Elvis Aaron Presley, in the humblest of circumstances, was born to Vernon and Gladys Presley in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. His twin brother, Jessie Garon, was stillborn, leaving Elvis to grow up as an only child. He and his parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948, and Elvis graduated from Humes High School there in 1953.
Elvis’ musical influences were the pop and country music of the time, the gospel music he heard in church and at the all-night gospel sings he frequently attended, and the black R&B he absorbed on historic Beale Street as a Memphis teenager. In 1954, he began his singing career with the legendary Sun Records label in Memphis. In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. By 1956, he was an international sensation. With a sound and style that uniquely combined his diverse musical influences and blurred and challenged the social and racial barriers of the time, he ushered in a whole new era of American music and popular culture.
He starred in 33 successful films, made history with his television appearances and specials, and knew great acclaim through his many, often record-breaking, live concert performances on tour and in Las Vegas. Globally, he has sold over one billion records, more than any other artist. His American sales have earned him gold, platinum or multi-platinum awards for 150 different albums and singles, far more than any other artist. Among his many awards and accolades were 14 Grammy nominations (3 wins) from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received at age 36, and his being named One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation for 1970 by the United States Jaycees. Without any of the special privileges his celebrity status might have afforded him, he honorably served his country in the U.S. Army.
His talent, good looks, sensuality, charisma, and good humor endeared him to millions, as did the humility and human kindness he demonstrated throughout his life. Known the world over by his first name, he is regarded as one of the most important figures of twentieth century popular culture. Elvis died at his Memphis home, Graceland, on August 16, 1977.
January 8, 1935: Elvis Aron Presley is born to Gladys and Vernon Presley in a two-room cabin on North Saltillo Road in East Tupelo, Mississippi.
Summer 1953: Elvis Presley stops at Memphis Recording Service to record two songs, “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” as a birthday present for his mother. Phillips notes that Presley has a good feel for ballads and should be invited back.
July 18, 1953: Elvis Presley, then earning his keep as a truck driver, drops by the Memphis Recording Service, home of Sun Records. He privately records two songs ("My Happiness"/"That’s When Your Heartaches Begin") for the sum of $4, leaving with a ten-inch acetate. Office manager Marion Keisker jots a note for owner Sam Phillips: “Good ballad singer.”
January 4, 1954: A young Elvis Presley visits the Memphis Recording Service to record “Casual Love Affair” and “I’ll Never Stand in Your Way” and meets Sun Records owner Sam Phillips.
June 27, 1954: After several fruitless recording sessions, Sam Phillips pairs Elvis Presley with guitarist Scotty Moore and bass player Bill Black. He hopes the singer might find his voice by rehearsing with other musicians cut from the same country, pop, gospel and R&B cloth.
July 5, 1954: Rock and roll history is made when Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore and Bill Black spontaneously perform bluesman Arthur “Big Boy” Cruddup’s “That’s All Right” in romping, uptempo style. The next day, bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” is given a similarly playful treatment. On July 19th, the two songs are released as Elvis Presley’s first single, which bears the legend “Sun 209.”
July 19, 1954: Sun releases “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” by Elvis Presley, backed by guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black.
July 20, 1954: Elvis Presley makes his…