The King of Rock 'n' Roll
Elvis Presley is considered the "King of rock 'n' roll." Why? Before Elvis, very few people had ever heard of rock 'n' roll. It was a brand-new style of music. He was the first big rock star and made this new style of music popular around the world.
Elvis was born on January 8, 1935, in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi. His full name is Elvis Aaron Presley. He was actually born with a twin brother who sadly died at birth.
Before He Was the King
Elvis grew up within a very close family. He lived very near to his grandparents and cousins in Tupelo. The family didn’t have much money when Elvis was growing up. Elvis loved music from a young age. He enjoyed listening to gospel music in church, blues from local African American musicians, and country music on the radio. Back then, there was no television, so families spent a lot of time listening to music on the radio.
When Elvis was 10, he was in a talent show at the Mississippi Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. He stood on a chair and sang a county song called "Old Shep." Elvis came in 5th place and won $5 worth of ride tickets. Awesome!
Life for the Presley family was hard. Elvis’ parents moved around a lot to find jobs and provide a better life for the family. Elvis’ parents couldn’t afford to buy him a bicycle, so they got him a guitar instead. His first guitar cost $12.95 at the hardware store. Elvis also worked at different jobs to help support himself and his parents.
When Elvis was in high school, he started to be known around Memphis for singing and playing guitar. He started to dress a bit different than the other kids. He also wore his hair longer and slick, and let his sideburns grow. He was very different than the other kids. People referred to him as a "good-natured misfit."
While at Humes High, Elvis entered a student talent show. He nervously sang with his guitar. Elvis was surprised by the applause he got, and even more surprised when he won.
The King Is Born
In 1953, Elvis was working at different jobs and practicing his music at the same time. He went to a small studio to record his first record. Early recordings that singers make are called demo recordings. He recorded two songs for his demo in Sun Studios in Memphis for $4 and gave the recording to his mother as a birthday present.
A year later, Elvis made his second recording. This time he recorded it with a band of local musicians. One musician was a guitar player named Scotty Moore, and the other was a bass player named Bill Black. The recording came out much better than the first. Elvis and his new band quit their jobs and started playing music at small clubs and fairs around the South.
The band continued to play and their popularity grew. Teenage kids really liked Elvis. His unusual style, hot moves, and good looks caused excitement wherever he played. Sometimes the crowds broke through the barricades to get closer to him.
Two days after Elvis’ 25th birthday, he signed his first record contract. He recorded a song called "Heartbreak Hotel." It quickly went on to sell over one million records and was a #1 hit! Elvis was on his way to becoming the first rock 'n' roll star.
That same year, Elvis went to Hollywood and made many TV appearances and starred in movies. People were going crazy for Elvis.
In 1958, Elvis was surprised when he was drafted into the United States Army. Being drafted is when the government tells a person that they have to go into the army. They have no choice and have to go. Elvis was no exception to the rule. When men go into the army, they have to get all their hair shaved off. There were many pictures taken of Elvis with his famous "buzz cut."
The Legend of Elvis
In 1960, Elvis finished his time in the military and got back to his music. Soon after, he married a young woman named Priscilla. In 1967, they had a baby girl named Lisa Marie.
They lived in their mansion called Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. Graceland was a large ranch with many horses.
Over the next 17 years, Elvis continued to perform concerts and appear on TV.
Sadly, Elvis died in 1977 of heart failure. He was only 42 years old.
Elvis had an amazing career in music. He was the king of rock ‘n’ roll, but also was a great talent in other styles like country and gospel. To this day, he is still one of the most popular singers in music. Elvis’ Memphis home, Graceland, is a museum open to the public. Thousands of fans from around the world visit every year to get a look at where "the King" lived.