Over the last decade, I’ve spent countless hours digging through newspaper archives in search of fascinating information about Elvis to share with my readers. Among the treasure trove I discovered were snippets of comments about Elvis made by various celebrities. While these remarks were too brief to warrant a full blog post, I couldn’t resist the urge to compile them into one exciting collection.
So, this month, I’m excited to present to you 20 brief comments about Elvis Presley from 19 celebrities, mostly fellow entertainers, all from the 1950s. As you can imagine, given the tumultuous nature of his career during that time, these comments range from negative to positive. Let’s dive in and explore the opinions of these notable individuals.
Cab Calloway: The Jazz Singer
“I can’t see that Elvis Presley has any talent,” declared jazz singer Cab Calloway in The Ottawa Citizen on April 3, 1956. Calloway, a regular performer at the Cotton Club in Harlem, shared the sentiment held by many entertainers of his generation who considered jazz to be America’s greatest artistic contribution.
Mel Torme: The Velvet Fog
Nicknamed “The Velvet Fog,” singer and composer Mel Torme expressed his disdain for Elvis and his music in The Arizona Republic on June 14, 1956. Torme viewed the rise of Elvis and rock ‘n’ roll as a threat to the popularity of his generation’s music.
Anita Ekberg: The Swedish Beauty
A prominent Italian actress known for her role in La Dolce Vita, Anita Ekberg offered a backhanded compliment about Elvis on August 18, 1956. Referring to Elvis as a child in terms of his behavior, Ekberg implied that he would become more attractive as he matured.
Reverend Billy Graham: The Spiritual Guide
Renowned religious leader Reverend Billy Graham criticized Elvis in the Asbury Park Press on September 2, 1956. Like many others in the 1950s, people turned to leaders like Graham for guidance on social and moral issues. Initially, Graham condemned Elvis’ influence but later softened his stance after learning about Elvis’ religious values.
Rudy Vallee: The Teen Idol of the 1930s
One of the first teen idols, Rudy Vallee had a unique perspective on Elvis. In a United Press article on October 15, 1956, Vallee commented that Elvis compensated for his lack of vocal prowess with his energetic movements. However, by December 5, 1956, Vallee had softened his stance, stating that Elvis was “all right” and admired his occasional on-key singing.
Groucho Marx: The King of Wit
With his trademark humor, Groucho Marx quipped about Elvis in Jack O’Brian’s Hollywood column on November 2, 1956. His statement, “You don’t have to see Elvis Presley to dislike him,” captured his wit and ability to generate laughter among his audience.
Bill Haley: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneer
Fellow rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Bill Haley shared his thoughts on Elvis in the Quad-City Times on November 21, 1956. Haley, at 29 years old, was slightly older than Elvis and sometimes struggled to understand the King’s stage antics.
Johnny Ray: The Emotional Singer
Elvis’ sudden rise to fame in 1956 paralleled Johnny Ray’s own overnight stardom the previous year. Ray, not a rock ‘n’ roller himself, made a candid observation about Elvis in Sheilah Graham’s Hollywood column on December 17, 1956. Despite their differences, Ray recognized the impact of Elvis’ energetic performances on the younger generation.
Paul Whiteman: The Bandleader
Paul Whiteman, the bandleader of one of the most popular dance bands in the 1920s and 1930s, gave Elvis his due recognition on January 17, 1957. Whiteman acknowledged Elvis’ talent and his ability to resonate with troubled youth.
Bing Crosby: The Crooner
Bing Crosby, known for his smooth crooning style, shared his thoughts on Elvis in Variety in January 1957. Crosby took a middle-ground stance, noting Elvis’ good beat and on-key singing but urging him to diversify his repertoire beyond “Hound Dog.”
Tommy Sands: The Teen Idol
In Harold Heffernan’s Hollywood column on March 12, 1957, Tommy Sands shed light on why others couldn’t replicate Elvis’ dynamic stage presence. Sands, who became a teenage idol himself, believed that Elvis’ movements had to be natural to be captivating.
Gisele Mackenzie: The Crooning Cast Member
Gisele Mackenzie, known for being a crooning cast member on the TV program “Your Hit Parade,” lamented the changes in popular music caused by Elvis. In a United Press article on April 26, 1957, Mackenzie candidly expressed her frustrations with singing rock ‘n’ roll songs to old pop arrangements.
Natalie Wood: The Starlet
Natalie Wood, the Hollywood starlet who was briefly linked to Elvis, opened up about their relationship in Bob Thomas’ Hollywood column on September 25, 1957. Wood regretted the media circus that surrounded their interactions but hinted at a desire to meet Elvis again.
Carlos Montoya: The Flamenco Guitarist
Prominent flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya offered a positive comment about Elvis in November 1957. Although it’s unclear what aspect of Elvis’ talent Montoya was referring to, his praise added credibility to Elvis as a musician.
Elsa Maxwell: The Gossip Columnist
Elsa Maxwell, a famous gossip columnist, shared her strong negative opinion about Elvis in December 1957. Maxwell, known for criticizing various individuals, saw Elvis as a corrupt and negative influence on young girls.
Bob Hope: The Master of Wit
Legendary humorist Bob Hope had kind words for Elvis in the Honolulu Star Bulletin on January 25, 1958. Hope labeled Elvis as an “American boy” and appreciated his ability to embrace his public persona.
Victor Borge: The Danish Pianist
Danish pianist and comedian Victor Borge offered a thoughtful perspective on Elvis’ music in The State Journal on February 14, 1958. Borge acknowledged that not all music reaches the same artistic level and recognized that Elvis’ music resonated with a particular audience.
Bridget Bardot: The French Icon
Unimpressed by Elvis, French actress Brigitte Bardot dismissed him as unrefined in numerous newspaper columns on October 6, 1958. Bardot’s response to Elvis’ interest in meeting her highlighted their contrasting tastes.
Louis Armstrong: The Jazz Legend
Jazz legend Louis Armstrong playfully commented on Elvis’ larger-than-life persona in The Union Standard on May 5, 1959. Although Armstrong jokingly referenced Elvis’ supposed Cadillac antics, his quip demonstrated his acceptance of the musical changes Elvis brought to the American scene.
These brief comments from celebrities provide a snapshot of the diverse opinions about Elvis Presley during the 1950s. While some saw Elvis as a negative influence or questioned his talent, others recognized his impact and appreciated his unique style. Stay tuned for more insights into the opinions about Elvis in the 1960s in future posts.