On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley was found dead at the age of 42 in his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tenn. His early passing was mourned across the world, with legions of fans flocking to his mansion to pay their respects.
Born in Tupelo, Miss. in 1935, Presley was destined for a career in music. For his 11th birthday, he had asked his mother for a rifle but she instead gave him a guitar. At 19, Presley entered a recording studio in Memphis to record two songs for his mother as a birthday present. Studio owner Sam Phillips liked Presley's voice and asked him to record a rendition of the R&B song, "That's All Right" for his Sun Records label.
The recording topped the local chart, and within a year Elvis' contract was bought by RCA for a then-record of $40,000.
Elvis dominated the music charts from 1956 to 1958, ushering in the age of rock and roll with hit songs "Heartbreak Hotel" and the double-sided "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel." After appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, audiences were divided with adoring teenagers and appalled parents. Critics especially took issue with Presley's sexually suggestive pelvis gyrations during his performances.
After an 18-month tour in the U.S. Army, serving in West Germany, Presley began changing his music style to feature less rhythm-and-blues, and more romantic ballads. He also retired from concerts to focus on a film career, all of which featured his musicality. By the end of the 1960s, Presley had few hit songs.
"Burning Love" in 1972 was the last top 10 hit for Presley, who began to show signs of declining health. He had developed an addiction to prescription drugs and gained considerable weight.
After his death in 1977, Presley was buried on the Graceland grounds, which is a major tourist attraction to this day. During his lifetime, Presley was billed as "The King of Western Bop," "The Hillbilly Cat," "The Memphis Flash," and "Elvis the Pelvis," though only one would endure to this day: "The King of Rock and Roll."
This Day in History: Elvis Presley dies in his Graceland home
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