Elvis Presley

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Elvis Presley (January 8, 1935- August 16, 1977) was a world famous American rock 'n roll singer, whose sexy and rebellious image did much for making rock 'n roll universally popular. He scored hits with songs like "Heartbreak Hotel", "Don't Be Cruel", "Love Me Tender", "Hound Dog", "All Shook Up", "Jailhouse Rock", "Now Or Never", "Suspicious Minds" and "Always On My Mind". During the 1950s Elvis' controversial sound and shaking of his hips and pelvis caused controversy with the older generation but made him a hero for teenagers everywhere. Elvis was one of the most influential rock and pop artists.[1] He rose to superstar status during his life but eventually became obese, addicted to drugs and entirely remarketed as a singer who lacked the dangerous image that made him popular in the first place. His sudden death in 1977 caused an enormous shock throughout the world and increased the sales of his merchandise to the point that he made more money than during his lifetime.


"Ah poor thing. I feel sorry for him. First of all: without the assistance of Leiber and Stoller I don't think we would've have an Elvis Presley. Without anyone to write the songs that he was singing. And without the black artists who pioneered those songs. His biggest hit, "Hound Dog" he wasn't the first to record that. It was done by Willie Mae Thornton on the Peacock label, because I had her recording long before Presley brought it out. When I was going to high school he was a big star. Everyone loved him. I couldn't stand him. And when he finally turned into this drug infested blimp and O.D'ed it was just tragic."[2]

Zappa heard "Hound Dog" in the version of Willie Mae Thornton before Elvis scored a hit with a cover of the same song. He preferred the original.

Elvis is also name-checked on the cover of "Freak Out!" (1966) under the heading "These People Have Contributed Materially In Many Ways To Make Our Music What It Is. Please Do Not Hold It Against Them". The liner notes on "Freak Out!" (1966): "'Help, I'm A Rock' is dedicated to Elvis Presley. Note the interesting formal structure and the stunning four-part barber shop harmony toward the end. Note the obvious lack of commercial potential. Ho hum."

Zappa made a tongue-in-cheek proposal of touring with Presley as a roadie[3] in his 1969 Pop Chronicles interview.[4]

Mentioned in Them Or Us (The Book) (1984)

Mentioned during A Few Moments With Brother A. West during The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life (1988).

The song Elvis Has Just Left The Building on Broadway The Hard Way (1989).

Elvis plays the role of The Devil in Dio Fa (The Real Frank Zappa Book (1989)).

Hound Dog and Blue Suede Shoes were covered by Zappa on 'Tis The Season To Be Jelly.

See Also


  1. Show 7 - The All American Boy: Enter Elvis and the rock-a-billies. [Part 1]
  2. Frank Zappa in The Lost Interview
  3. Show 8 - The All American Boy: Enter Elvis and the rock-a-billies. [Part 2]
  4. T-Z interview index