Rock and Roll Flyer: Elvis Presley

By: Zakaria Cherif

How did this musical artist or group change Rock and Roll/Rhythm and Blues forever?

The man that we most commonly know as just "Elvis" wasn’t the first to sing in a rock ’n’ roll style, so he can’t be credited with inventing it. But, his version of this new music became widely popular during the mid-1950s. He spread rock ’n’ roll music across the country, making it popular to a wide audience, especially teenagers. In that regard, he was a true innovator. Elvis also yielded a strong influence on youth culture. During the 1950s, teenagers had begun to think of themselves as being different from their parents’ generation. Because of the economic prosperity of the period, teens enjoyed a disposable income that they could spend on themselves instead of contributing toward family survival. With that money they dressed themselves in fashions marketed to their age group, went to movies that featured stars of their generation, and listened to music that appealed to them. So it wasn’t a surprise when Presley’s rock ’n’ roll music, his hairstyle, and his fashion sense became a part of this new culture for teenagers.

What components of this this artist made them so appealing in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s?

Elvis' interesting music style began to intrigue several people and thus made his music very very interesting. That same year, he signed with RCA Records, a deal worked out by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Presley was on a roll, scoring his first No. 1 single with "Heartbreak Hotel," as well as his first No. 1 album, Elvis Presley, and signing a movie contract with Paramount Pictures—all in 1956. Despite the uproar that his sexy dance moves caused, he also became a popular guest on a number of television variety shows. Soon, Presley was everywhere—on the radio, television and the silver screen—working as a musician and actor. His first film, Love Me Tender (1956), was a box office hit. Even a stint in the U.S. military couldn't put a damper on Presley's thriving career. He received his draft notice in 1957, and was inducted into the Army the following March. He eventually served in Germany for about a year and a half. Shortly before Presley left for Europe, his beloved mother, Gladys, died. He was granted a leave and returned to Memphis for the funeral. Deeply saddened by her death, Presley returned to duty. While in Germany, his spirits were lifted slightly when he met a young teenager named Priscilla Beaulieu.

Summarize the Roots of Rock “n” roll/Rhythm and Blues.

Originally, Rock and roll emerged as a defined musical style in the United States in the early to mid-1950s. It derived most directly from the rhythm and blues music of the 1940s, which itself developed from earlier blues and swing music, and was also influenced by country and gospel, and traditional folk music. Rock and roll in turn provided the main basis for the music that, since the mid-1960s, has been generally known simply as rock music. The phrase rocking and rollingoriginally described the movement of a ship on the ocean, but was used by the early twentieth century, both to describe a spiritual fervor and as a sexual analogy. Various gospel, blues and swing recordings used the phrase before it became used more frequently – but still intermittently – in the late 1930s and 1940s, principally on recordings and in reviews of what became known as rhythm and blues music aimed at a different audience. In 1951, Cleveland-based disc jockey Freed began playing this music style while popularizing the term rock and rollto describe it.

Today, what makes this musical artist or group still popular?

Elvis brought to white teenagers a more commonly geared music aimed for black individuals. He was a great performer and he had a great voice. He had a unique style and an interesting personality. No one has ever come close to his ability. Almost every major recording artist acknowledges Elvis is the King. His movies although not usually acclaimed are still screened on TV and making new generations aware of the artist we all love. It was live on TV in the 50s that Elvis showed America what he could do.

What are some of their top songs?

Their top songs in a chronological order are:

That's all Right

Mystery Train

Heartbreak Hotel

Don't be Cruel

Jailhouse Rock

Viva Las Vegas

How Great Thou Art

In the Ghetto

Suspicious Minds

Burning Love

Timeline: The Life of Elvis

  • 1935- Elvis Aaron Presley is born to Vernon and Gladys Presley in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, the second of identical twins. His brother was stillborn. Elvis' middle name was also sometimes spelled as Aron.

  • 1953- After moving to Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis graduates from Humes High school. He performs at a school talent contest and makes a demo acetate disc of "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin."

  • 1956- Elvis' first RCA single, "Heartbreak Hotel," is released, becoming the first Elvis single to sell over 1 million copies, followed by his first album, "Elvis Presley," which goes to No. 1 on Billboard's pop album chart. Elvis makes the first of three appearances on television's Ed Sullivan Show, attracting the highest ratings ever for any television variety show. His first movie, "Love Me Tender," opens in November.

  • 1973- Elvis makes television and entertainment history with his "Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii - Via Satellite." It is seen in about 40 countries by 1 billion to 1.5 billion people. The concert album hits No. 1 on the Billboard pop album chart -- his last No. 1 album on that chart.

  • 1973- Elvis is hospitalized in Memphis, battling health problems, including an increasing dependency upon prescription drugs. He is back in the hospital in early 1975 and April 1977.