Welcome to 2020! This year, January 8th marks what would have been Elvis Presley's 85th birthday. To honor his life and career (and larger-than-life legacy), we are taking an up-close look at the King of Rock 'n' Roll- from his humble beginnings and unprecedented rise to fame, to his untimely death and world-famous grave.
Early Life and Music Endeavors
Elvis Presley was born January 8th, 1935 in a small house his father built in Tupelo, Mississippi. Elvis was a twin, but sadly his brother Jesse was stillborn. His parents, Vernon and Gladys, were completely devoted to their only child, and he was very close to them throughout childhood and beyond. He was especially close to his mother, who was very protective of him even into adulthood.
Elvis Presley's birthplace
,In school, Elvis received mostly average grades and didn't excel in music class. He discovered his love of music at the church where his family attended, and when he received his first guitar as a birthday present, the naturally-shy boy started to enjoy playing and singing for others. When he graduated from high school in 1953, he was already convinced that music was his calling, and so later that summer introduced himself at Sun Records recording studio in Memphis. This was a move that would prove to launch his career.
Elvis's big break was perhaps his debut performance on "Louisiana Hayride", which was at the time the Grand Ole Opry's competitor. It was the fall of 1954 and Elvis rode the Hayride into interstate success. In 1955, with the help of his new manager, "Colonel" Tom Parker, 20-year-old Elvis Presley was signed to RCA Victor.
1956 was the year Elvis Presley became a household name. RCA promoted their newest star to no ends. With hit after hit, including "Heartbreak Hotel," "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Hound Dog," there was no stopping his rise to fame.
It didn't take long for Elvis' signature "gyrating" performances to cause some controversy, as it would throw his audience (mostly love-sick teenage girls) into hysterics. For a while he was unwelcome on several TV entertainment shows, and was even labeled as "unfit for family viewing" by none other than Ed Sullivan. Elvis, of course, couldn't have disagreed more, and kept doing his thing.
Transcending the music scene while still releasing hits under RCA, Elvis went on to star in major movie roles in the '50s, including Love Me Tender and Jailhouse Rock. In 1957, he bought his iconic Memphis mansion, Graceland, and asked his beloved parents to live there with him.
Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
When Elvis Met Priscilla
Not long after her son joined the Army in 1958, Elvis's mother Gladys fell ill with hepatitis. She passed away two days after he was granted leave to be with her, and he was shattered. Perhaps what brought him consolation was the sparks he experienced upon meeting a young fan, Priscilla Beaulieu, while subsequently stationed in Germany.
After dating for over seven years (Priscilla being ten years his junior), she and Elvis were married in Las Vegas on May 1, 1967. Their daughter, Lisa Marie, was born exactly nine months later. During this time, Elvis's career began to suffer as the songs he released under RCA began to be described as lackluster. Now a new husband and father, he thought the better part of his career was over.
But that wasn't the case. In 1968, NBC aired "The '68 Comeback Special" to national acclaim, launching Elvis Presley back into the spotlight.
Divorce and Decline in Health
By 1972, the Presley's marriage was on the rocks. Both Elvis and Priscilla were unfaithful and hardly even lived together anymore. In 1973, they were divorced.
Over the next several years, Elvis turned more and more to drugs to get him through his performances. He became a shadow of his former self, falling so much out of shape that that even his vocals began to suffer. On August 16th, 1977, he was found unresponsive, taken to the hospital and declared dead.
Funeral and Burial
Elvis had a public viewing at Graceland on August 17th, which countless mourners, many of them openly weeping, attended. The next day his funeral was held at Graceland, and his body subsequently transported to its original burial site at Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis. When his grave and the grave of his mother were disturbed some months later, both were moved to the grounds of Graceland, where they remain to this day.
Elvis Presley's grave at Graceland
Elvis Presley's life was one of fame, fortune, and deep intrigue...and his death of mystery and even controversy. If you'd like to learn more about the "King of Rock 'n' Roll," his life and death, here are a few links that may interest you:
I hope you enjoyed the reading! Stay tuned for more of our "Famous Graves" series in the near future.