Happy Birthday Elvis! A First-Time Listener's Guide

Elvis Presley
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Elvis Presley photographed circa 1956.

Elvis Presley would have turned 82 today (Jan. 8). To mark the occasion, we put together a first-time listener's guide to The King’s streaming catalog, focusing on five albums. Each album has a homework assignment (companion video and/or featured songs) to enhance your learning experience. Class is now in session.

Where it all began. Just watch.

Elvis performs "Hound Dog" on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956

Sarcastic side note: The jury is still out as to whether or not Forrest Gump taught the king his famous moves.

Elvis Presley (1956)

Today’s Lesson:

- Elvis’ debut studio album spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart (then-named Best Selling Popular Albums) in 1956, the first rock and roll album ever to make it to the top of the charts. (All earlier incarnations of the chart are referred to by its current name, the Billboard 200.)

- None of the 12 songs on the album were written by Elvis.

- The album was reissued more than once, with bonus tracks.


- Find out what iconic punk band was inspired by the album cover for their 1979 album, London Calling.

- Watch the “Blue Suede Shoes” video, keep the party going with “Tutti Frutti," and find out what artist originally recorded the track in 1955 and what the original lyrics were, eventually replaced by "Tutti Frutti, aw rooty,” to become more wholesome. 

Elvis (1956)

Today’s Lesson:

- Elvis covered a trio of Little Richard recorded songs on his second studio album -- all guaranteed to get your hips moving.

- The album topped the Billboard 200 chart for four weeks.

- Elvis received another co-writing song credit for “Paralyzed,” for reworking the song just enough, and recording it.


- Listen to the Little Richard trio: “Rip It Up," “Long Tall Sally” and “Ready Teddy."

Elvis’ Golden Records (1958)

Today’s Lesson:

- The album is widely believed to be the first “greatest hits” album in rock and roll history.

- The album contains Elvis’ first No. 1 hit, “Heartbreak Hotel,” (released in 1956) and also earned him a co-writing credit. Co-writer Tommy Durden said, “That song paid my rent for over 20 years.”

- The album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart. 


- Find out why Elvis received a co-writing credit on “Heartbreak Hotel.”

- Listen to “Jailhouse Rock,” “All Shook Up," and “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear."

- Watch Elvis perform “Don’t Be Cruel” on the family-friendly Ed Sullivan Show. Notice he is filmed from the waist up.

For LP Fans Only (1959)

Today’s Lesson:

- “That’s All Right” is the first single recorded and released by Elvis -- and credited as a song that shaped rock and roll.

- The album peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard 200 chart.


- Watch the “That’s All Right” video and listen to “Mystery Train” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll."

Elvis Is Back! (1960)

Today’s Lesson:

- Elvis was back -- with his first album after being discharged from the U.S. Army.

- “It’s Now Or Never,” one of the best-selling singles of all time, was added as a bonus track to the re-issued album in 1999.

- The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart.


- You’ve probably heard “Fever” several times, since its been recorded by everyone from Peggy Lee to Madonna to Beyonce. Listen to Elvis’ cover.

Extra Credit:

- Find out where the popular catch phrase “Elvis has left the building” came from.

Thank you, thank you very much. Class dismissed.


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