Last Updated 17 Jun 2020

Elvis Presley had a big impact on music in the USA in 1956

Category Elvis Presley, music
Essay type Research
Words 2761 (11 pages)
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1. Elvis Presley had a big impact on music in the USA in 1956. This is shown as the writer compliments Presley and talks very positive about his career. The article illustrates just how successful his career was. It tells us that he sold a vast number of records and that he was a top earner for his record company, RCA. It also tells us he had six hit singles in the company's list of top 25 best selling singles, and compliments Presley by referring to him as a "winner" and "amazing".

The writer also displays a sarcastic tone as he refers to Presley as "HOT AS A $1 PISTOL". This comment could be taken as a flattering remark, or a slight on Presley's talent. Its insulting aspect would be the fact that the writer could be calling Presley cheap and simple, and like a $1 Pistol after a few good shots would be useless. Another slur on Presley's ability is the fact the writer refers to him as a "country warbler", implying that he cannot sing and his words are indistinguishable.

This article was written for an American music magazine called "Billboard". This shows that Presley must have had some impact as he was popular enough to be featured in magazines and was regarded as a celebrity. This article is a primary source of evidence of Presley's impact from 3rd March 1956.

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2. The evidence in Sources C and D disagree with the evidence in Source B, which is very biased. Source B shows you all negative opinions of Presley from several newspapers. Each article describes that Presley has no singing ability and says that he "caterwauls", meaning he sounds like a cat wailing. The New York Times goes as far to say that Presley has "no singing ability". All refer to his appearance on the Milton Berle Show. These newspaper articles show us the opinions of the establishment, especially that of newspaper columnists. Also, the majority of the newspaper's audience were adults, and many thought that Presley was corrupting their children's minds.

Source C disagrees with these opinions, and is an extract from "Variety", an American television and radio magazine in June 1956. This extract tells us that Presley's appearance on the Milton Berle Show was most welcomed by the viewing public. It tells us that Milton Berle was both "relaxed" and "more effective" when ending his show, showing that he welcomed and enjoyed Presley's appearance. Another argument that shows Source C disagrees with Source B is that it tells us that the "Milton Berle show topped Phil Silver's Sergeant Bilko in the ratings for the first time all season". This proves that many people watched Presley in preference to other channels, and his appearance on the Milton Berle show caused it to defeat Sergeant Bilko, which was a very popular show at the time.

However, Sources B and C come from two different publications with two different intentions. The newspapers would appeal to adults, and a way of selling more newspapers would be to condemn Presley. Many adults would buy the newspaper if they agreed to its views. "Variety" would appeal to teenagers as it was a music magazine, and a way that they could earn more profit would be to write about Presley, and be in favour of him.

Source D could either agree or disagree with the evidence in Source B. The crowd in this photo both look very excited and all seem to be enjoying themselves on the photograph. Presley does not seem to be in any act of vulgarity, yet you cannot tell, since it is only a still picture. However, it was discovered that Colonel Parker, Presley's manager, paid teenage girls to scream and even faint during Presley's performances, so the credibility of the photograph can be questioned. The only thing that the photograph supports is the statement from Source B in the New York Journal that "it has caused the most heated reaction" and this is plain to see from the photograph.

3. These sources clearly show the Presley's impact in the 1950s. All of the sources are extremely useful as they highlight the different opinions of Presley from different groups of people. Source E contains three sources that all illustrate the negative impact Presley had.

Source E ( i ) is a statement from Congressman Emmanuel Cellar. He claims that Presley's "animal gyrations violate all I know to be in good taste". This obviously shows that Cellar did not like Presley. One of the reasons he may make this statement is because he wants to appeal to adults. The simple reason is that he sees the adults as one thing; voters. If he can appeal to the adults and give them what they want, many will support and vote for him, as he is a politician. Racism and prejudice can also be detected in his statement, as he says "the coloured people". He refers to them as though they are an object, something lower and less important than he is. He also mention that Rock and Roll provides talent for "then coloured people", implying that this is all that they are good for, and have no real place in the American society.

Source E ( ii ) is a statement from a member of the Ku Klux Klan. This member says that they have set up a committee to get rid of the "cannibalistic, negro-loving rock and roller", obviously referring to Presley. This statement shoes us the views of many racists at the time. He uses the word "cannibalistic" to describe that they thought Presley was some sort of evil trying to convert teenagers to black music and "drag them to the same level". The Ku Klux Klan saw people of other races as some sort of enemy, and anybody who mixed with, or was friends with people from other races were also the enemy. This can account for why the Ku Klux Klan wanted to get rid of Presley.

Source E ( iii ) is a statement from Billy Graham, an evangelical preacher. He claimed that he "would not let his daughter cross the street to see Elvis Presley. His statement can represent the views of the church, and also the views of a father, as he speaks of his daughter. His point of view is that Presley was causing teenagers to sin and that Presley promoted juvenile delinquency. Many teenagers idolised Presley and Reverend Albert Carter claimed that he was "an evil influence on the youth of our society", and further claimed Rock and Roll would turn teenagers into "devil-worshipers". These statements prove that the Church felt that Presley was an atrocity, corrupting the mind of the country's teenagers.

It is interesting to note that two of the sources, ( i ) and ( iii ), come from fairly important people in the establishment. One comment is from a politician and the other from a preacher, both respected people. However, these comments had the exact opposite effect of what was intended. Teenagers saw that these respected people did not like this music, and so bought it all the more. This is because teenagers now saw the music that members of the establishment were condemning as rebellious, and so when they bought this music their feelings of rebellion were increased. The comments of Billy Graham and Congressman Emmanuel Cellar had a backlash effect.

Source F is proof of Presley's success and popularity during the mid 1950s. In 1955 all songs in the top five list are ballads with Bill Hayes - The Ballad of Davy Crockett at the top. However, next years results are much different. In 1956, Presley takes up four of the top five single spaces, with Don't Be Cruel/Hound Dog at the top of the chart. This shows just how quickly Presley became popular, in the space of a year, from being a lorry driver he was now one of the country's most famous people. He had become a sensation in one year. In 1957 Presley occupied three of the five top single spaces, and All Shock Up at the top of the charts. His only rival was Pat Boone, dubbed the acceptable face of Rock and Roll. These results heavily contrast with the evidence from Source E and show that the majority of America's society disagreed with their opinions. However, all evidence from Source E is from adults, racists and members of the establishment. His popularity was mainly with teenagers and it is them that promoted Presley to the top of these charts. Source F shows Presley's sudden impact on America that occurred almost overnight.

4. By 1958, many attitudes had changed towards Presley, especially of those who were against him. One reason he became more acceptable was because his record company, RCA, was toning down his image. They tried to make him more acceptable to the public by stopping his controversial movements during his performances. His songs were also toned down, his earlier work a lot more energetic than his later work. The reason for this was simple enough; it would create a wider audience and a wider audience would equal more profit for RCA.

Another factor that led to Presley becoming more acceptable was when he was conscripted to the army in 1958. In the eyes of the public, Presley willingly joined the army to serve for his country. Many people were surprised that Presley did not try to use his money or influence to 'buy' his way out of service. People now saw him as a true patriotic hero who would serve and die for his country. Those who once disliked him now regarded him as somebody devoted to his country.

However, it was only in the public eye that Presley wanted to conscript. It was one of the last things Presley wanted to do, but this image had to be maintained in order for him to gain popularity. RCA most likely convinced him to do it, as he would not do it of his own free will. For a start, Presley's mother was ill at the time of his conscription. This again could work to his advantage as the public saw him joining the army even though his mother was sick. Another thing Presley was worried about was that his popularity may dwindle while he was conscripted. However, RCA worked around this and released singles and merchandise so that he would not be forgotten while he was in the army.

Many politicians saw Presley as an advantage now that he had conscripted. They could now use Presley as a form of propaganda. This is because at that time the Cold War, a state of hostility between two countries without any military action, was occurring between the USA and the Soviet-Union. This was because they disagreed on their social ideology, the Soviet-Union in favour of communism and the USA in favour of democracy. Politicians used this event to promote American democracy and the American Dream, saying "where else could a nobody like Presley become a somebody so quickly".

At the time the country was swept with anti-communist behaviour and hysteria, and many politicians used this to their advantage. Senator McCarthy was one such person. He got rid of many of his political and social enemies by accusing them of being communists, and having affiliations with communism. Many Americans were convinced by McCarthy that they were surrounded by communists who were plotting to undermine the American way of life.

5. I both agree and disagree partially with this statement. Both Presley's impact and success was the result of these two factors. To begin with, his first television appearance was on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show in 1956, followed by 15 other television appearances in the same year. In 1957, Presley made an appearance on the Milton Berle Show, which Sources B and C relate to. Source B shows us the negative impact Presley had as the New York Times, New York Journal and the Daily News describe Presley as having 'no singing ability' and giving 'a display of primitive physical movement" with "grunt and groan antics". Source C contradicts these statements. It is an extract from "Variety", an American television and radio magazine.

It tell us that the "Milton Berle show topped Phil Silver's Sergeant Bilko in the ratings for the first time all season". This shows how immensely popular Presley was, as he appeared on television numerous times which just added to his impact in America, whether it was good or bad. Ed Sullivan even stated that "Elvis was too big not to have on the show", and he was totally against the idea of Presley appearing on his show. Ed Sullivan, who had declared that Presley was "not my cup of tea," bowed to popular pressure and paid him $50,000 for three appearances. This shows the impact Presley had on television in America.

Another television appearance that led to his fame and impact was his roles in Hollywood movies. He starred in films such as "Love Me tender" and "King Cerole". These films were often sold out due to their immense popularity, probably not because of Presley's acting talent, just the fact that he starred in it. Many of Presley's fans protested when at the end of "Love Me Tender", Presley died, so the end scene was shot again so that he survived. This shows just to what extent producers would go for Presley and his fans, as he had such an impact on television.

However, were it not for his singing ability he would not have appeared on television at all, so Presley's musical talent must have also contributed to his impact. Source F shows us just how many people bought his record, so his musical talent must have contributed to his impact. If people only watched him on television for his performances, then why would they go out and buy his music if they did not like it? This must mean that Presley's music must have started Presley's impact. "Hound Dog" sold 1 million copies in just two weeks after it was released. In fact in 1956 he had four top five singles for that year, and in 1957 he had three top five singles for that year. This source just illustrates how popular Presley's music was on its own.

When Presley appeared on television he performed his top songs. Now if nobody was interested in his musical talent, why not just interview him? In 1956 alone Presley sold 12,500,000 singles and 2,750,000 million albums. He sold 1,350,000 copies of "Heartbreak Hotel", which was his first gold record. These tremendous figures provide further evidence that his music contributed to his impact. Source A even tells us that "Presley has six hit singles in the company's hit list of top-25 best sellers".

Presley's musical and television coverage was very important in his career. However, something else caused Presley's impact. Source E shows the political, racist and religious impact that Presley had on society. Source E ( i ) is the statement from Congressman Emmanuel Cellar who says that Rock and Roll should stay with "the coloured people" but that it is not good enough for the whites. Source E ( ii ) shows the racist reaction of a member of the Ku Klux Klan whose plan is to 'do away with this cannibalistic, negro-loving rock and roller'. This is a very important impact, no matter how controversial, as it is an impact on a group of people. In Source E ( iii ) the religious reaction is demonstrated when Billy Graham, an evangelical preacher claims he 'would not let his daughter cross the street to see Elvis'. Another religious reaction is from the Reverend Albert Carter who states "The effect of rock and roll on young people is to turn them into devil-worshippers...and to stimulate self-expression through sex...it is an evil influence on the youth of our society". This shows us the impact on the religious community.

At first the whole idea of Presley was his image of rebelliousness. Although this changed by 1958 when Presley joined the army as shown by source G. This source shows Presley being illustrated as a patriotic hero for his country, and this had a massive impact on both his fans and those who did not like him. He was also made more acceptable as his image was toned down and his songs became much calmer, no longer shouting or brimming with energy, as he had been manufactured by RCA.

These points and source of evidence prove my point that it was not just his television appearances or his music that had an impact, but the combination of both of them.

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Elvis Presley had a big impact on music in the USA in 1956. (2017, Aug 14). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/elvis-presley-big-impact-music-usa-1956/

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