We’re trying something new on the blog here this week at the Games Room Company. As you may well already know, jukeboxes make up a huge proportion of our business, so we’re used to hearing them beautifully render some of the most famous songs of bygone years.
We thought it was worth dedicating the occasional post to the remarkable musicians who’ve actually produced these songs – and who better to start with than the King of Rock and Roll himself: Elvis Presley. (Such is his impact that even decades after his death, Rock-Ola are still making a roaring trade with this Bubbler Elvis CD Jukebox!) Below, we take a quick look at some of the highlights in the life of this truly extraordinary man.
From Humble Beginnings To A Worldwide Sensation
You almost certainly know that Elvis wasn’t born into a wealthy or famous family. Far from it – he was born in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi. (Little known fact – Elvis was actually a twin, but his brother, Jesse, was stillborn.) Within just a few short years his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis’s musical talent and enthusiasm became apparent from a very young age. With encouragement from one of his teachers he made his first public performance at age 10 in 1945, at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy show. He received a guitar for his birthday a few months later (though he’d initially wanting a bicycle or a rifle), and began to play.
It’s fair to say that growing up, his classmates weren’t nice to him, regarding him simply as a loner, trashy kid who played “hillbilly music”. Nevertheless, he nervously walked into the offices of Sun Records in August 1953, and at the age of only 19, he got a record deal. His musical style uniquely combined diverse musical influences – he was asked who he sounded like, and famously replied “I don’t sound like nobody.” At the time, Roy Orbison said “his instinct was just amazing. I just didn’t know what to make of it.”
His success rocketed from there, helped along not a little by Colonel Tom Parker, whom he met in 1955. A famously enigmatic and sometimes controversial figure – partially due to the massively high earnings he was rumoured to have received from his clients – “the Colonel” was nonetheless described by Elvis as the best music promoter in the business. Over the next few years, the Colonel proved exactly how accurate that statement was. With Parker’s help, by 1956, Elvis was an international sensation.
A Pioneering Force That Rocked The World
As well as the sheer charisma and style that defined his performances his – concert crowds were often known to break through the barriers – Elvis’ career was arguably helped by a fair bit of controversy. A lot of the establishment’s ire was centred on his trademark hip-thrusting as he sang. It didn’t take a lot of imagination to work out he was mimicking sexual movements. In 1950s conservative America was too much for some parents, but it helped cement his status as a sex symbol and likely the inspiration of many contemporary teenage rebellions, especially by young girls. He also had a successful acting career, appearing in over 33 successful films. Some of these, like his 1957 Jailhouse Rock, also linked in with his music, further propelling his career.
Elvis was effortlessly charismatic, with a charm and good humour that shone through in almost every public appearance he made. Much of the fascination that surrounded him focused on the fact that he was pioneering a new form of music, one typically associated with the black community. His fusion of of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. Decades later, Little Richard would remark “Elvis was a blessing. They wouldn’t let black music through, and he opened the door for black music.”
While he may have been unpopular with millions of American parents, there’s no denying his talent or his success. By the age of 21, he was one of the most famous people in the world, and he quickly became an American cultural icon. In fact, as one of the most significant cultural icons of the twentieth century, today he’s regarded as one of the most important and influential music artists of all time.
Today, we play many of his records on our Rock-Ola jukeboxes, like this Rock-Ola Bubbler (another American cultural icon!) We’re Rock-Ola’s official UK dealer – our Managing Director, Alexander Waldersmith, has a personal affinity for them, and knows them inside out. You can browse the huge selection of them right here on our website, or take a trip to our expansive Weybridge showroom, and see what we’ve got in store!