Elvis Presley Cultural Icon Volume 6 (Facts, Figures and Fashions)


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All shook up

In an interview with PBS television, social historian Eric Lott said, "all the citizens' councils in the South called Elvis 'nigger music' and were terribly afraid that Elvis, white as he was, being ambiguously raced just by being working-class, was going to corrupt the youth of America. Other singers had been doing this for generations, but they were black. Social guardians blasted anyone responsible for exposing impressionable teenagers to his "gyrating figure and suggestive gestures. My mother stated emphatically that he was 'a bad influence for teenage girls. He arouses things in them that shouldn't be aroused.

According to rhythm and blues artist Hank Ballard , "In white society, the movement of the butt, the shaking of the leg, all that was considered obscene.


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Now here's this white boy that's grinding and rolling his belly and shaking that notorious leg. I hadn't even seen the black dudes doing that. This caused teens to pile into cars and travel elsewhere to see him perform. Adult programmers announced they would not play Presley's music on their radio stations due to religious convictions that his music was "devil music" and to racist beliefs that it was "nigger music.

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In an era when radio stations were shifting to an all-music format, in reaction to competition from television , profit-conscious radio station owners learned quickly when sponsors bought more advertising time on new all "rock and roll" stations, some of which reached enormous markets at night with clear channel signals from AM broadcasts. In August, in Jacksonville, Florida a local Juvenile Court judge called Presley a " savage " and threatened to arrest him if he shook his body while performing at Jacksonville's Florida Theatre, justifying the restrictions by saying his music was undermining the youth of America.

Throughout the performance, Presley stood still as ordered but poked fun at the judge by wiggling a finger. Similar attempts to stop his "sinful gyrations" continued for more than a year and included his often-noted January 6, appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show during which he performed the spiritual number "Peace in the Valley" , when he was filmed only from the waist up. According to Rolling Stone magazine , "it was Elvis who made rock 'n' roll the international language of pop. His music was heavily influenced by African-American blues, Christian gospel, and Southern country.

Presley sang both hard driving rockabilly , rock and roll dance songs and ballads , laying a commercial foundation upon which other rock musicians would build their careers. John Lennon later observed, "Before Elvis, there was nothing. During the post- WWII economic boom of the s, many parents were able to give their teenaged children much higher weekly allowances , signalling a shift in the buying power and purchasing habits of American teens. During the s bobby soxers had idolized Frank Sinatra , but the buyers of his records were mostly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two.

Presley triggered a juggernaut of demand for his records by near-teens and early teens aged ten and up. Along with Presley's " ducktail " haircut, the demand for black slacks and loose, open-necked shirts resulted in new lines of clothing for teenaged boys whereas a girl might get a pink portable 45 rpm record player for her bedroom.

Meanwhile American teenagers began buying newly available portable transistor radios [43] and listened to rock 'n' roll on them helping to propel that fledgling industry from an estimated , units sold in to 5,, units by the end of Teens were asserting more independence and Presley became a national symbol of their parents' consternation. Presley's impact on the American youth consumer market was noted on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on December 31, when business journalist Louis M.

Kohlmeier wrote, "Elvis Presley today is a business," and reported on the singer's record and merchandise sales. Half a century later, historian Ian Brailsford University of Auckland , New Zealand commented, "The phenomenal success of Elvis Presley in convinced many doubters of the financial opportunities existing in the youth market. On December 20 , , Presley received his draft board notice for his mandatory service in the United States Army. He was worried that his absence in the public eye for 2 years, while serving in the Army, might end his career.

While in the Army, he earned sharpshooter badges for both the. Presley returned to the United States on March 2 , , and was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant E-5 on March 5. After serving his duty in the military, he became more mature and lost his raw and rebellious edge. Presley admired the style of Marlon Brando , James Dean , and Tony Curtis and returned from the military eager to make a career as a movie star. Although "he was definitely not the most talented actor around", [50] he "became a film genre of his own.

From then on it was full-time movies. He could have demanded better, more substantial scripts, but he didn't. Although some film critics chastised these movies for their lack of depth, the fans turned out and they were enormously profitable. According to Jerry Hopkins's book, Elvis in Hawaii , Presley's "pretty-as-a-postcard movies" even "boosted the new state's Hawaii tourism.

Some of his most enduring and popular songs came from those movies. Young people were tuning in, dropping out and doing acid. Elvis Presley was not considered as cool as he once was.

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Presley's star had increasingly faded over the s as he made his movies and America was struck by changing styles and tastes after the "British Invasion" spearheaded by the Beatles. Until the late sixties Presley continued to star in many B-movies that, although profitable, featured soundtracks that were of increasingly lower quality.


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  • Chart statistics for the summer of show that his recording career was floundering badly. He had apparently become deeply dissatisfied with the direction his career had taken over the ensuing seven years, most notably the film contracts with a demanding schedule that eliminated creative recording and giving public concerts. This lead to a triumphant televised performance later dubbed the '68 Comeback Special , aired on the NBC television network on December 3 , , and released as an album by RCA. Although the Special featured big, lavish production numbers not dissimilar to those in his movies , it also featured intimate and emotionally charged live sessions that saw him return to his rock and roll roots he had not performed live since the Pearl Harbor concert of Rolling Stone magazine called it "a performance of emotional grandeur and historical resonance.

    The comeback of was followed by a return to live performances, first in Las Vegas and then across the United States. The return concerts were noted for the constant stream of sold-out shows, with many setting attendance records in the venues where he performed. After seven years off the top of the charts, Presley's song " Suspicious Minds " hit number one on the Billboard music charts on November 1 , The " Aloha from Hawaii " concert in January was the first of its kind to be broadcast worldwide via satellite and was seen by at least one billion viewers worldwide.

    The RCA soundtrack album to the show reached number-one in the charts. Presley recorded a number of country hits in his final years. Way Down was languishing in the American Country Music chart shortly before his death in , and reached number one the week after his death.