Episode 2 of The Beard focuses on the first idol, Elvis Aaron Presley. It is hard to get a sense of just how popular he was. But for what? For being a rebel for the youth of the fifties while still possessing the polite, genteel posturing of a southern youth. Infamous for his hip shake, his overall body of gospel work far outnumbers his rock and roll catalog.
Truth be told, it was Elvis’ performance of “Hound Dog” on NBC’s June 5, 1956, “The Milton Berle Show,” that set off the national consciousness alarm clock, with critics labeling him vulgar and obscene. But by the time he appeared cropped from the waist up on Ed Sullivan he was performing slow ballads and gospel numbers.
He aroused the dormant sexuality of a nation of privileged youth with songs like “Fever,” from Elvis Presley’s 1960 album, Elvis Is Back, originally recorded and released as a single by Little Willie John in 1956. Presley’s version is based off the 1958 Peggy Lee version, and although the 1993 Madonna, or even the 2010 Beyonce cover might be more recognizable today, there is none more soulful than his rendition.
Elvis – The First King of Pop
More than a singer and an actor, something Elvis knew–a good song never dies, but is only repackaged. “All Shook Up”, “Don’t Be Cruel” as well as “Fever”, were written by Otis Blackwell. Carl Perkins wrote the 1956 hit “Blue Suede Shoes”, considered by many to be the first example of Rockabilly (aka Country, Western Swing, Hillbilly Boogie, R & B, Rock and Roll). Like on “Come Back Baby” a standard by blues pianist Walter Davis, we hear the shift from piano, the instrument that defined one era, to guitar, the instrument that defined the next 60 years. Despite what Chuck Berry & BB King had already done, it was Elvis who put the guitar in the hands of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Joe Strummer.
No matter what you think of the person, I mean let’s face it, he was the prototypical pop pedophile (he began dating Priscilla when she was 14…and she was not the first, but were you gonna say no to Elvis? Hehe, I don’t think so…), it was Elvis who invented Michael Jackson. It was also Elvis who, with his infamous peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches, invented the modern diabetes epidemic. But, and this may be the biggest but in all of pop music history, it was Elvis who helped integrate the radio waves for African-American artists like Little Richard and Fats Domino to gain their rightful recognition. It was Elvis who married rhythm and blues with rock and country topped with a gospel croon. It was Elvis who made girls swoon, who sold millions of records to kids spending their weekly allowance, who made Wall Street realize the youth market was viable, who empowered the youth, who started the 60s counter culture movement. That’s right, Elvis invented hippies too. And the Future. He definitely helped invent The Beard. Listen to The Beard – Episode 2 – Elvis Presley.