Elvis Presley is known as “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” – what does that mean, exactly? It’s not that he was the first to be associated with the term Rock and Roll; in fact, Rocking and Rolling had been around since the early 1900s as a descriptive of the spiritual excitement of African-American church services. The shortened term was popularized by pioneering radio DJ Alan Freed beginning in the early 1950s, and various artists had early Rock and Roll hits before Elvis, notably Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” in 1951. Even earlier, Roy Brown’s jump blues hit “Good Rockin’ Tonight”, among others, was laying out a blueprint for the music genesis spawned by the collision of R&B, Gospel, Country, and Rockabilly.
“Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets, recorded just a few months before Elvis’ “That’s All Right”, eventually gave the genre its first mega-hit after being featured in the groundbreaking movie Blackboard Jungle. But it was Elvis who would emerge King of Rock and Roll. His barrage of recordings and live performances from 1954 to 1958 provided the catalytic spark igniting a music and cultural revolution that’s affected every Rock act since.
So, here at Heritage, we’ve gathered up our top reasons why Elvis Presley lives on as the “The King of Rock and Roll”:
1) No other performer has ever moved so naturally between the genres of Rockabilly, Country, Gospel, and R&B (and been recognized as an icon in each), essentially synthesizing these into a new form: Rock ‘n’ Roll.
2) The looks, the hair, the sneer, the moves.
3) Who else?
4) Mr. Billboard! Most charted hits, Most Top 40 Hits, Most Platinum Hits, Most Gold Hits, Most Two-Sided Hits of all-time.
5) No one before or since could pull off wearing pink and black with such panache.
And because all these people said so:
1) “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” “Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” (John Lennon)
2) “A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man’s music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis.” (Jackie Wilson)
3) “Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century. He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it’s a whole new social revolution – the 60’s comes from it.” (Leonard Bernstein)
4) “When I first heard Elvis’ voice, I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody; and noboby was going to be my boss… Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.” (Bob Dylan)
5) “There have been a lotta tough guys. There have been pretenders. And there have been contenders. But there is only one king.” (Bruce Springsteen)
6) “I don’t think there is a musician today that hasn’t been affected by Elvis’ music. His definitive years – 1954-57 – can only be described as rock’s cornerstone. He was the original cool.” (Brian Setzer)
7) “He’s just the greatest entertainer that ever lived. And I think it’s because he had such presence. When Elvis walked into a room, Elvis Presley was in the f***ing room. I don’t give a f*** who was in the room with him, Bogart, Marilyn Monroe.” (Eddie Murphy)
Do you agree with us? Tell us in the comments below!
Also, don’t forget to check out our featured Elvis Presley items presented in the December 6 Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature Auction:
By Jim Steele