- Born: January 8, 1935, Tupelo, Mississippi
- Died: August 16, 1977, Memphis, Tennessee
- Gravesite: Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
Born to a poor family, Presley was raised both in Tupelo and in Memphis, to where his family moved when he was 13. The young Elvis took up guitar at 11 and, after leaving school, worked for a while as a truck driver. In 1953, however, he recorded a one-off record at Sun Studios as a present for his mother, singing "My Happiness" and "That's When The Heartaches Begin", two popular ballads of the time. Sun Records owner, Sam Phillips, heard the disc and, recognizing Presley's nascent talent, had him record for his label. The resulting record, "That's All Right", backed by guitarist Scotty Moore and bass player Bill Black, was a huge local hit and regular touring started to expand his fame beyond Tennessee.
A string of hit records followed as the public's desire for his product seemed insatiable. 52 million people watched his 1956 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, for which the networks insisted he be filmed only from the waist up due to his customary suggestive hip movements. 1957, however, saw an enforced hiatus when Presley was drafted into a 3-year-tour with the US Army.
Presley was deeply religious, and many rock and roll fans have no idea that he made some superb gospel recordings.
Following his release from the army, Presley took to starring in films, on the advice of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. 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, and the 1960s saw the quality of his recorded output drop, although he was still occasionally capable of creating records equal to his best. With this drop-off, and in the face of the social upheaval of the 1960s and the so-called British Invasion spearheaded by The Beatles, Presley's star faded slightly before a triumphant TV comeback special in 1968, that saw him return to his rock and roll roots.
The 1970s again saw Elvis retreat from the public, battling both drugs and weight problems while making occasional appearances as a headliner at leading hotels in Las Vegas, notably the Las Vegas Hilton. He died at his palatial home Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee in 1977. The local medical examiner found his death to be a consequence of an overdose of mixed drugs. After his death, there have been numerous conspiracy theories and Elvis sightings.
Now, more than twenty years after his death, Presley remains one of the icons of the 20th century. His image, especially his trademark quiff, is instantly recognizable. He is still the gold standard against which modern notions of fame are measured. At least one modern recording artist, Elvis Costello, borrowed Presley's first name to help his fledgling career.
But all too often, Elvis Presley's kitsch appeal, the industry which has grown up around chronicling his dietary and chemical predilictions and the trappings of his celebrity have tended to obscure the vibrant and vital music he made as a young man, and the lasting influence both he and his music had on American popular culture.
Some examples of his songs