By Michael Baadke
Elvis Aaron Presley was born Jan. 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Miss., to Vernon and Gladys Presley. For his 11th birthday, he received a guitar and began learning to play and sing.
When Elvis was 13, his family moved to Memphis, Tenn., and he became better acquainted with the thriving Beale Street blues scene and gospel music.
Presley graduated from high school in 1953 and recorded a two-sided single in Memphis at Sun Records. He landed a job as a truck driver but visited Sun Records again, impressing studio head Sam Phillips during an impromptu jam session with bass player Bill Black and guitarist Scotty Moore.
Music promoter Colonel Tom Parker began directing Presley’s career. Joined by Black, Moore and drummer D.J. Fontana, Presley’s popularity grew across the South, and soon, across the country. Presley signed with RCA Records in 1956, and began recording hits such as Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog and Heartbreak Hotel.
He appeared on popular television variety programs, including the Milton Berle Show, Steve Allen Show, and Ed Sullivan Show, and drew throngs of fans to his live concerts.
In 1958, Presley began serving two years in the U.S. Army, stationed in Texas and Germany. He met Priscilla Beaulieu, then 14 years old, in Bad Nauheim, Germany; they would remain in touch and eventually marry in 1967.
Despite his military service, Presley recorded nine studio albums in six years, with many of them reaching No. 1 on the record charts. His string of hit singles included Love Me Tender, All Shook Up, Jailhouse Rock and It’s Now or Never.
He was also starring in films, beginning with Love Me Tender in 1956, and extending to more than 30 features well into the 1960s. Many of the films were musical dramas or comedies with a plot immersed in romance, and included Jailhouse Rock (1957) and Viva Las Vegas (1964).
His only child, daughter Lisa Marie Presley, was born Feb. 1, 1968. Elvis and Priscilla Presley divorced in 1973, but remained on good terms.
Presley’s career soared, and he came to be known as the King of Rock and Roll, later simply shortened to “the King.” During his career he landed 104 Top 40 hits.
In 1993, the United States Postal Service issued three very similar 29¢ stamps honoring Elvis Presley (Scott 2721, 2724, 2731).
A new forever stamp honoring Presley was issued Aug. 12, 2015 (Scott 5009).