Elvis Presley was the King of Rock & Roll. The craze his songs, his style, and on a lesser scale -- his movies created was the wonder of the time he lived. The adulation is still alive. His large following visiting Graceland -- his Memphis, Tennessee mansion -- and his lookalike contest is an interesting pageant.
Elvis would have been 79 today. He was born Elvis Aaron Presley on January 8, 1935 to Vernon Presley and Gladys Love Smith in Tupelo, Lee County, Mississippi.
The Presleys were sharecroppers. Vernon Presley was 18 and Gladys Smith was 21 when they married in 1933. Gladys was working in a garments factory and Vernon was a truck driver. Gladys became pregnant in 1934. She was with twins. Elvis first came out and next to follow was a still born boy Jessie Garon.
Elvis was blessed to have a fine mother in Gladys. He was spoilt to that degree that an only child and the meager income of the family budget could afford.
His parents took him to the church, where the services opened with songs. Elvis was very enthusiastic in joining the chorus. The only thing was that whenever he sang his legs would wiggle -- something that would ultimately become his style of singing.
In Tupelo schools he was a sweet and average student. Once when Elvis and his mother were at the tornado shelter they were singing to drive away fear. Elvis asked for a cycle and a guitar. His father told him that it would be beyond the reach of the family. He managed to get a guitar anyway, and started taking lessons from his uncles.
They ultimately moved to Memphis, Tennessee. His mother walked him to school till he was 15 and he carried his guitar. He also developed a fancy for garish clothes. Although his family was not economically well-off, they provided Elvis as much as they could.
His classmates prodded him into the variety show. There he performed very well, and it brought him out of his timidity. Meantime he graduated from school and began working for an Electric Company driving a truck. He caught the attention of the chief of Sun Record Company while he was getting two of his songs recorded on acetate disc for 2 dollars each at Sun's recording subsidiary Memphis Recording Service. Sun Record Company recorded two of his songs "That's All Right (Mama) and Blue Moon of Kentucky." The boss of Sun helped him in getting on two nationally reputed Radio programmes of Nashville's Grand Ol Opry and Louisiana Hayride of Shreveport.
He and two other music pals got into the business of holding outdoor concerts at different places of South. Elvis was already wearing his hair long got it dyed black and kept a sideburn. He was famous. Young music lovers became avid fan of his songs and singing style.
To add to his rise was the rivalry between NBC's Steve Allen Show and CBS's Ed Sullivan's Show. It sky-rocketed his fame and demand.
When Elvis got into movie, his manager Colonel saw to it that movies are completed in two to three weeks in place of more than a month, and that it contained as many Elvis songs as possible.
The movies -- as respected magazines observed -- were nothing but operas. Movies like King Creole and Jailhouse Rock were rare. He kept Elvis busy surrounded by his large retinue of cronies and flunkies, with his fleet of Cadillac, Rolls-Royces and Harley-Davidson. He threw money like a profligate. He had his horses, a sprawling mansion in Graceland. But he had his good sides. He gave his taxes most honourably. He helped his employees. He wrecked his cars but also gave away his Cadillac as gift even to strangers. He married Priscilla Beaulieu -- a blossoming daughter of an air force officer -- on May 1, 1967 and was soon blessed with daughter Lisa Marie on Feb 1, 1968.
But Elvis was going downhill. He was on drugs, putting on weight and his health was declining. His marriage ended in divorce in 1973. He became a hulk and was hospitalized in semi-comatose condition. His health did not improve. The king ultimately died on August 16, 1977.