COVER STORY | A Year In The Life of Elvis Presley

The Herald reflects on the anniversary of two seminal years in the life of Elvis Aaron Presley, diving into the highs and lows of the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll

 

It’s good to be the King … sometimes. If one could be a fly on the wall for a year in the life of Elvis Presley during the final two decades of his life, it would be something to behold the sheer amount of pressure heaped on the shoulders of the undisputed King of Rock ‘N’ Roll.

From sex symbol, to chart topping musician and A-list actor, Presley was the dominator of the tabloids and charts of all size and scope for decades.

The Newfoundland Herald – in conjunction with the official home of Elvis Presley, Graceland – retrace the King’s 1961 and 1971 for the 60th and 50th anniversaries of pivotal years in the life of a once in a generation artist.

From box office triumphs to career misses and personal lows, we follow a year in the life of Elvis Presley.

FEBRUARY 25, 1961

Elvis appears at a luncheon in his honour in Memphis … Following a press conference, Elvis performs an afternoon and evening show at Ellis Auditorium to benefit around 38 Memphis-area charities. Other than the Sinatra television show, these shows are the only times Elvis has performed live since his Army discharge.

“Elvis Presley Day” is proclaimed by Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington. Every year after this, Elvis donates money to a list of Memphis-area charities, eventually reaching 50 or more, usually around Christmas time.

MARCH 25, 1961

Elvis arrives in Hawaii for a press conference, then an evening concert at Bloch Arena at Pearl Harbor. He is there to perform a benefit to help fund the building of the USS Arizona Memorial. Hundreds of fans mob the airport as he arrives. His show raises around $62,000 for the memorial.

This turns out to be Elvis’ last live, non-movie performance until his 1968 television special.

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LATE MAR/MID-APRIL 1961

Elvis remains in Hawaii to do location filming for his eighth motion picture, Blue Hawaii, having already done soundtrack recording.

Later, there is additional filming to be done back in Hollywood for this film, which will open later in the year.

With this second and longer visit, Hawaii would become one of Elvis’ lifelong favourite places to vacation.

JUNE 22, 1961

Wild in the Country, co-starring Hope Lange, Millie Perkins and Tuesday Weld, opens nationally to mixed reviews. Like Flaming Star, it’s a melodrama with limited singing by Elvis, and not one of his most successful motion pictures.

Also in June, the album Something For Everybody is shipped. It hits the charts in July, staying for 25 weeks and spending three of those weeks at #1.

JULY-AUGUST, 1961

Elvis records and films for his ninth motion picture, Follow That Dream.

OCTOBER 1961

The soundtrack album for Blue Hawaii enters the Billboard chart for a year-and-a-half run, staying at #1 for 20 weeks, second only to GI Blues as the biggest album of Elvis’ career on the Billboard charts.

OCTOBER 1961

It also yields a #2 single destined to become an Elvis classic, Can’t Help Falling in Love.

NOVEMBER, 1961

Elvis records and films for his 10th motion picture, Kid Galahad, completing it on December 20, 1961.

Blue Hawaii opens nationally to warm reviews. The film hits #18 on the box office charts for 1961 and #14 for 1962.

It earns recognition as one of the Best Elvis movies, and is top-grossing film of his career thus far. Its characteristics of a non-cerebral plot, lavish scenery, lots of songs by Elvis, and lots of pretty girls, become the basis for the “Presley formula” movies of the sixties.

DECEMBER 1961

Other than the Army years, this is the only Christmas Elvis will spend away from Graceland. He will spend from December 22 to January 29 in Las Vegas.

JANUARY 16, 1971

Elvis attends a day of functions culminating in an evening awards banquet. He and nine others accept the honor of being named One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (The Jaycees).

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 1971

Elvis plays another month-long engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

MARCH 1971

Elvis begins a recording session in Nashville, but cancels it due to pain and inflammation in an eye. He is treated at a Nashville hospital where he is diagnosed with secondary glaucoma.

MAY 1971

Elvis is featured on the cover of Look Magazine, which carries an installment of the forthcoming biography on Elvis by Jerry Hopkins. Many books and articles have been written over the years, but this is the first in-depth, serious biography.

Elvis has recording sessions in Nashville. Much of the work is for his forthcoming album Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas.

JUNE 1971

The two-room house Elvis was born in opens to the public for tours in Tupelo. The house was restored by the East Heights Garden Club in Tupelo.

Elvis has more recording sessions in Nashville, this time mostly for an upcoming gospel album, He Touched Me.

In addition, a long stretch of Highway 51 South, part of which runs in front of Graceland, is officially renamed Elvis Presley Boulevard.

JUNE 16, 1971

Elvis releases his 14th studio album Love Letters From Elvis. The album received mixed to negative critical reviews and failed to crack the top 20 Billboard charts in the United States, but fared better in the UK and Canada.

JULY/AUGUST 1971

Elvis plays a two-week engagement at the Sahara Hotel in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. With this first appearance at the Sahara Tahoe, 2001 will now be Elvis’ entrance theme for his concert shows. He breaks attendance records for this venue.

AUGUST 9-SEPT. 6, 1971

Elvis plays an engagement in Las Vegas at the International Hotel, which has been renamed the Las Vegas Hilton International Hotel. This run of Elvis shows in Las Vegas tops his previous attendance records once again.

During the engagement, an award is presented to Elvis in his dressing room. It is the Bing Crosby Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization that also presents Grammy awards.

NOVEMBER 5-12, 1971

Elvis goes on a 12-city concert tour. J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet have now replaced The Imperials and Jackie Kahane is now the opening comedian. The famous Elvis jumpsuits now feature matching capes.

LATE 1971 – EARLY 1972

Elvis Presley and Priscilla separate. She moves out on her own with her daughter Lisa Marie.

 


For more by Staff Writer Dillon Collins, click here

*Partial timeline information from Graceland.com, the official home of Elvis Presley

Dillon Collins is a writer based out of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Multi-time MusicNL nominee for Media Person of the Year. Lover of heavy metal, hoppy beverages and the loveable canine.

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