Tuniver.se - Your music. Discovered.
Get TuneUp Companion!

Artist: Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Bio

Elvis Aaron Presley (Tupelo, Mississippi, January 8, 1935 - Memphis, Tennessee, August 16, 1977), was an American singer, song producer and actor. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. Elvis Presley began his music career at Sun Records in the spring of 1954 when Sam Philips recorded Elvis performing several of Elvis' favorite songs with Scotty Moore (guitar) and Bill Black (bass). One of these covers was a country and western song, "Blue Moon of Kentucky". Elvis is the best-selling solo artist of all time in the United States with confirmed 189.2 million records in RIAA shipments. Before Sam Philips sold Elvis' contract to RCA Victor in 1956 for $35,000 they had recorded six two-sided singles. Each of these recordings featured a country and western song on one side and a rhythm and blues song on the other. One of the reasons Elvis was so popular was because of his ability to merge attributes of what was perceived to be "white" (C&W) and "black" (R&B) music. An example of this is evident in Elvis' hit song "Heartbreak Hotel" which reached #1 not only in the Pop charts, but the R&B and C&W charts as well. This was the first time that a single song held the #1 spot in all three charts. Elvis remains a popular and enigmatic star. His legend has only grown stronger since his death. In fact, there is a widespread belief that Elvis—who was known by his first name—did not die in 1977. Many fans persist in claiming he is still alive, that he went into hiding for various reasons. This claim is allegedly backed up by thousands of so-called Elvis sightings that have occurred in the years since his death, and by the fact that his middle name Aron was misspelled Aaron, with two As, on his tombstone. During an active recording career that spanned more than two decades, Presley set and broke many records for both concert attendance and sales. Some of those records have since been matched and/or broken by other artists, but some of his records will probably remain unbroken and/or unmatched forever. He has had more than 120 singles in the US top 40, across various musical genres, with over 20 reaching number one. Elvis Aaron (sometimes spelled Aron) Presley, in the humblest of circumstances, was born to Vernon and Gladys Presley in a two-room house in Tupelo
More at Last.fm

Concert Dates

No content available.

News

No content available.

Articles

He Made Old Men's Blues Sound Young: Remembering Elvis Daily Telegraph, Aug 2002

View Original

WE REMEMBER his ignominious end, and the cavalcade of white Cadillacs driving through Memphis for his funeral 25 years ago this month, but mostly the 1970s Elvis Presley seems far away and out of focus, the songs dreary and the singer lost. Yet the records Presley made more than 20 years earlier in that same southern city are still fresh and incontestably alive. And that's a key to his achievement as an artist.

View Original

As an artist. For despite the snobberies that obtained all through his lifetime and beyond - about the kind of family he came from, the music he loved and the music he made - Elvis Presley was a great artist.

Through his extraordinary fusion of hillbilly music and rhythm and blues, he changed everything. He gave youth its separate presence; he gave white adolescence its sexual freedom; he gave black music its rightful place at the forefront of American consciousness. All this with the help of four people and a recording less than two minutes long, in the summer of 1954.

A year earlier, Marion Keisker, Memphis radio personality and assistant to Sun Records, had encouraged a nervous 18-year-old who paid $4 to cut two tracks for his own private use. Sam Phillips had started Sun to back his instincts and make blues records when he heard something individual in a performer. Something made Phillips remember this kid's voice. Keisker got him back.

Scotty Moore was a young guitarist with the Starlite Wranglers. Bill Black was their bass player. Phillips put them in the studio with Elvis on Monday July 5 and after many lacklustre attempts at mainstream and country ballads, they came out with 'That's All Right', a blues by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (pronounced Crude-up). Released to instant local acclaim as Sun 209, it launched a phenomenal artistic career.

But, so the arguments go, Presley never wrote his own material, he just sang other people's songs, which makes his a lowlier art; and these cover versions of black composers' work were pallid copies for the white market. Art? Inauthentic rip-off.

Hopelessly wrong.

Elvis neither prettied up nor replicated a hot blues record that day. What he started into with his restless but sensitive rhythm guitar and his gloriously fluid, expressive voice was an astonishing and complete re-working of a blues record of no particular distinction, released back in 1946, when Elvis Presley was an 11-year-old schoolboy living in a homemade shack in East Tupelo, Mississippi.

Eight years later, when Elvis lit into the song, Sam Phillips was amazed that Elvis knew it, and was taken aback at how freely he was refashioning it. Black and Moore didn't know the song, but they joined in readily with a perfect musical match. In other words, they'd never have dreamt of it, yet it made sense to them at once. Whole generations soon responded in the same way. So much for Presley being "just" a singer of other people's songs.

Listen to Sun 209 now and it still shimmers with the sheer delight that the musicians and singer are feeling at having found themselves. You're hearing the tingling air in the room at the moment of bold, inspired creation.

He doesn't even sing the same lyric as Crudup. Both records begin with the chorus, and apart from omitting one "now", Elvis sings this verbatim. He also uses the opening two lines of Crudup's first verse. But he replaces the rest - "This life you're livin', son / Them women'll be the death of you" - with lines in the spirit of the original yet more natural and fluent: "Son that gal you're foolin' with / She ain't no good for you."

Crudup's second verse starts with the dull, formulaic "Baby one and one is two / Two and two is four." It doesn't suggest a desire to communicate, or communicate desire. Elvis dumps it. Then he rewrites Crudup's third and last verse, transforming its sulky, disputatious rhetoric - "Babe now if you don't want me / Why not tell me so? / You won't be bothered with me round your house no more" - into a direct address, invoking action rather than argument and letting other blues lines picked up in the ether express youthful impulsiveness and himself: "I'm leavin' town a-baby / I'm leavin' town for sure / Well then you won't be bothered with me hangin' round your door." He ends with Crudup's "outro", a wordless reprise of the chorus, "Dee ya-da dee, dee, dee-dee!" It says nothing, but it sings out his joyous sense of accomplishment.

He makes it his own. As he does with the bluegrass classic on the other side, Bill Monroe's 'Blue Moon Of Kentucky', a parallel re-invention.

His later 'Shake Rattle & Roll' makes Big Joe Turner's a different animal without compromising its animal nature, disproving the charge of making a cleaned-up product for whites. Elvis doesn't flinch from the sexual raunch of "I bin over the hill and way down underneath / You make me roll my eyes and then you make me grit my teeth."

In other words, Presley trusts himself absolutely to stick to lyrics that are low-down and dirty and, equally, to abandon verses that do nothing for him, often substituting lines from elsewhere or of his own invention.

All his Sun sides do this. His second single was Roy Brown's 'Good Rockin' Tonight'. He throws away half of Brown's lyric and sings an approximation of the other half. What he doesn't do is copy it. Black singer Wynonie Harris did that, having the big 1940s hit with the song by rushing it out before its composer. Elvis ignores the Harris version, goes back to Brown's original, and then makes free with that.

The third Sun single was 'Milkcow Blues Boogie' - written and recorded by Kokomo Arnold before Elvis was born, and a western swing hit by one Johnny Lee Wills in 1941. Elvis's version sounds like neither, but uses Wills's lyrics. (So he gives Arnold the composer credit, while giving us a largely different song.) The fourth single takes Arthur Gunter's 'Baby Let's Play House' and with a witty mix of self-celebration and self-mockery, after "You may go to college, you may go to school", he changes the pay-off line from Gunter's "You may have religion but don't you be nobody's fool" to "You may drive a pink Cadillac but don't you be nobody's fool."

In all these ways, he makes this then under-attended music his own, and in doing so makes it everybody's - most especially letting it speak straight to the souls of the young. For the truth is, when we were that young, we white youths couldn't identify sexually with these older black singers: not because of their colour, but because we thought they sounded, well, elderly.

At the very least, they were clearly grown-ups. We didn't want to think about them sexually. Even when they were exuding innuendo, they sounded like comfortable uncles. To young ears, Wynonie Harris makes "Meet me in the alley" sound sedate, and Arthur Gunter sings 'Baby Let's Play House' as if they'll be choosing the curtains. Elvis transforms its mood, reclaiming gleefully the thrill of its suggestive propositioning for teenagers still trapped in their parents' houses.

His singing alone achieves this liberation. His voice is glorious from the first. Listen again to 'That's All Right'. He seizes Crudup's chorus line - "That's all right now, Mama / Any way you do" - and finds for these words a descending melodic line of aching beauty, delivered with the instincts of a great blues musician and the voice of a fervent angel. He's utterly at ease with these mercurial dips into confessional quietude amid the blazing, fidgety joy of the whole.

These are the specifics of how Elvis Presley, a shy young man but an artist of self-knowledge beyond his years, seized a music that thrilled him and made perfect sense to him as a vehicle for expressing his own vision, in such a way that it liberated millions. The upshot is a "cover" more original than the original.

Of course, "originality" wasn't the point of the blues. It began as a communal music, and the great body of blues lyric poetry mainly comprises moveable stanzas shared between everybody from the street-corner guitarist to figures such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, whose recordings were popular even with banjo-picking Appalachian hillbillies.

Elvis's fusion was therefore the inspired articulation of something long in the air. His originality lay partly in coming out with it, and partly in his brilliant perception that the mysterious music of middle-aged black men, sung in a patois largely shared by crackers like the Presleys, could be the perfect expressive form for pent-up white youth.

There need be no divides, he realised. And he changed the world when he opened his mouth and let out that uniquely yearning voice - that voice in which inner nobility is as audible as the need to break free of a stultifying, gentility-filled future.

The moral honesty of countless aspirations shines out from Elvis Presley's art, and to listen to it is to feel again that the end was tragic because he had fallen so far from the grace and genius of his beginnings.

Jerry Leiber And Mike Stoller: By Royal Appointment Mojo, Mar 1995

View Original

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the greatest rock 'n' roll songwriting team of all time, have their songs celebrated in the musical Smokey Joe's Cafe – a show currently breaking box-office records in Los Angeles. The duo yakety-yak to Harvey Kubernik about life after Elvis.

View Original

How did Smokey Joe's Cafe come about?

JL: It started in New York with a couple of workshops that Mike went to see. He called me and said some of the songs sounded really good but weren't enough to make a show. When the show eventually opened in Chicago, someone came in and pulled it together in two weeks, added new stuff and really got it going. Then they brought in the New York director Jerry [Guys And Dolls] Zaks, who completely reshaped it again. After L.A., it opens in March at the Virginia Theater in New York.

Who's been coming to see it in L.A.?

MS: it's been very exciting, because the audience ranges from kids who come with their parents to octogenarians who sit there rockin' and rollin' and clappin' their hands in time.

You have three songs on The Beatles' Live At The BBC album: ‘Kansas City’, ‘Young Blood’ and ‘Some Other Guy’. Are you aware of the early footage of them playing ‘Some Other Guy’ at The Cavern?

MS: Years ago I saw a tiny bit of ‘Some Other Guy’ at The Cavern, but I could barely hear the song.

What's it like hearing The Beatles doing those songs after all this time?

JL: I have no sense of the passage of time. It's like they cut it last night and someone said, "You wanna hear a Beatles cut?" I think the two of us are in a kind of time warp because –

MS: I'm in time and he's warped!

How was ‘Young Blood’ written?

JL: Jerry Wexler was taking me to his house in a green convertible Cadillac that he was ready to trade in 'cos the bumpers were falling off it. On the way he said, "Doc Pomus has this great title for a song – would you like to take a crack at writing it?" I said, "Sure." I told him I'd write it on the way to his house in Great Neck, New Jersey. He thought I was joking, but that was the way we used to write all the time. By the time we arrived, Wexler was so excited he immediately called up Doc to have me sing it over the phone.

What was it like writing for Elvis?

MS: We'd never met him before we produced – uncredited – the songs in Jailhouse Rock. He'd asked for us to be there. He was very energetic – I mean, he just kept going and going in the studio. He'd always be saying, "Let's do another one". He loved doing it, he had more fun in the studio than he did at home.

I've heard that one of your teachers said you'd end up in the electric chair if you carried on listening to blues and R&B.

JL: Yeah, that was in third grade. It was because I was listening to regional blues, very sexy and a lot of fun. I used to work as a bus boy in sundry restaurants in Baltimore, where I grew up, and one of them had this Filipino short-order chef who was constantly stoned. He kept the radio going listening to an R&B station and I loved it. When I moved to L.A. as a teenager, I was planning to be an actor. But then I heard ‘Bad, Bad Whiskey’ by Amos Milburn and that was the end of my acting career.

How has your friendship and collaboration endured so long?

MS: I don't know. In a jocular way I often say it's because we're both masochists. It's a habit.

Elvis Presley: The Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan Phonograph Record, Dec 1972

View Original

I'M GETTING pretty sick of all this talk about what a gross Tom Jones imitation Elvis has become. Baby fat and other people’s songs, indeed. Christ, Elvis is almost 40, why can’t we let him age gracefully?

View Original

So he’s getting paunchy, so he doesn’t shake his hips but instead does a few abrupt deep-knee bends, and especially so he does big production numbers like ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ instead of hard-out rockers.

So what? Look at Chuck Berry. When he was a young man his antics would astound today’s audiences. He was all over the stage, playing jump-rope with his guitar, the band blowing like a hurricane. Nowadays he does a limp pantomime, a few duckwalk steps and that’s it, with pickup bands who’d never heard one of his songs an hour before. And who complains, or points out that a man of 45 looks ridiculous singing a juvenile song like ‘My Ding-A-Ling? Shit, man, he’s done enough. He doesn’t have to put out for us dumb kids 15 years out. We’re lucky just to see him. His old records speak for themselves, and a man’s gotta ease off sometime. The same’s true for Elvis.

There’s another thing Elvis and Chuck have in common, and another reason they’re both still popular and always will be: sex. Sex was always at the root of rock & roll’s effectiveness. You know the girls didn’t appreciate the savage wildness of Scotty Moore’s guitar or the Beatles’ good taste in playing Carl Perkins songs. It was always the shaking hips/hair, the stud sneer or the boyish smile, the image of quintessential male sexuality coupled with the driving force of rock & roll that attracted the girls, reinforced the guys’ own self-image, and made giants of those lucky few who caught the image vector at the right moment.

And they’ve still got it, of course: they’ll charm the nurses onto their deathbed and knock ’em up too, I’d wager. And that’s why they’re still around. Chuck’s an obvious lecher, but Elvis plays it cool. All he needs is a glance over the shoulder and a whole quadrant of the audience is screaming, jumping up, begging for that tiger’s smile to be aimed a little more closely at them. And maybe that malarkey you read about middle-aged ladies doin’ the screaming is true in Vegas, but at this show it was the teenagers who were acting some role out of a movie, recognizing his songs at the first note and freaking, especially at the rockers, like they were really into his records. Some girls behind me, who couldn’t have been older than 21 and looked pretty hip, were discussing the show and comparing the number of scarves thrown into the audience to a seemingly vast number of past shows they’d attended.

Yeah, he did the big numbers, but he didn’t do anything hopeless like ‘The Impossible Dream’. It was all believable, the kind of stuff you could hardly object to a 35-year-old singer wanting to sing. And where I was expecting the oldies medley to be a slam-bang affair with 15 seconds for each song, I was quite satisfied with the dozen or so old songs he did almost all the way through, and with James Burton's superb guitar work. No ‘Big Hunk of Love’, but he did ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Teddy Bear’ and plenty more, closing of course with a fantastic ‘Burning Love’. And lest we forget, the larger portion of his hits, all the way back to ‘Love Me Tender’ in 1956, consists of slow mushy ballads.

As a final defense for the poor old guy, lemme just ask you this. How would you like it if the world expected you to keep doing what you were doing in 1956? Don’t know about you, but I was barely outgrowing tricycles and finger paints. We all gotta grow up, ya know.

Auctions

No content available.

No content available.

No content available.

Top Albums

Elvis: 30 #1 Hits cover art

Elvis: 30 #1 Hits

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

more
less
Elvis' Christmas Album cover art

Elvis' Christmas Album

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

more
less
Elvis Presley cover art

Elvis Presley

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

more
less
Elvis 30 #1 Hits cover art

Elvis 30 #1 Hits

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

more
less
Elvis 75 cover art

Elvis 75

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

more
less

Top Songs

Jailhouse Rock cover art

Jailhouse Rock

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

Hound Dog cover art

Hound Dog

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

Suspicious Minds cover art

Suspicious Minds

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

Can't Help Falling in Love cover art

Can't Help Falling in Love

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

Heartbreak Hotel cover art

Heartbreak Hotel

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

Love Me Tender cover art

Love Me Tender

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

Blue Christmas cover art

Blue Christmas

Buy Amazon.com     Buy iTunes    

Video

No content available.

Recommended Albums

more
less
more
less
more
less