Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, was not just a music icon but also a patriotic soul. While his love for America was evident in his concerts, it extended beyond the stage. Elvis celebrated the Fourth of July each year, and thanks to Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen’s book, “Elvis: Day by Day,” we have a glimpse into how he spent this momentous day throughout his life.
A Day That Changed History – July 4, 1954
On this day, 19-year-old Elvis had a pivotal moment in his career. At the suggestion of Sam Phillips, Elvis gathered with Scotty Moore and Bill Black at Scotty’s house in Memphis. They wanted to assess Elvis’s talent. Although they were not initially impressed, they decided to see how he would sound in a recording studio. Little did they know that music history was about to be made that day.
Busy Independence Day – July 4, 1955
Elvis’s career was on the rise, and on this day, he made appearances in three different Texas communities. It had been a year full of live shows and record releases. Little did Elvis know that this was just the beginning of his incredible journey.
Home is Where the Heart Is – July 4, 1956
Fresh off his appearance on the Steve Allen Show in New York City, Elvis returned home to Memphis. He spent the day with his family at his recently purchased Audubon Drive home. With his girlfriend by his side, he played them the acetate of his latest recording, “Don’t Be Cruel.” Elvis had signed with RCA and had already tasted success with his #1 hit, “Heartbreak Hotel.”
A Bittersweet Independence Day – July 4, 1957
This Fourth of July brought sad news for Elvis. He learned that his leading lady in “Jailhouse Rock,” Judy Tyler, had tragically died in a car crash. Elvis spent the day reminiscing about her with his friend, Memphis DJ George Klein. Despite this loss, Elvis’s music continued to dominate the charts.
Serving Country and Entertainment – July 4, 1958
Elvis had completed his basic training and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. He shared a house with his parents, grandmother, cousins, and friend Lamar Fike. With his film “King Creole” released and his impending deployment to Germany, Elvis felt a mix of pride and anxiety on this Independence Day.
Remembering His Mother – July 4, 1960
Elvis visited his mother’s grave on this solemn Independence Day. His father had recently remarried, and Elvis had mixed feelings about the union. However, he emphasized that there would never be another mother like his own.
Explosive Celebrations – July 4, 1961
During the early 1960s, Elvis started a tradition of celebrating the Fourth of July at Graceland with a thrilling fireworks display. The festivities included shooting off extravagant fireworks, leaving the sky ablaze with light. Elvis and his friends spared no expense when it came to making the night unforgettable.
A Hollywood Fourth of July – July 4, 1964
In 1964, Elvis was in Hollywood filming his 17th movie, “Girl Happy.” Independence Day was spent on the set of the film, away from his Memphis home.
Excitement and Change – July 4, 1968
This Fourth of July held a special place in Elvis’s heart. He was now a father, with his daughter Lisa Marie just five months old. Elvis had recently completed filming his NBC TV program, which would later be known as his “Comeback Special.” Additionally, he auctioned off his 1964 Rolls Royce to benefit a children’s charity.
Preparing for a Comeback – July 4, 1969
Elvis’s anticipation was at its peak as he prepared to leave Memphis for Los Angeles. There, he would begin rehearsals for his return to live performances at the end of the month. His hit song “In the Ghetto” was climbing the charts.
Fireworks and Films – July 4, 1971
Elvis celebrated with a thrilling fireworks display at Graceland, followed by an evening at the Crosstown theater, watching movies with his friends. The next day, he would leave for Los Angeles to start rehearsals for his performance at the Sahara Tahoe.
Returning Home – July 4, 1973
After completing a 10-day tour, Elvis looked forward to spending time with his daughter Lisa Marie during her summer visit. Plans were also made for a recording session at Stax, a renowned rhythm and blues studio.
Martial Arts and Lectures – July 4, 1974
Elvis, back in Memphis after a tour, showcased his passion for karate on this Independence Day. He gave a lecture and demonstration at his recently established Tennessee Karate Institute. Having practiced martial arts on and off since his army years, Elvis viewed karate as a discipline worth embracing.
A Rock and Roll Fourth – July 4, 1976
On this day, Elvis performed at the Mabee Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was only the second time in his career that he worked on stage on the Fourth of July. However, the spirits at the event were not quite festive, leading to the cancellation of the planned fireworks display and party.
A Final Private Celebration – July 4, 1977
Elvis spent the last Fourth of July of his life in seclusion at Graceland. His close friends and girlfriend Ginger Alden were among the few visitors he received. However, he eagerly awaited his daughter Lisa Marie’s upcoming visit.
Throughout his life, Elvis celebrated the Fourth of July like most Americans, cherishing time with family and friends. While his patriotic spirit shone through his performances, his personal celebrations were more intimate. Elvis truly lived the American dream, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to captivate the world.