Elvis Presley’s 1956

Elvis Presley accomplished more in one year than many artists do in a lifetime.

He released both his first album and movie. He made his national television debut. He recorded hit songs, collaborated with some of the most talented musicians of his day and toured relentlessly. He purchased his first home in Memphis.

1956 was a big year for Elvis Presley, personally and professionally.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of these accomplishments, and we’ll tackle some of them in-depth in future blog posts. For now, prepare to be amazed at how the 21-year-old King of Rock ‘n’ Roll conquered the world in 1956.

Elvis turned 21 in 1956, a pivotal year in his legendary career.

Elvis turned 21 in 1956, a pivotal year in his legendary career.

“Heartbreak Hotel”

The world was still trying to figure out the young king in ’56, but he was out to prove himself as a force to be reckoned with. In just this one year, he recorded and released classic songs, such as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Blue Suede Shoes.” “Heartbreak Hotel” was recorded on January 10 at Elvis’ first recording session for RCA.

King of the Road

Elvis performed at Ellis Auditorium on May 15, 1956.

Elvis performed at Ellis Auditorium on May 15, 1956.

Elvis’ busy touring schedule carried over from 1955 into 1956. He crisscrossed the country countless times, performing everywhere from baseball parks to large auditoriums. He played small communities and big cities alike. Just a few of the places he played in ‘56 include Raleigh, North Carolina; San Diego, California; Richmond, Virginia; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin, Texas; Sarasota, Florida; Dayton, Ohio; Atlanta, Georgia; Phoenix, Arizona; Savannah, Georgia; St. Paul, Minnesota; New Orleans, Louisiana; Denver, Colorado; Louisville, Kentucky; Miami, Florida; Houston, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; and, of course, Memphis. He actually collapsed from exhaustion on February 23, 1956, after performing in Jacksonville, Florida. The doctor who treated him recommended that he slow down. That’s easier said than done, of course.

Elvis was still part of the Louisiana Hayride, but he made his last regular appearance in March 1956. His final Louisiana Hayride performance was December 15, 1956. Elvis also made his debut in Las Vegas in April 1956.

On the Small Screen

Elvis' second "Ed Sullivan Show" appearance took place on October 28, and he performed "Love Me Tender," "Hound Dog," "Don't Be Cruel" and "Love Me."

Elvis’ second “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance took place on October 28.

Elvis’ first national television appearance was on January 28, 1956, on “Stage Show,” and he continued to appear on the show through February and March. He made two appearances on the “Milton Berle Show,” followed by a “Steve Allen Show” appearance.

He finished out 1956 with two appearances on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

“Elvis Presley”

"Elvis Presley" was released in March 1956, and the cover photo was taken in Tampa, Florida, in 1955.

“Elvis Presley” was released in March 1956, and the cover photo was taken in Tampa, Florida, in 1955.

Elvis’ first album hit record stores on March 23, 1956, and it reaches No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart on May 5. He has the No. 1 album for 10 weeks.

Hometown Hero

The blue velvet shirt Elvis wore at his Tupelo performance was made for him by Natalie Wood's dressmaker.

The blue velvet shirt Elvis wore at his Tupelo performance was made for him by Natalie Wood’s dressmaker.

Elvis returned to his hometown, Tupelo, Mississippi, on September 26, to perform at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, where he first performed when he was 10 years old.

Home Sweet Home

Elvis and his parents, Vernon and Gladys, purchased their first home in Memphis in March 1956. The Audubon Drive house was home for about a year, until Elvis purchased Graceland in 1957.

On the Big Screen

"Love Me Tender" was directed by Robert D. Webb and also starred Debra Paget and Richard Egan.

“Love Me Tender” was directed by Robert D. Webb and also starred Debra Paget and Richard Egan.

Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker, saw the silver screen in Elvis’ future, and he scored Elvis a screen test in April 1956. He began filming his first movie, “Love Me Tender,” in August.

By September 25, he received news that RCA had 918,230 orders for the still-unreleased single of “Love Me Tender,” which was an industry first – a gold record before it’s even released.

“Love Me Tender” wrapped production on October 8, and Elvis, his parents and girlfriend June Juanico saw a rough cut of the film on October 24. That same day, Variety declared Elvis “a millionaire in 1 year.”

“Love Me Tender” premiered on November 15, followed by a nationwide release on November 21. It came in second that weekend at the box-office, just behind James Dean’s final film, “Giant.”

Million Dollar Quartet

Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis are the "Million Dollar Quartet." There's a Broadway musical of the same name that tells the story of that evening.

Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis are the “Million Dollar Quartet.” There’s a Broadway musical of the same name that tells the story of that evening.

The night of December 4, 1956, is now the stuff of legends.

That evening, Elvis stopped by Sun Studio in Memphis in the middle of a Carl Perkins recording session. He ended up jamming with Carl and Sun’s newest artist, Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash was there, too – and thus the “Million Dollar Quartet” was born.

It wasn’t all work and no play for Elvis in ’56: He managed a few weeks of summer vacation in July.

1956 also saw Col. Parker distributing “Elvis for President” buttons for the first time, and in June he purchased a convertible Cadillac, which he would later have painted purple. That car is now on display at the Car Museum at Graceland.

As all good Elvis fans know, Elvis’ career continued to skyrocket after 1956. Want to know more? Visit Graceland in Memphis, where you’ll see the purple Cadillac, artifacts from “Love Me Tender” and more.


16 Comments

  1. Janet Davies

    He actually collapsed from exhaustion on February 23, 1956, after performing in Jacksonville, Florida. The doctor who treated him recommended that he slow down. That’s easier said than done, of course.
    Perhaps if Elvis had slowed down and had more holidays, he would be with us now!
    An incredible man, with a talent to match, no other star is as well known as Elvis

  2. Patty Taber

    I will always love Elvis, I remember as a child, when my Father was stationed at NAS Memphis we would go every weekend to Graceland in hopes of seeing Elvis, sometimes we did and sometimes we did not. Just being there was out of this world. I play his songs all the time.

  3. Jerry Feather

    Saw the King several times, best show ever once in front row in Vegas. Amazing~!

  4. I loved this, thank you very much some of this I did not know just goes to show you can learn something new every day

  5. anne penza

    what a great story. I can’t seem to get enough of hearing about elvis & his life. thankyou.

  6. Ronnie Howard

    I visit in 92 with my family, learn so much. Hope we make it back this year. Listening to E on XM every night, being a Truck driver something to keep me rocking and rolling

  7. That’s fantastic! I wish I had lived at that time but I am happy now to find out more about wonderful life of Elvis Presley! Thank you!

  8. elvis was always taking care of business for us fans William new york

  9. Elvis will always be the KING

  10. Carolyn Bregenzer

    I lived less than 3 hours from Memohis in my growing up years. Oh what I would given to see him in person. My Dad was strict, he’d never permit me to drive to Memohis. But now I come, I can’t tell you how many times. All the way from Houston. Just to visit Graceland. I was at the 35th Anniversary of his death. My sister met me there. We had an Awesome time. I’ve been several times since. I can not get enough. I will be back to Graceland. In the near future.

  11. Denys Parker

    My wife & I visited Graceland for the 3rd time in November 2015. This time we stayed at the heartbreak Hotel something she has wanted to do for years. We are teenagers of the `50s, were devastated when he died and thanks to these blogs are learning more about Elvis and his life all the time..Denys & Kay from Australia…

  12. This Blog was incredible! I was born in 1956 – the year that all this was going down. I grew up on Elvis and have become a great fan over the years. I was so excited to hear about the new Guest House opening. I knew that on my next trip to Graceland that I would be staying there. Can you imagine my excitement when I found out it was opening on my 60th birthday? Nothing could keep me away from making my reservations. Elvis and I will be celebrating 60 together.

  13. Oralia Hernandez

    Wonderful to be in Graceland

  14. Anthony Luizza

    I was 12 yrs old in 1956 Im 71 now fast approaching 72 not a day goes by that I don’t listen to His music or watch a concert on dvd, its been that way since 1956 and it will be that way till the end.

  15. Dan Livock

    As Everyone knows,Elvis was devoted to us fans from the beginning to the end. I saw the NBC special and it was GREAT! Then I sadly watched in 1977. The funeral killed a part of me. I’m sorry to bring this to light. They said they had sixteen Cadillacs ( Coaches) in the procession.
    That meant a lot to me. I miss him everyday.

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