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Title : Focus : Who was Elvis Presley? What was his impact on US society? Presley and his impact Key Words : Gospel music Country and western blues Who was Elvis Presley ? Born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi His parents were Gladys and Vernon

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Presley and his impact

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Title:

Focus:

  • Who was Elvis Presley?

  • What was his impact on US society?

Presley and his impact

Key Words:

Gospel music

Country and western

blues


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  • Who was Elvis Presley?

  • Born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi

  • His parents were Gladys and Vernon

  • His mother worked at a sewing machinist and his father drove a truck

  • His father spent time in prison and was often unemployed.

  • The family lived in poverty

  • Vernon moved the family to Memphis, Tennessee when Elvis was 13,

  • They attended a church where gospel music was sung

  • Both Mississippi and Tennessee were segregated states

  • This was an area that was also home to country music.


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  • How Elvis became a Star.

  • He recorded his first record at Sun Studios, a small Mississippi studio, renowned for country and blues music.

  • He paid $4 to be allowed to do it as a present for his mothers birthday in 1953.

  • The owner heard him and thought, “a white man with the Negro sound and the Negro feel".

  • Elvis was successful at first just within Mississippi and was known as a country and western act.

  • He was being managed by associates of Sun Records and fellow musicians when a man named Colonel Tom Parker appeared on the scene.

  • Parker soon took over managing Elvis and in 1955 negotiated to sign Elvis to RCA a big record company. Parker took 25-50% of all Elvis earnings.

  • Just before this Elvis had had two hits in the country charts and a live performance at Jacksonville had nearly ended in a riot when Elvis shouted as he finished up, “Girls I’ll see you backstage!” The sex symbol was born!


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  • Why was Elvis so popular with teenagers?

  • His looks didn’t hurt!

  • He dyed his hair black and was known to wear makeup to enhance his dark, sultry looks.

  • He was tall and well built

  • He dressed like a rebel. He had a “pompadour” DA hair do.

  • He wore jeans and t-shirts for casual and for performances he wore long loose jackets, baggy trousers with a pink strip in them. His shirts were often left unbuttoned or just tied at the waist.

  • His style was very “black”

  • Then there was his stage presence. Given the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis” he danced in a way people had never seen in public before.

  • The result; Boys wanted to be him and girls wanted to be with him!


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The D.A. (short for Ducks Ass) was the haircut of the 1950s for cool white males. Formed by combing the hair back on the side of the head and holding it in place with hair grease (hence the term greasers), the hairstyle was created by Philadelphia barber Joe Cirella in 1940 and took off when it was worn by television, movie and musical stars.


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  • He recorded “Heartbreak Hotel” in February 1956 and it was his first single to get in the charts. It ended up at Number 1.

  • He appeared on the most popular TV show in America in September 1956, “The Ed Sullivan Show”.

  • He got the biggest audience ever for that show.

  • He appeared on the show again in October and again in January 1957.

  • In the January performance he was only shown from the waist up because there had been so many complaints to the show about his sexual dancing.

  • Also In 1956 Elvis stared in the film “Love me tender” Elvis stared in 31 films. They all tended to be teen flicks where a bad boy who’s good at heart falls for a girl and sorts himself out for love!


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Was Elvis starting a dangerous revolution? was his first single to get in the charts. It ended up at Number 1.

  • National TV shows Rock and Roll Dance Party and National Bandstand begin to be broadcast in 1956.Both show rock and roll stars.

  • Significance – Rock and Roll got good TV ratings with all audiences inc the mums and dads of white America.

  • Nat King Cole a black singer gets his own national TV show.

  • Significance – black artists and were becoming more accepted as equal US citizens.

  • Five singles form the R&B charts also appear in the pop charts and the artists featured include; Elvis, little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

    Significance - Black music and artists were already making the cross over into mainstream.


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Presley has already appeared six times on national television, but it is his appearance on The Milton Berle Show on June 5, 1956, that triggers the first controversy of his career. Presley sings his latest single, "Hound Dog," with all the pelvis-shaking intensity his fans scream for. Television critics across the country slam the performance for its "appalling lack of musicality," for its "vulgarity" and "animalism." The Catholic Church takes up the criticism in its weekly magazine in a piece headlined "Beware Elvis Presley." Concerns about juvenile delinquency and the changing moral values of the young find a new target in the popular singer.


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Evidence of Elvis’s impact television, but it is his appearance on

When Elvis appeared on the Milton Berle Show in April 1956, he was watched by more than 40 million viewers, one out of every four Americans.

"Elvis Presley didn’t just represent a new type of music; he represented sexual liberation" (Down at the End of Lonely Street, p. 55). Elvis Presley stood for everything rock & roll stands for: sexual license, rebellion against authority, self-fulfilment, if it feels good, do it and don’t worry about tomorrow”

Soon, Life magazine published photos of teenage boys lined up at barbershops for ducktail haircuts so they could look like their rock King.

Many of his performances were characterized by hysteria and near rioting. Females attempted to rip off Elvis’s clothes. There were riots at his early concerts. "He’d start out, You ain’t nothin’ but a Hound Dog,’ and they’d just go to pieces. They’d always react the same way. There’d be a riot every time" Girls literally threw themselves at him. In DeLeon, Texas, in July 1955, fans "shredded Presley’s pink shirt and tore the shoes from his feet." At a 1956 concert in Jacksonville, Florida, Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding warned Elvis that if he did his "hip-gyrating movements" and created a riot, he would be arrested and sent to jail.


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Elvis connections with the Rhythm and Blues music of black culture.

There is a saying, "The blues had a baby and named it rock & roll." Elvis Presley was an important figure in the birth of that baby. Elvis "spent much of his spare time hanging around the black section of town, especially on Beale Street, where blues men like Furry Lewis and B.B. King performed" (Rolling Stone Encyclopaedia of Rock, p. 783). Elvis’s cousin Earl, who paled around with Elvis for many years before and after his success, said that he "adopted Beale Street as his own, even though he was one of the few white people to hang out there regularly" (The Boy Who Would Be King, p. 121). B.B. King said: "I knew Elvis before he was popular. He used to come around and be around us a lot.

Elvis listened to radio WDIA, "a flagship blues station of the South that featured such flamboyant black disk jockeys as Rufus Thomas and B.B. King" (Rock Lives, p. 38). Elvis also listened to radio station WHBQ’s nine-to-midnight Red Hot & Blue program hosted by Dewey Mills Phillips.

Elvis’s first guitarist, Scotty Moore, learned many of his guitar licks from an old black blues player who worked with him before he teamed up with Elvis (Scotty Moore, That’s Alright, Elvis, p. 57).

Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, was looking for "a white man with a Negro sound and the Negro feel," because he believed the black blues and boogie-woogie music could become tremendously popular among white people if presented in the right way. Phillips had said, "If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.". Six of the 15 songs Elvis recorded for Sun Records (before going over to RCA-Victor a year later) were from black blues men.


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Teenager’s and Parent’s Attitudes culture.

Many teenagers wanted to fight against the suffocating false images of life in the suburbs that their parents loved.

Elvis was a symbol,  the idol of youth who were struggling to be known in a world of adults, to have their very own and very private world.  Let the adults laugh all they want.  It just proves that this is one thing  they can't have, and one world to which they can't belong.  For once the teenagers are the insiders, and Elvis is the key to that world

When the first rock'n'roll records came along the teenagers took them to their hearts. For the first time in years they discovered they could do more than just sit and listen to records. Now they could dance to them.

is a symbol,  the idol of youth who are struggling to be known in a world of

What is significant about this movement is the fact that radio and records, rather than TV, sent Presley and other rock and roll singers to the top. While adult members of families stayed glued to their TV sets, the young ones were listening to their radios.

One baffled parent said when he first saw Presley on the Dorsey Brother's TV Stage Show: "I thought it was all a horrible mistake". Like most adults, he instantly disliked Presley's agonized style of singing, his strutting and almost sexual contortions.

It's not surprising that parents recoiled with dismay when they first saw Presley on TV. He was completely beyond their understanding, and they reacted accordingly. As a result, teenagers now look upon Presley as something more than just an entertainer. Adults obviously don't want any part of him, so Presley becomes something special in the young people's eyes. They belong, as it were, to an extraordinarily exclusive club. They will defend him to the end.

Elvis,  too,  is a symbol,  the idol of youth who are struggling to be known in a world of adults, to have their very own and very private world.  Let the adults laugh all they want.  It just proves that this is one thing  they can't have, and one world to which they can't belong.  For once the teenagers are the insiders,  and   Elvis  is the key to that world

Elvis,  too,  is a symbol,  the idol of youth who are struggling to be known in a world of adults, to have their very own and very private world.  Let the adults laugh all they want.  It just proves that this is one thing  they can't have, and one world to which they can't belong.  For once the teenagers are the insiders,  and   Elvis  is the key to that world

Elvis,  too,  is a symbol,  the idol of youth who are struggling to be known in a world of adults, to have their very own and very private world.  Let the adults laugh all they want.  It just proves that this is one thing  they can't have, and one world to which they can't belong.  For once the teenagers are the insiders,  and   Elvis  is the key to that world

Elvis,  too,  is a symbol,  the idol of youth who are struggling to be known in a world of adults, to have their very own and very private world.  Let the adults laugh all they want.  It just proves that this is one thing  they can't have, and one world to which they can't belong.  For once the teenagers are the insiders,  and   Elvis  is the key to that world

Elvis,  too,  is a symbol,  the idol of youth who are struggling to be known in a world of adults, to have their very own and very private world.  Let the adults laugh all they want.  It just proves that this is one thing  they can't have, and one world to which they can't belong.  For once the teenagers are the insiders,  and   Elvis  is the key to that world


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Song Title culture.

Peak

Year

Heartbreak Hotel

1

1956

I Was the One

19

1956

Blue Suede Shoes

20

1956

I Want You, I Need You, I Love You

1

1956

Don't Be Cruel

1

1956

Hound Dog

1

1956

Love Me Tender

1

1956

Anyway You Want Me (That's How I Will Be)

20

1956

When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again

19

1956

Love Me

2

1957

Too Much

1

1957

All Shook Up

1

1957

(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear

1

1957

Loving You

20

1957

Jailhouse Rock

1

1957

Treat Me Nice

18

1957

Don't

1

1957

I Beg of You

8

1957

Elvis certainly had an impact on the charts! 10 of these chart singles went to No.1.

Lots of people (teenagers) had bought Elvis singles.


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Did Elvis have a huge impact on the USA in 1956/7? culture.

Evidence.

"When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss...Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail." Bob Dylan

"His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac...It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people." Frank Sinatra, 1950's


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“Rock and Roll was somewhat more acceptable if performed by white musicians”.

Evidence that Elvis was more acceptable because he was white.

Chuck Berry

Berry never achieved any great financial success. He served a two year prison sentence in 1962 for transporting a minor across state lines. The racial aspect of this can not be ignored, an "influential" black man, one of the early pioneers of Rock and Roll, and a threat to white society is jailed at a time when he was still popular and producing music. His arrest was a form of de facto suppression that his career and psyche never quite recovered from.

Little Richard

Two of Richard's early hits were covered by Pat Boone. Boone's music, as well as his politics were watered down. The difference between the two versions of "Tutti Frutti" is comical. This would not be the first time a white musician would appropriate the talent and artistic accomplishment of a black artist. But, there is a definite racist characteristic present in this instance. Most black artists at the time could not gain radio air-play.


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Daily News by white musicians”., 1954: "Popular music has reached its lowest depths in the grunts of one Elvis Presley".


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Teen Culture by white musicians”.

Facts and Figures

Baby Boomers – There were a lot of them! 30 million born between 1944 and 1951 in the USA.

They were affluent (wealthy) like their parents – they got more pocket money and had Saturday jobs etc. Significant because they had money to spend!

They were the first generation to grow up with TV. Significant because they were influenced by programmes and adverts.

They grew up in suburbia. Significant because they were bored with it and restricted by it.

They grew up in the Cold War.Significant because they feared the sudden death of civilisation from nuclear attack.

They were rebels

looking for a cause!


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Why did Elvis have so much of an impact in 1956/57? by white musicians”.

You will need to talk about the situation in America in 1956/57 and explain why it was that Elvis gained so much popularity at that time.

Things to consider;

  • The fact that teenagers had a lot of spending money

  • The fact that there was a TV in most homes

  • How advertisers targeted teenagers with goods to buy

  • The growing popularity of “black” music

  • Teenage culture


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Why did Elvis have such an impact on the USA during 1956-1957?

  • Teenagers Attitudes About:

  • Parents lifestyle

  • Suburbia

  • Behaviour of adults

  • Nuclear War

  • Effects of 1950’s:

  • TV’s

  • Adverts

  • More wealth (power)

  • Radios (freedom)

  • Cars Freedom)

  • Elvis himself:

  • Fashion

  • Music

  • Dancing

  • Performance

  • Management of Col.Parker.

In your own judgement, what was the overall cause of Elvis impact?


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Your answer should explain the relationship between these factors

Advertising = Advertisers wanted to get young people with more pocket money than ever before to buy their goods

TV = Elvis got a lot of exposure on TV

“Teenagers” = were a powerful group because of their numbers (baby boom) and their disposable income.

Elvis “decent” image =

Elvis was less controversial than many other “rock ‘n’ roll stars


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