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ELVIS PRESLEY :: Blog

The Rock Hall in Graceland

Wednesday, March 14: 1 p.m.
Posted by Howard Kramer
ICON: The Influence of Elvis Presley is a new exhibit at Graceland

One of the strongest and most enduring relationships the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has enjoyed is the one we have with Elvis Presley Enterprises/Graceland. As the Museum was being developed, Graceland was on board from the beginning to loan items for exhibition. They’ve always strongly felt that Elvis Presley should have a prominent presence in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and we’re grateful for it.

Every few years, I meet with Angie Marchese, Graceland’s director of archives, in Memphis, to update and gather new items for the Rock Hall's Presley exhibit. Few people in the world are as knowledgeable about Presley’s life and career as Marchese, and she’s been instrumental in helping the Museum curate our exhibit dedicated to “the King of Rock and Roll.”

Two years ago, Marchese reached out to the Rock Hall with an idea for an exhibit that examined Presley’s influence on other artists – and she wanted our help. She didn’t have to ask twice, as it was a fantastic idea and a perfect opportunity for our respective institutions to collaborate. It is Graceland's mission to tell ...


continue Categories: Inductee, Exhibit

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Ball 'n' Chain"

Wednesday, February 29: 1:30 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Big Mama Thornton's "Ball 'n' Chain" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

On March 1, 2012, Maureen Mahon, a cultural anthropologist who teaches in the ethnomusicology program in the Department of Music at New York University, will present a lecture entitled “Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton’s Blues and the Sound of Rock and Roll” in the Museum's Foster Theater. The event is free and open to the public.

One of Janis Joplin's prime influences, Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton was one of the great female blues singers of post-war years. She descended directly from Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and other major vocalists of the classic blues period. Thornton's raw, belting vocal style made her self-composed "Ball 'n' Chain" a study in blues expression. Joplin remade "Ball 'n' Chain" with the same intensity Thornton gave the song. Joplin's dazzling performance of it was a highlight of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Oddly enough, Thornton is far better known for being the first singer to record "Hound Dog" – the tune penned by the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and later recorded by Elvis Presley – than she is for biting blues numbers like "Ball 'n' Chain."


continue Categories: Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

An Evening With Rosie Flores and "the Female Elvis"

Tuesday, January 24: 1 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Janis Martin

Dubbed "the female Elvis," Virginia native Janis Martin's sobriquet alone fostered great expectations for the young performer in the 1950s. As the fusion of R&B and country evolved into rockabilly, and a charge of primarily male artists heralded its arrival, she was a rarity – though her musicianship, charismatic stage persona and a series of memorable recordings meant the annals of history would not dismiss her as a novelty. 

A precocious performer reared in a family of musicians, Martin's earliest experiences singing and playing guitar came before she reached her teens. Although initially drawn to country music, Martin's exposure to R&B in the Fifties proved captivating, and the resulting genre-blending sound she cultivated was enough to pique the interest of RCA/Victor, who signed her when she was 15 years old. "Victor, having taken the gamble with Presley and emerged a winner, has now come up with the 'Female Elvis Presley.' This lass is Janis Martin, and her first disk, 'Will You, Willyum' is already getting sales action in all fields," noted the May 12, 1956 issue of Billboard. From roughly 1956 through 1960, Martin recorded and released numerous cuts – from the suitably rocking original ...


continue Categories: Inductee, Education, Foster Theatre, Event

10 Essential Elvis Presley Songs

Saturday, January 7: 12 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Elvis Presley

See the NEW Elvis Presley exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! 

Elvis Presley is the undisputed King of Rock and Roll. He rose from humble circumstances to launch the rock and roll revolution with his commanding voice and charismatic stage presence. In the words of the historical marker that stands outside the house where he was born: “Presley’s career as a singer and entertainer redefined popular music.”

As far as his stature as a cultural icon, which continues to grow even in death, writer Lester Bangs said it best: “I can guarantee you one thing - we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis.”

In celebration of Presley's January 8 birthday and his contributions to rock and roll, we chose 10 essential Elvis Presley songs. Presley built arguably the most impressive catalog of recordings in rock history, so it was understandably difficult narrowing the list down to 10 essential tracks. Let us know what songs would be on your list.

10 Essential Elvis Presley Songs

1. "That’s All Right"

Released in the summer of 1954, "That's All Right" was Presley's first commercial single and a fairly faithful version of ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, 10 Essential Songs

A Million Dollar Jam Session

Thursday, September 29: 4:43 p.m.
The Million Dollar Quartet. Photo credit: Memphis Press-Scimitar

The story of rock and roll is often reduced to a happy mix of rhythm and blues and country music, but it is actually a far richer and more complicated comingling of styles, genres, instruments, cultures and people. For our Rock and Roll Night School last night, my colleagues and I researched a rather famous moment in rock and roll history featuring some of its greatest musicians playing together at an impromptu jam session at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios in Memphis on December 4, 1956. Coined the “Million Dollar Quartet” by local journalist Bob Johnson who stopped by to chronicle the session, I was struck by the versatility of these legends and the diverse repertory they had in their wheelhouse.

Earlier that day, rockabilly king Carl Perkins had recorded some songs with Sun newcomer Jerry Lee Lewis on piano.  Former Sun superstar (and then RCA recording artist) Elvis Presley was home for the holidays and dropped by with his girlfriend. Johnny Cash swung by for a time as well. As the musicians began to play together, Phillips placed a microphone in the middle of the room and pressed record. What followed were hours of musical exchange, experimentation, improvisation, imitation ...


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Crossroads Guitar Festival brings guitar legends and their contemporaries together

Monday, June 28: 5:17 p.m.
Posted by Jim Henke

I was fortunate to spend this past weekend in Chicago, where Eric Clapton held his third Crossroads Guitar Festival on Saturday. The shows benefit Clapton’s Crossroads Centre, a rehab facility in Antigua, and they are a virtual who’s who of great guitar players. This year’s festival, at Toyota Park, featured performances by everyone from B.B. King and Buddy Guy, to Ron Wood, ZZ Top, Jeff Beck and Johnny Winter, to such relative newcomers as John Mayer, Johnny Lang and Citizen Cope.

Terry Stewart, the Rock Hall’s President and CEO, was also there, and we were able to spend time with some of our inductees, as well as with Larry Yellen, a filmmaker who works on our annual induction videos, and other folks from the music business.

The show always features one-of-a-kind performances, and some of my favorites this year included Robert Cray’s set with Jimmie Vaughan and Hubert Sumlin, ZZ Top’s take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” and Buddy Guy’s performances with Ron Wood and Johnny Lang. John Mayer once again displayed his virtuosity on the guitar, backed by Pino Palladino on bass and Steve Jordan on drums, and Derek Truck ...


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Celebrating 75 Years of Elvis

Wednesday, January 6: 8:28 p.m.
Posted by Howard Kramer
Photo of Elvis’ Jukebox currently on display at the Rock Hall courtesy of the Rock Hall/Design Photo

We’re approaching another landmark rock and roll anniversary. This Friday marks the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley's birth. It’s one of those moments that make you wonder what would have happened had he not died so young. Several of Elvis’s contemporaries are alive and still working. What would he have done in the last three decades? Would he have finally toured outside the U.S.? Would he have gone back to making films? Would he have told his story in his own words? I mention that last one because Elvis never sat for an in-depth interview in his life.

There’s a lot of myth surrounding Elvis Presley. So much of it tends to dwell on sensationalism and the myth of myth itself. If you have any interest in finding out more I about him, I strongly urge you to read the books Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love, Peter Guralnick’s extraordinary two-volume biography of Presley. Better yet, listen again to what made Elvis the legend he is, the music. Pick up a copy of Elvis at Sun, the 2004 compilation of his seminal recordings done with Sam Phillips in Memphis between July ...


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