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The evening that changed music world forever. Weekly News 18-01-2014
Sixty years ago, three young men strolled into a Memphis shop front and changed music forever. It was the evening of July 5, 1954 and the men were Scotty Moore, Bill Black and 19 year old Elvis Presley. And the premises they had entered was an old store that was the home to Sun Studio. That night the trio recorded songs for label owner Sam Phillips, including That's All right, which was played on the radio just days later, marking for many the birth of rock 'n' roll. Elvis had used his famous way with the ladies to charm Phillip's secretary, who recognised his talent and facilitated the recording. And the rest is history, at least it was as soon as influential DJ Dewey Phillips played the newly cut song on his red, Hot and Blue radio Show on WBHQ just three days later, playing it repeatedly for the last two hours because of the number of calls. Elvis had actually been to Sun a few times over over the previous year as Sam Phillips thought he had something. He'd said "If I could find a white man who had the negro and the negro feel, I could make a billion dollars." He suspected Elvis was that man but things hadn't quite worked out. Even that fateful night, the recording session had been a bit of a bust and the boys were about to go home when Elvis picked up his guitar and launched into an old blues number, That's All Right. Scotty Moore recalls: "All of a sudden, Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around acting the fool. "Then Bill picked up his Bass and started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them. "Then Sam opened the door from the control booth and demanded: "What are you doing?" We said we didn't know but he just yelled: "Well, back up, find a place to start and do it again. Sam Phillips had found the sound he was looking for. So had young America, though they weren't sure what they were listening to. Interviewing Elvis live on air, Dewey Phillips deliberately asked which high school he'd gone in order to clarify his colour as most of those calling in simply assumed he was black. This caused problems in the colour conscious America of the day. Many Country DJs wouldn't play his records as he sounded too much like a black artist while the rhythm and blues stations wouldn't touch him because he "Sounded too much like a hillbilly". In the end his style became recognised as rockabilly but before he was known as the "King", Elvis had to suffer being billed variously as "The king of Western Bop", "The Hillbilly Cat" and the Memphis Flash" The trademark gyrations which led to him being dubbed "Elvis the Pelvis" -- outraged middle America --- were there from the start. They were caused a combination of his strong response to rhythm -- the boy just couldn't keep still -- and his extreme nervousness in front of crowds, which had grown from no one to thousands of fans in the blink of an eye. He'd shake his legs as he played and his wide cut trousers emphasised his movements, causing the you woman in the audience to start screaming. Under the guidance of Elvis's manager Colonel Tom Parker, recording giant RCA bough out the Sun Deal for an unprecedented $40,000 and put out his debut album containing such classics as Blue Suede Shoes and Hearbreak Hotel, his first number 1. But not everyone was a fan. After a show in Wisconsin, a letter with the letterhead of the local catholic diocese's newspaper was sent to FBI director J Edgar Hoover. It warned Presley was a definite danger to the security of the United States. His actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth. "Indications of the harm Presley did in La Crosse were the two high school girls whose abdomen and thigh had Presley's autograph. And the outrage went America-Wide after his second appearance on the Milton Berle Show, during which he gyrated while performing Hound Dog. The critics were horrified. One wrote: "Popular music has reached it's lowest depths with the grunt and groin antics of Elvis Presley. "He gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos. Ed Sullivan, the country's most popular TV star, deemed him "Unfit for family viewing" but quickly changed his tune when he saw the ratings. He booked the young singer for three appearances for a record $50,000 and the first, on September 9, 1956 was seen by 60 million viewers, or 83% of the TV audience. Elvis, the world's first global superstar had arrived.
Truth behind US-only gigs.
Colonel Tom Parker was a pivotal figure in Elvis's career, writes Alan Shaw. But the King's manager wasn't a canny good ole boy from the Southern Aristocracy, he was in fact Dries van Kuijk, an entertainment impresario from the Netherlands. He was also an illegal immigrant and that's why Elvis never toured outside the States. "The Colonel" thought his cover would be blown and he wouldn't be allowed back in. Even so, Elvis said "I don't think I'd ever been that big if it wasn't for him" Mind you, he didn't come cheap, taking 10-15% of Elvis's earnings, rising to 50% in the later years. Parker did actually serve in the US army but as a humble private, taking his name from the interviewing officer to disguise the fact he was an illegal alien. Speaking of the army, Parker didn't help Elvis dodge the draft as other stars had, believing a spell in the Millitary would straighten out his young client who'd shown worrying signs of rebelling against him. And it worked. When Elvis got back in 1960, he went along with the Colonel's scheme of appearing in movies, and it was 1968 before he played live again.
Karate kicked off film injury
If you were lucky, in his later years, Elvis would throw a few Karate moves into his stage show. If you were unlucky, like several Vegas crowds were, he'd treat you to a 20 minute lecture on his obsession with martial arts. The king got into karate while serving in Germany with the US army, and he was such a good student that he was a black belt by the time he returned to the States two years later. And he put his karate to good use, too, defending himself from jealous boyfriends on tour and on one occasion laying out three fellows who stormed his stage in 1973. However things could backfire on him, too. During a 1974 show, he told the audience his hand was swollen as he'd been breaking bricks, and did much the same while filming GI Blues. Elvis spent time between takes entertaining by busting up bricks, boards and tiles but messed up blocking a kick. The make up department did their best to disguise it but in the film you can see what he called his "Big fat hand that looks like it belonged to somebody else".
All shook up ... barber is best Elvis in the world.
The worlds best Elvis impersonator has been unveiled -- as a barber from Stoke on Trent called Gordon. Gordon Hendricks, a 43 year old father of three, was stunned when judges at the Collingwood Elvis Festival in Canada named him the most convincing tribute act to the King. 'When they told me I was just amazed,' he said on his return home. 'I still can't believe it fully now. 'I got through to the top 3 and that was amazing, but when I performed American Trilogy it just felt right.' The competition was watched by Presley's ex-wife Priscilla, which Mr Hendricks described as a wonderful experience. He has sung Elvis songs since he was small child and began performing in local pubs for £50 per night in 2003 'because I enjoyed it'. But since winning TV's Stars In Their Eyes contest in 2005 he has progressed to touring the UK with a 22 piece backing band. He has also appeared on the Graham Norton Show. 'Since then it has been a whirlwind' he said. 'I would never have guessed I would be doing this when I first started out.' However he still cuts hair three days a week at his barbers shop in Stoke called Hendricks, which is run by his two sons.
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