This alternate/revised history thread is all about Elvis and people associated with him.
Elvis Presley Quick Facts
Born: January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi
Full Name: Elvis Aaron Presley
Country: United States
Origin: Memphis, Tennessee
Years Active: 1949-present
Principal Genre: Rock
Additional Genres: Rock and roll, rockabilly, pop, country
Height: 6 ft. (note at the end of this post for further information)
Short description: American musician
Elvis Presley is an American singer, songwriter, and performer. He has achieved iconic status internationally since 1956 as the “King of Rock and Roll”, or the “King of Rock” for short. Elvis is widely considered responsible for the birth of modern rock music, which is generally set in 1958. While mostly a musician of rock music and rock and roll, he has crossed the line into other genres sometimes. He divorced his first wife in 1960, and has been happily married to his second and current wife Priscilla since 1967. Elvis Presley received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, the son of Vernon Elvis Presley (1916-1991), and Gladys Love Smith Presley (1912-1986). He had a twin brother named Jesse Garon Presley, who died the day he was born. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee when Presley was a child, where he spent the rest of his growing up years. He began his professional musical career singing in local venues in September 1949. Presley spent nearly four years in these venues, singing a lot of contemporary country music, as well as increasingly more blues ballads, especially after he began recording singles. In December 1950, Presley’s talent was noticed by Memphis record producer Jim Butler. Butler then mailed Presley, inviting him to come to the local record company Butler was working with and record a single. The teenager and his parents accepted the invitation, saying they would come shortly after the new year arrived.
Elvis recorded his first single on his 16th birthday, January 8, 1951. The single was released February 2 of that year, and sold moderately well in Memphis and surrounding towns. Presley cut several singles that followed the first, being made on an intermittent basis. They were recorded, released, and sold with moderate success as well. Presley did not sign a recording contract until 1953, when he signed on to Sun Records under Sam Philips (1923-2003). It was with the singles Presley recorded at Sun that he enjoyed his first taste of fame. By 1955, he had become famous enough so that his contract was bought by RCA Victor that year. Presley’s first single at RCA Victor, “Heartbreak Hotel” (recorded on January 11, 1956 and released on February 3 of that year) became the first of his many US #1 hits in the middle of March 1956. During the rest of the 1950s, he became more and more famous for helping in large part to popularize rock and roll music. His musical contemporaries around this time included other rock and roll legends such as Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. However, Presley’s biggest and most potential rival working in a contemporary variety of the lighter traditional pop genre was Engelbert Humperdinck, the singer born in India as Arnold Dorsey, who rose to superstardom in the summer of 1957.
Humperdinck, taking his name from a well-known German composer, and a resident of Los Angeles, California since 1955, gained superstardom comparable to Presley in 1957. His traditional pop style characteristic of the songs he recorded during 1957 to 1965 is very similar to that of Johnny Mathis and many songs by Paul Anka. Due to Humperdinck’s popularity, which was in turn due to his handsomeness and his smooth, powerful vocal, Presley had to remain active in the music industry. He had to continue to record and release new singles and albums without a hiatus in order to prevent Humperdinck, also a close friend of Presley’s, to surpass him in popularity (note at end for elaboration). Thus, Presley took no break too long from his musical career from his first RCA Victor single in January 1956 until November 5, 1980 (the day after the 1980 US Presidential and Congressional Elections), when he started spending some more time with family and friends. By the time hit records for Elvis and Engelbert became more or less intermittent, things had turned out very well, more for Elvis than for Engelbert, although both artists have been extremely successful.
Starting in 1958, Elvis’s albums and singles were of a more hard-edged rock and roll genre, and it was those in the middle of that year that are widely regarded as marking the birth of modern rock music as we know it today. After rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper were tragically killed in a plane crash in 1959, Elvis responded by recording even more rebellious albums and singles with even harder-edged rock music. Elvis Presley albums and singles recorded from 1958 on became very influential among later rock bands in the United States, such as the Four Seasons and the Beach Boys, and those in England, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
From 1958 to 1964, the new genre of rock music was rivaled by the earlier rock and roll genre. After the Beatles exploded onto the American music scene in 1964 (heralding the British Invasion), early rock and roll quickly faded away, eventually becoming obsolete, and rock music reigned supreme.
As a side note, Elvis met his future second wife, Priscilla Beaulieu, in September 1959 in Germany, while he was on a European concert tour with Engelbert Humperdinck. Priscilla, the daughter of a US Army officer stationed in Germany, saw Engelbert and Elvis, already household names in the US, live in concert. She was fond of Engelbert by his handsomeness and fine vocal, but she was blown away by Elvis as he took his turn in the concert. While Priscilla obtained autographs of both Elvis and Engelbert, she was an active participant in Elvis fan clubs, though not so much in those for Engelbert. She saw Elvis many more times in concert before she came of age in 1963 at 18. For four years since then, she dated the rock legend before finally marrying him in 1967.
Following the lead of Engelbert Humperdinck, in mid-March 1967 Elvis Presley attempted to make a songwriting contract with certain songwriters in London, including Gordon Mills and the team of Barry Mason and Les Reed, who wrote songs for Tom Jones and Richard Strauss (this is not the same person as the famous German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949); refer to the third note at the end of this post for more information) as well as some for Engelbert. Such a contract never materialized, due to Elvis's strong adherence to rock music, which he excelled in performing; while Mills, Mason, Reed, and others were strictly inclined to writing in lighter, more commercial pop genres.
A museum dedicated to Elvis, and memorabilia associated with the rock musician, opened its doors in Memphis, TN in February 1981. The opening of the Elvis Presley Museum marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Elvis's first commercial single.
Presley is known for having a fan club totaling millions worldwide, and he still performs live in concert, sometimes going on tour, to the present day. A 30th anniversary anthology series featuring songs from 1951 to 1980 by Presley was released on LPs and cassette tapes starting March 31, 1981; it was released on CDs starting July 28, 1987. Elvis Presley lives in Memphis, but also has residences in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Elvis Presley dropped out of high school in June 1952 to marry his fiancée, Mary Elizabeth Butler (born in Memphis on November 30, 1935). They married in Memphis on November 30, 1952. During their short-lived marriage, they had a pair of twins both born on September 1, 1953. Their names are James Vernon Presley and Lucy Anne Presley. Due to his lust for women, Elvis Presley divorced Mary on February 13, 1960. Elvis married a second time to Priscilla Ann Beaulieu (née Wagner) (born in New York City (Manhattan) on May 24, 1945) in Las Vegas on May 1, 1967. They had one child together, daughter Lisa Marie Presley (born February 1, 1968).
- Elvis Presley’s peak height is exactly 6 feet, as measured by his rival/friend Engelbert Humperdinck (6 ft, 1 1/2 in) back in 1958.
- Due in large part to the sudden rise of Engelbert Humperdinck to superstardom during the last several months of 1957, Elvis Presley is not inducted into the US Army in 1958, something that occurs in current history. In this scenario, it is set that if Elvis were to go into the Army in 1958 anyway, Engelbert would fill in the void left by Elvis and dominate the popular music charts, so the King of Rock and Roll would, in the least, have a great deal of difficulty in reclaiming his “throne” upon a 1960 discharge from the Army. Instead, due to the fact that Engelbert is “here to stay”, Elvis must stay active in the music industry to remain supreme; as is mentioned above, his music ends up becoming even more rebellious between 1958 and 1959. Elvis’s music continues on the path of greater rebelliousness in the years to come, with occasional breaks of course (i.e. his cover of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, which would peak at #1 at the end of 1959, as Engelbert’s cover of that song would do earlier that year).
- The Richard Strauss mentioned above is a British pop singer of my invention, born Richard Henry Harris in London on March 23, 1939. Not the same person as a well-known Irish actor of the same name as the singer’s birth name, this Richard Harris later became known as Richard Strauss. He used the name of the famous German composer and adapted it to be his stage name late in 1965. I’ll write more on the British pop singer Richard Strauss in another alternate/revised history post.
- In this alternate/revised history, as a reader might guess, Elvis is still alive and well and performing to the present day. This is in contrast to the current history in this timeline, with the possibly false narrative that Elvis died in 1977 from a drug overdose. If he is in fact still alive in this timeline, he certainly hasn't performed live in concert since '77, at least not under his actual name!
- On the other hand, while in current history Elvis is known for having been doing a lot of drugs, in alternate/revised history he stays far away from them. This is to keep up with Engelbert, his rival; besides Engelbert, he also uses the Four Seasons, a band whom he influenced, as role models.
- While the Seasons, as any other rock band would, adjust to the changing times as the 60s progress (singing not only love songs but also those about or referencing psychedelic drugs and socially-conscious topics), they do not do drugs themselves. That’s because the members of the Four Seasons themselves convert to the Baptist faith in 1965, with leanings towards Mormonism. (Sometime prior to this time in 1965, the Seasons consider becoming Mormons, but ultimately reject the faith due to its hierarchy structure.) Sometime in the future, there will be another alternate/revised history thread focusing on the Seasons.