The King of Rock Passes Away – 8/16/1977

History |


Elvis Presley is still known as the king of rock and roll. His incredible career started in Memphis, Tennessee when he discovered rock music and basically turned it on its head. He famously went on the Ed Sullivan show and was censored for his gyrating hips. He sent girls into a tizzy any time he was on TV or performed and he revolutionized the way that people consumed music and musicians. He was one of the first “rock stars” that capitalized on his good looks and presence. 

On this day in history Elvis Presley passed away in his Memphis complex. Graceland was his home for a long time and he died of a heart attack there. He was only 42 years old, and the heart attack was attributed not to his health, but to his addiction to prescription drugs, primarily barbiturates.

Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. His birthday was January 8th 1935 and not a lot of people know that Presley was actually a twin. His twin died during childbirth and he grew up dirt poor in Tupilo and later Memphis. Presley found work as a truck driver following his high school years and when he was 19 he walked into a recording studio and paid them four dollars to record some music as a present for his mother.

The owner of the studio was named Sam Phillips, and he thought that Presley had a unique vibe. He was intrigued by his incredibly soulful voice and made sure Presley could practice his music with some local musicians. Phillips heard Elvis sing a popular R and B song entitled “That’s All Right” and took note of the intriguing quality of his voice and the country flavor to it. He agreed to release the track as Presley’s first Single on the Sun Record label. The local charts pushed the song to the top of the charts and Presley was on his way to superstardom.

Elvis became an instant hit after that in the South and in 1955 Sun Records sold Presley’s contract to a national record label, RCA. They paid 40,000 for the transferring of the contract. The first song he put out on RCA records was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Following that sensational track was a double sided single featuring “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” The infamous Ed Sullivan appearance happened in 1956 and after that, it was clear that Elvis Presley was an absolute star among music fans and fickle teenagers who went into absolute hysterics over his gyrations and his looks. Of course, teenagers have an extreme amount of buying power. 

In 1958 Elvis Presley was drafted and in a shocking turn served in West Germany as a Jeep driver. Teenagers across the country were overcome with sadness as they thought Presley had the chance of dying overseas. Colonel Tom Parker ended up keeping people satisfied with a lot of recordings before his departure. Five singles were released while Elvis was in Germany with the army and apparently they all became million dollar sellers.

He was discharged as a sergeant in 1960 and started to change his style. His newer edgy style made his dramatic romantic ballads huge sellers. He also starred in a few different movies and then married his loving wife Priscilla. They had a daughter named Lisa Marie who today is also involved in music. She had a short marriage to the king of pop, Michael Jackson. 

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