The American singer Elvis Presley began his singing career shortly after graduating from Humes High School in Memphis, Tennessee in 1953.

By 1954 he began his singing career with the hometown Sun Records label. The studio and its producer were looking for artists who could bring the African American sound to a wider general audience. He and his band pioneered the sound of rockabilly music, which became an upbeat mixture of country music with rhythm and blues.

Presley released Heartbreak Hotel, his first single with his new record label RCA, in 1956. With a number of television appearances, he became a leading figure in the new movement of rock and roll.

Elvis’s music spurred from many influences, and crossed the racial barriers of the time, making him an initially controversial artist. In 1957, at the age of 22, Elvis made his third appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. What made this appearance so remarkable is that the show made the decision to only film him from the hips up.

It may feel strange to think about now, but the gyrating hips of a newly emerging rock and roll star at the same time when the American public was used to singers like Bing Crosby or Perry Como may have seemed like a lot to handle. Presley remained a more controversial singer than his counterparts for a long time. Other contemporary singers of the time included Pat Boone, Fats Domino, The Platters, and Bill Haley and the Comets.

Around the same time in the mid ‘50s, Elvis began his movie career with Love Me Tender. He served in the military after being drafted in 1958. Following that he continued making albums. Elvis didn’t hold many concerts in this time period however.

Below are some facts about one of America’s first and most legendary rock and roll stars:

  • He is still the best-selling artist of all time and has sold more than one billion albums globally. (A remarkable feat considering that in 1956, there were 2.8 billion people in the world!)
  • He starred in 33 films.
  • Elvis has 14 Grammy nominations and three wins. He also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at 36.

Elvis Presley died in his Memphis home, Graceland, in 1977 at 42.