Today (January 8th) marks what would have been the “King of Rock n’ Roll” Elvis Presley’s 83rd birthday. From his meteoric rise to fame in the 1950’s, to his death at the age of 42 in 1977, through to the present-day; the world is still fascinated by everything that is Elvis. After working as a movie theater usher and a truck driver for a Memphis Electrical Company, Elvis began singing locally as “The Hillbilly Cat,” and signed to the late Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, who then sold his contract for $35,000 to RCA Victor in 1955. Elvis went on to become rock’s first true global superstar.
Following years of declining health and prescription drug abuse, Elvis died of a heart attack on August 16th, 1977 at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. He remains among the highest earning dead celebrities. Internationally, Elvis has sold well over one billion records, more than any other artist. His American sales have earned him gold, platinum or multi-platinum awards for 140 different albums and singles. Elvis starred in 31 films, and made history with his television appearances and specials.
Just released through the official FTD (Follow That Dream) collectors series, are two classic Elvis Presley shows from the year before he died. The new Bicentennial Show CD features two concerts by “The King” from 1976 — the July 4th afternoon show at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University and his October 16th show at Duluth, Minnesota’s Duluth Arena. The second disc also features five tracks recorded on October 19th in Madison, Wisconsin at Dane County Coliseum.
Coming to HBO this spring is the new three-hour documentary, Elvis Presley: The Searcher. Last August, fans commemorating the 40th Anniversary of “The King’s” death in Memphis got a sneak peak this week of the project, which is directed by Bruce Springsteen’s longtime filmmaker, Thom Zimny and produced by Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau, and original “Memphis Mafia” member Jerry Schilling, who now serves as the president of the Beach Boys’ Brother Records’ Inc.
Backstreets.com reported, “Based on Thom’s remarks, and as is evident in the sneak preview, the doc will be focused squarely on Elvis’ music, his legacy as an artist and musician. No kitsch. Graceland granted Zimny access to rare footage, documents, and stills; he also worked with collectors to include additional photos, Super-8 and other never-before-seen footage. . . Thom spoke of conducting more than 50 interviews for the project, with subjects including Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Robbie Robertson, and Emmylou Harris.”
ElvisPresley.News reported The Searcher will be “a comprehensive creative journey from his childhood through the final 1976 ‘Jungle Room’ recording sessions.”
2016 saw the release of The Wonder of You: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The collection, which is the followup to 2015’s first orchestral set, If I Can Dream, also takes Elvis Presley’s isolated vocal tracks and supplements them with modern pop/rock and orchestral backing.
On February 27th, 1970 during a rare press conference in Houston, Texas, 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.”
Photo Courtesy of Pulse Evolution Corporation