I recently found myself in Memphis 9.4 miles from Graceland.
I had to go – and am glad I did.
We all know Elvis as the phenomenal cultural icon; but, if you pay close attention during the tour you get a real sense of the savvy business instincts of Elvis and his team. With the help of his father and his manager, they handled up to 5,000 pieces of fan mail a day, managed his absence while in the Army to keep his profile in front of the public, and aggressively managed his image.
Last year, Forbes reported that Elvis still sells about 1,000,000 records a year which, together with Graceland and other activities, generated $27,000,000 pre-tax in 2016.
Elvis has sold over one billion recording units worldwide with 150 different albums and singles that have been certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
149 songs appeared on Billboard’s Hot 100 Pop Chart in America – with 114 in the top forty, 40 in the top 10, and 18 number one.
Elvis received 14 Grammy nominations from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS)- but his only three wins were for gospel recordings.
In 1971, at the age of 36, NARAS also recognized him with their Lifetime Achievement Award (known then as the Bing Crosby Award in honor of its first recipient).
Starting with his first movie, “Love Me Tender,” Elvis had 31 feature films and 2 concert documentaries. For many years, he was one of Hollywood’s top draws and one of its highest-paid actors.
In 1956, Elvis made his network television debut with the first of his six appearances on “Stage Show,” a weekly variety program hosted by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, but the television show everyone remembers is the Ed Sullivan show, because Sullivan had once said he would never have the controversial singer on his top-rated show.
Bowing to competitive pressures, Sullivan paid Elvis $50,000 to make three appearances on his show, which was, at the time, more money than any performer had ever been paid to appear on a network variety program. And yes, the program only showed Elvis from the waist up!
As www.graceland.com notes: “When Elvis made his third Sullivan appearance in January of 1957, Ed Sullivan surprised Elvis by telling him on camera that his show had never had a better experience with a name act, and said ‘I wanted to say to Elvis and the country that this is a real decent, fine boy.'”
Elvis’s next network television appearance was in 1960, when Frank Sinatra paid Elvis $125,000 to appear on his show in 1960, again a history making amount.
Each time his team cut better and better business deals.
From a small house in Tupelo, Mississippi that had no running water or electricity, to being immortalized at Graceland, Elvis proved adept at hard work and business savvy.
Like many people, I know exactly where I was when I heard the news of his passing.
Until this tour, I had forgotten that everything he accomplished happened by the age of 42.
Think about this today…
“Ambition is a dream with a V8 drive.”
– Elvis Presley