Today (August 16th) marks the 36th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. Elvis died of a heart attack on August 16th, 1977 at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 42-years-old. Last night hundreds of fans gathered at Graceland to begin the annual candlelight vigil for the "King Of Rock N' Roll" who would be 78 years old.
In commemoration of the anniversary, the new triple-disc Elvis At Stax collection featuring tracks cut during his 1973 sessions at the legendary Memphis studio, has been released. Also, all of "The King's" 1950's albums have been digitally remastered for iTunes as The Complete 50's Albums Collection and features all nine of the decade's releases: Elvis Presley (1956), Elvis (1956), Loving You (soundtrack, 1957), Elvis' Christmas Album, (1957), Elvis' Golden Records (1958), King Creole (soundtrack, 1958), For LP Fans Only (1959). A Date With Elvis (1959), and 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong: Elvis' Gold Records, Volume 2 (1959).
We asked Elvis' original drummer DJ Fontana, who ultimately decided on the rhythm of Elvis' classic '50s singles: "Well, sometimes I would -- sometimes Elvis would count it off the way he felt it. So it was a mixture of different guys and sometimes (guitarist) Scotty (Moore) would do it, just according to what kind of mood we was (laughs) all in, y'know? But it seemed like it all, it all turned out good for some reason. Who knows? Y'know what, those things happen."
During a rare 1970 press conference, Elvis shed some light on his earliest musical influences: "I liked all kinds of music when I was a child; of course the Grand Ole Opry was the first thing I heard, probably. But I liked the blues and I like gospel music -- gospel quartets and all that."
Elvis Presley was signed to Sun Records in 1954 and recorded pivotal singles for the label, including "That's All Right," "Good Rockin' Tonight," and "Mystery Train." His Sun contract was sold to RCA Records in 1955 for $35,000. Although Elvis never performed professionally anywhere but in the United States, he went on to become the most successful recording artist of all time, selling over one billion albums globally.
He scored 18 Number One Hits, including "Heartbreak Hotel," "Don't Be Cruel," "Love Me Tender," "It's Now Or Never," "Are You Lonesome Tonight," and his final Number One "Suspicious Minds" in 1969. Despite all his success in rock n' roll, all three of his Grammys were awarded for his gospel recordings.
In 2008, Elvis fans were up in arms over a change in Billboard policy which demoted "The King's" ranking on the Billboard charts from being Number Three in the list of top acts of the rock era with 17 Number One hits, down to Number 14 -- with only seven chart toppers. In the trade's recent series of charts commemorating the past 50 years of Billboard's weekly Hot 100 singles chart, the rock era has been pushed forward to start with the Hot 100's first appearance on August 4th, 1958 -- which excludes Elvis' 10 Number One hits which predated the Hot 100's launch.
Elvis starred in 31 movies between 1956 and 1973. Most of them were musical comedies like Blue Hawaii (1961), Viva Las Vegas (1964) with Ann Margaret, and Clambake (1967), yet several of his films, such as King Creole (1958) with Walter Matthau, Flaming Star (1960), Charro (1969), and Change of Habit (1969) with Mary Tyler Moore, were dramatic pieces that proved him to be a serious actor with true talent.
Elvis also released two concert films. That's The Way It Is chronicled the rehearsals and opening week of his July 1970 Las Vegas stint, while 1972's Elvis On Tour featured footage from his U.S. Tour.
He also starred in several incredibly successful TV specials including 1968's Singer Presents Elvis -- more commonly known as "The '68 Comeback Special" -- which spurred a triumphant resurgence in his career, Elvis: Aloha, From Hawaii which featured him live in concert and was broadcast worldwide in 1973, and the posthumously-aired 1977 Elvis In Concert special.
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