Elvis Presley grew up from humble circumstances to become one of the biggest stars in rock ‘n’ roll—dubbed “The King” of the genre. By the mid-1950s, he had made appearances on radio, television, and the big picture. The 42-year-old died on August 16, 1977, of heart failure caused by his drug addiction. Presley has remained one of the world’s most popular music idols after his death.
Elvis Aron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935. (He eventually altered his middle name spelling to the biblical version of Aaron.) Presley was meant to be a twin, but his sibling, Jesse Garon (sometimes written Jessie), died before birth. Presley rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most famous names in rock ‘n’ roll.
Presley and his family had little money and moved about a lot as a result of his loving, working-class parents, Vernon and Gladys. He was passionately attached to his parents, particularly his mother, and was raised to believe in God. Presley and his parents attended the Assembly of God Church, where gospel music became a big influence on him.
On his 11th birthday in 1946, Presley received his first guitar as a gift from his mother, and he had his first taste of musical success a few years later when he won a talent show at Humes High School in Memphis. He worked a variety of jobs after graduation in 1953, all while following his musical goal. That year, he cut his first demo record at what became known as Sun Studio, and before enough, record label owner Sam Phillips decided to take the budding performer under his wing. Presley began traveling and recording soon after, hoping for his first big break. In 1954, “That’s All Right” was Presley’s first single.
Presley began to gain a following in 1955, with fans captivated to his distinctive musical style, provocative gyrating hips, and good looks. Colonel Tom Parker, his manager, arranged for him to contract with RCA Records that same year. In 1956, Presley was on a roll, having achieved his first No. 1 single with “Heartbreak Hotel,” as well as his first No. 1 album, Elvis Presley, and signing a film contract with Paramount Pictures. Despite the outrage produced by his seductive dance movements, he became a famous guest on a number of television variety shows.
Presley was soon in demand as a musician and actor. Love Me Tender (1956), his first picture, was a box office success.
Throughout his incredible career, Presley helped popularize rock ‘n’ roll music in America, giving him the moniker “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” He also received three Grammy Awards for gospel recordings. Presley was a huge musical force, with 18 No. 1 singles, including “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Good Luck Charm,” and “Suspicious Minds,” and numerous gold and platinum albums.
His career skyrocketed after an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956. Sixty million people tuned in to see Presley, then 21, perform “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog,” and “Love Me Tender,” complete with the hip gyrations that many deemed offensive. He returned to the show twice more during the next year, with the third appearance edited from the waist down.
Elvis Presley’s 1957 record Elvis’ Christmas record topped the Billboard charts for four weeks and went on to sell over 20 million copies in various editions, making it the most selling holiday album of all time.
Also in 1957, Presley’s song “Jailhouse Rock” from the film of the same name reached No. 1.In 2021, Rolling Stone rated it 216th on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
Other notable Presley hits include “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “All Shook Up,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”
Presley was one of the first performers to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. However, he has received recognition for his contributions to a variety of musical genres, most notably rock, country, and gospel. Presley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame posthumously in 1998, and the Gospel Music Association’s Gospel Music Hall of Fame three years later.
Military Service and Marriage
Even a spell in the United States military couldn’t dampen Presley’s blossoming career. He was drafted in 1957 and was enlisted into the Army the following March. He eventually spent around a year and a half in Germany.
Gladys Presley, Presley’s adored mother, died just before Elvis went for Europe. He was given permission to return to Memphis for the funeral. Presley returned to duty, deeply saddened by her passing.
His spirits were brightened significantly while in Germany when he met Priscilla Beaulieu, a young adolescent. On May 1, 1967, in Las Vegas, Nevada, the couple fell in love and married.
Movies and Soundtracks
Presley restarted his career after leaving the Army in 1960, and was soon back at the top of the charts with the soundtrack to his picture GI Blues. He kept making songs and acting in films like Blue Hawaii (1961), Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), and Viva Las Vegas (1964). Although his films were frequently panned by reviewers and spectators, he made a profit, and the soundtracks sold well.
However, by the late 1960s, the enigmatic performer appeared to be losing box office attraction. In order to prove that he was still The King, he recorded his first TV special in 1968, which became known as the ’68 Comeback Special. He astonished the audience with his performance, which highlighted his abilities as a vocalist and guitarist.
Daughter, Divorce, and Drug Addiction
Presley’s personal life appeared to be improving at this period. In 1968, a year after Johnny and Priscilla married, they welcomed a daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. Unfortunately, this happy period would not last. Presley’s marriage was in disarray by the early 1970s. When the couple split in 1973, Priscilla was granted custody of Lisa Marie.
Presley was also dealing with other personal issues, such as a growing prescription medication addiction. The once-thin rock star was struggling with his weight, and his destructive lifestyle caught up with him that fall when he was hospitalized for drug-related health issues.
Despite his personal difficulties, Presley remained a popular attraction in Las Vegas and on tour. In June 1977, he gave his final concert in Indianapolis, Indiana. Following the show, he returned to Graceland, his Memphis residence, to prepare for another tour.
Death and Legacy
Presley died of heart failure on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42. His death was eventually determined to be the result of prescription drug misuse. Presley was laid to rest on the grounds of Graceland, among the graves of his mother, father, and grandmother Minnie Mae Hood Presley.
Many people were saddened by Presley’s death. According to the FTD flower delivery service, over 3,100 floral arrangements were ordered on the day of his death, setting a one-day record in the United States.
On August 18, an estimated 18,000 people lined Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis with signs, flowers, and memorabilia to see his burial procession.According to The Washington Post, Presley’s body was delivered in a white Cadillac hearse inside a rose-covered coffin. A private ceremony at Graceland was attended by approximately 200 family members. Celebrities and significant individuals such as John Wayne, Burt Reynolds, Ann-Margret, and Caroline Kennedy attended.
Presley left behind his sole daughter, Lisa Marie, and four grandchildren, all of whom were born after his death. Lisa Marie had two children with her previous husband, Danny Keough: Danielle Riley Keough in 1989 and Benjamin Storm Presley Keough in 1992. Danielle Keough is an actress who goes by her middle and last names. She has had credited parts during the 2010s, most notably in Daisy Jones & The Six. Lisa Marie welcomed twin twins with her fourth husband, Michael Lockwood, in 2008: Harper Vivienne Anne and Finley Aaron Love.