1935-1957: Page 5
July 2, 1956
The Jordanaires, a gospel quartet and popular country back-up group, begin working with Elvis in the studio during his fourth RCA session and soon begin touring with him. They will also appear with him in several films and remain his main back-up group until the late sixties.
Elvis begins shooting his first movie, “Love Me Tender,” on loan-out from Paramount to Twentieth Century Fox. It is originally titled “The Reno Brothers,” but is re-titled before its release to capitalize on Elvis’ sure-to-be-a-hit single from the soundtrack.
September 9, 1956
Elvis makes the first of three appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the top television program of the era. Elvis attracts the highest ratings ever for any television variety show, receiving 80% of the national viewing audience. Character actor Charles Laughton hosts in place of Sullivan, who is recuperating from a car accident.
September 26, 1956
Elvis Presley Day is proclaimed in Tupelo, Mississippi. Elvis’ parents join him as he returns to the town of his birth as a big star. He performs two shows at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, the same fair at which he had performed at age 10. This time there are a hundred National Guardsmen surrounding the stage to control the crowds of excited fans.
By this time, souvenir merchandising using Elvis’ name, image and likeness has become a big part of the Elvis phenomenon. Licensees will soon be producing as many as thirty different products including hats, t-shirts, jeans, kerchiefs, sneakers, shirts, blouses, belts, purses, billfolds, wallets, charm bracelets, necklaces, magazines, gloves, bookends, a statue, lipstick, cologne, stuffed hound dogs, stationery, sweaters, crockery, and more. Elvis and the Colonel are to blaze new trails in the area of celebrity merchandising. This is to be forever a part of the marketing of Elvis Presley, feeding a never-ending demand.
October 28, 1956
Elvis makes his second of three appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.
November 15, 1956
Elvis’ first movie, “Love Me Tender,” premieres at the Paramount Theater in New York City, opening nationwide in the days following. It becomes a smash hit and the critics’ reviews aren’t bad for his acting in this melodrama, which is set in the American South of the 1800’s Civil War era. The film has Elvis performing several songs.
December 31, 1956
The front page of The Wall Street Journal reports that in the past few months, Elvis merchandise has grossed $22 million in sales. Elvis ends the pivotal year of his career, when regional popularity gave way to unprecedented national and international fame. The year of 1956 has seen the beginning of Elvis souvenir merchandising, the beginning of a successful movie career, huge record sales (five number one singles on the pop chart, two number one albums on the pop chart, and other hits), history-making television appearances, record-breaking personal appearances and more. Elvis has become the primary symbol of the new youth culture in America. He has also become one of society’s most controversial figures. His unique blending of white country and gospel music, black R&B and gospel, white pop music, his particular brand of charisma and talent, and the resulting success and controversy, have helped him greatly to begin, without premeditation, a cycle of change in music and pop culture and the mores of American society. Nothing will ever be the same for Elvis Presley or for the world.