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Elvis Presley 1959

This will be the year in which Elvis will be serving in the military and, therefore, will be away from his career, thus offering the American public the image of a boy committed to his country. Its 24th anniversary, which takes place on January 8, is celebrated in style with the broadcast of a special program of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.


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A few days later, on January 19, the singer participated in a new blood donation campaign and, together with his colleagues from the Warttum barracks, donated blood for the Red Cross. Similarly, during the month of April he participated in a campaign for vaccination against polio.

Elvis was attending to his military obligations, but he was also enjoying his days off. His escapades to Munich, where he became intimate with the actress Vera Tschechova, and to Paris, where he frequented places like the Lido or the Moulin Rouge, along with his friends Red West and Lamar Fike, were notorious. But for Elvis, the most important thing about that year, 1959, was that in the month of November he met what would later be his wife, Priscilla Beaulieu.


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While all this was going on, his record company continued to release material that Elvis had previously recorded. The Colonel leads the singer’s career in a studied and methodical way. In this way, in the United States his albums reach the top of the charts.

Two singles have been released, “A Fool Such As I” and “A Big Hunk O’Love”, and three compilation LPs, “For LP Fans Only”, “A Date With Elvis” and “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’ Don’t Be Wrong”. Sales decline throughout this year due to his absence.

Finally, in the summer, and when he was still half a year away from his degree, Paramount announces what would be Elvis’s next film, and that he will make number five, titled G.I. Blues and with a plot focused, how could it be otherwise, on the adventures of a recruit destined for Europe.

THE BILLBOARD IN 1959

This year 1959 begins just as the previous one ended, with Alvin and the Chipmunks and their Christmas theme “Christmas Don’t Be Late” at the top for two weeks. A series of events would precipitate the end of the prominence of Rock n’ Roll, in its wildest aspect and whose success had been enjoyed during the previous two years. The first positions are filled with singers with a sweetened image, in which a bourgeois youth of the upper-middle class was reflected, to the peace of mind of some worried parents, who had seen in Rock n’ Roll the worst of influences for their parents. children. Let us list the events that gave rise to this situation.


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The first of these occurs on February 3, 1959, in a plane crash in an Iowa cornfield, where three of the greatest exponents of a new generation of musicians die: Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and “Big Bopper”. This event was the one that inspired Don Mclean to compose his masterpiece “American Pie” in 1971.

On the other hand, Little Richard had gotten involved in religion and had changed the stage for the pulpits, abandoning his musical career, while, during a tour of Great Britain by Jerry Lee Lewis, a journalist discovers at London airport that the woman del “Killer” is 13 years old, while he is 22. A huge scandal is mounted and his tour is a failure, having to return to the United States and thus beginning his decline.

Chuck Berry has to pay a fine of $500,000 and a sentence of 5 years in prison for hiring an Apache for his club who turned out to be a minor.


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And finally, our Elvis, due to his services to the country, was absent and, although his records continued to sell, not having his physical presence was noticeable.

These circumstances were taken advantage of by singers such as the Canadian composer Paul Anka (his songs have been sung from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson) to achieve two great hits in 1959: “Put Your Head On My Shoulder”, which reached number 2, and ” Lonely Boy”, which was number 1 for 4 weeks.

Another of the same cut was the singer and actor Frankie Avalon who was number 1 with “Venus” for four weeks, and with “Why” (one week). In 1978 Frankie Avalon would become topical again for his appearance in the movie Grease, interpreting the song “Beauty School Drugout”. Also the composer and pianist from Brooklyn Neil Sedaka with his “Oh Carol” reached number 6. This song was dedicated to his girlfriend at that time, Carole King.

The Platters continued to make hits year after year. On this occasion it would be with “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, with which they reached the top of the Billboard charts, and third place on the Rhythm & Blues charts. Lloyd Price triumphed with the traditional song “Stager Lee”, number 1 on the black music charts for 3 weeks, while Ray Charles placed his “What I’d Say” at number 6 on the Top 100 and at number 1 on the Top 100. the Rhythm & Blues.


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On the other hand, the Blues singer and pianist Wilbert Harrison spent two weeks at number 1 with “Kansas City”, a song composed by Leiber and Stoller. In 1964 The Beatles made a spectacular version of this theme. Others who also triumphed that year were Dave “Babe” Cortez with his instrumental song “The Happy Organ”, the duo Santo and Johnny, with the song “Sleepwalk”. This duo were actually “Los Farina”, two Italian-American brothers. In 1998 Brian Setzer, without the Stray Cats, won a Grammy for best instrumental theme with a version of this theme.

In the Country section, the trio The Browns with “The Three Bells” doubled, reaching number 1 on the Country charts and on the Top 100. Another country singer, Johnny Horton, triumphed with “The Battle of New Orleans.”

Another winner of 1959 was Bobby Darin, with a version of the classic “Mack The Knife” that also won the Grammy for best new singer and best song of the year. This theme has been covered by many artists, from Frank Sinatra to Robbie Williams.

As for Elvis Presley, one of his songs would reach the top. This would be “A Big Hunk O’Love.” The rest would obtain very good positions, but without reaching the top of the Billboard.

Also in 1959 James Brown debuted with “Please, please, please”. Other big-selling black groups included The Coasters with “Yakety Yak,” No. 1 on the Top 100 and Rhythm & Blues charts, and “There Goes My Baby,” by the vocal group The Driffters, which hit the Top 100. 10.


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In short, a time of “impasse” within the music scene, with the end of some and the beginning of others. Soon we will review the musical scene during the year 1960 and of course the artistic career of the boy from Tupelo during this year.

Information provided by Cesar Valle (Torrelavega, Spain).

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