The fact that Elvis Presley sang gospel before he ever sang rock n roll might come as a surprise to some people. They might also be shocked to learn that this hip-swinging, guitar-playing King of Rock-n-Roll, first guitar was a gift from his Pentecostal pastor.
"I ain't no saint, voiced Elvis Presley, "but I've tried on no account to do anything that would damage my relations or arouse God...I presume all any kid needs is love and the sense he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would grant some kid that perception, I would presume I had contributed something to the universe."
He was born and raised in the Gospel Zone of America and his household attended the First Assembly of God Church whose Pentecostal services commonly included singing. "When Elvis Presley was only a little kid, he would glide off my lap, run down the aisle, and crawled up to the stage of the church. He would stand looking eagerly up at the choir and tried to sing with them voiced his mum Gladys."
In 1946, Elvis Presley asked his parents for a bicycle, but Gladys being totally shielding of Elvis was terrified that he might fall off and injure himself, and swerved Elvis to get a guitar instead. The following year, his papa Vernon's brother, Johnny Smith and Assembly of God Pastor Frank Smith, gave him fundamental guitar lessons. Soon he was listening to the radio, tuning into a range of music as he tried to select out melodies.
In 1954 Elvis Presley went to the Mississippi Alabama State Fair. It was there, at the age of ten that Elvis stood on a bench in front of a large crowd, unescorted by music and sang "Old Shep" a warm-hearted ballad concerning a boy and his dog. To his delight he was awarded 2nd Prize for the very 1st time for singing. Elvis experienced a basic but significant tip that day. His utterance was resilient and singing could produce his fantasies to become a reality.
In his consecutive youth, Elvis Presley could be seen at every gospel performance appearing in Memphis. It was during this period that he was befriended by such gospel greats as J. D. Sumner and the Blackwood Brothers, as well as numerous of the Black gospel groups. He was frequently invited backstage and would connect with them in melody.
Because of this force, he ripened into a unique style that incorporated the styles of all of these groups. His favorite singer at this time was Jake Hess. Jake is still on the move in gospel music via the concerts organised by the Gaither Reunion. Elvis won the older ability competition at Humes High School just before his 1953 graduation.
On completion of his graduation he took a job at Parker Machinists Store. By June was employed at the Precision Tool Company and hitherto drove heavy vehicles for the Crown Electric Co. He was seen most of his time on Beale Street and frequented the all-night white and black, "Gospel Chorus" that were held downtown.
On the way out to jobs in a Ford pick-up, Elvis would make his way by the Memphis Recording Service. One Saturday, Elvis Presley stopped by the recording services with his old guitar and records his mum a birthday gift. Elvis cut 2 songs "My Happiness" and the 2nd "That's When Your Heartaches Start."
Resulting, the tape was given to the manager, Sam C. Phillips, proprietor of Sun Records and Elvis was invited to tape varied competent records. Rock and Roll history was made when Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore and Bill Black performed bluesman Arthur "Big Boy" Cruddup's "That's All Right" in a light-hearted, up-pulse fashion.
Elvis made his 1st official stage presence at Overton Park Shell in Memphis. Elvis was extremely apprehensive as he walked out to perform "Good Rockin' Tonight". He felt his voice wasn't doing it unescorted, so he threw his body into the music, his feet began to shuffle, the knees bowed and shook, his hips swiveled and pumped in interval to the music.
"The first time that I appeared on stage, it terrified me to death. I genuinely didn't grasp what all the yelling was about. I didn't realize that my body was moving. It's a natural thing to me. So to the proprietor backstage I voiced 'What'd I do? What'd I do?' And he uttered 'What ever it is, go back and do it again'."
From a 1972 taped conversation used in MGM's documentary "Elvis on Tour". Elvis was blessed with a natural ability to sing just about anything, but he needed to sense as tranquil with his picked out material, as he was around the guys that worked for him. Elvis had a tenor utterance and a solid 3 octave scope. He loved to sing the bass parts, but he could hit the lofty notes so distinctly and dramatically that it came to be certified as one of the pre-eminent aspects of his style.
Elvis sought a personal "grasp" in all things that he did; which might develop from the pattern of the music, but most of the time it was more likely to come from something in the lyric, which would allow him to communicate himself.
Senior fans recall watching him perform his gospel performance of "Peace In The Valley" on the Ed Sullivan Show. This performance proved to numerous skeptical parents and righteousness critics uniformly that he was not only a "hip-shaking rock and roller." It demonstrated that his understanding and conveyance of gospel music was rare, and was based on childhood and teen years of presence and singing alongside his mum at church and tent revivals.
He knew and could sing from recollection a large number of gospel and hymnal songs. Elvis once voiced "I know almost every god-fearing melody that's been written".
Predominantly, Elvis took gratification in listening to gospel. Elvis passionately believed that there was nothing as powerful or touching than the commendable gospel music. When traveling he would carry around a case of a hundred or so albums-most of them were gospel music.
Listening to his preferred gospel music was a means for Elvis to get in touch with his bloodline; he frequently used this music for giving praise to the Lord when feeling modest and grateful, which he constantly did. The Word of God says to sing praise and lift your voice to Him.
Elvis wasn't one to sing a melody unless he felt it; he had to feel it in his heart, for that's where he sang from and that's what made him a renowned star. No matter what he sang it had to fit him completely, and it is clear when going through songs he sang over the years, and hearing the personal connections that were evident in his life. When Elvis sang "How Great Thou Art" he felt it in his being, with such sensitivity and meaning he had the power in him to move mountains.
A Marty Robbins's hit, "You Gave Me A Mountain" articulated his need to persevere, stay sturdy, carry on with strength after his break-up, and the despondency of being without his daughter. "American Trilogy," one Elvis put together, as a honour to the stateliness of his nation and its custom. Only Elvis could have pulled it off with such perfection. "There is something spellbound about watching a man who has lost himself discover his way back home...He sang with the kind of power people no longer envisage." - John Landau Review of Elvis, (1968 TV Special).
There is no question Elvis Presley's favorite music was Gospel. He warmed up for story sessions with gospel songs, and when not on tour was repeatedly at his residence piano knocking out his favorite hymns. Elvis quite often sought-after to listen to Mahalia Jackson, the Queen of Gospel.
Elvis Presley only scored one big gospel hit on the pop charts during his extraordinary profession - 1965's "Crying In The Chapel," a re-release of a performance from 1960, coming at a period when he desperately required it, but gospel music both "white" and "black," was a significant component of both his singing style and his worldview.
During his celebrated career it was Gospel, and Gospel music alone, that earned him the coveted Grammy awards - 1967 winner 'Best Sacred Performance' for his "How Great Thou Art" album.
In the 1970's Elvis Presley sang Gospel songs more and more in his concerts and had the "Imperials" and the "Sweet Inspirations" as well as "JD Sumner & the Stamps" as his Gospel backing group singers. Elvis also sometimes read passages from the Bible on stage during his concerts and insisted that audiences were respectfully quiet while "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" was sung by his backup group.
The gospel song "Life" was recorded by Elvis in 1970. In the year 2000 it was also included on the 3 CD set, "Elvis - Peace in the Valley- the Complete Gospel Recordings". 'Lead Me, Guide Me' is one of Elvis' most touching performances from 1971 and when he sings, "I am lost if you take your hand from me" he seems so totally sincere it is truly moving.
In 1972 the gospel album "He Touched Me" is released to favorable reviews, and wins Elvis his 2nd Grammy Award. Elvis's live recording of "How Great Thou Art" in 1975 receives the Grammy for Best Inspirational Performance.
His gospel music is much loved by Elvis fans worldwide. Elvis read his Bible and prayed constantly and was very up to date about spiritual matters. In the mid 1960's he also held Bible studies in his Bel Air home where he lived while making his movies. He at no time sought-after being called "The King". When an adoring fan called him The King one day, Elvis replied to her "No Honey, there is only one King and that is Jesus Christ".
June 26, 1977 Elvis gave his concluding performance in Madison Square Arena at Indianapolis, Indiana. It was in some of these latter performances, when Elvis Presley sang gospel, that one could see the power he felt and emitted while singing gospel, spiritual and inspirational songs mixed in with his "rock" numbers. " 'Til we meet you again, may God bless you. Adios." - Elvis uttered in 1977 at the end of a performance during his final tour.
August 6 Elvis Presley sang gospel and hymns such as "How Great Thou Art" with companions for the last time at Ginger Alden's home. On August 16th 1977 "The King" Elvis Presley was found dead at his residence in Graceland.
Afew hours before he died, Elvis prayed, "Dear Lord, please show me a way. I am tired and confused and I need your help." Elvis prayed this prayer in the presence of his stepbrother, Rick Stanley. Elvis also voiced to Rick a few moments before his death "Rick, we should all begin to live for Christ."
Most of Elvis’ charity endeavors received no publicity at all. Throughout his adult life, for friends, for siblings, and for total strangers, he quietly paid medical bills, bought houses, supported families, paid off debts, and much more.
Elvis was a Christian and many believed that Elvis knew he was called by God to be an evangelist. In the last year of his life he sang more Gospel songs on stage, and was even known to read from the Bible on stage.
James Brown said upon the news of Elvis’ death, “I wasn’t just a fan, I was his brother. He said I was good and I said he was good; we never argued about that. Elvis was a hard worker, dedicated, and God loved him. Last time I saw him was at Graceland, we sang ‘Old Blind Barnabus’ together, a gospel song. I love him and hope to see him in heaven. There’ll never be another like that soul brother.”
Elvis Presley Sang Gospel - Albums & CD's
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