1956 to 1959: The Birth Of The King
In January 1956 Elvis Presley would begin recording for RCA in Nashville. This session would produce the absolute classic Heartbreak Hotel, a moody unusual tune that was released at the end of January. At the same time, he would appear on CBS’s Stage Show for six performances over the course of two months. From there he would stay in New York and record more songs for RCA including a Carl Perkins cover of Blue Suede Shoes. That February his song I Forgot to Remember to Forget reached the top of the Billboard Country chart while in March Parker became Presley’s manager.
#4. Heartbreak Hotel | 1956 | Heartbreak Hotel/I Was The One
Presley’s self-titled album was released on 23rd March and included a variety of different musical styles including R&B, Country, Blues, and Rockabilly. In April he would make the first of two appearances on the Milton Berle Show. Heartbreak Hotel would become his first number-one pop hit, going on to have a two-week residency at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino and signing a seven-year deal with Paramount Pictures.
He would tour the Midwest before making his second appearance on the Milton Berle Show performing a rendition of Hound Dog causing quite a stir due to his gyrating hips. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 chart, and No. 1 on the country music chart. It’s B-side My Baby Left Me also preformed well.
#10. My Baby Left Me | 1956 | I Want You, I Need You, I Love You/My Baby Left Me
This would lead to more appearances on television including NBC’s Steve Allen Show and Hy Gardner Calling. The next day he would record Hound Dog, Any Way You Want Me, and Don’t Be Cruel. His second album would be recorded that September while Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel would stay at the top of the charts for 11 weeks.
#1. Don’t Be Cruel | 1956 | Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel
He would then make three appearances on CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show, his first taking place in September 1956 performing his forthcoming single Love Me Tender. This moment would make him a national celebrity with around 60 million viewers. He would return at the end of October preforming Love Me from his dabut self-titled album Elvis while his first motion picture, also called Love Me Tender, was released on 21st November. At the start of December, he would pop into Sun Records where he would cross paths with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis with the four men having an impromptu jam session. You can find these recordings on the Million Dollar Quartet album.
#7. Love Me | 1956 | Album: Elvis
His third and final appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, in January 1957, his performance was only shot from the waist up. This was all orchestrated by Parker to create the illusion of censorship due to the pearl clutching that had come with his hips. His next three singles would also go to number one, Too Much, All Shook Up and (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear and gain him even more international fans, including places that his music wasn’t even released yet. It was also around this time that he purchased his Graceland mansion which was for himself and his parents.
In July 1957 his second film, Loving You, was released with a soundtrack album accompanying it. The album was Presley’s third straight number one album. A hidden gem on the album is the beautiful track, Don’t Leave Me Now, which I would highly recommend listening to below.
#6. Don’t Leave Me Now | 1957 | Loving You [Soundtrack]
During this time he would build a lasting working relationship with song writers Leiber and Stoller, who were asked to write songs for Elvis’s upcoming film and accompanying album, Jailhouse Rock. The title track would be a number-one hit for Elvis. Leiber said:
“He was fast, any demo you gave him he knew by heart in ten minutes.”
#5. Jailhouse Rock | 1957 | Album: Jailhouse Rock [Soundtrack]
Elvis Presley would record his Christmas album while also undertaking three small tours. Leiber and Stoller were brought in again and write, at the request of Presley, an inuendo laden blues track called Santa Claus Is Back in Town. The Elvis’ Christmas Album would be his fourth number-one album. Moore and Black resigned as they were barely making any money compared to Elvis Presley. They were brought back a few weeks later and paid by appearance and time spent in the studio. Presley was drafted on 20th December, but it was postponed in order for him to finish work he had already committed to.
#9. (You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care | 1957
At the start of 1958 Presley would complete work of the film and accompanying soundtrack for King Creole. It was released in July of that year and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart. It included hots such as Don’t Ask Me Why and Crawfish. Before that though, he would wrap on the film and album before being drafted into the U.S. Army on 24th March 1958.
In early August Presley would be hit with some terrible news, his beloved mother was diagnosed with hepatitis, as her condition rapidly worsened, he was granted leave to be by her side. He arrived to be by her bedside on 12th August and two days later she would pass away from heart failure. This would have a profound effect on the young Presley and a loss he would never truly get over.
#2. Crawfish | 1958 | Album: King Creole [Soundtrack]
Elvis Presley would be stationed in Friedberg, Germany from October 1958. This would be where he met a 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, who went on to become his wife. As questionable as it is now the age difference wasn’t that strange for the time period, but their courtship would last seven and a half years while Presley was cautious, he was also besotted with her. When he left Germany in March of 1960 the two wouldn’t see each other again until 1962, in the summer after her 17th birthday.
While in the US Army, RCA made sure there was an endless stream of Elvis Presley music from his unreleased material. A double A-side that I really enjoy and suggest you should listen to is I Got Stung/One Night. Other hit’s during his two-year spell in the US Army included (Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I and A Big Hunk o’ Love. From these unreleased and re-issued tracks RCA compiled four albums, with the most successful being Elvis’ Golden Records going to No3. On the LP chart. Presley would be promoted to Sargent in January 1960.
#3. One Night | 1958 | I Got Stung/One Night [Double A-side]