Elvis Presley’s groundbreaking career was famously interrupted in its prime by a two-year stint in the U.S. Army. But his service to others did not stop once he had left the military and returned to his day job. Here is a look at how the King of Rock ’n’ Roll kept on giving. And, in the process, proved that as well as being a musical pioneer he was a most generous star.
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in January 1935, Elvis Presley moved with his family to Memphis, Tennessee, in his early teens. This was where the then 19-year-old first entered a recording studio in 1954 and began fusing country and R&B to popularize a sound known as rockabilly. After signing with RCA and manager Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis issued his first single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” in 1956.
Elvis rapidly became a massive phenomenon and the defining star of his generation. He scored numerous chart-toppers and became a regular face on both the small and big screens. But his early career was by no means without controversy. His provocative performances often incurred the wrath of America’s conservative audiences, as did his ability to transcend the color line.