Elvis Presley through the years (2023)

It's 42 years this month (August 16, at age 42) that the world lost one of the greatest entertainers of all time. Four decades later, "The King" is perhaps even more beloved than ever. Just take a trip to Memphis and visit Graceland.

As we remember Elvis Presley again this time of year, here's look at the most prominent and memorable moments in the life of a legend.

1 of 20

Welcome, Elvis Aron Presley

Elvis Presley through the years (1)

Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Born on Jan. 8, 1935, to a poor family in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley had a twin brother, Jesse, who was delivered stillborn. As legend has it, Elvis performed for the first time in public in October 1945, singing "Old Shep" at a local fair. It would be soon after that Presley received his first guitar and was off and running

2 of 20

Walking in Memphis

Elvis Presley through the years (2)

Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

It was November 1948, when Presley and his family moved Memphis. By this time the teenage Presley was immersed in music. Whether pop, country, gospel or rhythm and blues, young Elvis could not get enough. He spent a good chunk of his time on Memphis' famed Beale Street, the heart of the city's blues scene. Presley graduated high school in 1953 and was going to do whatever it took to have a career in music.

3 of 20

All's right, now

Elvis Presley through the years (3)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In 1953, Presley wanted to give his mother a birthday present, so he went down to Memphis' Sun Records and recorded two songs — "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin." He cut two more songs at Sun the next year, but his dream of being a musical star was going nowhere. That was until July 5, while teamed with guitarist Scotty Moore and upright bassist Bill Black, he cut a cover of the 1946 Blue tune "That's All Right," with Sun owner Sam Phillips in the studio. Days later, the song was a radio hit and the trio performed publicly for the time in July 1954.

4 of 20

The King and the Colonel

Elvis Presley through the years (4)

GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

In addition to becoming more comfortable singing in public, Presley's moving and shaking on stage, along with his bandmates, wooed crowds. After making his only appearance at Nashville's famed Grand Ole Opry in late '54, Presley and his group played in Texas and Louisiana. The latter, where he made his first television appearance on the "Louisiana Hayride." In 1955, Presley is introduced to Colonel Tom Parker, the man who would remain his manager until the superstar's 1977 death.

5 of 20

Play that rock 'n' roll

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

With Parker behind the scenes, the 20-year-old Presley had a deal with RCA Victor in November 1955, as Phillips received $40,000 for the rights to his Sun contract. "Heartbreak Hotel" (his first No. 1 pop hit) was released, and he made his first national TV appearance on CBS. In March 1956, Presley's self-titled debut album, highlighted by a cover of Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes," was out. Presley offered a bluesy sound not heard from a white singer and showcased the guitar as the main instrument while fueling a rock 'n' roll sound.

6 of 20

Watch those moves

Elvis Presley through the years (6)

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One of the more amusing moments of Presley's career game when the FBI considered Presley "a definite danger to the security of the United States" for his hip-swaying and leg-shaking performances on stage during the mid-to-late 1950s. "Hound Dog" particularly left Presley at his gyrating best and made the girls across America swoon.

7 of 20

Ed says yes to Elvis

Elvis Presley through the years (7)

Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Though Ed Sullivan, like other prominent variety show hosts of the time, was not a fan of Presley's sound and controversial stage presence, he had no choice but to book the budding superstar on his popular TV show. Elvis made his debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Sept. 9, 1956. Roughly 60 million people watched as Presley performed "Love Me Tender," "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog" and "Ready Teddy."

8 of 20

Movies and memories

Elvis Presley through the years (8)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

By this time, Presley was a household name and fans could not get enough. In late '56, he starred in his first movie, "Love Me Tender." However, it was Dec. 4 of that year when musical history was truly made back at Sun Records. Presley walked in on the jam session featuring Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. Though it would be a quarter of a century before anything from that session was released, they became known as the "Million Dollar Quartet."

9 of 20

Times are a changin'

Elvis Presley through the years (9)

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

While the hits kept coming for Presley in 1957, he decided to spend some of his money on a mansion just south of downtown Memphis — known as Graceland. The film "Jailhouse Rock" was released in late '57, with the famed title track giving Presley another No. 1 hit. He also put out the historically successful "Elvis' Christmas Album." It was at the time that both Moore and Black left as members of Presley's backing band, and Presley received his draft notice.

10 of 20

Serving his country and moviegoers

Elvis Presley through the years (10)

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It was quite the media moment when Presley arrived for his two-year duty with the U.S. Army in March 1958. He was stationed in Germany, where he met teenager Priscilla Beaulieu, who would eventually become his wife. While Presley was still one of the biggest music stars in the world, he continued to work in film, making such hits as "G.I. Blues" (1960), "Blue Hawaii" (1961) and "Viva Las Vegas" (1964), with successful soundtracks to boot.

11 of 20

Personal glory amid a career fade

Elvis Presley through the years (11)

Magma Agency/WireImage/Getty Images

Though Presley was still a star, he managed only one top-10 hit in from 1964 to '68, though he did win his first Grammy Award for his gospel album "How Great Thou Art" in 1967.In May of that year, Presley and Beaulieu were finally married. The couple gave birth to daughter Lisa Marie on Feb. 1, 1968, but by then Presley's popularity was fading thanks to poor record sales and a presumed unnecessary focus to making his schmaltzy films.

12 of 20

The King of Vegas

Elvis Presley through the years (12)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Presley returned to the limelight, in a positive fashion, with his "'68 Comeback Special" on NBC. In 1969, he booked a deal for a residency at Las Vegas' new International Hotel. Once again, Presley was a relevant entertainer. As the 1970s dawned, his hair was longer, wardrobe flashier, but still somebody people wanted to see.

13 of 20

Hitting the road

Elvis Presley through the years (13)

National Archives via Getty Images

On the heels of his Vegas' success, Presley began touring, met then-President Richard Nixon and received a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. In 1972, he won another Grammy for his gospel LP "He Touched Me." He played a hugely successful series of concerts at Madison Square Garden. Professionally, things looked up for Elvis.

14 of 20

Moving on

Elvis Presley through the years (14)

Magma Agency/WireImage/Getty Images

Personally, that was not the case. He separated from wife Priscilla in February 1972, but they did not officially divorce until October 1973. The couple, however, had already found the company of others. Both sides were to blame for the breakup of their marriage. However, he was still in for one final great moment as an entertainer, this time with Hawaii as his backdrop.

15 of 20

Hawaiian revival

Elvis Presley through the years (15)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Presley's 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert was shown around the world. Sporting his soon-to-be-famous and often ridiculed white, sequenced suit, he was again, The King. The accompanying double album went to No. 1. It was the last notable achievement for Presley, who was starting to see the debilitating effects of his prescription drug use.

16 of 20

Living the hard life

Elvis Presley through the years (16)

GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

Despite his growing health issues, Presley continued touring in 1973 and '74, though it was obvious to his band, crew and fans that he needed a break. Often bloated and sometimes incoherent while performing, Presley trudged on. While his pop success waned, he produced three No. 1 albums on the country charts — "Promised Land" (1975), "From Elvis Presley Boulevard," "Memphis, Tennessee" (1976) and "Moody Blue" (1977).

17 of 20

Shell of his former self

Elvis Presley through the years (17)

Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

However, by early '77, Presley seemed barely able to finish his live shows. He resembled nothing of the thin, hip-swiveling rock 'n' roll star America and the world fell in love with during the late 1950s and through most of the '60s. He released his last single, "Way Down," in June '77 and played his final concert in Indianapolis the same month.

18 of 20

The flame burns out

Elvis Presley through the years (18)

Blank Archives/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Aug. 16, 1977, Presley was found unresponsive on the floor of a bathroom at Graceland. He was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m., at age 42, with mystery surrounding the manner of the death and controversy surrounding his autopsy. While many suggest his years of prescription drug abuse, the official cause has been related to cardiac arrest.

19 of 20

Time to say goodbye

Elvis Presley through the years (19)

Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images

Two days after his death, a funeral was held for Presley at Graceland. It was a mob scene at times as several thousand people watched as his body was processed to nearby Forest Hill Cemetery. Though the man himself was gone, the legend of a great performer was only getting stronger and, as we continue to see, will never die.

20 of 20

The legend will never die

Elvis Presley through the years (20)

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Since his death 42 years ago, Presley still remains a cultural icon. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is one of five halls to which he's been inducted. More than 100 songs of his have made the Billboard Top 40, and his list of professional achievements could probably fill Graceland two times over. Fans plan vacations to visit Graceland, and he's still beloved in Vegas. Elvis might have left the building, but the legacy will live on.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Delena Feil

Last Updated: 01/16/2023

Views: 5721

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Delena Feil

Birthday: 1998-08-29

Address: 747 Lubowitz Run, Sidmouth, HI 90646-5543

Phone: +99513241752844

Job: Design Supervisor

Hobby: Digital arts, Lacemaking, Air sports, Running, Scouting, Shooting, Puzzles

Introduction: My name is Delena Feil, I am a clean, splendid, calm, fancy, jolly, bright, faithful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.