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".

Life and career

Elvis Presley was originally a truck driver, who recorded some rockabilly songs in the mid 1950s. Marketed by producer Sam Phillips and manager Colonel Parker, Elvis' good looks, youthful appearance, catchy sound, sexual energy and controversial hip-shaking made him a sensation. The older generation was shocked, disturbed and repulsed, but teenagers all across the globe loved him. More than any other performer Elvis popularized rock 'n' roll among a mass audience, making him, alongside Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bill Haley & His Comets, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis one of the most important pioneers.[1]

However, Elvis started focusing more on making Hollywood movies. Between 1958 and 1960 he went in the army and re-emerged as a more sanitized and less offensive pop musician. As the 1960s progressed Elvis' popularity waned in favour of more rebellious rock artists who concentrated more on the quality of their recordings. In 1968 Elvis performed in a comeback TV special, which revived his popularity somewhat. However, by the mid-1970s he became a mainstay in Las Vegas for nostalgic audiences, growing more obese and dependent on drugs. 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.

Frank Zappa

Zappa heard "Hound Dog" in the version of Willie Mae Thornton before Elvis scored a hit with a cover of the same song. As mentioned in The Oracle Has It All Psyched Out (28 June 1968, Life (magazine)), he preferred the original. Interviewed by Drew Wheeler for Billboard on 19 May 1990, Zappa cited Baby Let's Play House as the only Elvis song he ever liked. [2]

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.


"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."[5]


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