Today is the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am a HUGE Elvis fan. Yes, I am the geek who has practically all his records (CDs or MP3′s now), I own all his movies, and yes, I’ve seen them all many times, I have posters around my house, and I’ve been to Graceland twice (and loved it both times), and more. I know the man was far from perfect, but as I contemplate his life and career, I think there’s a thing or two we can learn from him.
Elvis Presley – His First Recording
We all hear that Elvis shot to stardom in 1956 with the release of Heartbreak Hotel. But many people forget that Elvis first recorded a song, My Happiness, in 1953, and then others in early 1954. Elvis also auditioned for the Songfellows, a vocal quartet, but was turned down because he couldn’t sing. But Elvis persevered, eventually recording That’s All Right. Even so, it was instant stardom. Elvis and his band toured all over the south, gaining the popularity that would help Heartbreak Hotel become a smash hit. Moral for authors:
Don’t give up, even if you get rejected.
Elvis Presley – His Rise To Stardom
As I mentioned above, between 1954 and 1956, Elvis toured relentlessly. Obviously this was a way to grow a following, but something else occurred during this time. Elvis learned to become a better singer and performer. Many around him noticed that Elvis studied what reactions his moves received; he expanded on those that got a rise out of the crowd. Moral for authors:
Hone your craft. Learn what makes a good story and what doesn’t.
Elvis Presley – His Moves
We all know Elvis moved…boy, did he move. If you watch Elvis now, he seems so tame compared to what’s going on in music, but at the time, it was scandalous. In Florida, he was ordered by a judge to tame his act (he ended up staying still, only moving his little finger, which drove the crowd wild). Elvis was smart; he knew that breaking the social norm in how he performed was a recipe for success. But what if he’d done what performers today do? He would’ve been arrested, and his career likely would’ve been detailed. Moral for authors:
Break the rules, but do it right.
Elvis Presley – His Manager
Elvis was managed by Colonel Tom Parker (the title was honorary). A lot has been said about Parker: he came from a carny background; he’d managed other singers before Elvis, and more. He did some great things for Elvis, and he knew about marketing. He created a marketing phenomena with Elvis. But many also believe he limited Elvis, and ultimately damaged Elvis’ career. Yes, Elvis could’ve/should’ve spoken up and taken control of his own career more, but Parker also took advantage of a somewhat naive man. Moral for authors:
Make sure you control your career. If you get an agent, be educated in what he/she does.
Elvis Presley – His Generosity
Elvis was known to be a very generous person. He lavished gifts on family and friends. Many people received Cadillacs from Elvis. Elvis also performed many benefit concerts in support of various causes – storm victims in Mississippi, Memphis charities, the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Hawaii, the Kui Lee Cancer Fund and more. He also donated to many charities. Taking time to give to others is important (Stephen King talks about donating money, and he is known to help undiscovered authors). What goes around comes around. Moral for authors:
Give of your time and advice…it will come back to you tenfold.
Did You Know?
People rip on Elvis for his bad movies (and even a Elvis nut like myself can admit some of the movies are pretty bad), but did you know that many big names were in Elvis movies? Here are some of them:
- Walter Matthau
- Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family)
- Tuesday Weld
- Angela Lansbury
- Gig Young
- Kurt Russell (making his film debut in It Happened At The World’s Fair)
- Ann Margaret
- Barbara Stanwyck
- Harry Morgan (M*A*S*H)
- Shelly Fabares (Coach)
- Nancy Sinatra
- Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk)
- Mary Tyler Moore
Not a bad list.
Elvis loved to read, especially spiritual books.
Man, I was tame compared to what they do now. Are you kidding? I didn’t do anything but just jiggle. Quote from Elvis.
I hope you enjoyed this little post about the king :).