While Elvis Presley Served

In the 60-plus years of rock ‘n’ roll, no one has had a career quite like Elvis Presley’s. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll topped the charts, sold out movie theaters and drew record-breaking audiences. As his career began to skyrocket, he put everything on hold to serve his country in the United States Army. Like the veterans we remember and honor today, Veterans Day, Elvis focused on serving his country during his Army days. He let his record label, RCA, and his manager, Col. Tom Parker take care of business back home. It was up to them to keep Elvis on the charts and in the public’s attention span. But his fans, back in America and all over the world, were never far from his heart. In December 1957, the Memphis Draft Board announced that Elvis would soon receive his draft notice. Elvis told reporters that his service was “a duty I’ve got to fill and I’m going to do it.” Ahead of his March 1958 induction into the Army, another reporter asked Elvis if he believed his popularity would fade while he served. “That’s the $64 question,” Elvis said. “I wish I knew.” Elvis’ last recording session for two years was in Nashville in June 1958, and he and his band cut five tunes between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. The future hits included “A Big Hunk o’ Love” and “I Need Your Love Tonight.” Parker and RCA made a deal to slowly release the collection of singles over the next two years, so fans could still get fresh Elvis music while Elvis focused on being a soldier. RCA wanted Elvis to continue recording while in Germany, but Elvis wanted to be like any other soldier while he was there. One of Elvis’ best-reviewed films, “King Creole,” and two volumes of soundtrack EPs were released in summer 1958, as Elvis completed Basic Unit Training. A Christmas EP, “Christmas with Elvis,” shipped to stores in September. At a press conference just before he left for Germany, Elvis again thought of his fans. “I hope I’m not out of their minds,” he said. “And I’ll be looking forward to the time when I can come back and entertain again like I did.” That fall, Parker released “Elvis Sails,” a special EP featuring Elvis’ embarkation press conference. The album art’s reverse side featured a 1959 calendar – a smart way to keep Elvis...
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Vote Elvis Presley for President

The 2016 United States Presidential election is only one year away. Have you decided which candidate will get your vote? Consider Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. As you’ll find at the Elvis for President campaign website, Graceland.com/President, Elvis for President isn’t a new idea. Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker, often handed out “Elvis for President” buttons, and fans often made “Elvis for President” signs. They were all on to something: Elvis for President is a great idea. Elvis was the ideal presidential candidate: He was a proud American who served in the United States Army; he gave back to his community; and he actually had the backing of, and connections with, a few U.S. Presidents. In 1961, President Lyndon Johnson wrote Elvis a letter to thank him for his fundraising efforts for the USS Arizona memorial. When Elvis learned Johnson kept three TVs in the White House, he was inspired – he immediately purchased three TVs for Graceland, too. Those three TVs are in the TV Room at Graceland. Elvis starred alongside President Ronald Reagan’s daughter Maureen in the 1964 comedy “Kissin’ Cousins.” On December 21, 1970, Elvis famously met President Richard Nixon at the White House. The historic meeting is one of the most famous moments in both presidential and pop culture history. Also in attendance were Elvis’ friend Jerry Schilling and Egil “Bud” Krogh, a White House official and FBI liaison. The pair recalled the historic meeting at Elvis Week 2012. Watch below. In January 1971, Elvis was honored by the United States Jaycees as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men in the Nation. It was the only award Elvis ever accepted in person, and it was at the awards luncheon that he met U.N. Ambassador George Bush (who would later become President). Bush warned politicians to “watch out” if Elvis ever decided to enter politics. “They would have to regroup their forces,” he said. When the world mourned Elvis’ death in 1977, President Jimmy Carter eloquently summed up Americans’ feelings. “Elvis Presley’s death deprives our country of a part of itself. He was unique and irreplaceable,” he said. Elvis “permanently changed the face of American popular culture. His following was immense, and he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness and good humor of his country.” Presidents continue to pay respect to the king. President Bill Clinton admires Elvis so much he’s adopted the...
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Giving in Elvis Presley’s Name

Elvis Presley’s influence is worldwide and never-ending. If you need proof, just look at the hundreds of Elvis fan clubs across the globe. These groups, made up of fans of every age, celebrate the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and honor his memory with charitable donations. Each year, fan clubs hold special events, raise money and donate to thousands of organizations – both in their own hometowns and in Memphis – and donate the money in Elvis’ name. They’re simply following the excellent example set by Elvis himself. In celebration of Make a Difference Day on Saturday, October 24, here are just a few of the fan clubs who are doing great charitable work.   Tupelo Elvis Fan Club   The fan club in Elvis’ hometown seems to work endlessly at raising money for good causes. The group spearheaded the effort to get an Elvis Presley specialty license plate in Mississippi, and the money raised from that – as well as many other efforts – help fund their donations. The Tupelo Elvis Fan Club donates $10,000 in yearly scholarships for Mississippi high school seniors, and they also donate $10,000 a year to the North Mississippi Regional Rehab Center. The group has pledged to give $13,000 a year for 10 years to the Tupelo Aquatic Center, a new facility that is located near the Elvis Presley Birthplace. And speaking of the birthplace, the fan club gives $5,000 a year to the Elvis Presley Birthplace Foundation to fund a child enrichment program. The group also donates to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, a hospital Elvis always supported. Overall, this one club donates $40,000 annually to charitable organizations.   Taking Care of Presley Memorial Fan Club   Fans may know this group by its annual event, the Elvis FANtasy Festival. The 23rd annual festival recently took place in Portage, Indiana. The group recent partnered with an Elvis festival organizer, but for 20 years, it was run entirely as a volunteer project of the fan club. The group donates to the Porter County Special Olympics. While totals are not in from this year’s event, last year’s raised $14,640.   We Remember Elvis Fan Club   This Pittsburg, Pennsylvania-based fan club focuses its efforts on helping folks get healthy. The group, which started in 1982, started by donating money to a children’s hospital in Pittsburg. Now, the group donates to food banks, the West Penn Burn...
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Elvis Presley’s Memphis Stages

Memphis, Tennessee, wasn’t just Elvis’ home; it was also his stage. From small clubs to large coliseums, Elvis performed in many different Bluff City venues throughout his career. A few weeks ago on the Graceland Blog, we looked at the Presley family’s Memphis homes and apartments. This week, let’s look at a few of the Memphis venues where Elvis wowed his fans. Elvis’ career started small, with gigs at the Bel-Air Club and the Bon Air Club. But his first official billed performance was on July 30, 1954, at the Overton Park Shell – now known as the Levitt Shell. Elvis – billed as Ellis Presley – opened for Slim Whitman, and he was so nervous his legs began to shake. It worked in his favor, and he left that show with a host of new fans. That gig got Elvis and his band a solid booking at The Eagle’s Nest, a country-western club that was just outside the Memphis city limits. The guys played weekend shows for the next three months of 1954.   The Eagle’s Nest was steady work, but Elvis wanted more. His career blossomed: He performed at the Grand Ole Opry, which didn’t go well, so he signed with the Louisiana Hayride. Many of Elvis’ early shows were in high school and junior high auditoriums. In early February 1955, he performed at Messick High School and Messick Junior High School in Memphis. These were no ordinary shows; he actually performed there to help promoter Bob Neal’s son, Sonny, in his campaign for the student council. Elvis’ next venue was one he knows well: Ellis Auditorium. His Humes High School graduation ceremony was held in that same venue, and just a few years later, he returned as a young rock star at the start of his career. He shared the stage with the likes of Faron Young, and in between shows, promoter Bob Neal arrangeed a meeting between Sun Records president Sam Phillips, Col. Tom Parker and Tom Diskin across the street from the auditorium. They were all, of course, interested in Elvis. On August 5, 1955, Elvis returned for a show at the Shell. Fans enjoyed his previous Shell show, but they really loved him at this concert. The concert was Bob Neal’s eighth annual Country Music Jamboree, and Elvis shared the stage with Johnny Cash, Webb Pierce and Sonny James. The show drew more than 4,000 fans.   Overton Park Shell Radio Ad By this point, Elvis’ career is on fire....
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Where’s Elvis Presley: Tupelo or Memphis?

In January 2014, Vanity Fair magazine published an article showing a photo of Elvis Presley presumably taken in downtown Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1947. The article traces the origin of the photo to a woman who was walking into a drugstore to drop off some film that had one exposure left on the roll. According to the story, she noticed a young Elvis on his bike and asked him to pose, snapping her last frame of him. The woman later gave the photo to Presley family friend Janelle McComb of Tupelo, who passed along the photo and the story of how she obtained it to Elvis fan and memorabilia collector Wade Jones shortly before her death. The story behind the photo may have been correct, but the city was wrong. Tupelo lies in Lee County, which was a dry county in the 1940’s, meaning it was illegal to sell alcohol, yet the background of the photo shows a liquor store. Mississippi didn’t repeal Prohibition until 1966. The bike in the photo is also familiar. Elvis received a Firestone Pilot Classic bicycle, most likely for his 13th birthday. In 1993, a photo was found in Gladys’ closet at Graceland of Elvis on a new bike with “age 13” written on the back. The bike is the same one in the Vanity Fair photo, except for the fenders, which were removed in the later photo. The Presleys moved to Memphis in November 1948 and lived at 370 Washington before moving just around the corner to a large rooming house at 572 Poplar Avenue in June 1949. They briefly lived there until September, when they moved to Lauderdale Courts. Elvis’ grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley, continued living at the Poplar address, according to the 1950 Memphis City Directory. City directories list homes and businesses by street throughout the city.   The 1950 directory also shows the S&S Drug Store, Lando Marossi restaurant and Milo’s liquor store that appear in the Vanity Fair photo. John Sampietro, whose father operated the S&S Drug Store at the corner of Poplar and High Street, remembered his father talking about how a young Elvis would come into the store to play pinball. Milo Solomito operated the liquor store just across the street from the drug store and his son, Milo Jr., identified the store in the photo as the one his father ran for many years. To the right of the liquor...
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