Jun 29, 2014
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Steve McGarry

Elvis Presley

60 years ago this weekend, in a small recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee, a 19-year-old truck driver changed the course of popular music forever.  

On July 5, 1954, during a break in a trial recording session that wasn't going too well, teenage hopeful Elvis Presley launched into an impromptu version of an Arthur Crudup song.  The studio owner, Sam Phillips, immediately recognized the potential and within days released "That's All Right (Mama): on his Sun label.  

With his revolutionary sound, outrageous dress and gyrating stage moves, Elvis became an instant sensation.

As a young boy, Elvis - who was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi - had finished second in a music contest at the 38th annual Mississippi-Alabama Fair & Dairy show, singing "Old Shep" before an audience of 5,000.

By 1956, now signed to RCA Records and managed by Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis was the hottest star in the world, thanks to hits such as "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog," and "Don't Be Cruel," a series of incendiary TV appearances and his movie debut in "Love Me Tender."

1957's string of hits and the success of his third movie, "Jailhouse Rock," confirmed his iconic status...and then in 1958, his career was abrutly halted when he was inducted into the army!  The clean-cut entertainer who emerged two years later was a far cry from "The Memphis Flash" who had pioneered rock'n'roll.

Although the hits kept coming, he abandoned live concerts in favor of a procession of formulaic and increasingly inane movies.

In late 1968, Elvis roared back with a TV concert special.  In 1969, a triumphant month-long run in Las Vegas marked his first live concerts in 8 years.  Two more Vegas runs in 1970 spawned a hit documentary movie, and were followed by his first concert tour since the 1950s.

Between 1969 and 1977, Elvis played 1,145 concerts.  A 1973 concert, the first ever televised by satellite, drew a record worldwide audience of 1 billion viewers!

While in Germany, he had met American teenager Priscilla Beaulieu.  They married in 1967, and daughter Lisa Marie was born in 1968.  The couple divorced in 1973.

Sadly, Elvis was increasingly dependent on prescription drugs, and his weight ballooned as his health began to deteriorate.  On August 16, 1977, "The King" was found dead in his Memphis mansion.  Lionized in life, he has been deified in death, and almost four decades later, he continues to be one of the highest earners in music history.
Jul 13, 2014
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