"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)






Elvis and Gospel Music

Gospel an early influence on Elvis


A group of journalists from Asean on a reporting tour of Religious Freedom and Pluralism in the United States were taken on a tour of Elvis Presley’s Graceland after attending a morning service at the Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, the United States.

The tour emphasised the influence of his religious beliefs on his early singing career. The King of Rock ’n’ Roll in an extravagant studded jump suit. From his teenage years, he had sported long sideburns and wore bright, loud clothes. Elvis would have turned 70 on Jan 8, had he been alive. He was born on Jan 8, 1935, and died on Aug 18, 1977.

During the Graceland tour, one was constantly reminded that Elvis aka The King began by singing at Sunday school in church. He often attended youth group at the First Assembly of God church in Memphis’ McLemore Avenue in 1951, several years before becoming a gyrating rock ’n’ roll sensation. “He came in late,” said Stamps Blackwood (of the then famous Blackwood Brother Quartet).

Blackwood, the only second baritone in the 63-year history of Southern gospel’s famed quartet, became Elvis’s best friend when the two were 16 and high school mates in Memphis.

“When he walked into class, everybody would stare at him because he was dressed a little differently. His hair was different. He had long sideburns, and he wore second-hand clothes, bright and loud, a red coat and white shoes. “I spoke to him and we became friends,” Blackwood recalled. Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.

The Presley family lived in a wooden shack in the poorest area of Tupelo, and his father Vernon later moved the family to Memphis. Despite their poverty, his mother Gladys ensured that he did not turn to crime for a living. A young Elvis Presley strolling on the grounds of his beloved Graceland home while on leave from the US Army in 1958. He had bought the isolated mansion on the outskirts of Memphis to escape public attention. When Elvis left school, he became a truck driver.

His decision to make a record (at the Sun Studios in Memphis) for his mother on her birthday was a turning point in his life and it popularised rock ’n’ roll forever. Elvis paved the way for other white performers to sing and perform what was then called Afro-American music. As one walked through the legendary singer’s beloved Graceland home, the audiotape tour reiterated that gospel music was his favourite music.

The old folks at Memphis could remember the early days when Elvis strummed the guitar to the blues with Afro-American singers on Memphis Beale Street. Blues music was borne out of slavery and hardship, and was a form of therapy in the midst of painful experience. Elvis sought relief by singing the blues as it expressed love and pain from the human heart.

The Graceland tour revealed that Elvis warmed up for recording sessions with gospel songs, and when not on tour was often at his home playing his favourite hymns on the piano.

During his lifetime, Elvis completed three gospel albums: His Hand in Mine (1960), How Great Thou Art (1967, it won a Grammy for best sacred performance) and He Touched Me (1971). These three albums, along with various inspirational album tracks of his live performances, are packaged in the two-CD set, Amazing Grace. The collection not only spotlights Elvis’s remarkable talents, but also serves as an introduction to the many styles of Southern gospel.

Elvis’s famous Pink Cadillac Fleetwood sedan parked in front of the main entrance to his Graceland home. When, as an 18-year-old, Elvis walked into Sun Studios, he was asked who he sounded like.

“I don’t sound like nobody,” he replied. And he sang like nobody ever had, with a touch of the blues.

Since then, Elvis was not just a rock ‘n’ roll star, he was also the most versatile song and dance artiste.

By the mid-1950s, he had become the most popular singer in the United States. Elvis Presley shot to fame as The King of Rock ’n’ Roll. His vast popularity meant that he could not lead a normal life, such as going out in public on his own. He was mobbed wherever he went. So he surrounded himself with family members and a close circle of friends.

To escape public attention, in 1957, he bought Graceland, an isolated mansion on the outskirts of Memphis. That’s when he started acting. He made 35 feature films to become the highest-selling recording artiste in history. He broke all attendance records with his movie Viva Las Vegas.

Graceland is now open to the public and has become a place of pilgrimage for his fans. The legendary home of The King observes special celebrations and is crowded with Elvis fans during Christmas, Thanksgiving and around his birth and death anniversaries.

(Spotlight Article, Source: The Star Online)










Latest Reviews
CD: Christmas Peace
Book: The Memphis Lullaby
DVD: '68 Comeback Special
DVD: Elvis In Concert (3 hour version)
DVD: This Is Elvis
FTD: One Night In Vegas
CD: Movin' Mobile
CD: Fort Baxter's Greatest Hits
Book: The Tupelo-Memphis Murders
Latest Articles
Elvis Fans - The Following
Redefining Elvis
How Great Thou Art
How did Elvis die?
Elvis Film Bio
500 million fans can't be wrong?
Does Elvis matter?
All about Lisa Presley
Why can't Elvis compete on DVD charts?
Latest Interviews
Red & Sonny West
Paul Simpson
Ed Bonja (Part 2)
Ernst Jorgensen
Phil Aitcheson (Presley Commission)
Did you miss?
Online Elvis Symposium
Exclusive excerpts from "The King Is Dead"
All about Graceland
FTD review- Elvis: New Year's Eve
FTD review: The Impossible Dream
DVD Review: Elvis Presley The Last 24 Hours
Book Review: Pieces of My Life


Elvis Odd Spot (updated 16 Dec 2004)