Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy birthday, Sgt!

He was so hard up for money that in high school he sometimes wore the pants from his job as a movie usher to school - dark pants with a stripe down the side.

A buddy named Ed Leek gave him the 4 dollars it took to cut a "Make Your Own Record" at Sam Phillips's Sun Recording Company.  And even once he had the fee in hand, it still took him two months to get up the courage to go and make an acetate record of “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” as a birthday gift for his mother.

At the height of his early fame, he was drafted into the US Army and served a two-year hitch, thereby exchanging an income of $400,000 a year for one of $78 a month, which he gave to charity.

In the second of the 31 movies he made, Loving You, his parents were seen as audience members in a scene. His mother passed away shortly thereafter, while he was away in the Army, and he never watched the film again.

In 1957, aged 22, he bought Graceland Mansion for $102,500. Three years earlier, he and his parents had been living in public housing.

He did exactly one commercial in his life - a jingle he sang for Southern Maid donuts, played during his appearance on the Louisiana Hayride radio show in November, 1954.  He played exactly three concerts outside of the United States, a mini-tour of three dates in Canada in 1957.

It's said that he never toured Europe, a potential gold mine, because his manager was an illegal Dutch immigrant who feared deportation if he tried to re-enter American soil. His manager was a born hustler who painted sparrows yellow and sold them as canaries and operated carnivals and sideshows as a young man, cadging the honorary title of "Colonel" from the governor of Louisiana and insisting on being called that until the day he died.

When fund-raising efforts to create a memorial in Pearl Harbor for the USS Arizona sputtered, he put on a benefit concert and raised the money for the monument built just above the sunken battleship that is toured by thousands annually.  He regularly gave large sums of money to charitable organizations.

His recording of "It's Now Or Never" was playing on the radio in a Los Angeles jailhouse, and was heard by a 17-year-old prisoner named Barry Eugene Carter, serving time for stealing $30,000 worth of automobile tires.  That prisoner vowed to change his name and his ways, and seek a career in music, and he did so, successfully.  His new name was Barry White.

His closest friends formed a retinue nicknamed "The Memphis Mafia." All of these men wore diamond and gold rings, given to them by Elvis.  Their logs was a thunderbolt with the letters TCB ("Take Care of Business").

He once subsisted on a diet of only meatloaf, tomatoes, and mashed potatoes for two years. He loved burned bacon, peanut butter & banana sandwiches, cheeseburgers, pork chops, sauerkraut and grape jelly.

The British Invasion of the 1960s changed the music business overnight, and his popularity waned. In 1968, he walked down a busy street in Los Angeles, unrecognized and unapproached, and knew it was time to launch a comeback, which he began with a television special that December.

His last concert appearance was in Indianapolis, at the Market Square Arena, on June 26, 1977. His last song at the concert was , as always, "Can’t Help Falling In Love With You," after which he left the building.  

His name is Elvis Aron Presley and he turns 80 today.

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