Rockabilly Music Gave The World Its Greatest Music Sensation: Elvis Presley
After 60 years or so of rock and roll history, there have certainly been several true sensations. The Beatles of course spring immediately to mind. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and the list goes on. But Elvis was the original rock and roll sensation and remains the greatest of all. And that is rockabilly music’s greatest claim to fame.
Certainly we could talk about hit records, number one songs, album sales, weeks on the charts, and other measures of musical success. And just as certainly you can find someone who will argue the point over who was the biggest sensation. But in my opinion, no matter how you slice it, Elvis still remains the King.
When Elvis really hit the scene with his original rockabilly recordings in 1954, rock and roll was either in its infancy or not even born yet depending upon whom you talk to. But regardless of whether Elvis was the first rock and roller or not, he was certainly the cat who gave the new music its biggest shot of energy and forced it to explode upon the world’s consciousness.
This is what makes him rock’s biggest sensation. Elvis was a complete innovator. He took the country, blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, and other musical influence that he’d absorbed during his childhood and from that mix fashioned something no one had ever heard before.
And Elvis was a complete performer. To go along with his aggressive new musical style, he had dangerous good looks and a sensuality that quickly caused uproar with “decent” American adults. Everything about Elvis made the fans go wild for him. And yet, despite all of this, he presented himself as a nervous, humble, young kid who spoke quietly and respectfully. He was a strange paradox indeed!
This incongruity only made him more intriguing and made the fans love him all the more. With the momentum of screaming fans fueling his skyrocketing career, Elvis changed absolutely everything about pop music. He was exactly what the kids of the 1950s needed and wanted. Their parents’ pop music just would no longer suffice. Patty Page and Perry Como couldn’t speak to the kids. Elvis could swing his hip just once and he had the kids–girls and boys alike–eating out of the palm of his hand.
Yes, the fans went crazy for other bands. You can hardly even hear The Beatles Playing in recordings of the Shea Stadium concert, but by that time screaming girls at concerts were old news. Elvis had already written that script. Elvis taught thousands of musicians how to act, move, and perform on stage. Everyone wanted to be like Elvis. And everyone knew they never could be. The King was a sensation no doubt. He was so in every sense of the word. And he remains today–after 60 years of rock and roll–rock’s greatest sensation ever.