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Elvis~1956


A VERY SIGNIFICANT YEAR IN THE LIFE OF ELVIS


  • January 10, 1956
  • Presley became a national star in 1956. He and Parker traveled to Nashville. Two days after his twenty-first birthday, Elvis has his first recording session for RCA, held at their studio in Nashville. Among the songs laid to tape during this session is "Heartbreak Hotel," "I Got A Woman", and "I Was The One." His debut session produced the epochal 'Heartbreak Hotel', one of the most striking pop records ever released. Co-composed by Hoyt Axton's mother Mae, the song evoked nothing less than a vision of absolute funerall despair. There was nothing in the pop charts of the period that even hinted at the degree of desolation described in the song. Presley's reading was extraordinarily mature and moving, with a determined avoidance of any histrionics in favor of a pained and resigned acceptance of loneliness as death. The economical yet acutely emphatic piano work of Floyd Cramer enhanced the stark mood of the piece, which was frozen in a suitably minimalist production. The startling originality and intensity of 'Heartbreak Hotel' entranced the American public and pushed the single to #1 for an astonishing eight weeks. The record sold millions of copies, and subsequent television appearances triggered the myth of Elvis and of Rock 'n' Roll throughout the entire United States. He made the BillBoard charts 11 times in 1956 (a record only he himself would break, in 1957), with "I Was The One," "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Don't Be Cruel," among others. Whatever else he achieved, Presley was already assured a place in pop history for one of the greatest major label debut records ever released



  • The Jordanaires, a gospel quartet and popular country back-up group, begin working with Elvis in the studio during the first few RCA sessions and would soon begin touring with him. They would also appear with him in several films. They would be his main back-up group until the late sixties

  • Having outsold his former Sun colleague Carl Perkins with 'Blue Suede Shoes', Presley released a debut album that contained several of the songs he had previously recorded with Sam Phillips, including Little Richard's "Tutti Fruitti," the R&B classic "I Got A Woman" and an eerie, wailing version of Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart's "Blue Moon," which emphasized his remarkable vocal range



  • January 27, 1956
  • "Heartbreak Hotel" b/w "I Was the One" is released by RCA and sells over 300,000 copies in its first three weeks on the market. It would go to #1 on Billboard's pop singles chart for eight weeks and would also hit #1 on the country chart and #5 on the R&B chart. It would become the first Elvis single to sell over one million copies, thus becoming Elvis' very first gold record

  • January 28, 1956
  • Elvis appears with Scotty, Bill, and D.J. on the Jackie Gleason-produced "Stage Show", starring Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey on CBS. This is Elvis's first network television appearance

  • Presley made his national television debut displaying his sexually enticing gyrations before a bewildered adult audience. He appears on six weekly "Stage Shows" in a row and makes minor waves nationally. The last of these six " Stage Show" appearances is March 24. Traveling and personal appearances continue during this time, including the "Louisiana Hayride" appearances for which he is still under contract. Fame and "infamy" build



  • February, 1956
  • As "Heartbreak Hotel" makes its climb up the charts, "Mystery Train" b/w "I Forgot to Remember to Forget," Elvis' fifth and last single to be released on the Sun label, hits number one on Billboard's national country singles chart. His first #1 hit on a national chart

  • In March, Parker signed Presley to a managerial agreement for which he would receive 25 percent of Presley's earnings. After hitting #1 for the second time with the slight ballad "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You," Presley released what was to become the most commercially successful double-sided single in pop history, Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel. The former was composed by the immortal rock 'n' roll songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller, and presented Presley at his upbeat best with a novel lyric, complete with a striking guitar solo and spirited handclapping from his backing group, the Jordanaires. Otis Blackwell's "Don't Be Cruel" was equally effective with a striking melody line and some clever and amusing vocal gymnastics from the hiccupping King of Western Bop, who also received a co-writing credit. The single remained at #1 in the USA for a staggering 11 weeks and both sides of the record were massive hits in the UK

  • March 13, 1956
  • RCA releases "Elvis Presley", Elvis' first album. (He had not released an album on Sun.) The album would go to #1 on Billboard's pop album chart for ten weeks. It would become the first Elvis album to reach over $1 million in sales, thus becoming Elvis's first gold album



    April 1, 1956

  • Elvis has a screen test for Paramount Studios in Hollywood. He lip syncs "Blue Suede Shoes" and he performs a scene from the, as yet unmade film, "The Rainmaker", a film he did not end up being in

  • April 3, 1956
  • Elvis appears on "The Milton Berle Show" on ABC, which, for this particular broadcast, originates from the deck of the aircraft carrier, the USS Hancock

  • April 6, 1956
  • Elvis signs a seven-year movie contract with Hal Wallis and Paramount Pictures



  • April 23 - May 9, 1956
  • The Colonel arranged Elvis' debut at the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas that April, but compared to the usual hysteria, Elvis has lukewarm acceptance for his two-week engagement at the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. He is not exactly what the adult audience of Vegas gamblers relates to very well. During these two weeks, the single "Heartbreak Hotel" and the album "Elvis Presley" both hit #1 on the Billboard pop charts

  • Through all of this, the travel and personal appearances around the country and new record releases continue. The crowds get bigger and bigger, wilder and wilder. Elvis' fame grows dramatically. Some shows have to end early due to fans' storming the stage. Elvis creates pandemonium wherever he goes



  • June 5, 1956
  • Elvis appears again on "The Milton Berle Show", this time in the studio where the show usually originates, this time backed by the Jordanaires in addition to Scotty, Bill and D.J. Among his selections is a playfully sensuous, bump and grind performance of "Hound Dog" that drives the kids in the audience wild, and, the next day, has the press and some of the adult viewers appalled. It is one of his most controversial performances. This merely serves to fuel his seemingly unstoppable popularity even more

  • Traveling and personal appearances and new record releases continue. By this time Elvis, with his sexy moves and black-influenced sound, is being condemned by certain factions of "the morally concerned" establishment and the religious community. But, the kids love it



  • July 1, 1956
  • Elvis appears on "The Steve Allen Show" on NBC. Among his performances that night is a much toned down version of "Hound Dog". Allen has Elvis dressed in white tie and black tux with tails and has him sing the song to a live Basset hound, a tongue-in-cheek response to all controversy created by the Berle appearance the month before. Elvis good-naturedly goes along with it, but is not too happy about it

  • Record releases, touring, and recording continue. The condemnation and controversy continue along with the ever-growing popularity



  • Ed Sullivan, who had said that he would never have the likes of Elvis Presley on his show, changes his tune when he sees the big ratings that Elvis attracts to the Berle and Allen shows. A three-appearance deal is worked out for $50,000 and is the highest amount ever paid to a performer, up to that time, for appearing on a variety show


    Click Here~July 4, 1956


  • August, 1956
  • Elvis begins shooting his first movie, "Love Me Tender" on loan-out from Paramount to Twentieth Century Fox. It is originally titled "The Reno Brothers," but is re-titled before its release to capitalize on Elvis' sure-to-be-a-hit single from the soundtrack, "Love Me Tender." They recouped its cost--$1 million--in three days. The film was produced by David Weisbert, who had previously worked on James Dean's "Rebel Without A Cause."

  • Elvis' movie debut received mixed reviews but was a box-office smash, while the smouldering, perfectly enunciated title track topped the US charts for five weeks. The Presley sound gradually took on more folk-like aspects: "Love Me Tender" is a lovely ballad based on "Aura Lee," a folk song from 1861. In just a few days, "Love Me Tender" received over a million advance orders, and RCA had a hard time printing all of the copies requested

  • September 9, 1956
  • Elvis makes the first of three appearances on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town Show," the top television program of the era. Elvis attracts the highest ratings ever for any television variety show



  • September 26, 1956
  • "Elvis Presley Day" is proclaimed in Tupelo, Mississippi. Elvis' parents join him as he returns to the town of his birth as a big star. He performs two shows that day at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, the same fair at which he had performed at age 10. This time there are a hundred National Guardsmen surrounding the stage to control the crowds of excited fans

  • By this time, souvenir merchandising using Elvis' name, image, and likeness has become a big part of the Elvis phenomenon. Licensees would soon be producing as many as thirty different products including hats, t-shirts, jeans, kerchiefs, sneakers, shirts, blouses, belts, purses, billfolds, wallets, charm bracelets, necklaces, magazines, gloves, bookends, a statue, lipstick, cologne, stuffed hound dogs, stationery, sweaters, crockery, and more. Elvis and the Colonel blazed new trails in the area of celebrity merchandising. This would forever be part of the marketing of Elvis Presley, feeding a never-ending demand



  • October 28, 1956
  • Elvis makes his second of three appearances on the Ed Sullivan show

  • November 16, 1956
  • Elvis's first movie, "Love Me Tender" premieres at the Paramount Theater in New York City, opening nationwide in the days following. It becomes a smash hit, and the critics' reviews aren't bad for his acting in this melodrama, which is set in 1800's Civil War era, southern America. The film has Elvis performing several songs, of course. They include: "Poor Boy," "Let Me," "We're Gonna Move" and "Love Me Tender."

  • December 31, 1956
  • The front page of the Wall Street Journal reports that in the past few months Elvis merchandise has grossed $22 million in sales. Elvis ends the pivotal year of his career, when regional popularity gave way to unprecedented national and international fame

  • The year of 1956 had seen the beginning of Elvis souvenir merchandising, the beginning of a successful movie career, history-making record sales (five #1 singles on the pop chart, two #1 albums on the pop chart, and other hits), history-making television appearances, record-breaking personal appearances and more

  • Elvis had become the primary symbol of the new youth culture in America. He had also become one of society's most controversial figures. His unique blending of white country and gospel music, black R&B and gospel music, white pop music, and his particular brand of charisma and talent, and the resulting success and controversy, had him helping greatly to begin, without premeditation, a cycle of change in music and pop culture and the mores of American society. Nothing would ever be the same for Elvis Presley or for the world



  • Elvis' hit singles that year were all certified gold:  they included "Heartbreak Hotel" (#1), "Hound Dog" (#1), "Don't Be Cruel" (#1), "Love Me Tender" (#1) and "Anyway You Want Me (That's The Way I'll Be)" (#20)



    Here's some miscellaneous pics from 1956:


    Elvis '56


    Elvis Lookin' Good


    Elvis Goin' Wild On Stage
    This One Is From A '57 Concert


    Autographed Picture Of Elvis


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