#16: Fame And Fortune by Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was born on in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935. His twin brother, Jessie Garon Presley, was stillborn. When he was eleven years old his parents bought him a guitar at the Tupelo Hardware Store. As a result Elvis grew up as an only child. He and his parents, Vernon and Gladys, moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1948. The young Presley graduated from high school in 1953. That year he stopped by the Memphis Recording Service to record two songs, including “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”. Elvis’ musical influences were the pop and country music of the time, the gospel music he heard in church and at the all-night gospel sings he frequently attended, and the black R&B he absorbed on historic Beale Street as a Memphis teenager. In 1954, Elvis began his singing career recording “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” at Sun Records in Memphis.
In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. In 1956 he had his first #1 record titled “Heartbreak Hotel.” He had a sound and style that uniquely combined his diverse musical influences and blurred and challenged the social and racial barriers of the time. Bill Haley & His Comets ushered in the rock ‘n roll into mainstream culture in 1955 when “Rock Around The Clock,” appeared in Blackboard Jungle – a film about juvenile delinquents and anti-social behavior in an inter-racial school. The song became an anthem for teenage rebellion.
However, it was Elvis in 1956 who ensured rock ‘n roll was here to stay with his swiveling hips and R&B infused songs with sexually suggestive lyrics. He had his first number one hit with “Heartbreak Hotel” in February 1956. He starred in 33 successful films, made history with his television appearances and specials, and knew great acclaim through his many, often record-breaking, live concert performances on tour and in Las Vegas. Globally, Elvis Presley has sold over one billion records, more than any other recording artist.
Elvis started off 1957 topping the Vancouver pop charts with “Too Much”, “Playing For Keeps”, “All Shook Up”, “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”, “Mean Woman Blues”, “Jailhouse Rock” and “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care”.
During this chart-topping streak, one of Presley’s Top Ten hits in Vancouver was “(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley“. Another was “Treat Me Nice”. His second film, Loving You, was released in 1957. Though it was not featured the film, the song “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” made it onto the Loving You Soundtrack album.
In 1956 Elvis Presley continued his chart-topping ways in Vancouver (BC) with “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”, “Hound Dog”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Love Me Tender”, “Paralyzed” and “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again”. Elvis’ eighth number-one hit on the Vancouver pop chart in 1956 was “Poor Boy”.
Elvis kept on topping the charts into 1958 with “I Beg Of You”, “Don’t”, “Wear Your Ring Around My Neck”, “Hard Headed Woman”, “I Got Stung” and “One Night”. In the midst of this chart run came the release of the film King Creole. The theme song, “King Creole”, charted on the Vancouver pop charts.
But during his chart-topping ways, he got a letter from Uncle Sam. Sergeant Elvis Presley served with the U.S. Army from March 24, 1958, to March 2, 1960. Meanwhile, Presley managed to climb to the top of the charts once in 1959 with “Big Hunk o’ Love”.
His return to civilian life saw a return to a string of successful single, album and film releases. In April 1960 Elvis topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “Stuck On You. The B-side of the single was “Fame And Fortune”, which also charted in Vancouver.
“Fame And Fortune” was co-written by Fred Weis and Ben Weisman. Born in 1921, Ben Wiseman was raised in Providence, Rhode Island. He was penning songs for recording artists from the late 40s. These included Sons of the Pioneers, Dinah Shore, Guy Mitchell, Doris Day, Patti Page, Mitch Miller, the Four Aces, Frankie Laine, Roy Hamilton, Nat “King” Cole, Siw Malmkvist, Dean Martin, Jackie Gleason, Mitchell Torok, Rusty Draper, Don Cherry, Danny Valentino, Crash Craddock, Johnny Burnette and others. He wrote 57 songs for Elvis Presley on his own, or collaborating with others. His first song recorded by Elvis was “Got A Lot O’ Living To Do”. Wiseman also wrote “Frankie And Johnny”, “Follow That Dream” and “Fame And Fortune”. He also wrote “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” for Bobby Vee in 1963, and Dusty Springfield’s “All I See Is You” in 1965. Wiseman died in 2007 at the age of 85.
Fred Wise was born in 1915 in New York City. He wrote songs for over forty films, starting with in 1939 with the short Clyde Lucas and His Orchestra, Follies Girl (1943), I’m Just Curious (1944) and Snap Happy (1945). In 1948 he co-wrote “‘A’ – You’re Adorable”, a hit for Perry Como and the Fontaine Sisters in 1949. In the 1950s he wrote songs featured on The Gene Autry Show, Maverick, Gunsmoke, The Ozzie And Harriet Show, The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show and others. His song have appeared in over 100 film or TV productions, including the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction. Wise died by suicide at age 50 in 1966, after an argument with his wife.
“Rock-A-Hula-Baby” was co-written by Ben Wiseman, Dolores Fuller and Fred Wise. The trio co-wrote “Livin’ High” for Elvis soundalike, Vince Everett, in 1963; The B-side to Terry Stafford’s “Suspicion” titled “I’ll Touch A Star”. And Wiseman and wrote “Do The Clam” and “Spinout” as well for Presley. Wiseman and Wise co-wrote many songs. One of them was a commercial flop for aspiring teen idol, Deane Hawley, titled “Pocket Full Of Rainbows”. In 1954, Wiseman and Wise co-wrote “Let Me Go Lover”, a number one hit for Joan Webber. In 1957 they co-wrote “Lend Me Your Comb” for Carol Hughes. They later co-wrote “Wooden Heart”, a number one hit for Joe Dowell in 1961, and “Lonely Blue Boy” for Conway Twitty.
In “Fame And Fortune”, Elvis sings about the most important thing in life, which is to find a lasting loving relationship. It is love that gives a person fame and fortune, not becoming famous or wealthy.
“Fame And Fortune” peaked at #1 in Vancouver (BC), Birmingham (AL), La Crosse (WI), Pensacola (FL), Philadelphia, Toronto, Spokane (WA), and San Bernardino (CA), #2 in Baltimore, Salt Lake City, and Buffalo, #3 in Des Moines (IA), Topeka (KS), Jacksonville (FL), San Francisco, #5 in Ventura (CA), Seattle, #6 in San Antonio, Albany (GA), and Ann Arbor (MI), #10 in Ottawa (ON) and Allentown (PA).
His followup, “It’s Now Or Never”, also topped the pop charts in August 1960, including in Vancouver. The B-side, “A Mess Of Blues”, also charted on CKWX as a double-sided number-one hit.
In November 1960, Elvis was back at number-one with “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”. His chart-topping ways continued in March 1961 with “Surrender”. The album from his first film on return from serving in Germany, G.I. Blues, was a best-seller at the box office (#2 on Variety Magazine for the year 1960) and a number one album in October 1960. He released His Hand In Mine, a collection of sacred gospel music and in November, 1960, began to record his 6th studio album, Something For Everybody. It went on to become his 13th hit album.
In September 1961, in Vancouver Presley topped the charts with “Marie’s The Name (His Latest Flame)” and “Little Sister”. Late in the fall the King of Rock n’ Roll had another Top Ten hit titled “Can’t Help Falling In Love”. The song was from the soundtrack from the film Blue Hawaii. The title track charted on the record surveys on Top40 radio in Vancouver in the winter of 1961.
In 1962 Presley released his seventh studio album, Potluck. From that album the song “Kiss Me Quick” would peak at #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964. But his song, “Suspicion”, climbed onto the CFUN chart in the summer of 1962. Also in 1962 Elvis was filming a number of movies. The first to be released in the summer of ’62 was Kid Galahad, which included the song “King Of The Whole Wide World”. Presley also enjoyed hit singles with “Good Luck Charm” and “She’s Not You”.
His next film, Girls! Girls! Girls!, was released in late October. However, the debut single from the soundtrack, “Return To Sender”, was released in September prior to the film appearing in theaters. In Vancouver (BC) the title track from the film, “Girls! Girls! Girls!” also charted on the C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY.
Elvis continued to enjoy more Top Ten hits between 1963 and 1965. His most notable hits were “One Broken Heart For Sale”, “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise”, “Witchcraft”, “Bossa Nova Baby”, “Such A Night”, “Ain’t That Loving You Baby”, “Crying In The Chapel” and “Puppet On A String“.
After 1965, Elvis found it increasingly challenging to enter the Top 30. Between the end of 1965 and the winter of 1968 Presley released 22 singles and only four of these made the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 30. But in 1969, Presley had his best year since 1962 charting three singles into the Top Ten with “In The Ghetto”, “Suspicious Minds” and “Don’t Cry Daddy”. Between 1970 and 1983 Elvis released 36 singles, including eight posthumous singles. Of these, “Burning Love” and “The Wonder Of You” were his most successful and six others made the Top 20 on the Billboard charts.
Over his recording career Elvis Presley earned 14 Grammy Award nominations including for Record of the Year with “A Fool Such As I” (1959) and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” (1960) and won six Hall of Fame Awards. After his comeback tour in 1968 Presley had continued to tour extensively, with 168 concerts in 1973, a pace he kept through the mid-70’s. By 1976 he was suffering from multiple ailments: glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon, all believed to be related to prescription drug abuse. He died on August 16, 1977, and a funeral was attended by over 80,000 mourners. His legacy continues to live on. There were also numerous sightings of Elvis including around the 40th anniversary of his death in 2017.
In 2022 a film about Presley, as seen through the narrative view of Col. Tom Parker, was released titled Elvis. Presley was played by Austin Butler.
June 14, 2023
graceland.com (Elvis bio)
“Elvis Presley: Rock’s First Icon,” Rolling Stone, September 22, 1977.
Paul Lichter, The Boy Who Dared to Rock: The Definitive Elvis, (Dolphin Books, 1978).
Elizabeth Nix, “7 Fascinating Facts About Elvis Presley,” History.com, July 1, 2014
Wendy Sauer, Elvis Presley: A Complete Reference, (McFarland, 1984).
Gabriella Paiella, “Austin Butler is a hunk of burning love,” GQ, May 25, 2022.
“Elvis Solved the ‘Escort West’ Mystery,” Iverson Movie Ranch Blogspot, February 14, 2015.
Bobby Deen, “Pork and Greens Stir-Fry,” Pauladeen.com.
“Fred Wise,” IMDb.com.
Dave Laing, “Ben Weisman: Hit songwriter to the stars, from Nat King Cole to Elvis,” Guardian, May 24, 2007.
“Sensational Sixty,” CKWX 1130 AM, Vancouver, BC, April 25, 1960.
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