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Elvis Presley

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Elvis Presley in a publicity photo for Jailhouse Rock, 1957

Elvis Aaron Presley was an American actor and rock singer. He was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, and died on August 16, 1977 (aged 42) in Memphis, Tennessee.

Presley made numerous #1 albums and singles, beginning in the late 1950s. By fusing American popular music and African American rhythm and blues, Presley changed American music and culture forever.

Birth and childhood[edit | edit source]

Presley was born in poverty to 18-year-old Vernon Elvis Presley and 22-year-old Gladys Love (Smith) Presley in a two-room shotgun house which Vernon's father had built in preparation for the child's birth.

As a boy, Presley entered a singing contest in 1945 at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. He placed fifth. He began taking guitar lessons, and had two radio appearances.

Presley graduated from high school in 1953, and made the decision to pursue a career in music. He began loitering in Memphis' black neighborhoods and around the recording studio, Sun Records.

Early career[edit | edit source]

Presley had a career with Sun Records where he release many hit songs, but his greatest he released with RCA Victor. Presley's first single, "Heartbreak Hotel", released in January 1956, was a #1 hit in the United States. His sexy, hip-churning, performance style created scandal and controversy. In November 1956, he made his movie debut in Love Me Tender. In 1958, he was drafted into military service.

Hollywood movies[edit | edit source]

Presley movie poster

Following military service, Presley continued making #1 singles and albums, but devoted most of his time to making splashy Hollywood musical movies like Blue Hawaii, G.I. Blues, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Speedway, and Roustabout. His movies were popular with his fans, but critically bashed.

Later years[edit | edit source]

Presley in 1970

In his later years, Presley performed successfully in Las Vegas and on television specials. In 1973, Presley and his wife Priscilla Beaulieu Presley divorced. They had one child, Lisa Marie. Presley never recovered from the blow of divorce.

His concerts in his last years were disasters. He was grossly overweight, and used too many drugs. Presley's health began a slow decline between 1973 and his death in 1977. Causes of his death are debated. It is possible that the 150 prescription drugs he was taking contributed to his death. A sudden, violent heart attack is the most likely cause, but has not yet been proven.

Graceland[edit | edit source]

Presley's Graceland in 2002

Presley's Memphis mansion, Graceland, opened to the public on June 7, 1982. The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991 and declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006. It is the most visited house in America, after the White House.


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