A Rockapaedia Obituary
Elvis Presley died aged forty-two on 16th August nineteen-seventy-seven in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A. Elvis was scheduled to fly out of Memphis on that evening to begin another tour and that afternoon, Ginger Alden discovered him unresponsive on his bathroom floor. According to her eyewitness account, Elvis looked as if his entire body had completely frozen in a seated position while using the commode and then had fallen forward, in that fixed position, directly in front of it. It was clear that, from the time whatever hit him to the moment he had landed on the floor, he hadn't moved. Attempts to revive him failed, and death was officially pronounced at 3:30 p.m. at Baptist Memorial Hospital.
President Jimmy Carter issued a statement that credited Elvis Presley with having "permanently changed the face of American popular culture". Thousands of people gathered outside Graceland to view the open casket. One of Elvis Presley's cousins, Billy Mann, accepted eighteen thousand dollars to secretly photograph the corpse; the picture appeared on the cover of the National Enquirer's biggest-selling issue ever. Ginger Alden struck a one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollar deal with the Enquirer for her story, but settled for less when she broke her exclusivity agreement. Elvis Presley left her nothing in his will.
Elvis Presley's funeral was held at Graceland on Thursday, 18th August 1977. Outside the gates, a car plowed into a group of fans, killing two women and critically injuring a third. Approximately eighty thousand people lined the processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery, where Elvis Presley was buried next to his mother. Within a few days, "Way Down" topped the country and UK pop charts.
Following an attempt to steal Elvis Presley's body in late August, the remains of both Elvis Presley and his mother were reburied in Graceland's Meditation Garden on October 2nd nineteen-seventy-seven.
Drug use was heavily implicated in Elvis Presley's death and no-one ruled out the possibility of anaphylactic shock brought on by the codeine pills , to which he was known to have had a mild allergy. A pair of lab reports filed two months later each strongly suggested that polypharmacy was the primary cause of death.
More recent research has revealed that it was only Dr Francisco who told the news people that Elvis apparently died of heart failure. In fact, the doctors "could say nothing with confidence until they got the results back from the laboratories, if then. That would be a matter of weeks. Dr Dan Warlick, who was present at the autopsy, believed that Elvis Presley's chronic constipation, the result of years of prescription drug abuse and high-fat, high-cholesterol gorging, brought on what's known as Valsalva's maneuver. Put simply, the strain of attempting to defecate compressed Elvis Presley's abdominal aorta, shutting down his heart.
Elvis was born; Elvis Aron Presley on 8th January 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, USA. Elvis Presley became close to both parents and formed an especially close bond with his mother. The family attended an Assembly of God, where he found his initial musical inspiration. Although he was in conflict with the Pentecostal church in his later years, he never officially left it. Rev. Rex Humbard officiated at Elvis Presley's funeral, as Elvis had been an admirer of Humbard's ministry.
Elvis Presley's ancestry was primarily a Western European mix, including German, Scots-Irish, Scottish, and some French Norman. Elvis Presley's mother would often tell the family that before the Civil War, her great-great-grandmother, Morning Dove White, was a 'full-blooded Cherokee Indian', although some genealogists doubt the claim. Elaine Dundy in her book Elvis and Gladys, claims that Elvis Presley's great-great-grandmother Nancy Burdine Tackett was Jewish. However, there is no evidence that the Presley family shared his belief and the syndicated columnist Nate Bloom has challenged the cousin's account, which he regards as mistruth. Elvis Presley's mother was regarded by relatives and friends as the dominant member of the small family. Elvis Presley's father moved from one odd job to the next, showing little ambition. The family often relied on help from neighbors and government food assistance. The Presleys survived the F5 tornado in the 1936 Tupelo–Gainesville tornado outbreak. In 1938, they lost their home after Vernon was found guilty of using a check written by the landowner for whom he then worked. He was jailed for eight months, and Elvis and mother moved in with relatives.
In September nineteen-forty-one, Elvis Presley entered first grade at East Tupelo Consolidated, where his instructors regarded him as "average". He was encouraged to enter a singing contest after impressing his schoolteacher with a rendition of Red Foley's country song "Old Shep" during morning prayers. The contest, held at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in October nineteen-forty-five, was Elvis Presley's first public performance. Dressed as a cowboy, the ten-year-old Elvis Presley stood on a chair to reach the microphone and sang "Old Shep". He recalled getting fifth place. A few months later, Elvis Presley received his first guitar for Elvis his birthday. Over the following year, he received basic guitar lessons from two of his uncles and the new pastor at the family's church. Elvis Presley recalled that he took the guitar and he watched people and learnt to play a bit.
Entering a fresh school for sixth grade in September nineteen-forty-six, Elvis Presley was regarded as a loner. The following year, he started bringing his guitar in on a daily basis and played and sang during lunchtimes and apparantly was often teased as being a trashy kid who played hillbilly music. The family was by then living in a largely African-American neighborhood. A devotee of Mississippi Slim's show on the Tupelo radio station WELO, Elvis Presley was described as "crazy about music" by Slim's younger brother, a classmate of Elvis Presley's, who often took him into the station. Slim supplemented Elvis Presley's guitar tuition by demonstrating chord techniques. When the protégé was twelve years old, Slim scheduled him for two on-air performances. Elvis Presley was overcome by stage fright the first time, but succeeded in performing the following week.
In November nineteen-forty-eight, the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. After residing for nearly a year in rooming houses, they were granted a two-bedroom apartment in the public housing complex known as the Lauderdale Courts. Enrolled at L. C. Humes High School, Elvis Presley received only a C in music in eighth grade. When Elvis Presley's music teacher told him he had no aptitude for singing, Elvis brought in his guitar the next day and sang a recent hit, in an effort to prove otherwise. A classmate later recalled that the teacher "agreed that Elvis was right when he said that she didn't appreciate Elvis Presley's kind of singing." He was often too shy to perform openly, and was occasionally bullied by classmates who viewed him as a "mama's boy". In 1950, he began practicing guitar regularly under the tutelage of Jesse Lee Denson, a neighbor two-and-a-half years his senior. They and three other boys, including two future rockabilly pioneers, brothers Dorsey and Johnny Burnette, formed a loose musical collective.
During Elvis his junior year, Elvis Presley began to stand out more among his classmates, largely because of his appearance: he grew out his sideburns and styled Elvis his hair with rose oil and Vaseline. In Elvis Presley's free time, he would head down to Beale Street, the heart of Memphis thriving blues scene, and gaze longingly at the wild, flashy clothes in the windows of Lansky Brothers which, by his senior year, he was wearing. Overcoming his reticence about performing outside the Lauderdale Courts, he competed in Humes's Annual "Minstrel" show in April nineteen-fifty-three. Singing and playing guitar, he opened with "Till I Waltz Again with You", a recent hit for Teresa Brewer.
Elvis Presley, who never received formal music training or learned to read music, studied and played by ear. He also frequented record stores with jukeboxes and listening booths. He knew all of Hank Snow's songs, and he loved records by other country singers including Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Ted Daffan, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmie Davis, and Bob Wills. The Southern gospel singer Jake Hess, one of Elvis Presley's favorite performers, was a significant influence on Elvis Presley's ballad-singing style. He was a regular audience member at the monthly All-Night Singings downtown, where many of the white gospel groups that performed reflected the influence of African-American spiritual music. He adored the music of black gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Like some of Elvis Presley's peers, he may have attended blues venues—of necessity, in the segregated South, on only the nights designated for exclusively white audiences. He certainly listened to the regional radio stations, such as WDIA-AM, that played "race records": spirituals, blues, and the modern, backbeat-heavy sound of rhythm and blues. Many of Elvis Presley's future recordings were inspired by local African-American musicians such as Arthur Crudup and Rufus Thomas. B.B. King recalled that he had known Elvis Presley before he was popular, when they both used to frequent Beale Street. By the time he graduated from high school in June nineteen-fifty-three, Elvis had already targeted music as his future.
In August nineteen-fifty-three, Elvis Presley walked into the offices of Sun Records aiming to pay for a few minutes of studio time to record a two-sided acetate disc: "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". He would later claim that he intended the record as a gift for his mother, or that he was merely interested in hearing what he "sounded like". Biographer Peter Guralnick argues that he chose Sun in the hope of being discovered. Asked by receptionist Marion Keisker what kind of singer he was, Elvis Presley responded, "I sing all kinds." When she pressed him on who he sounded like, he repeatedly answered, "I don't sound like nobody." After he recorded, Sun boss Sam Phillips asked Keisker to note down the young man's name, which she did along with her own commentary: "Good ballad singer".
In January nineteen-fifty-four, Elvis Presley cut a second acetate at Sun Records—"I'll Never Stand In Your Way" and "It Wouldn't Be the Same Without You". Not long after, he failed an audition for a local vocal quartet, the Songfellows. He explained to his father, "They told me I couldn't sing." Songfellow Jim Hamill later claimed that he was turned down because he did not demonstrate an ear for harmony at the time. In April, Elvis Presley began working for the Crown Electric company as a truck driver. Elvis' friend Ronnie Smith, after playing a few local gigs with him, suggested he contact Eddie Bond, leader of Smith's professional band, which had an opening for a vocalist. Bond rejected him after a tryout, advising Elvis to stick to truck driving.
Phillips, meanwhile, was always on the lookout for someone who could bring to a broader audience the sound of the black musicians on whom Sun focused. As Keisker reported, "Over and over I remember Sam saying, 'If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars." In June, he acquired a demo recording of a ballad, "Without You", that he thought might suit the teenage Elvis who came by the studio, but was unable to do it justice. Despite this Phillips asked Elvis to sing as many numbers as he knew. He was sufficiently affected by what he heard to invite two local musicians, guitarist Winfield "Scotty" Moore and upright bass player Bill Black, to work something up with Elvis Presley for a recording session.
The session, held the evening of 5th July nineteen-fifty-four, proved entirely unfruitful until late in the night when they were about to give up and go home. Elvis Presley took his guitar and launched into a nineteen-forty-six blues number, Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right". Moore recalled, "All of a sudden, Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass, and he started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them. Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open ... he stuck his head out and said, 'What are you doing?' And we said, 'We don't know.' 'Well, back up,' he said, 'try to find a place to start, and do it again.'" Phillips quickly began taping; this was the sound he had been looking for. Three days later, popular Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips played "That's All Right" on his Red, Hot, and Blue show. Listeners began phoning in, eager to find out who Elvis Presley was. The interest was such that Phillips played the record repeatedly during the last two hours of his show. Interviewing Elvis Presley on-air, Phillips asked him what high school he attended in order to clarify Elvis Presley's color for the many callers who had assumed he was black. During the next few days, the trio recorded a bluegrass number, Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky", again in a distinctive style and employing a jury-rigged echo effect that Sam Phillips dubbed "slapback". A single was pressed with "That's All Right" on the A side and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" on the reverse.
The trio played publicly for the first time on 17th July nineteen-fifty-four at the Bon Air club with Elvis Presley using a child-size guitar. At the end of the month, they played a show with country-star Slim Whitman headlining. A combination of Elvis Presley's strong response to rhythm and nervousness at playing before a large crowd led Elvis to shake his legs as he performed. Elvis Presley's wide-cut pants emphasized his movements, provoking young women in the audience to begin screaming. Moore recalled, "During the instrumental parts, he would back off from the mike and be playing and shaking, and the crowd would just go wild". Black, a natural showman, whooped and rode his bass, hitting double licks that Elvis Presley would later remember as "really a wild sound, like a jungle drum or something". Soon after, Moore and Black quit their old band to play with Elvis Presley regularly, and DJ and promoter Bob Neal became the trio's manager. From August through October, nineteen-fifty-four they played frequently at the Eagle's Nest club and returned to Sun Studio for more recording sessions, and Elvis Presley quickly gained confidence on stage. Moore has stated that Elvis' movement was a natural thing, but he was also very conscious of what got a reaction and that he'd do something one time and then he would expand on it very quickly. Elvis Presley made what would be his only appearance on Nashville's Grand Ole Opry on October 2nd nineteen-fifty-four. After a polite audience response, Opry manager Jim Denny told Phillips that his singer was "not bad" but did not suit the program. Two weeks later, Elvis Presley was booked on Louisiana Hayride, the Opry's chief, as-well-as, more adventurous, rival. The Shreveport-based show was broadcast to one-hundred-and-ninety-eight radio stations in twenty-eight states. Elvis Presley had another attack of nerves during the first set, which drew a muted reaction. A more composed and energetic second set inspired an enthusiastic response. House drummer D. J. Fontana brought a new element, complementing Elvis Presley's movements with accented beats that he had mastered playing in strip clubs. Soon after the show, the Hayride engaged Elvis Presley for a year's worth of Saturday-night appearances. Trading in his old guitar he purchased a Martin instrument for one-hundred-and-seventy-five dollars and Elvis Presley's trio began playing in new locales including Houston in Texas, and Texarkana in Arkansas.
By early nineteen-fifty-five, Elvis Presley's regular Hayride appearances, constant touring, and well-received record releases had made him a regional star, from Tennessee to West Texas. In January, Neal signed a formal management contract with Elvis Presley and brought him to the attention of Colonel Tom Parker, whom he considered the best promoter in the music business. Having successfully managed top country star Eddy Arnold, Colonel Tom Parker was now working with the new number-one country singer, Hank Snow. Colonel Parker booked Elvis Presley on Snow's February tour. When the tour reached Odessa in Texas, a nineteen year-old Roy Orbison saw Elvis Presley for the first time and has been known to say that Elvis's energy was incredible and that Elvis Presley's instinct was just amazing and he just didn't know what to make of it and that there was just no reference point in the current culture to compare it. Elvis made his television debut on March 3rd nineteen-fifty-five on the KSLA-TV broadcast of Louisiana Hayride. By August,nineteen-fifty-five, Sun Records had released ten sides credited to " Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill"; on the latest recordings, the trio were joined by a drummer. Some of the songs, including "That's All Right", were in what one Memphis Presley's journalist described as the "Rythm & Blues idiom of negro field jazz"; others, like "Blue Moon of Kentucky", were "more in the country field", "but there was a curious blending of the two different musics in both". Elvis Presley's blend of styles made it difficult for his music to find maximum radio airplay. According to Neal, many country-music disc jockeys would not play it because he sounded too much like a black artist and none of the rhythm-and-blues stations would touch him because he sounded too much like a hillbilly. The blend came to be known as rockabilly. At the time, Elvis Presley was variously billed as "The King of Western Bop", "The Hillbilly Cat", and "The Memphis Flash".
Elvis Presley renewed Neal's management contract in August nineteen-fifty-five, simultaneously appointing Colonel Tom Parker as his special adviser. The group maintained an extensive touring schedule throughout the second half of the year. Neal has recalled that it was almost frightening, the reaction that came to Elvis from the teenaged boys. So many of them, through some sort of jealousy, would practically hate him. There were occasions in some towns in Texas when we'd have to be sure to have a police guard because somebody'd always try to take a crack at him. They'd get a gang and try to waylay him or something. The trio became a quartet when Hayride drummer Fontana joined as a full member. In mid-October, they played a few shows in support of Bill Haley, whose song "Rock Around the Clock" had been a number-one hit the previous year. Haley observed that Elvis Presley had a natural feel for rhythm, and advised him to sing fewer ballads.
At the Country Disc Jockey Convention in early November,nineteen-fifty-five, Elvis was voted the year's most promising male artist. Several record companies had by now shown interest in signing him. After three major labels made offers of up to twenty-five thousand dollars, Colonel Tom Parker and Phillips struck a deal with RCA Victor on November 21st nineteen-fifty-five to acquire Elvis Presley's Sun contract for an unprecedented forty-thousand dollars. Elvis Presley, at twenty years , was still a minor, so his father signed the contract. Colonel Tom Parker arranged with the owners of Hill and Range Publishing, Jean and Julian Aberbach, to create two entities, Presley Music and Gladys Music, to handle all the new material recorded by Elvis Presley. Songwriters were obliged to forgo one third of their customary royalties in exchange for having him perform their compositions. By December, RCA had begun to heavily promote its new singer, and before the month's end had reissued many of Elvis Presley's Sun recordings.
On January 10th nineteen-fifty-six, Elvis Presley made his first recordings for RCA in Nashville. Extending Elvis Presley's by now customary backup of Moore, Black, and Fontana, RCA enlisted pianist Floyd Cramer, guitarist Chet Atkins, and three background singers, including first tenor Gordon Stoker of the popular Jordanaires quartet, to fill out the sound. The session produced the moody, unusual "Heartbreak Hotel", released as a single on January 27th nineteen-fifty-six. Colonel Tom Parker finally brought Elvis Presley to national television, booking him on CBS's Stage Show for six appearances over two months. The program, produced in New York, was hosted on alternate weeks by big band leaders and brothers Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. After Elvis Presley's first appearance, on January 28th nineteen-fifty-six introduced by disc jockey Bill Randle, Elvis Presley stayed in town to record at RCA's New York studio. The sessions yielded eight songs, including a cover of Carl Perkins' rockabilly anthem "Blue Suede Shoes". In February, Elvis Presley's "I Forgot to Remember to Forget", a Sun recording initially released the previous August, reached the top of the Billboard country chart. Neal's contract was terminated and, on March 2nd Colonel Tom Parker became Elvis Presley's full-time manager.
On March 12th nineteen-fifty-six, Elvis purchased a one-story ranch-style house with two-car attached garage in a quiet residential neighborhood on Audubon Street in Memphis. The home was profiled in national magazines, and soon became a focal point for fans, media and celebrities to visit. Elvis lived here with his parents between March nineteen-fifty-six and March nineteen-fifty-seven.
RCA Victor released Elvis Presley's eponymous debut long-playing-record on March 23rd. Joined by five previously unreleased Sun recordings, its seven recently recorded tracks were of a broad variety. There were two country songs and a bouncy pop tune. The others would centrally define the evolving sound of rock and roll: "Blue Suede Shoes"—"an improvement over Perkins' in almost every way", according to critic Robert Hilburn, and three Rythm & Blues numbers that had been part of Elvis Presley's stage repertoire for some time, covers of Little Richard, Ray Charles, and The Drifters. As described by Hilburn, these were the most revealing of all. Unlike many white artists ... who watered down the gritty edges of the original Rythm & Blues versions of songs in the nineteen-fifties, Elvis Presley reshaped them. He not only injected the tunes with his own vocal character but also made guitar, not piano, the lead instrument in all three cases. It became the first rock-and-roll long-playing-record to top the Billboard chart, a position it held for ten weeks. While Elvis Presley was not an innovative guitarist like Moore or contemporary African American rockers Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, cultural historian Gilbert B. Rodman argues that the long-playing-record's cover image, of Elvis having the time of his life on stage with a guitar in his hands played a crucial role in positioning the guitar as the instrument that best captured the style and spirit of his new music.
Elvis Presley made the first of two appearances on NBC's Milton Berle Show on April 3rd nineteen-fifty-six. His performance, on the deck of the USS Hancock in San Diego, prompted cheers and screams from an audience of sailors and their dates. A few days later, a flight taking Elvis Presley and his band to Nashville for a recording session left all three badly shaken when an engine died and the plane almost went down over Arkansas. Twelve weeks after its original release, "Heartbreak Hotel" became Elvis Presley's first number-one pop hit. In late April, nineteen-fifty-six Elvis Presley began a two-week residency at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Amid his Vegas tenure, Elvis Presley, who had serious acting ambitions, signed a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures. He began a tour of the Midwest in mid-May, taking in fifteen cities in as many days. He had attended several shows by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys in Vegas and was struck by their cover of "Hound Dog", a hit in nineteen-fifty-three for blues singer Big Mama Thornton by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It became the new closing number of Elvis Presley's act. After a show in La Crosse, Wisconsin, an urgent message on the letterhead of the local Catholic diocese's newspaper was sent to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. It warned that "Elvis Presley is a definite danger to the security of the United States. Elvis Presley's actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth. After the show, more than 1,000 teenagers tried to gang into Elvis Presley's room at the auditorium. Indications of the harm Elvis Presley did just in La Crosse were two high school girls whose abdomen and thigh had Elvis Presley's autograph.
The second Milton Berle Show appearance came on June 5th nineteen-fifty-six at NBC's Hollywood studio, amid another hectic tour. Berle persuaded Elvis Presley to leave his guitar backstage, advising, "Let 'em see you, son." During the performance, Elvis Presley abruptly halted an uptempo rendition of "Hound Dog" with a wave of his arm and launched into a slow, grinding version accentuated with energetic, exaggerated body movements. Elvis Presley's gyrations created a storm of controversy. Newspaper critics were "outraged". Ben Gross of the New York Daily News opined that popular music "has reached its lowest depths in the 'grunt and groin' antics of one Elvis Presley. Ed Sullivan, whose own variety show was the nation's most popular, declared him "unfit for family viewing". To Elvis Presley's displeasure, he soon found himself being referred to as "Elvis the Pelvis", which he called "one of the most childish expressions I ever heard, comin' from an adult."
The Berle shows drew such high ratings that Elvis Presley was booked for a July 1st nineteen-fifty-six appearance on NBC's Steve Allen Show in New York. Allen, no fan of rock and roll, introduced a "new Elvis" in a white bow tie and black tails. Elvis Presley sang "Hound Dog" for less than a minute to a basset hound wearing a top hat and bow tie. As described by television Elvis Presley'storian Jake Austen, "Allen thought Elvis Presley was talentless and absurd and he set things up so that Elvis Presley would show his contrition". Allen, for Elvis Presley's part, later wrote that he found Elvis Presley's "strange, gangly, country-boy charisma, his hard-to-define cuteness, and his charming eccentricity intriguing" and simply worked Elvis into the customary "comedy fabric" of his program. Just before the final rehearsal for the show, Elvis Presley told a reporter, "I'm holding down on his show. I don't want to do anything to make people dislike me. I think TV is important so I'm going to go along, but I won't be able to give the kind of show I do in a personal appearance." Elvis Presley would refer back to the Allen show as the most ridiculous performance of his career. Later that night, he appeared on Hy Gardner Calling, a popular local TV show. Pressed on whether he had learned anything from the criticism to which he was being subjected, Elvis Presley responded that he hadn't and he didn't feel like he was doing anything wrong and he didn't see how any type of music could have any bad influence on people when it's only music.
The next day, Elvis Presley recorded "Hound Dog", along with "Any Way You Want Me" and "Don't Be Cruel". The Jordanaires sang harmony, as they had on The Steve Allen Show; they would work with Elvis Presley through the nineteen-sixties. A few days later, Elvis Presley made an outdoor concert appearance in Memphis at which he announced, "You know, those people in New York are not gonna change me none. I'm gonna show you what the real Elvis is like tonight." In August,nineteen-fifty-six a judge in Jacksonville, Florida, ordered Elvis Presley to tame his act. Throughout the following performance, he largely kept still, except for wiggling his little finger suggestively in mockery of the order. The single pairing "Don't Be Cruel" with "Hound Dog" ruled the top of the charts for eleven weeks, a mark that would not be surpassed for thirty-six years. Recording sessions for Elvis Presley's second long-playing-record took place in Hollywood during the first week of September nineteen-fifty-six . Leiber and Stoller, the writers of "Hound Dog," contributed "Love Me."
Allen's show with Elvis Presley had, for the first time, beaten CBS's Ed Sullivan Show in the ratings. Sullivan, despite Elvis Presley's June pronouncement, booked Elvis for three appearances for an unprecedented fifty thousand dollars. The first, on September 9th nineteen-fifty-six, was seen by approximately sixty million viewers, a record 82.6% of the television audience. Actor Charles Laughton hosted the show, filling in while Sullivan recuperated from a car accident. Elvis Presley appeared in two segments that night from CBS Television City in Los Angeles. According to 'legend', Elvis Presley was shot from only the waist up. Watching clips of the Allen and Berle shows with Elvis Presley's producer, Sullivan had opined that Elvis Presley had fitted some kind of device hanging down below the crotch of his pants so when he moved his legs back and forth you could see the outline of his penis. In fact, Elvis Presley was shown head-to-toe in the first and second shows. Though the camerawork was relatively discreet during Elvis Presley's debut, with leg-concealing closeups when he danced, the studio audience reacted in customary style. Elvis Presley's performance of his forthcoming single, the ballad "Love Me Tender", prompted a record-shattering million advance orders. More than any other single event, it was Elvis Presley's first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show that made Elvis a national celebrity of barely precedented proportions.
Accompanying Elvis Presley's rise to fame, a cultural shift was taking place that he both he both inspired and came to symbolize. Igniting the biggest pop craze since Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley brought rock'n'roll into the mainstream of popular culture. As Elvis Presley set the artistic pace that other artists followed and more than anyone else, gave the young a belief in themselves as a distinct and somehow unified generation; he was first in America ever to feel the power of an integrated youth culture.
The audience response at Elvis Presley's live shows became increasingly fevered. Moore recalled, "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." At the two concerts he performed in September nineteen-fifty-six at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, 50 National Guardsmen were added to the police security to prevent crowd trouble. "Elvis", Elvis Presley's second long-playing-record, was released in October nineteen-fifty-six and quickly rose to number one. The long-playing-record includes "Old Shep", which he sang at the talent show in nineteen-forty-five, and which now marked the first time he played piano on an RCA session. According to Guralnick, one can hear "in the halting chords and the somewhat stumbling rhythm both the unmistakable emotion and the equally unmistakable valuing of emotion over technique." Assessing the musical and cultural impact of Elvis Presley's recordings from "That's All Right" through Elvis, rock critic Dave Marsh wrote that "these records, more than any others, contain the seeds of what rock & roll was, has been and most likely what it may become."
Elvis Presley returned to the Ed Sullivan show at its main studio in New York, hosted this time by its namesake, on October 28th nineteen-fifty-six. After the performance, crowds in Nashville and St. Louis burned Elvis Presley's effigy.
Elvis Presley's first motion picture, 'Love Me Tender', was released on November 21st nineteen-fifty-six . Though he was not top billed, the film's original title, The Reno Brothers, was changed to capitalize on Elvis Presley's latest number one record. "Love Me Tender" had hit the top of the charts earlier that month. To further take advantage of Elvis Presley's popularity, four musical numbers were added to what was originally a straight acting role. The film was panned by the critics but did very well at the box office.
On December 4th nineteen-fifty-six Elvis Presley dropped into Sun Records where Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were recording and jammed with them. Though Phillips no longer had the right to release any Elvis Presley material, he made sure the session was captured on tape. The results became legendary as the "Million Dollar Quartet" recordings. Johnny Cash was long thought to have played as well, but he was present only briefly at Phillips's instigation for a photo opportunity. The year ended with a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal reporting that Elvis Presley merchandise had brought in twenty-two million dollars on top of his record sales, and Billboard's declaration that he had placed more songs in the top 100 than any other artist since records were first charted. In Elvis Presley's first full year at RCA, one of the music industry's largest companies, Elvis Presley had accounted for over 50 percent of the label's singles sales.
Elvis Presley made his third and final Ed Sullivan Show appearance on January 6th nineteen-fifty-seven. Some commentators have claimed that Colonel Tom Parker orchestrated an appearance of censorship to generate publicity. In any event, as critic Greil Marcus describes, Elvis Presley "did not tie himself down. Leaving behind the bland clothes he had worn on the first two shows, he stepped out in the outlandish costume of a pasha, if not a harem girl. From the make-up over his eyes, the hair falling in his face, the overwhelmingly sexual cast of his mouth, he was playing Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik, with all stops out." To close, displaying his range and defying Sullivan's wishes, Elvis Presley sang a gentle black spiritual, "Peace in the Valley". At the end of the show, Sullivan declared Elvis Presley "a real decent, fine boy". Two days later, the Memphis draft board announced that Elvis Presley would be classified 1-A and would probably be drafted sometime that year.
Each of the three Elvis Presley singles released in the first half of nineteen-fifty-seven went to number one: "Too Much", "All Shook Up", and "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear". Already an international star, he was attracting fans even where his music was not officially released. Under the headline "Elvis Presley Records a Craze in Soviet", The New York Times reported that pressings of Elvis Presley's music on discarded X-ray plates were commanding high prices in Leningrad. Between film shoots and recording sessions, Elvis Presley also found time to purchase an 18-room mansion eight miles south of downtown Memphis for himself and his parents: Graceland. When he reported to the film studio for his second film, the Technicolor 'Loving You', released in July,nineteen-fifty-seven, the makeup man said that with Elvis Presley's eyes he should photograph well with black hair, so they dyed it. 'Loving You', the accompanying soundtrack, was Elvis Presley's third straight number one long-playing-record. The title track was written by Leiber and Stoller, who were then retained to write four of the six songs recorded at the sessions for 'Jailhouse Rock', Elvis Presley's next film. The songwriting team effectively produced the Jailhouse sessions and developed a close working relationship with Elvis, who came to regard them as his "good-luck charm".
Leiber remembered initially finding Elvis Presley "not quite authentic—after all, he was a white singer, and my standards were black." According to Stoller, the duo was "surprised at the kind of knowledge that he had about black music. We figured that he had these remarkable pipes and all that, but we didn't realize that he knew so much about the blues. We were quite surprised to find out that he knew as much about it as we did. He certainly knew a lot more than we did about country music and gospel music." Leiber remembered the recording process with Elvis Presley, "He was fast. Any demo you gave him he knew by heart in ten minutes." As Stoller recalled, Elvis Presley "was 'protected'" by his manager and entourage. "He was removed. … They kept him separate."
Elvis Presley undertook three brief tours during nineteen-fifty-seven continuing to generate a crazed audience response. A Detroit newspaper suggested that "the trouble with going to see Elvis Presley is that you're liable to get killed." Villanova students pelted him with eggs in and in Vancouver, the crowd rioted after the end of the show, destroying the stage. Frank Sinatra, who had famously inspired the swooning of teenaged girls in the 1940s, condemned the new musical phenomenon. In a magazine article, he decried rock and roll as "brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious. ... It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people. It smells phoney and false. It is sung, played and written, for the most part, by cretinous goons. ... This Presley's rancid-smelling aphrodisiac I deplore." Asked for a response, Presley said, "I admire the man. He has a right to say what he wants to say. He is a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn't have said it. ... This is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago."
Leiber and Stoller were again in the studio for the recording of Elvis' Christmas long-playing-record. Toward the end of the session, they wrote a song on the spot at Elvis Presley's request: "Santa Claus Is Back in Town", an innuendo-laden blues. The holiday release stretched Elvis Presley's string of number one long-playing-records to four and would eventually become the best selling Christmas long-playing-record of all time. After the session, Moore and Black, drawing only modest weekly salaries, sharing in none of Presley's massive financial success, resigned. Though they were brought back a few weeks later, it was clear that they had not been part of Presley's inner circle for some time. On December 20th nineteen-fifty-seven Elvis Presley received his draft notice. He was granted a deferment to finish the forthcoming 'King Creole', in which three-hundred and fifty thousand dollars had already been invested by Paramount and producer Hal Wallis. A couple of weeks into the new year, "Don't", another Leiber and Stoller tune, became Elvis Presley's tenth number one seller. It had been only twenty-one months since "Heartbreak Hotel" had brought him to the top for the first time. Recording sessions for the King Creole soundtrack were held in Hollywood mid-January. Leiber and Stoller provided three songs and were again on hand, but it would be the last time they worked closely with Elvis Presley. A studio session on February 1st nineteen-fifty-seven marked another ending: it was the final occasion on which Black, who died in 1965, was to perform with Elvis Presley.
On March 24th , nineteen-fifty-eight, Elvis Presley was conscripted into the U.S. Army as a private at Fort Chaffee, near Fort Smith, Arkansas. His arrival was a major media event. Hundreds of people descended on Elvis as he stepped from the bus; photographers then accompanied him into the fort. Elvis Presley announced that he was looking forward to his military stint, saying he did not want to be treated any differently from anyone else.
Soon after Elvis Presley commenced basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, he received a visit from Eddie Fadal, a businessman he had met on tour. According to Fadal, Presley had become convinced his career was finished and firmly believed that. But then, during a two-week leave in early June, Elvis Presley recorded five songs in Nashville. In early August,nineteen-fifty-eight, Elvis Presley's mother was diagnosed with hepatitis and her condition rapidly worsened. Elvis, granted emergency leave to visit her, arrived in Memphis on August 12th. Two days later, she died of heart failure, aged forty-six. Elvis Presley was devastated; their relationship had remained extremely close, even into his adulthood, they would use baby talk with each other and Elvis would address her with pet names.
After training, Elvis Presley joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany, on October 1 nineteen-fifty-eight. Introduced to amphetamines by a sergeant while on maneuvers, he became "practically evangelical about their benefits"—not only for energy, but for "strength" and weight loss, as well—and many of his friends in the outfit joined him in indulging. The Army also introduced Elvis Presley to karate, which he studied seriously, later including it in his live performances. Fellow soldiers have attested to Elvis Presley's wish to be seen as an able, ordinary soldier, despite his fame, his generosity. He donated his Army pay to charity, purchased TV sets for the base, and bought an extra set of fatigues for everyone in his outfit.
While in Friedberg, Elvis Presley met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu. They would eventually marry after a seven-and-a-half-year courtship. In her autobiography, Priscilla says that despite Elvis Presley's worries that it would ruin his career, Colonel Tom Parker convinced Elvis that to gain popular respect, he should serve his country as a regular soldier rather than in Special Services, where he would have been able to give some musical performances and remain in touch with the public. Media reports echoed Elvis Presley's concerns about his career, but RCA producer Steve Sholes and Freddy Bienstock of Hill and Range had carefully prepared for Elvis Presley's two-year hiatus. Armed with a substantial amount of unreleased material, they kept up a regular stream of successful releases. Between Elvis Presley's induction and discharge, Elvis had ten top 40 hits, including "Wear My Ring Around Your Neck", the best-selling "Hard Headed Woman", and "One Night" in nineteen-fifty-eight, and "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such as I" and the number one "A Big Hunk o' Love" in 1959. RCA also generated four long-playing-records compiling old material , most successfully Elvis' Golden Records (nineteen-fifty-eight), which hit number three on the chart.
Elvis Presley returned to the United States on March 2nd nineteen-sixty, and was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant on March 5th. The train that carried him from New Jersey to Tennessee was mobbed all the way, and Elvis Presley was called upon to appear at scheduled stops to please his fans. On the night of March 20th, nineteen-sixty he entered RCA's Nashville studio to cut tracks for a new long-playing-record along with a single, "Stuck on You", which was rushed into release and swiftly became a number one hit. Another Nashville session two weeks later yielded a pair of Elvis Presley's best-selling singles, the ballads "It's Now or Never" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?". As a whole, the record "conjured up the vision of a performer who could be all things", in the words of music Elvis Presley'storian John Robertson: "a flirtatious teenage idol with a heart of gold; a tempestuous, dangerous lover; a gutbucket blues singer.
Elvis Presley returned to television on May 12th nineteen-sixty as a guest on The Frank Sinatra Timex Special—ironic for both stars, given Sinatra's not-so-distant excoriation of rock and roll. Also known as 'Welcome Home Elvis', the show had been taped in late March, the only time all year Elvis Presley performed in front of an audience. Colonel Tom Parker secured an unheard-of one-hundred-&-twenty-five thousand dollars fee for eight minutes of singing. The broadcast drew an enormous viewership.
G.I. Blues, the soundtrack to Elvis Presley's first film since his return, was a number one long-playing-record in October nineteen-sixty . Elvis Presley's first twelve inch vinyl of sacred material, Elvis Presley's Hand in Mine, followed two months later. It reached number thirteen on the U.S. pop chart and number three in the UK, remarkable figures for a gospel long-playing-record. In February nineteen-sixty, Elvis Presley performed two shows for a benefit event in Memphis, on behalf of twenty-four local charities. During a luncheon preceding the event, RCA presented him with a plaque certifying worldwide sales of over seventy-five million records. A twelve-hour Nashville session in mid-March nineteen-sixty yielded nearly all of Elvis Presley's next studio long-playing-record, 'Something for Everybody'. As described by John Robertson, it exemplifies the Nashville sound, the restrained, cosmopolitan style that would define country music in the nineteen-sixties. Presaging much of what was to come from Elvis Presley himself over the next half-decade, the long-playing-record is largely "a pleasant, unthreatening pastiche of the music that had once been Elvis' birthright." It would be Elvis Presley's sixth number one twelve inch vinyl . Another benefit concert, raising money for a Pearl Harbor memorial, was staged on March 25th nineteen sixty-one in Hawaii. It was to be Elvis Presley's last public performance for seven years.
Colonel Tom Parker had by now pushed Elvis Presley into a heavy film making schedule, focused on formulaic, modestly budgeted musical comedies. Elvis at first insisted on pursuing more serious roles, but when two films in a more dramatic vein, Flaming Star in nineteen-sixty, and Wild in the Country in nineteen sixty-one, were less commercially successful, he reverted to the formula. Among the twenty-seven films Elvis made during the nineteen-sixties, there were few further exceptions. Elvis Presley's films were almost universally panned; critic Andrew Caine dismissed them as a "pantheon of bad taste". Nonetheless, they were virtually all profitable. Hal Wallis, who produced nine of them, declared, "A Presley picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood."
Of Elvis Presley's films in the nineteen-sixties, fifteen were accompanied by soundtrack long-playing-records and another five by soundtrack Extended Players. The films' rapid production and release schedules, Elvis frequently starred in three a year, affected his music. According to Jerry Leiber, the soundtrack formula was already evident before Elvis Presley left for the Army. . As the decade wore on, the quality of the soundtrack songs grew "progressively worse". Julie Parrish, who appeared in 'Paradise', 'Hawaiian Style', says that she hated many of the songs chosen for Elvis Presley's films. The Jordanaires' Gordon Stoker describes how Elvis Presley would retreat from the studio microphone. The material was so bad that he felt like he couldn't sing it. Most of the film long-playing-records featured a song or two from respected writers such as the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. But by and large, according to biographer Jerry Hopkins, the songs seemed to be written on order by men who never really understood Elvis or rock and roll. Regardless of the songs' quality, it has been argued that Elvis Presley generally sang them well and with commitment.
In the first half of the decade, three of Elvis Presley's soundtrack long-playing-records hit number one on the pop charts, and a few of Elvis Presley's most popular songs came from his films, such as "Can't Help Falling in Love" in nineteen sixty-one and "Return to Sender" in nineteen sixty-two. "Viva Las Vegas", the title track to the nineteen-sixty-four film, was a minor hit as a B-side, and became truly popular only later. But, as with artistic merit, the commercial returns steadily diminished. During a five-year span—nineteen-sixty-four through nineteen-sixty-eight— Elvis had only one top-ten hit: "Crying in the Chapel" in 1965, a gospel number recorded back in nineteen-sixy. As for non-film long-playing-records, between the June nineteen sixty-two release of Pot Luck and the November nineteen-sixty-eight release of the soundtrack to the television special that signaled Elvis Presley's comeback, only one twelve inch vinyl of new material by Elvis Presley was issued: the gospel long-playing-record How Great Thou Art in nineteen-sixty-seven. This won him his first Grammy Award, for Best Sacred Performance. As Marsh described, Elvis Presley was "arguably the greatest white gospel singer of his time and really the last rock & roll artist to make gospel as vital a component of his musical personality as his secular songs.
Shortly before Christmas nineteen-sixty-six, more than seven years since they first met, Elvis Presley proposed to Priscilla Beaulieu. They were married on May 1st nineteen-sixty-seven, in a brief ceremony in their suite at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. The flow of formulaic films and assembly-line soundtracks rolled on. It was not until October nineteen-sixty-seven, when the Clambake soundtrack twelve inch vinyl registered record low sales for a new Elvis Presley long-playing-record, that RCA executives recognized a problem. "By then, of course, the damage had been done", as historians Connie Kirchberg and Marc Hendrickx put it. "Elvis was viewed as a joke by serious music lovers and a has-been to all but his most loyal fans."
Elvis Presley's only child, Lisa Marie, was born on February 1st nineteen-sixty-eight, during a period when he had grown deeply unhappy with his his career. Of the eight Elvis singles released between January nineteen-sixty-seven and May nineteen-sixty-eight, only two charted in the top 40, and none higher than number twenty-eight. Elvis Presley's forthcoming soundtrack long-playing-record, Speedway, would die at number eighty-two on the Billboard chart. Colonel Tom Parker had already shifted his plans to television, where Elvis Presley had not appeared since the Sinatra Timex show in nineteen-sixy. He maneuvered a deal with NBC that committed the network to both finance a theatrical feature and broadcast a Christmas special.
Recorded in late June nineteen-sixty-eight in Burbank, California, the special, called simply 'Elvis', aired on December 3rd nineteen-sixty-eight. Later known as the '68 Comeback Special, the show featured lavishly staged studio productions as well as songs performed with a band in front of a small audience, Elvis Presley's first live performances since nineteen sixty-one. The live segments saw Elvis Presley clad in tight black leather, singing and playing guitar in an uninhibited style reminiscent of Elvis Presley's early rock-and-roll days. Bill Belew, who designed Elvis Presley's outfit, gave it a Napoleonic standing collar. Elvis Presley customarily wore high collars because he believed his neck looked too long and was a design feature that he would later make a major trademark of the outfits he wore on stage in his later years. Director and coproducer Steve Binder had worked hard to reassure the nervous singer and to produce a show that was far from the hour of Christmas songs Colonel Tom Parker had originally planned. The show, NBC's highest rated that season, captured forty-two percent of the total viewing audience. A journalst then commented that there was something magical about watching a man who has lost himself find his way back home and sing with the kind of power people no longer expect of rock 'n' roll singers. He moved his body with a lack of pretension and effort that must have made Jim Morrison green with envy.
By January nineteen-sixty-nine, the single "If I Can Dream", written for the special, reached number twelve. The soundtrack long-playing-record broke into the top ten. According to friend Jerry Schilling, the special reminded Elvis Presley of what "he had not been able to do for years, being able to choose the people; being able to choose what songs and not being told what had to be on the soundtrack.
Beginning with his American Sound recordings', soul music became a central element in Elvis' fusion of styles. Here, he revels in lyrics full of sexual innuendo.
Buoyed by the experience of the Comeback Special, Elvis Presley engaged in a prolific series of recording sessions at American Sound Studio, which led to the acclaimed 'From Elvis in Memphis '. Released in June nineteen-sixty-nine, it was Elvis Presley's first secular, non-soundtrack long-playing-record from a dedicated period in the studio in eight years. As described by Dave Marsh, it is "a masterpiece in which Elvis Presley immediately catches up with pop music trends that had seemed to pass him by during the movie years. He sings country songs, soul songs and rockers with real conviction, a stunning achievement."
Elvis Presley was keen to resume regular live performing. Following the success of the Comeback Special, offers came in from around the world. The London Palladium offered Colonel Tom Parker twenty-eight thousand dollars for a one-week engagement. He responded, "That's fine for me, now how much can you get for Elvis?" In May, the brand new International Hotel in Las Vegas, boasting the largest showroom in the city, announced that it had booked Elvis Presley, scheduling him to perform fifty-seven shows over four weeks beginning July 31st nineteen-sixty-nine. Moore, Fontana, and the Jordanaires declined to participate, afraid of losing the lucrative session work they had in Nashville. Elvis Presley assembled new, top-notch accompaniment, led by guitarist James Burton and including two gospel groups, The Imperials and The Sweet Inspirations. Nonetheless, he was nervous: Elvis Presley's only previous Las Vegas engagement, in nineteen-fifty-six, had been dismal, and he had neither forgotten nor forgiven that failure. To revise his approach to performances, he visited Las Vegas hotel showrooms and lounges, at one of which, that of the Flamingo, he encountered Tom Jones, whose aggressive style was similar to his own 1950's approach. The two became friends. Already studying karate at the time, Elvis Presley recruited Bill Belew to design variants of karate kassgis for him; these, in jumpsuit form, would be Elvis Presley's "stage uniforms" in his later years. Colonel Tom Parker, who intended to make Elvis Presley's return the show business event of the year, oversaw a major promotional push. For Elvis Presley's part, hotel owner Kirk Kerkorian arranged to send hi's own plane to New York to fly in rock journalists for the debut performance. Elvis Presley took to the stage without introduction. The audience of two thousand and two hundred, including many celebrities, gave him a standing ovation before he sang a note and another after his performance. A third followed his encore, "Can't Help Falling in Love", a song that would be Elvis Presley's closing number for much of the nineteen-seventy's. At a press conference after the show, when a journalist referred to him as "The King", Elvis Presley gestured toward Fats Domino, who was taking in the scene. "No," Elvis Presley said, "that's the real king of rock and roll." The next day,Colonel Tom Parker's negotiations with the hotel resulted in a five-year contract for Elvis Presley to play each February and August, at an annual salary of one million dollars. Newsweek commented, "There are several unbelievable things about Elvis, but the most incredible is Elvis Presley's staying power in a world where meteoric careers fade like shooting stars." Rolling Stone called Elvis Presley "supernatural, Elvis Presley's own resurrection." In November,nineteen-sixty-nine Elvis Presley's final non-concert film, 'Change of Habit', opened. The double long-playing-record From his 'To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis' came out the same month; the first twelve inch vinyl consisted of live performances from the International, the second of more cuts from the American Sound sessions. "Suspicious Minds" reached the top of the charts, Elvis Presley's first U.S. pop number-one in over seven years, and his last.
Cassandra Peterson, later television's Elvira, met Elvis Presley during this period in Las Vegas, where she was working as a showgirl. She recalls of their encounter, "He was so anti-drug when I met him. I mentioned to him that I smoked marijuana, and he was just appalled. He said, 'Don't ever do that again.'" Elvis Presley was not only deeply opposed to recreational drugs, he also rarely drank. Several of his family members had been alcoholics, a fate he intended to avoid.
Elvis Presley returned to the International early in nineteen-seventy for the first of the year's two month-long engagements, performing two shows a night. Recordings from these shows were issued on the long-playing-record 'On Stage'.'In late February,nineteen-seventy Elvis Presley performed six attendance-record–breaking shows at the Houston Astrodome. In April nineteen-seventy, the single "The Wonder of You" was issued—a number one hit in the UK, it topped the U.S. adult contemporary chart, as well. MGM filmed rehearsal and concert footage at the International during August nineteen-seventy for the documentary 'Elvis: That's the Way It Is'. Elvis Presley was by now performing in a jumpsuit, which would become a trademark of his live act. During his engagement, he was threatened with murder unless fifty thousand dollars was paid. Elvis Presley had been the target of many threats since the 1950's, often without his knowledge. The FBI took the threat seriously and security was stepped up for the next two shows. Elvis Presley went onstage with a Derringer in his right boot and a point-forty-five pistol in his waistband, but the concerts went off without incident.
The long-playing-record 'That's the Way It Is', produced to accompany the documentary and featuring both studio and live recordings, marked a stylistic shift. As music historian John Robertson notes, "The authority of Elvis Presley's singing twelve inch vinyl disguise the fact that the long-playing-record stepped decisively away from the American-roots inspiration of his sessions towards a more middle-of-the-road sound. With country put on the back burner, and soul and Rythm & Blues left in Memphis , what was left was very classy, very clean white pop—perfect for the Las Vegas crowd, but a definite retrograde step for Elvis. After the end of his International engagement on September 7th nineteen-seventy, Elvis Presley embarked on a week-long concert tour, largely of Southern U.S.A. Elvis Presley's first since nineteen-fifty-eight. Another week-long tour, of the West Coast, followed in November nineteen-seventy.
On December 21st nineteen-seventy, Elvis Presley engineered a meeting with President Richard Nixon at the White House, where he expressed his patriotism and his contempt for the hippies, the growing drug culture, and the counterculture in general. He asked Nixon for a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, to add to similar items he had begun collecting and to signify official sanction of his patriotic efforts. Nixon, who apparently found the encounter awkward, expressed a belief that Elvis Presley could send a positive message to young people and that it was therefore important he "retain his credibility". Elvis Presley told Nixon that the Beatles, whose songs he regularly performed in concert during the era, exemplified what he saw as a trend of anti-Americanism and drug abuse in popular culture. On hearing reports of the meeting, Paul McCartney later said he "felt a bit betrayed" and commented: "The great joke was that we were taking drugs, and look what happened to him", a reference to Presley's death, hastened by prescription drug abuse.
The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce named Elvis Presley one of its annual Ten Most Outstanding Young Men of the Nation on January 16th, nineteen-seventy-one. Not long after, the City of Memphis Presley's named the stretch of Highway 51 South on which Graceland is located "Elvis Presley Boulevard". The same year, Elvis Presley became the first rock and roll singer to be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award (then known as the Bing Crosby Award) by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Grammy Award organization. Three new, non-film Presley studio long-playing-records were released in nineteen-seventy-one, as many as had come out over the previous eight years. Best received by critics was 'Elvis Country', a concept record that focused on genre standards. The biggest seller was Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas, "the truest statement of all", according to Greil Marcus. "In the midst of ten painfully genteel Christmas songs, every one sung with appalling sincerity and humility, one could find Elvis tom-catting his way through six blazing minutes of 'Merry Christmas Baby,' a raunchy old Charles Brown blues.
Elvis Presley's 'Elvis on Tour', went on to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Documentary Film that year. Elvis Presley's gospel long-playing-record 'He Touched Me', released that month, would earn him his second Grammy Award, for Best Inspirational Performance. A forteen-date tour commenced with an unprecedented four consecutive sold-out shows at New York's Madison Square Garden. The evening concert on July 10th nineteen-seventy-one was recorded and issued in twelve inch vinyl form a week later. 'Elvis: As Recorded at Madison Square Garden' became one of Elvis Presley's biggest-selling long-playing-records. After the tour, the single "Burning Love" was released, Elvis Presley's last top ten hit on the U.S. pop chart. "The most exciting single Elvis has made since 'All Shook Up'", wrote rock critic Robert Christgau.
Elvis Presley and his wife, meanwhile, had become increasingly distant, barely cohabiting. In nineteen-seventy-one, an affair he had with Joyce Bova resulted, unknown to him, in her pregnancy and an abortion. He often raised the possibility of her moving into Graceland, saying that he was likely to leave Priscilla. The Presleys separated on February 23rd nineteen-seventy-two, after Priscilla disclosed her relationship with Mike Stone, a karate instructor Elvis Presley had recommended to her. Priscilla relates that when she told him that Elvis grabbed her and forcefully made love to her, declaring, "This is how a real man makes love to his woman. Five months later, Elvis Presley's new girlfriend, Linda Thompson, a songwriter and one-time Memphis beauty queen, moved in with him. Elvis Presley and his wife filed for divorce on August 18th nineteen-seventy-two. According to Joe Moscheo of the Imperials, the failure of Elvis Presley's marriage was a blow from which he never recovered.
In January nineteen-seventy-three, Elvis Presley performed two benefit concerts for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund in connection with a groundbreaking TV special, Aloha from Hawaii. Aired as scheduled on January 14th nineteen-seventy-one Aloha from Hawaii was the first global concert satellite broadcast, reaching millions of viewers live and on tape delay. Elvis Presley's costume became the most recognized example of the elaborate concert garb with which his latter-day persona became closely associated. As described by Bobbie Ann Mason, "At the end of the show, when he spreads out his American Eagle cape, with the full stretched wings of the eagle studded on the back, he becomes a god figure." The accompanying double long-playing-record, released in February nineteen-seventy-one, went to number one and eventually sold over five million copies in the U.S.A. It proved to be Elvis Presley's last American number one pop long-playing-record during his lifetime.
At a midnight show the same month, four men rushed onto the stage in an apparent attack. Security men leapt to Elvis' defense, and Elvis Presley's karate instinct took over as he ejected one invader from the stage himself. Following the show, he became obsessed with the idea that the men had been sent by Mike Stone to kill him although they were shown to have been only over-exuberant fans. Elvis Presley's outbursts continued with such intensity that a physician was unable to calm him, despite administering large doses of medication.
Elvis Presley's divorce took effect on October 9th nineteen-seventy-three. He was now becoming increasingly unwell. Twice during the year he overdosed on barbiturates, spending three days in a coma in his hotel suite after the first incident. Toward the end of nineteen-seventy-three, he was hospitalized, semicomatose from the effects of pethidine addiction. According to his primary care physician, Dr. George C. Nichopoulos, Elvis Presley felt that by getting drugs from a doctor that he wasn't the common everyday junkie getting something off the street. Since his comeback, he had staged more live shows with each passing year, and nineteen-seventy-three saw one-hundred-and sixty-eight concerts, Elvis Presley's busiest schedule ever. Despite his failing health, in nineteen-seventy-four Elvis Presley undertook another intensive touring schedule.
Elvis Presley's condition declined precipitously in September nineteen-seventy-three. Keyboardist Tony Brown remembered Elvis Presley's arrival at a University of Maryland concert and said that Elvis fell out of the limousine, to his knees and that people jumped to help but he pushed them away. He walked on stage and held onto the mike for the first thirty minutes like it was a post. Guitarist John Wilkinson recalled that it was obvious Elvis was drugged. It was obvious there was something terribly wrong with Elvis Presley's body. It was so bad the words to the songs were barely intelligible. Elvis Presley however continued to play to sellout crowds.
On July 13th nineteen-seventy-six, Vernon Presley, who had become deeply involved in his son's financial affairs, fired "Memphis Mafia" bodyguards Red West (Elvis''s friend since the 1950s), Sonny West, and David Hebler, citing the need to "cut back on expenses". Elvis Presley was in Palm Springs at the time, and some suggest Elvis was too cowardly to face the three himself. Another associate of Elvis Presley's, John O'Grady, argued that the bodyguards were dropped because their rough treatment of fans had prompted too many lawsuits. However, Elvis Presley's stepbrother David Stanley has claimed that the bodyguards were fired because they were becoming too outspoken about Elvis' drug dependency.
RCA, which had enjoyed a steady stream of product from Elvis Presley for over a decade, grew anxious as his interest in spending time in the studio waned. After a December nineteen-seventy-three session that produced eighteen songs, enough for almost two long-playing-records, he did not enter the studio in nineteen-seventy-four. Colonel Tom Parker sold RCA on another concert record, 'Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis'. Recorded on March 20th nineteen-seventy-four , it included a version of "How Great Thou Art" that would win Elvis his third and final competitive Grammy Award. All three of Elvis Presley's competitive Grammy wins, out of fourteen total nominations, were for gospel recordings. Elvis Presley returned to the studio in Hollywood in March nineteen-seventy-five, but Colonel Tom Parker's attempts to arrange another session toward the end of the year were unsuccessful. In nineteen-seventy-six, RCA sent a mobile studio to Graceland that made possible two full-scale recording sessions at Elvis Presley's home. Even in that comfortable situation, recording was now becoming a struggle for him.
For all the concerns of Elvis Presley's label and manager, in studio sessions between July nineteen-seventy-three and October nineteen-seventy-six, Elvis Presley recorded virtually the entire contents of six long-playing-records. Though he was no longer a major presence on the pop charts, five of those long-playing-records entered the top five of the country chart, and three went to number one. The story was similar with Elvis Presley's singles; there were no major pop hits, but Elvis Presley was a significant force in not just the country market, but on adult contemporary radio as well. Eight studio singles from this period released during Elvis Presley's lifetime were top ten hits on one or both charts, four in nineteen-seventy-four alone. "My Boy" was a number one adult contemporary hit in nineteen-seventy-five, and "Moody Blue" topped the country chart and reached the second spot on the adult contemporary chart in nineteen-seventy-six. Perhaps Elvis Presley's most critically acclaimed recording of the era came that year, with what Greil Marcus described as Elvis Presley's "apocalyptic attack" on the soul classic "Hurt".
Elvis Presley and Linda Thompson split in November nineteen-seventy-six, and he took up with a new girlfriend, Ginger Alden. He proposed to Alden and gave her an engagement ring two months later, though several of hi s friends later claimed that he had no serious intention of marrying again. Elvis Presley's mind dulled by the pharmacopia he daily ingested, he was barely able to pull himself through his abbreviated concerts. In Alexandria, Louisiana, Elvis Presley was on stage for less than an hour and was impossible to understand. Elvis Presley failed to appear in Baton Rouge since he was unable to get out of his hotel bed, and the rest of the tour was cancelled. Despite the accelerating deterioration of his health, he stuck to most touring commitments. In Rapid City, South Dakota, he was so nervous on stage that he could hardly talk . A cousin, Billy Smith, recalled how Elvis Presley would sit in his room and chat for hours, sometimes recounting favorite Monty Python sketches and his own past escapades, but more often gripped by paranoid obsessions that reminded Smith of Howard Hughes. "Way Down", Elvis Presley's last single issued during his lifetime, came out on June 6th nineteen-seventy-six. On the next tour, CBS filmed two concerts for a TV Special, Elvis in Concert, to be aired in October nineteen-seventy-six . Two days later in Rapid City, He looked healthier, seemed to have lost a little weight, and sounded better, too. Elvis Presley's final concert was held in Indianapolis, Indiana at Market Square Arena, on June 26th, nineteen-seventy-six