Elvis Presley

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Elvis Presley : biography

8 January 1935 – 16 August 1977

Presley holds the records for most songs charting in Billboards top 40 and top 100: chart statistician Joel Whitburn calculates the respective totals as 104 and 151; Presley historian Adam Victor gives 114 and 138. Presley’s rankings for top ten and number one hits vary depending on how the double-sided "Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel" and "Don’t/I Beg of You" singles, which precede the inception of Billboards unified Hot 100 chart, are analyzed. According to Whitburn’s analysis, Presley and Madonna share the record for most top ten hits with 38; per Billboards current assessment, he ranks second with 36. Whitburn and Billboard concur that The Beatles hold the record for most number one hits with 20 and that Mariah Carey is second with 18. Whitburn has Presley also with 18 and thus tied for second; Billboard has him third with 17. Presley retains the record for cumulative weeks at number one: alone at 80, according to Whitburn and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; tied with Carey at 79, according to Billboard. He holds the records for most British number one hits, with 21, and top ten hits, with 76.

Musical style

Influences

Presley’s earliest musical influence came from gospel. His mother recalled that from the age of two, at the Assembly of God church in Tupelo attended by the family, "he would slide down off my lap, run into the aisle and scramble up to the platform. There he would stand looking at the choir and trying to sing with them." In Memphis, Presley frequently attended all-night gospel singings at the Ellis Auditorium, where groups such as the Statesmen Quartet led the music in a style that, Guralnick suggests, sowed the seeds of Presley’s future stage act:

As a teenager, Presley’s musical interests were wide-ranging, and he was deeply informed about African American musical idioms as well as white ones (see "Teenage life in Memphis"). Though he never had any formal training, he was blessed with a remarkable memory, and his musical knowledge was already considerable by the time he made his first professional recordings in 1954 at the age of 19. When Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller met him two years later, they were astonished at his encyclopedic understanding of the blues. At a press conference the following year, he proudly declared, "I know practically every religious song that’s ever been written."

Genres

Presley was a central figure in the development of rockabilly, according to music historians. Katherine Charlton even calls him "rockabilly’s originator", though Carl Perkins has explicitly stated that "[Sam] Phillips, Elvis, and I didn’t create rockabilly."Cited in Wayne Jancik, The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders (1998), p.16. and, according to Michael Campbell, "Bill Haley recorded the first big rockabilly hit."Michael Campbell, Popular Music in America (3rd edition, 2009), p.161. "It had been there for quite a while", says Scotty Moore. "Carl Perkins was doing basically the same sort of thing up around Jackson, and I know for a fact Jerry Lee Lewis had been playing that kind of music ever since he was ten years old."Cited in Peter Guralnick, Lost Highway: Journeys & Arrivals of American Musicians (1989), p.104. However, "Rockabilly crystallized into a recognizable style in 1954 with Elvis Presley’s first release, on the Sun label", writes Craig Morrison. Paul Friedlander describes the defining elements of rockabilly, which he similarly characterizes as "essentially … an Elvis Presley construction": "the raw, emotive, and slurred vocal style and emphasis on rhythmic feeling [of] the blues with the string band and strummed rhythm guitar [of] country". In "That’s All Right", the Presley trio’s first record, Scotty Moore’s guitar solo, "a combination of Merle Travis–style country finger-picking, double-stop slides from acoustic boogie, and blues-based bent-note, single-string work, is a microcosm of this fusion."