“The King of Country Music”—that’s the title bestowed upon Elvis Presley in a 1977 issue of Country Music magazine. While Presley was already hailed as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the question emerged: could he truly claim the throne of country music as well?
Rockabilly historian Nick Tosches posited an interesting argument in favor of Presley’s country music reign. He highlighted Presley’s first hit recording at Sun Records, “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” which had country origins. According to Tosches, this recording showcased a distinct departure from traditional country or rhythm and blues. It was a unique sound, a fusion of Presley’s influences, created by his collaboration with Sam Phillips at Sun Studio.
Elvis took the country road to success, as it was the only avenue available to him in the segregated music industry of the post-war era. He toured alongside established country artists on “hillbilly” shows and faced both success and rejection along the way. While the Grand Ole Opry initially dismissed him, Presley found acceptance on The Louisiana Hayride, a popular country radio show.
As Elvis’s popularity skyrocketed, he brought about a transformation in country music. Traditional artists embraced the youthful energy of rock ‘n’ roll, blurring the lines between genres. Elvis began receiving national recognition in the country and western field, topping charts and winning acclaim as a promising c&w artist.
In the 1960s, Elvis’s career took a different path. He entered the mainstream of pop music and focused on movie soundtracks. However, the 1969 sessions at American Studio saw a resurgence of country music in his repertoire. Elvis recorded numerous country classics during this period, reaffirming his connection to the genre.
Elvis’s legacy in country music cannot be denied. While the title of “King of Country Music” may not sit as firmly on his head as the one he wears as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” his impact on the genre is undeniable. He brought a new sound to country music, infused it with rhythm and blues, and inspired a generation of artists.
So, does Elvis Presley deserve the title of “King of Country Music”? While there are other legitimate contenders for the throne, such as Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, Elvis’s contribution to the genre and his ability to shape its course make him worthy of enshrinement in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
For more intriguing articles about Elvis Presley and his music, visit All about Elvis.