Happy Birthday, Elvis Presley, born on this date in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
I haven’t visited the King’s birthplace in Tupelo, but I did tour his Graceland home in Memphis, Tennessee, and it is every bit the shagadelic, studded-jumpsuit-and-gold-records-packed wonder that you’ve heard about and expect to see. The basic tour is plenty unless you’re a die-hard fan.
Another place that tells a powerful story about Elvis and many others at the beginning of rock & roll is tiny Sun Studio in Memphis. The well-guided tour is filled with anecdotes and insights about Elvis (who first recorded there,) Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison. Go all out and get a photo of yourself next to the microphone where so many of them sang their hits.
I was intrigued to learn how producer and Sun Records owner Sam Phillips found amazing talent all over the South, then brought it to the microphone to record genre-busting music. Even his use of drums in recordings was revolutionary for that time, because Deep South radio stations often would not play any songs that included drums because that made the music “too black.”
If you are a bit mystified by Mr. Presley’s fame, find or rent the documentary “Elvis ‘56 – In the Beginning,” which does a great job of showing what the hysteria and hoopla were (are?) all about.
Here he is in 1956 on the Milton Berle TV show, in all his hip-swiveling glory (here’s the direct link to the video on YouTube if you can’t see the embed box below:)
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