Discovering Elvis: Tracing Traditions to the Soul of the King

Discovering Elvis: Tracing Traditions to the Soul of the King

The story of the discovery and rise to fame of this teenager from Tupelo parallels the musical interaction between black and white communities defining American popular music from the early 1800s to the present day. Through background information on his youth, along with the important contributions of renegade Memphians such as Dewey and Sam Phillips, Billy Stevens puts the social and historic context of Elvis’ remarkable success into perspective. Examples of his earliest recordings, contrasted with the versions sung by the original artists, makes clear the way in which Elvis transformed earlier genres, both African and Anglo American, into a new style acceptable to young white audiences of the 1950s. As a symbol of the ultimate failure of a social system designed to prevent close interracial contact, Elvis’ music is a potent example of the deep debt America owes to black/white dialogue and cultural exchange. The result is a new understanding of Elvis’ fabled success, illustrating perfectly the pattern of cultural confluence upon which our popular music is based.

Requirements: 
Lectern (Mr. Stevens brings his own sound system)