Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 23

Elvis (Aaron) Presley - Early life, Voice characteristics, Sun recordings, Presley and his manager "Colonel" Tom Parker

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Popular singer and film actor, born in Tupelo, Mississippi, USA. An only child (a twin brother was stillborn), he was raised in a religious home. As a boy he sang with his local Assembly of God church choir, which emulated the style of African-American psalm singing. At age 10 he won a school singing contest and taught himself the rudiments of the guitar (though he never really could read music). In 1948 he moved with his family to Memphis, TN, where he graduated from high school (1953) and began working as a truck driver and studying at night classes to be an electrician. Later that year he made a private recording for his mother at the Memphis Sound Studio, where he attracted the attention of proprietor Sam Phillips (1923–2003), who also operated Sun Records, a fledgling blues label. In July 1954 Phillips had Presley record his first singles, ‘That's All Right, Mama’ and ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’, a synthesis of rhythm-and-blues and country-and-western that was for a time described as ‘rockabilly’. The record made an immediate impression on local listeners, who were bewildered to learn that Presley was white, but their enthusiasm for his style of dress, bodily movements, and music signalled the beginnings of rock 'n' roll.

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