's what makes him unique and what people still respond to."[115] A collection of essays entitled The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media critically examines what distinguishes fans from general audiences and explores the relationship between fans and their adored media products. Part of this volume is the article, "Fandom and Gender" which includes an examination of female fantasies of Presley.[116] To many of his female fans, the songs Presley sang "were secondary to his personality and the way he performed them," evoking the well-known emotional responses.[117] In her autobiographical article, "Sexing Elvis" (1984), Sue Wise even describes "how she came to terms with her lesbianism through a close identification with the feminine side of the King."[118]

"Elvis's 'effect' on young girls threatened those men who assumed that young girls needed to be protected both from sex in general and from its expression in questionable characters like Elvis in particular."[119] However, there were not only female fantasies directed at the star. According to Reina Lewis and Peter Horne, "prints of Elvis Presley appeared to speak directly to the gay community."[120]

"Perhaps it is an error of enthusiasm to freight Elvis Presley with too heavy a historical load", as, according to a public opinion poll among high school students in 1957, Pat Boone was "the nearly two-to-one favorite over Elvis Presley among boys and preferred almost three-to-one by girls"; yet, Presley "clearly outshines the other performers in rocknroll's first pantheon."[121] This poll should, however, be taken with a grain of salt as Presley had significantly more record sales than Pat Boone.


The ritualization of the "Elvis cult"

There can be no doubt that it was primarily "the recording industry, which made Elvis Presley a mythical media demigod."[122] On August 16, thousands of die-hard Elvis fans travel to Graceland every year in order to celebrate the anniversary of Presley's death.[123] The ritualization of the Elvis cult is also manifested most prominently through the many live performances by Elvis impersonators.[124] According to Marjorie Garber, "The phenomenon of 'Elvis impersonators,' which began long before the singer's death, is one of the most startling effects of the Elvis cult.[125]

What is more, David S. Wall has shown that many authors who are writing books and articles on Presley are part of a "worldwide Elvis industry" which has a tendency towards supporting primarily a favorable view of the star. The content of the majority of these publications can be characterized as based on gossip about gossip, only occasionally providing some new surprising details. There are not many critical, unfavorable publications on Elvis's life. An example is Albert Goldman's controversial biography, Elvis (1981), in which the author unfavorably discusses the star's weight problems, his performing costumes and his sex life. Such books are frequently disparaged and harshly attacked by Elvis fan groups. Professor Wall has pointed out that one of the strategies of the various fan clubs and appreciation societies to which the bulk of Elvis fans belong is " 'community policing' to achieve governance at a distance... These organisations have, through their membership magazines, activities and sales operations, created a powerful moral majority" endeavoring to suppress most critical voices. "With a combined membership of millions, the fans form a formidable constituency of consumer power."[126]

According to David Lowenthal, "Everything from Disneyland to the Holocaust Museum, ... from Elvis memorabilia to the Elgin Marbles bears the marks of the cult of heritage."[127] "When it's an exhibition of Elvis memorabilia," even Marilyn Houlberg, professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, "puts on the campy art-world hat and becomes a priestess of the Elvis cult."[128] Paul A. Cantor goes as far as to call the American Presley cult "a postmodern simulacrum of the German Hitler cult."[129] Some fan groups even refuse to accept the fact of the star's death in 1977 (see the "Elvis lives?" section of this article).

In his book Elvis after Elvis: The Posthumous Career of a Living Legend (1996), Gilbert Rodman traces in detail Presley's manifestations in contemporary popular and not-so-popular culture. He draws upon the many Elvis "sightings," from Elvis's appearances at the heart of the 1992 presidential campaign to the debate over his worthiness as a subject for a postage stamp, and from Elvis's central role in furious debates about racism and the appropriation of African-American music to the world of Elvis impersonators and the importance of Graceland as a place of pilgrimage for fans and followers. The author further points out that Presley has become inseparable from many of the defining myths of US culture, enmeshed with the American Dream and the very idea of the "United States," caught up in debates about race, gender, and sexuality, and in the wars over what constitutes a national culture.

This Presley cult has been much criticized. "As one reader complained: I was really surprised that you used that article about the boring Elvis cult! You would use one on McDonald's?"[130]


Critical voices

Indeed, there are not only positive voices concerning the singer and his life. During the early years of his career, Country blues guitarist Mississippi Slim constantly criticized Elvis.[131] According to Jennifer Harrison, "Elvis faced criticism more often than appreciation" from a small town in South Memphis.[132] "Much criticism has been heaped on Elvis, often perpetuated by squares, the Colonel, and others who controlled his creative (or not so creative) output, especially during the Hollywood years."[133]

According to Robert A. Segal, Elvis was "a consummate mamma's boy, who lived his last twenty years as a recluse in a womblike, infantile world in which all of his wishes were immediately satisfied yet who deemed himself entirely normal, in fact 'all-American.'"[134] When a CBS special on Presley was aired on October 3, 1977, shortly after the singer's death, it "received such harsh criticism that it is hard to imagine what the public response to Elvis's degeneration would have been if he had been alive." This special "only seemed to confirm the rumors of drug abuse."[135]

In a recent study on the analogy of trash and rock 'n' roll, professor of English and drummer Steven Hamelman demonstrates that rock 'n' roll productions are often trash, that critics often trash rock 'n' roll productions, and that rock 'n' roll musicians often trash their lives. The author uses the tortured lives and premature deaths of Presley, John Lennon and Kurt Cobain in his section on "waste" in order to underscore the literal and figurative "waste" that, in his opinion, is part of rock 'n' roll.[136]

However, one of the most frequent points of criticism is the overweight and androgyny of the late Las Vegas Presley. Time Out says that, "As Elvis got fatter, his shows got glammier."[137] It has been said that the star, when he "returned to Las Vegas, heavier, in pancake makeup, wearing a white jumpsuit with an elaborate jeweled belt and cape, crooning pop songs to a microphone ... had become Liberace. Even his fans were now middle-aged matrons and blue-haired grandmothers, who praised him as a good son who loved his mother; Mother's Day became a special holiday for Elvis's fans."[138] According to several modern gender studies, the singer had, like Liberace, presented "variations of the drag queen figure" in his final stages in Las Vegas, when he excessively used eye shadow, gold lamé suits and jumpsuits.[139] Although described as a male sex symbol, Elvis was "insistently and paradoxically read by the culture as a boy, a eunuch, or a 'woman' – anything but a man," and in his Las Vegas white "Eagle" jumpsuit, designed by costumer Bill Belew, he appeared like "a transvestite successor to Marlene Dietrich."[140] Indeed, Elvis had been "feminized", as Joel Foreman put it.[141]

Thus, "Elvis' death did occur at a time when it could only help his reputation. Just before his death, Elvis had been forgotten by society." Except for the fans who held his memory in honor, he was chiefly "referred to as 'overweight and over-the-hill.'"[142] After the singer's death, things changed. In their book When Elvis Died: A Chronicle of National and International Reaction to the Passing of an American King (1980), Neal and Janice Gregory documented through newspaper and television archives the reaction of the media to the spontaneous and unprecedented outpouring of public grief at Elvis's death. One reporter after another described scenes not witnessed since the death of Valentino. When President Jimmy Carter issued a public statement acknowledging Elvis's contribution to American life, he effected a turning point in our culture and the way the media reports on figures in show business. It could be argued that Elvis's death was the event that precipitated the media's dubious current obsession with celebrity. According to Curtis W. Ellision, "The most vivid anecdotes in When Elvis Died focus on the origins of the perpetual death memorial that Presley's home, Graceland, has become." The author adds that "Some anecdotes in the Gregory account reinforce the impression that Presley's death touched nostalgia for teenage years."[143]


The Elvis religion

In a later essay, Neal and Janice Gregory critically discuss the media attention on the subsequent Elvis religion as a means to discredit his fans.[144] Indeed, after his death, Presley had been seen by fans as "Other Jesus" or "Saint Elvis".[145] "I don't think he will ever die down," Dolly Parton says. "He's considered by many to be like a religious figure, like Jesus. ... I don't know how to explain it, but it's there, and it's real, and people love it."[146]

In his book Elvis Religion: The Cult of the King (2006), Gregory L. Reece describes the presence of Presley in books, songs, art, movies and on the Internet. The author sets out to appraise the religious significance of the star for popular culture. For instance, Paul Simon's 1986 song "Graceland" presents Graceland as a holy place. Movies like "Finding Graceland" and "Mystery Train" have Presley as the central character, bearing spiritual messages. In Portland, Oregon, a woman opened the so-called Twenty-Four Hour Church of Elvis. There, visitors could slip a quarter into a machine, — The Mystery of the Spinning Elvis — to supposedly contact the spirit of Presley. Some Internet sites even invite people to post accounts of their spiritual encounters with the singer. Several artists use Presley as a recurring theme because he is such an icon of pop culture. The Naked Art Studio in Birmingham had a showing of Elvis art. A mosaic entitled "The Last Supper (Elvis)," shows Presley at a table enjoying a turkey leg at a table littered with pill bottles — allusions to Presley's religion and drug abuse. However, "Elvis stands for violence, uncertainty and loss," says Reece. "Elvis is the apocalyptic messenger. One doesn't seek him out for spiritual advice, but shudders at his presence." The author concludes that Presley is the sort of god the public wants today. Elvis was overweight, he dressed out of date and he took too many prescription drugs, just like us.


Presley in the 21st century

Interest in Presley's recordings returned during the buildup to the 2002 World Cup, when Nike used a Junkie XL remixed version of his "A Little Less Conversation" (credited as "Elvis Vs JXL") as the background music to a series of TV commercials featuring international soccer stars. The remix hit number one in over 20 countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia.[147] At about the same time, a compilation of Presley's US and UK Number 1 hits, Elv1s: 30, was being prepared for release. "A Little Less Conversation" (remix version) was quickly added as the album's 31st track just before release in October 2002. Further stimulating popularity for the remixed "new" Elvis song, was the inclusion of Conversation into the opening credits of the NBC series Las Vegas; due to the large expense of such a song, however, home DVD sets of the TV show feature Conversation in the Pilot episode only. Nearly 50 years after Presley made his first hit record and 25 years after his death, the compilation reached number one on the charts in the US, the UK, Australia and many other countries. A re-release from it, "Burning Love" (not a remix), also made the Australian top 40 later in the year.

Presley's renewed fame continued with another remix in 2003 (this time by Paul Oakenfold) of "Rubberneckin'", which made the top three in Australia and top five in the UK. This was followed by another album called 2nd to None, a collection of his hits, including the "Rubberneckin'" remix, that just failed to reach number one.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary in mid-2004 of Presley's first professional recording, "That's All Right", it was re-released, and made the charts around the world, including top three in the UK and top 40 in Australia.

In early 2005 in the United Kingdom, RCA began to re-issue Presley's 18 UK number-one singles as CD-singles in the order they were originally released, one of them a week. The first of these re-issues, "All Shook Up", was ineligible to chart due to its being sold together with a collector's box which holds all 18 singles in it (it actually sold enough to be number two). The second, "Jailhouse Rock", was the number one in the first chart of 2005, and "One Night"/"I Got Stung", the third in the series, replaced it on the January 16 chart (and thus becoming the 1000th UK number one entry).

All of these have reached top five in the official charts.[148] These re-releases have made Presley the only artist so far to spend at least 1000 weeks in the British top 40.[149]

On the UK singles charts, Presley went to #1 the most times (21, three of them hitting #1 twice), spent the most weeks there (80), as well as had the most top tens and top forty hits. In the UK album charts, he is third (1,280 Weeks) to Queen (1,422 Weeks) and the Beatles (1,293 Weeks),[150]as well as earning the most top ten, and top forty albums. Still in the album category, his longevity record boasts an almost fifty year gap between his first, and last hit album.

In total, he has spent 2,574 weeks in both the UK singles and album charts, way ahead of his closest competitors, namely Cliff Richard (1,982), Queen (1,755), the Beatles (1,749), and Madonna (1,660).

In 2005 CBS aired a TV miniseries, Elvis starring Irish actor Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Presley.

Shortly after taking over the management of all things Elvis from the Elvis Presley Estate (EPE)[14](which retained a 15% stake in the new company, while keeping Graceland and the bulk of the possessions found therein), Robert Sillerman's CKX company produced a DVD and CD featuring Presley (titled "Elvis by the Presleys"), as well as an accompanying two-hour documentary broadcast on Viacom's CBS Network, which alone generated $5.5 million.

A channel on the Sirius Satellite Radio subscriber service is devoted to the life and music of Presley, with all broadcasts originating from Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

In a list of the greatest English language singers of the 20th century, as compiled by BBC Radio, Presley was ranked second. The poll was topped by Frank Sinatra, with Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald also in the top ten.[151]

In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #3 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[152].

In July of 2005, Presley edged out Oprah Winfrey to be named the Greatest Entertainer in American history in the Greatest American election conducted by the Discovery Channel and America Online.

In mid October of 2005, Variety named the top 100 entertainment icons of the 20th century, with Presley landing on the top ten, along with the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin, James Dean and Mickey Mouse.

A week later, Forbes magazine named Presley, for the fifth straight year, the top-earning dead celebrity, grossing US$45 million for the Presley estate during the period from October of 2004, to October 2005. Forbes pointed out that CKX spent $100 million in cash, and stock, for an 85% interest in Presley's income stream in February 2005.

In mid 2006, Forbes up-dated its list, with Presley ranking second, the top place being taken by Nirvana's frontman, Kurt Cobain, after the sale of 25% of his music publishing, which raked US$50 million for the singer's widow.

In November of 2006, Atlantic Magazine asked 10 prominent historians to name the 100 most influential Americans, with Presley (who ranked # 66), along with Louis Armstrong (79), being the only two musicians on the list.

In December 2006 EPE announced a strategy to bring Elvis and his music to a younger demographic in 2007. In addition, in 2009 the world famous Cirque De Soleil organisation will open a show based around Elvis' music.


Elvis lives?

There is a belief in some quarters that Presley did not die in 1977. Many fans persist in claiming he is still alive, that he went into hiding for various reasons. This claim is allegedly backed up by thousands of so-called Elvis sightings that have occurred in the years since his death.[153] Critics of the notion state that a number of Presley impersonators can easily be mistaken for Presley and that the urban legend is merely the result of fans not wanting to accept his death.

Two main reasons are given in support of the belief that Presley faked his death:

Two tabloid newspapers, the Weekly World News and The Sun, ran articles covering the continuing "life" of Presley after his death, in great detail, including a broken leg from a motorcycle accident, all the way up to his purported "real death" in the mid 1990s.[citation needed] However, since his "real death", the Weekly World News has continued to claim he is still alive, thus contradicting its initial story.

Both ETAs and the belief that Presley still lives figure into the story of Bubba Ho-tep, which features him living in a Texas nursing home after switching lives with an Elvis impersonator (Presley goes so far as to make a living "impersonating" himself). According to the movie, it was the impersonator who died in 1977, but the documentation of the switch was accidentally destroyed, preventing Presley from ever reclaiming his "real" life.

There was even a "television show about the life and death of Elvis Presley, called 'The Elvis Files' " endeavoring to present " 'evidence' for the possibility that Elvis is still alive. Some people believe that they had seen 'the King', and handwriting experts declare that they have seen notes written by Presley after his demise. A background of spooky music accompanied all of the testimonies." Although "the evidence presented on that program was extremely weak," it convinced 79 percent of the viewers who cast their votes to believe Elvis is still alive. "The results ... offer only one of many examples of the credulity of Western people. ... That television program illustrates that we are weak in our ability to reason. It also offers a paradigm of the way in which many people in the general populace make up their minds. They hear a televised news report or talk show interview with an 'expert'. The expert supplies a few supporting 'facts,' so the proposition must be true."[156]

For a comprehensive compendium of Elvis conspiracy information see the Elvis Information Network [15] site, specifically (http://www.elvisinfonet.com/conspiracy.html)


FBI files on Presley

As Presley was a very popular star, the FBI had files on him of more than 600 pages.[157] According to Thomas Fensch, the texts from the FBI reports dating from 1959 to 1981 represent a "microcosm [of Presley's] behind-the-scenes life." For instance, the FBI was interested in death threats made against the singer, the likelihood of Elvis being the victim of blackmail and particularly a "major extortion attempt" while he was in the Army in Germany, complaints about his public performances, a paternity suit, the theft by larceny of an executive jet which he owned and the alleged fraud surrounding a 1955 Chevrolet Corvette which he owned, and similar things.


Elvis as a victim of blackmail

According to one of the FBI accounts, Presley was the victim of blackmailer Laurens Johannes Griessel-Landau of Johannesburg, South Africa, who was hired by the singer in Bad Nauheim, Germany, as an alleged specialist in the field of dermatology, but, according to Presley, had made homosexual passes at the singer's friends. When on 24 December 1959 Presley decided to discontinue the skin treatments, Griessel-Landau "threatened to expose Presley by photographs and tape recordings which are alleged to present Presley in compromising situations." Information concerning the subject was furnished to the FBI "by the Provost Marshal Division, Hqs., U.S. Army, Europe, with the indication that they wished to avoid any publicity in this matter." An investigation determined that Griessel-Landau was not a medical doctor. Finally, "By negotiation, Presley agreed to pay Griessel-Landau $200.00 for treatments received and also to furnish him with a $315.00 plane fare to London, England." After having "demanded an additional $250.00, which Presley paid" and a further "telephonic demand for £2,000 for the loss of his practice which he closed in Johannesburg", the blackmailer departed to England.




See also


Further reading

The bibliographic reference Elvis In Print: The Definitive Reference & Price Guide: contact[16] contains references to more than 1,500 books about Elvis and a further 2,000 listings for popular culture and periodical releases substantially about the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

Links to major online reference sources, including the First Online Symposium on Elvis Aaron Presley, can be found on the Elvis Information Network [17] website.



  1. "Fans Of Elvis Pay a Lot to See Little" by Damien Jaques, The Milwaukee Journal, April 28, 1977, retrieved October 22, 2006
  2. "They Screamed For Elvis 'All it took was a shake of a finger'" by Paul Betit, Kennebec Journal, May 25, 1977, retrieved October 22, 2006
  3. "There's no doubt about it -Elvis is still 'king'" by Jeri Gulbransen, Rapid City Journal, June 22, 1977, retrieved October 22, 2006
  4. "Elvis roots 'lead to Scotland'"; a 23 March 2004 BBC story that cites Allan Morrison, the author of the then-unpublished book The Presley Prophecy.
  5. Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, p.12.
  6. Albert Goldman, Elvis: The Last 24 Hours, p.16
  7. Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis, p.12.
  8. Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me, p.172
  9. Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, p.13.
  10. Guralnick, p.13.
  11. Guralnick, p.149
  12. Guralnick, p.36, referring to an account by singer Barbara Pittman and Patrick Humphries, Elvis The #1 Hits: The Secret History of the Classics, p.117.
  13. Guralnick, p.280.
  14. Guralnick, p.346.
  15. Elvis Presley. history-of-rock.com. Retrieved on 2006-08-27.
  16. Henry Pleasants, The Great American Popular Singers.
  17. For more details, see Henry Pleasants, "Elvis Presley." In Simon Frith, ed., Popular Music: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies. Volume 3: Popular Music Analysis (2004), p.260.
  18. See James Miller, Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947-1977 (1999), p. 71
  19. Michael T. Bertrand, Race, Rock, and Elvis, p.27.
  20. Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, p.426.
  21. Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me, p. 188.
  22. Marty Lacker, Lamar Fike, and Billy Smith, Elvis Aron Presley: Revelations from the Memphis Mafia (1995). A detailed biography of Parker was written by Alanna Nash and published in 2003.
  23. "Elvis Rocks. But He's Not the First" by Christopher John Farley, TIME, July 6, 2004, retrieved October 22, 2006
  24. United States Department of the Interior re Graceland National Historic Landmark Nomination reports prepared by Jody Cook, Architectural Historian with detailed references: [1]
  25. PBS television interview [2]
  26. Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, p.426.
  27. Robert Walser, "The rock and roll era", in The Cambridge History of American Music (Cambridge University Press, 1998), p.358.
  28. Martha Bayles (ed.), Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music (University of Chicago Press, 1996), p.22.
  29. Carol Tator, Winston Matthis, Frances Henry, Challenging Racism in the Arts (University of Toronto Press, 1998), p.134.
  30. Michael T. Bertrand, Race, Rock, and Elvis (University of Illinois Press, 2000), p.222.
  31. Bertrand, p.27.
  32. A variant: "I've only two uses for niggers – they can buy my records and they can shine my shoes." Quoted in Alexander Cockburn, The Golden Age Is in Us: Journeys and Encounters, 1987-1994, p.17.
  33. Bertrand, p.221.
  34. Bertrand, p.200. The author adds, "One journalist wrote upon the singer's death that African Americans refused to participate in the numerous eulogies dedicated to him."
  35. See University of Illinois Press website.
  36. [3]
  37. Scotty Moore, That’s Alright, Elvis: The Untold Story of Elvis’s First Guitarist and Manager, Scotty Moore, p.175.
  38. Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske, Down at the End of Lonely Street: The Life and Death of Elvis Presley (1998), p.55.
  39. [4]
  40. [5]
  41. Quoted in Michael T. Bertrand, Race, Rock, and Elvis (University of Illinois Press, 2000), p.223.
  42. Bertrand, p.223.
  43. Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me, p.8.
  44. Quoted in Bertrand, p.223
  45. Roger Beebe, Denise Fulbrook, Ben Saunders, Rock Over the Edge (Duke University Press, 2002), p.100.
  46. "Elvis Presley": a page at pbs.org with a single paragraph, attributed to palmpictures.com.
  47. Rich Gordon, "How Transistor Radios and Web (and Newspapers and Hi-Fi radio) are Alike", "Reprinted, with permission, from The Cole Papers, June 22, 2005."
  48. Ian Brailsford, "History repeating itself: Were postwar American teenagers ripe for harvest?" (NB Microsoft Word format): transcript of a paper delivered at "Youth Marketing Reaches Forty", 17 May 2001.
  49. Elvis in the Army
  50. Sergeant Elvis Aaron Presley
  51. www.army.mil/CMH/faq/elvis.htm.
  52. [6].
  53. Biography of Elvis Presley - Elvis Army Days
  54. Leo Verswijver, Movies Were Always Magical: Interviews with 19 Actors, Directors, and Producers from the Hollywood of the 1930s through the 1950s (2002), p.129.
  55. Tom Lisanti, Fantasy Femmes of 60's Cinema: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Biker, Beach, and Elvis Movies (2000), p.18.
  56. Andrew Caine, Interpreting Rock Movies: The Pop Film and Its Critics in Britain, p. 21.
  57. Connie Kirchberg and Marc Hendrickx, Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, and the American Dream (1999), p.67.
  58. Jerry Hopkins, Elvis in Hawaii (2002), p.32.
  59. Hopkins, p.31
  60. Tom Lisanti, Fantasy Femmes of 60's Cinema, p.19, 136.
  61. Hopkins, Elvis in Hawaii, p. vii
  62. Magdalena Alagna, Elvis Presley (2002)
  63. Tom Lisanti, Fantasy Femmes of 60's Cinema: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Biker, Beach, and Elvis Movies, p.19.
  64. "How Big Was The King? Elvis Presley's Legacy, 25 Years After His Death." CBS News, August 7, 2002.
  65. This was the last time any song by Presley reached number one on the Hot 100, although "Burning Love" reached two in October 1972, and "A Little Less Conversation" topped the Hot Singles Sales chart in 2002.
  66. Tony Scherman, "Elvis Dies." American Heritage, August 16, 2006.
  67. Albert Goldman, Elvis: The Last 24 Hours, p.187.
  68. Guralnick, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, p.651.
  69. "Death of Elvis Presley Statement by the President." by John Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project, retrieved October 22, 2006
  70. "The Letter" by Elvis Presley, The National Archives
  71. "Epilogue", The National Archives
  72. Helen Bevington, The World and the Bo Tree (Duke University Press, 1991), p.1980-5.
  73. The writer called Elvis "a hillbilly cat", poked fun at Elvis's closeness to his mama and insinuated Elvis was "talented but simple." Summarized by Earl Greenwood, The Boy Who Would Be King, p.155.
  74. Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis", p.13.
  75. Patrick Humphries, Elvis The #1 Hits: The Secret History of the Classics, p.117.
  76. Elaine Dundy, Elvis and Gladys, p.71.
  77. See Guralnick, p.13.
  78. Guralnick, p.478.
  79. Guralnick, p.480.
  80. Elaine Dundy, Elvis and Gladys, p.125. For interviews with teachers and former fellow students at Milam Junior High school in Tupelo, Mississippi, see Dundy, p.124.
  81. Ruthe Stein, "Girls! Girls! Girls! From small-town women to movie stars, Elvis loved often but never true," San Francisco Chronicle, August 3, 1997.
  82. Gavin Lambert, Natalie Wood: A Life, p.205.
  83. Lambert, p.206. The author adds, "By this time, Natalie had learned an important lesson in handling the press. Titillating curiosity without satisfying it was always more effective than the standard denial of 'We're just good friends.' "
  84. Lana Wood, Natalie – A Memoir by Her Sister (1984).
  85. Connie Kirchberg and Marc Hendrickx, Elvis Presley, Richard Nixon, and the American Dream (1999), p.62.
  86. Jim Curtin, Elvis: Unknown Stories behind the Legend, p.119.
  87. This was sensationally reported by many tabloid newspapers in October 2006. See, for example, New York Post, October 1, 2006; Daily Mail, October 4, 2006.
  88. Byron Raphael with Alanna Nash, "In Bed with Elvis," Playboy, November 2005, Vol. 52, Iss. 11, p.64-68, 76, 140. The article claims that "the so-called dangerous rock-and-roll idol was anything but a despotic ruler in the bedroom ... He was far more interested in heavy petting and panting and groaning" and "he would never put himself inside one of these girls ... within minutes he’d be asleep."
  89. Tracy McVeigh, "Elvis Special: Love me tender." The Observer, Sunday August 11, 2002.
  90. In her memoir, Breathing Out (St. Martin's Press, 2005), p.172, Peggy Lipton further relates that Presley was like a "teenage boy". "He didn't feel like a man next to me - more like a boy who'd never matured." When he tried to make love with Lipton, "he just wasn't up to sex. Not that he wasn't built, but with me, at least, he was virtually impotent."
  91. Ruthe Stein, San Francisco Chronicle, August 3, 1997.
  92. Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me. Suzanne Finstad, Child Bride.
  93. In her book, Cybill Disobedience: How I Survived Beauty Pageants, Elvis, Sex, Bruce Willis, Lies, Marriage, Motherhood, Hollywood, and the Irrepressible Urge to Say What I Think, Cybill Shepherd talks about an affair with Elvis who "charmed" her by telling her in one of his pill-popping hazes about the time a doctor gave him an injection directly into the pupil of his eye.
  94. Tracy McVeigh, "Elvis Special: Love me tender." The Observer, Sunday August 11, 2002.
  95. Ann Margret with Todd Gold, Ann Margret: My Story (1994)
  96. Ruthe Stein, "Girls! Girls! Girls! From small-town women to movie stars," San Francisco Chronicle, August 3, 1997.
  97. Tom Lisanti, Drive-In Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties (2003), p.207.
  98. See Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me, p.175 f.
  99. In his critical study on the "dream machine" that publicists, tabloid newspapers, journalists, and TV interviewers use to create semi-fictional icons, often playing with inauthenticity, Joshua Gamson cites a press agent "saying that his client, Ann-Margret, could initially have been "sold ... as anything"; "She was a new product. We felt there was a need in The Industry for a female Elvis Presley." See Joshua Gamson, Claims to Fame: Celebrity in Contemporary America (University of California Press, 1994), p.46. See also C. Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby, Popular Culture: Production and Consumption (2000), p.273.
  100. Tracy McVeigh, "Elvis Special: Love me tender." The Observer, Sunday August 11, 2002.
  101. Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis, p.415.
  102. "You mean you didn't make love to [Anita Wood] the whole four years you went with her?" "Just to a point. Then I stopped. It was difficult for her too, but that's just how I feel." See Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me, p.98.
  103. See Scotty Moore, That’s Alright, Elvis: The Untold Story of Elvis’s First Guitarist and Manager, Scotty Moore, p.162
  104. Albert Goldman, Elvis (McGraw-Hill, 1981).
  105. This is the common view. However, in her book, Child Bride: The Untold Story of Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (1997), biographer Suzanne Finstad says that Elvis and Priscilla slept together on their second date.
  106. Tracy McVeigh, "Elvis Special: Love me tender." The Observer, Sunday August 11, 2002.
  107. Gerald Marzorati, "Heartbreak Hotel", The New York Times, January 3, 1999.
  108. Tom Lisanti, Drive-In Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties (2003), p. 80.
  109. Peter Guralnick, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, p.72. Guralnick also writes that the singer "was hanging out more and more with Nick and his friends" and that Elvis was glad Colonel Tom Parker "liked Nick." See Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, p.336, 339
  110. Samuel Roy, Elvis, Prophet of Power (1989), p.87.
  111. Elaine Dundy, Elvis and Gladys, p.250.
  112. Harry Stecopoulos and Michael Uebel, Race and the Subject of Masculinities (Duke University Press, 1997), p.198.
  113. "Elvis remains the king of postage stamps", Associated Press, 2006-12-26. Retrieved on 2006-12-26.
  114. See Elvis People, A Play by Doug Grissom.
  115. "How Big Was The King? Elvis Presley's Legacy, 25 Years After His Death." CBS News, August 7, 2002.
  116. See Lisa A. Lewis, The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media (1992).
  117. Roger D. Blackwell, Tina and Kristina Stephan, Brands That Rock: What Business Leaders Can Learn from the World of Rock and Roll (2003), p.33.
  118. Quoted in Kate McGowan, Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory Volume 5 (2002), p.199.
  119. Joel Foreman, The Other Fifties: Interrogating Midcentury American Icons (University of Illinois Press, 1996), p.136.
  120. Reina Lewis and Peter Horne (eds.), Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures (Routledge, 1996), p.20.
  121. Philip H. Ennis, The Seventh Stream: The Emergence of Rocknroll in American Popular Music (Wesleyan University Press, 1992), p.251-252.
  122. Donald Theall, Virtual Marshall McLuhan (2001), p.129. See also Sylvere Lotringer and Sande Cohen (eds.), French Theory in America (2001), p.114.
  123. Cameron Tuttle, The Bad Girls' Guide to Open Road (1999), p.192.
  124. See Annalee Newitz, White Trash: Race and Class in America (1996), p.262.
  125. Marjorie B. Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety (1997), p.369.
  126. David S. Wall, “Policing Elvis: legal action and the shaping of postmortem celebrity culture as contested space”, Entertainment Law, vol. 2, no. 3, 2004, 52-53.
  127. David Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (Cambridge University Press, 1998).
  128. James Elkins, On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art (2004), p.53.
  129. Paul A. Cantor, "Adolf, We Hardly Knew You." In New Essays on White Noise. Edited by Frank Lentricchia (Cambridge University Press, 1991), p.53.
  130. Rodman, Elvis After Elvis, p.75.
  131. Dundy, Elvis and Gladys, p.288.
  132. Jennifer Harrison, Elvis As We Knew Him: Our Shared Life in a Small Town in South Memphis (2003), p.71.
  133. Hopkins, Elvis in Hawaii, p.58.
  134. Robert A. Segal, Theorizing About Myth (University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), p.109.
  135. Samuel Roy, Elvis, Prophet of Power (1989), p.173.
  136. See Steven Hamelman, But is it Garbage? (paper): On Rock and Trash (University of Georgia Press, 2004).
  137. Time Out at Las Vegas (2005), p.303.
  138. Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing & Cultural Anxiety (1992), p.380
  139. See Patricia Juliana Smith, The Queer Sixties (1999), p.116.
  140. Garber, p.368.
  141. Joel Foreman, The Other Fifties: Interrogating Midcentury American Icons (University of Illinois Press, 1997), p.127. No wonder that "white drag kings tend to pick on icons like Elvis Presley." See Bonnie Zimmerman, Lesbian Histories and Cultures (1999), p. 248.
  142. Roy, Elvis, Prophet of Power, p.173.
  143. Curtis W. Ellision, Country Music Culture: From Hard Times to Heaven (1995), p.153.
  144. See Neal and Janice Gregory, "When Elvis Died: Enshrining a Legend," in Vernon Chadwick, ed., In Search of Elvis: Music, Race, Art, Religion (1997).
  145. See Mark Gottdiener, "Dead Elvis as Other Jesus", in Chadwick, In Search of Elvis: Music, Race, Art, Religion, and "Saint Elvis" in Elvis Culture, by Erika Doss (University of Kansas Press, 1999).
  146. "How Big Was The King? Elvis Presley's Legacy, 25 Years After His Death." CBS News, August 7, 2002.
  147. It was also his first top 10 hit in the UK for nearly 22 years, and his first number one there for nearly 25 years. It topped Billboard's Hot Singles Sales chart (physical singles - legal downloads were not around at the time) but only reached #50 on the Hot 100.
  148. Three number ones, eight number twos, four number threes, one number four, and one number five.
  149. On December 9, 2005, the Book of British Hit Singles & Albums unveiled its annual list of the Top 100 Most Successful Acts of all time, based on the total number of weeks each recording artist has spent on the official UK Singles and Albums charts. Elvis Presley ranked first, with Cliff Richard, Queen, the Beatles and Madonna rounding out the top five.
  150. BBC. Queen top UK album charts league.
  151. "Sinatra is voice of the century" BBC NEWS, April 18, 2001, retrieved October 22, 2006
  152. The Immortals: The First Fifty. Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone.
  153. The Elvis Presley Online Store, "Is Elvis alive or dead?"
  154. Elvis Day: The Fanboy Advisor
  155. "Is Elvis Alive?", which does not elaborate or give any source for this claim.
  156. N. Allan Moseley, Thinking Against the Grain: Developing a Biblical Worldview in a Culture of Myths (2003), p.26.
  157. See Thomas Fensch, The FBI Files on Elvis Presley (New Century Books, 2001).

External links

Presley, Elvis Aron
Presley, Elvis Aron
American singer, song producer and actor; "The King of Rock'n'Roll"
January 8 1935
Tupelo, Mississippi, USA
August 16, 1977
Memphis, Tennessee, USA

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