To Elvis fans, January 8, 1935 holds a significant place in our hearts. This is the day that a Rock and Roll icon was born, Elvis Aaron Presley, later to become known as the King of Rock and Roll. It was in the small town of Tupelo, MS that Vernon Elvis and Gladys Love Presley gave birth to twin sons, Jessie Garon, who was stillborn, and Elvis Aaron. Elvis was to become the only child of this impoverished family. Elvis was born in a small two room shack, Vernon and his brother built shortly after learning that he and Gladys were to become a family. Elvis grew up in a close-knit family environment with many grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They move from one house to another around Tupelo, and even lived for a short while in Biloxi, MS. The Presley's attend the Assembly of God church where Elvis' early musical experiences set stage for his later interests in music.
Elvis' first musical experiences occur at the young age of ten-years-old, while standing on a chair to better reach the microphone. At the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in Tupelo, MS, Elvis performed "Old Shep". For this performance, Elvis took second place, with a prize of $5.00 and free ride admission. A year later, Gladys buys Elvis his first guitar. Elvis had wanted a bicycle, but she talked him into accepting this guitar instead. Elvis got his bicycle for Christmas 1947. Elvis later uses this guitar and plays for his friends on occasion at Milam Junior High to sing a farewell, "Leaf on a Tree". Shortly thereafter, Elvis joins his parents packing up all their belongings and heading out in their 1939 Plymouth for Memphis, TN. Soon after other members of the Presley-Smith clan follow.
Elvis and his parents move into various public housing or low rent facilities in the North Memphis neighborhoods. They remain to have a hard life in Memphis, with Gladys and Vernon taking on odd jobs for several years. Elvis attends the Christine School, then moves on to Humes High School, now Humes Jr. High School. Elvis, too, takes on various jobs to help support the family. They continue their religious upbringing at the Assembly of God church. Elvis continues his singing and begins to buy his clothes on Beale street. He has let his hair grow long so he can slick it back and let his sideburns grow. It was because of this look that he was considered the good-natured misfit. Elvis performs at talent show competitions during his school days at Humes High School. On June 3, 1953, Elvis graduates from Humes High School.
Elvis takes on a job at Parker Machinists Shop right after graduation. During that summer, he drops by The Memphis Recording Service, now known as Sun Records, to make his first recording. On this session, he records "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin" for $4.00. He gives this recording to his mother as a belated birthday gift. The studio owner, Sam Phillips, isn't in, so Marion Keisker, his assistant, assists with the recording. By fall, Elvis has moved on to Crown Electric Company doing various jobs, including delivery truck driver. He begins attending night school to study to be an electrician.
Elvis returns to Sun Studios to make another demo, this time recording "Casual Love Affair" and "I'll Never Stand in Your Way". Sam Phillips sits in on this recording and is intrigued by what he hears. Marion encourages Sam to call Elvis for a return to the studio. Sam asks Elvis to record "Without You" but is not satisfied by what he hears this time. Sam wants Elvis to team up with Scotty Moore (guitar) and Bill Black (bass), Memphis local musicians, to try their hand at playing together. They work hard at various numbers but nothing clicks until they start playing around with "That's All Right". They back this with "Blue Moon of Kentucky". This song becomes the first of 5 releases on the Sun Label. Elvis, Scotty and Bill begin playing small clubs and other gigs locally and around the South. Elvis' dream is to appear on the Grand Ole Opry, but is shunned during his audition and told to return to his truck driving job. This was very devastating to him, thankfully it didn't set him back at all.
Elvis' next big appearance is on the "Louisiana Hayride", live show aired on Saturday nights over the local radio station, KWKH, in Shreveport, LA. This show is aired over 190 stations in 13 states, and was one of the Grand Ole Opry's chief competitors. Elvis is such a success on that first appearance, that he signs a one year contract for appearances. Elvis' popularity begins to grow.
Elvis, Scotty and Bill continue to tour the both on their own and in package shows with various country stars, as well as performances with the Hank Snow Attractions. It is at this point that Colonel Tom Parker becomes involved with the trio and soon signs a contract with Elvis to take over management. DJ Fontana also joins the group during their performances with the "Louisiana Hayride".
Soon after Colonel Parker takes on Elvis' management, he signs a contract with RCA Victor records which would become his sole recording label from then on. It has been reported that this contract was bought for $40,000 and a $5,000 bonus for Elvis. Elvis also signs up with Hill and Range Publishing Co. to set up a separate company called Elvis Presley Music, Inc., set up to share the publishing ownership of and writer's royalties of songs bought for Elvis to record. In January, 1956 Elvis makes his first recording with them, "Heartbreak Hotel" backed with "I Was The One" and sold over 300,000 copies. The Jordanaires begin working with Elvis as backup vocalists. Elvis also appears on "Stage Show" with Scotty, Bill and DJ for six weekly performances. This was Elvis' first network appearance. By now the trio are making many appearances and they have become one of the hottest acts around. Later television performances include, "The Milton Berle Show", "The Steve Allen Show, in which he sings "Hound Dog" dressed in a tux to a live Basset hound, as well as three appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show", who had once proclaimed that he would never have the likes of Elvis on his show, until he saw the ratings sour after his appearances on the Berle and Allen shows.
In August 1956, Elvis begins filming his first motion picture "Love Me Tender", which premieres in November that year. It becomes a smash hit and the critics reviews aren't bad either.
January 1957, the second production begins, "Loving You" which premieres in July 1957. This picture quickly reaches the top ten at the box office and more hit records are made from its success. Elvis makes 2 more movies by January 1958, "Jailhouse Rock", which would become one of his best pictures, and "King Creole".
March 1957, Elvis buys Graceland, for himself, his parents and his grandparents, but it won't be ready to move into until April. The family would spend their first Christmas in this house, and sadly Gladys' last.
On March 15, 1958, Elvis performs two shows in Memphis. These two shows would become his last shows until after his stint in the Army. On March 24, 1958, Elvis Aaron Presley, SR 53310761, is inducted into the army. He would be out of the public eye for nearly 2 years. Elvis brings his family to Fort Hood, and later to Germany, living close to the bases. During Elvis' assignment at Fort Hood, Gladys becomes ill and hospitalized with acute hepatitis. Elvis is granted emergency leave and she soon passes after his arrival to Memphis. Elvis returns to Fort Hood after the funeral, and soon departs for Germany in October 1958.
In November 1959, Elvis has a party at his home and a mutual friend invites Priscilla Beaulieu, who is the daughter of an Air Force Captain, they meet, and you know the rest of the story. Elvis spends the rest of his tour in Germany with Priscilla. He later moves her into Graceland, after gaining permission from her father.
In March of 1960, Elvis leaves Germany. His military career has completed, and he is officially discharged from active duty. He holds a press conference after arriving in New Jersey, and later departs for Memphis where he is greeted by crowds of fans from all over the country. Once again, he holds a press conference upon arriving home, in his father's office behind Graceland.
On March 26, 1960, he tapes a special "Welcome home, Elvis" version of Frank Sinatra's ABC-TV variety show, for which he is paid a record sum for any single performance. After the show is aired, a new record is set attracting 41.5% of the airing audience.
Elvis continues to make movies, releasing "GI Blues", "Flaming Star", "Blue Hawaii", "Wild In The Country", "Follow That Dream", "Kid Galahad", "Girls, Girls, Girls", "It Happened At The World's Fair", "Fun In Acapulco", "Viva Las Vegas", "Kissin' Cousins", "Roustabout", "Girl Happy", "Tickle Me", "Frankie and Johnny", "Paradise, Hawaiian Style", "Harum Scarum", Spinout", "Double Trouble", "Easy Come, Easy Go", "Clambake", "Speedway", "Stay Away, Joe", "Live A Little, Love A Little", "Charro", and "The Trouble With Girls", during the years of 1960-1968. Most do very well at the box office, and a few don't fair either at the box office, nor in record sales.
February, 1967, Elvis buys a 163-acre ranch in Mississippi, he calls the Circle G Ranch. He and his entourage and their families will use this as an escape and for horseback riding, which had become too much for Graceland.
May 1, 1967, Elvis and Priscilla are married in a private ceremony, attended by a small group of family and friends at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. They then spend a few days in Palm Springs for their honeymoon. Later that month, they will dress in their wedding attire again, and have a second wedding reception at Graceland in the trophy room for all their friends and family who did not attend in Las Vegas.
February 1, 1968, Lisa Marie Presley is born nine months to the day after their marriage
June 1968, Elvis begins taping of his '68 Special. This is his first performance before a live audience since his 1961 performance on the USS Potomac. He is reunited with drummer, DJ Fontana, and guitarist, Scotty Moore (Bill Black had died). During this reunion, they perform an informal jam session and are woven throughout the special. Elvis performs many old hits and introduces a new one "Memories". It is this show that Elvis is at his best he has ever been in his career, and better than any other performer of his era, in his business. At the end of the show, another hit is introduced, "If I Can Dream" which was written especially for the show, as a message song, stemming from conversations with Elvis and about his feelings of the times. On December 3, 1968, the '68 Television special is aired and is one of the biggest television hits of the year.
Beginning July 31, 1969, Elvis is booked at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, for a four week, 57 show engagement. The International Hotel, has just been built and has the largest showroom in the city. Elvis puts together, top notch musicians, an orchestra, a male gospel backup group, and a black female backup group for the shows. It is at this point that he introduces his infamous jumpsuits, inspired by his karate outfits. The suits start out simple but later become more flashy and elaborate. The engagement breaks all existing records of attendance, and he gets rave reviews from both the critics and the public.
January, 1970, Elvis returns to Vegas for another month engagement, which many think was a mistake returning so soon, but he soon breaks his own attendance records. This engagement prompts a live album. Later that year, he returns to Vegas, this time to film a documentary, "That's The Way It Is", which is filmed with Elvis off stage, on stage, in the recording studio, and at rehearsals.
January 16, 1971---Elvis and nine other men accept the honor of being named "One of the Ten Outstanding Men of the Nation" by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce. He is given this honor because of his achievements in his field of endeavor illustrating the opportunities available in the free enterprise system. Also for humanitarianism, and community service. Men of Science, invention, filming, performing, and politics, have all been given this honor. This honor was a sign for Elvis and all of those who knew him, and loved him, that he had achieved acceptance, recognition, and respect for his work and for the person he was.
June 1971, the two-room house Elvis was born and lived his first 13 years, is opened to the public for tours. The house was restored by The East Heights Garden Club in Tupelo.
A long stretch of Highway 51 South is renamed Elvis Presley Blvd.
Elvis returns to Vegas and to touring.
Early 1972, Elvis and Priscilla separate, and she moves out with Lisa Marie. Their separation is later formalized in July. Elvis begins seeing Linda Thompson, and she will be his main companion until 1976.
January 1973, Elvis history, with his "Aloha From Hawaii - Via Satellite" special. Performed at the Honolulu International Center Arena on January 14, 1973, broadcast live at 12:30AM Hawaiian time, to Australia, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, and South Vietnam, and other countries. A tape of the show will be seen in America on April 4th on NBC. The broadcast attracts nearly 90% of the Asian audiences and 51% of the American audiences. The total audience will be over one billion people and seen in 40 countries.
October 9, 1973, Elvis and Priscilla make their divorce final. Priscilla is granted custody of Lisa Marie, with formal visitation rights for Elvis, although he will spend time with her regularly. Elvis and Priscilla will continue to be close friends.
Elvis goes back on tour, with regular appearances in Las Vegas.
In November 1975, Elvis purchases, a Convair 880 and renovates it. He names the jet "Lisa Marie".
Elvis goes back on tour and works in several recording sessions.
Late November 1976, he and Linda Thompson split up, and Elvis meets Ginger Alden by the end of November. She will become his companion until the time of his death. Once again, Elvis goes back on the road, and to Vegas, until June 26, 1977, where he will give his final performance of his career, at the Indiana's Market Square Arena, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Elvis is about to begin another tour. Shortly after midnight, after a late night visit to his dentist, Elvis returns to Graceland. He takes care of last minute details for the tour which is to begin the next day. He retires to the master suite of Graceland around 7:00 am to rest for his evening flight. By morning Elvis is found dead and by mid-afternoon, this shocking news will register around the world.
Elvis' legacy lives on in all of us and probably will continue to live on long past our days.
This page is a shortened version touching only the highlights of Elvis' life and career, as taken from information provided by Elvis Presley Enterprises and Graceland..