|Even though times were hard when Elvis was growing up in Tupelo, Mississippi, he never lacked for love and he had music all around him. He was part of the first generation that started taking radios, record players and jukeboxes for granted. The Presleys couldn't afford a record player, but they always had a radio which provided the young Elvis with a beguiling variety that ranged from Frank Sinatra to the Ink Spots to Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Ernest Tubb. Elvis didn't miss a beat of it.
Elvis' first single, "That's All Right," was first aired on radio by Memphis disc jockey, Dewey Phillips. When the song
came out of radios all over Memphis on July 7,1954, it created quite a stir. Classmates of Elvis at Humes High were flabbergasted when they found out that this great new voice belonged to Elvis Presley; a lot of them didn't even know that he could sing. After playing the record six times, Dewey Phillips said, "It's gonna be a hit! It's gonna be a hit! Elvis, if you're out there listening, come on down here, I want to talk to you." Within minutes Elvis was there for his first interview and the start of his amazing career.
Right from the start of his career, a miraculous transformation took place when Elvis stepped on a stage, even if that stage was only a flatbed truck parked in a shopping centre. When he faced an audience, the soft-spoken, kind of shy Elvis turned into a powerful, mesmerizing Adonis, who belted out songs as if his life depended on it. Elvis, with his slicked-back hair and gleaming eyes, would just stand there for a moment to build up the suspense. Then, with the first shake of a leg, the fans would go wild and pandemonium would reign until Elvis left the stage and turned, once again, into the quiet, down-home boy from Tupelo and Memphis.
Elvis at a time when everybody considered him to be still "green"
|"Heartbreak Hotel" was based on an actual story of a middle-aged Miami man who left a note that said, "I walk a lonely street," just before taking his own life. The first time Elvis heard the song, he liked it. Little could he have known that it was destined to become his first really big, nationwide hit. It introduced Elvis to America in such an unusual and haunting way that he became an instant recording star.
Those who worked with Elvis on his first film "Love Me Tender" remember
him as being quiet, hard-working and very, very polite. Even though this was his first acting experience, he seemed to have an extra-ordinary ability to catch on. Unfortunately, Elvis seldom had the chance to hone his natural talent on a serious, insightful script. Still, he became one of Hollywood's top box office successes.
In the 1950s there weren't many national television shows that would take a chance with a new talent like Elvis. They were afraid that their audience might be offended by his choice of material and shocked by his free-wheeling style of performing. The way we look at the young Elvis today and the way he was perceived forty years ago are vastly different. His outrageous way of dressing and his gyrations must have made him seem like the equivalent of today's punk rocker. The first television star to see the enormous potential of Elvis was Jackie Gleason. "That kid is gonna make it and he's gonna make it big. And I want him on the show," Gleason demanded. So Elvis appeared six weeks in a row on the Gleason-produced Stage Show, hosted by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.
|No matter how great his wealth and fame, Elvis always wanted his permanent home to be in Memphis. Elvis bought Graceland in March 1957. Today it is the most recognisable residence in America, next to the White House, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Elvis enjoyed the privacy of Graceland with its music-note gates, stone fence, and rolling|
grounds. The fans were always there, just outside the gates. And sometimes they were lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Elvis himself, a brief time they would remember all their lives.
Shortly after Elvis' mother, Gladys, died in 1958, he sailed from Brooklyn on his way to Germany while the Army Band played "All Shook Up". In an effort to maintain his family life while overseas, Elvis brought his father and grandmother and his buddies, Red West and Lamar Fike, to Germany, where they all lived in a house near the post in Bad Nauheim. Most of the time he spent in Germany, Elvis devoted to the Army and staying home with his transplanted family. Those who predicted that Elvis' career would never recover from his stint in the military were wrong. When he returned to the States, his fans were more in love with him than ever.
Elvis' now-legendary generosity started long before he became famous. More than once during his childhood, Elvis' mother would realise one of his toys was missing. Upon quizzing him about it, she would find that he had given it to a friend whom he felt was less fortunate than he. Becoming affluent only added to this tendency. Throughout the years, he gave away cars, jewelry, homes and cash to friends, family, colleagues and even total strangers. In addition, he supported numerous charities. Most of what he did to help others will never be known because he usually asked that the recipient "keep it just between us".
|Elvis loved children, and regardless of what he was going through in his personal life, he always took the time to reach out to children who needed him and to help them if he could. Seldom a day went by without a letter arriving at Graceland from families of sick children who wanted nothing more than to talk with Elvis. Often he did more than just call. If he found out that the family was low on funds, he didn't hesitate to take care of the medical bills. Elvis made only one stipulation for this generosity - that it be kept a secret.|
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