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A look at the interesting history of race music

But among Negroes, the controversy over Elvis is even more explosive than among whites. Colored opinion about the hydromatic-hipped hillbilly from Mississippi runs the gamut from caustic condemnation to ardent admiration'. Others believe a rumored crack by Elvis during a Boston appearance in which he is alleged to have said: And there it is. The first time ever that statement appeared in print, says Michael T.

Was he just another white Southern racist? Was he an impostor or worse, a thief? One simple lie, and those predisposed to believe it did. Some said he made the remark while in Boston. Elvis had never been to Boston. Others said they heard it on Edward R. But after Elvis' manager Col. Rejection of Integration The true root of the 'Elvis Was a Racist' line of thinking is a distinctly modern rejection of integration, one of the ideals of the civil rights movement that we've chosen to blissfully ignore.

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There is a belief, among both blacks and whites, that black music is for blacks and any white man playing is guilty of some terrible misappropriation, and that this misappropriation is an outgrowth of the horrible sins committed against blacks by whites throughout our nation's history. There's no reason to 'debunk' this argument, because it is transparently foolish and absolutely racist, on both sides. Changing perceptions Before we go further, lets make it clear, in the case of people saying Elvis was racist, we have no doubt that this is based on misunderstanding, by what they have been told, as stated above or because of jealousy.

Now jealousy is understandable, through no fault of Elvis' he did benefit from the writing of black musicians, and his blending of different musical styles and the society of the times did stop a lot of African American artists prospering as they can do today.

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But that was not Elvis' fault, in fact it is to his credit as many black musicians have stated and you can read below that he was prepared to embrace a music forbidden by much of society, in fact often Elvis and other artists such as Carl Perkins where persecuted for singing the so called 'race' music and pressured by town authorities to not perform these songs, considered to be 'black music'.

Elvis Presley talks as two young reporters listen attentively backstage at the Fox Theatre: From a very early age growing up in a poor Southern community Elvis spent much of his early years absorbing the music of local impoverished black communities like Shake Rag in Tupelo and later on the Beale Street area of Memphis. This was not normal behavior, but then Elvis was not your average guy. Elvis, unlike most white teenagers would delight in attending the colored East Trigg Baptist Church where he would hear local black gospel music.

Elvis was not guided by color but by what he liked and felt good with. Many black artists have spoken out to honor the singer. King to rapper Chuck D, these influential musicians are helping to change perceptions of Elvis.

  • Elvis was a blessing';
  • Now jealousy is understandable, through no fault of Elvis' he did benefit from the writing of black musicians, and his blending of different musical styles and the society of the times did stop a lot of African American artists prospering as they can do today;
  • Photos by Ernest Withers;
  • This transition—from the Rolling Stones being heard as a white band authenticated by their reverence for and fluency within black music, to the Rolling Stones simply being heard as a new sort of authentic themselves—is among the most significant turns in the history of rock.

Elvis couldn't do it himself. Soon after the Sepia rumor started, Elvis broke his media silence for an exclusive interview in Jet, another magazine targeted at black readers. Knowing the dubious reputation of Sepia, Louie Robinson, the black associate editor of the black-owned JET magazine, decided to investigate the authenticity of the alleged statement and report to his readers.

Running down Elvis was easier. In the summer of 1957, Robinson interviewed the star in his Hollywood dressing room. The Jet article of 1957 further confirmed what friends and associates knew about Elvis all along: He truly loved and respected black musicians.

In fact the rumor should have stopped then and there since, on the set of Jailhouse RockElvis was directly challenged about the statement by reporter Louie Robinson from the prominent black newspaper 'Jet'. Elvis honestly replied, 'I never said anything like that, and people who know me know that I wouldn't have said it'. I can't sing like Fats Domino can.

  • The best black artists will thus be studied as remarkable primitives who unconsciously foreshadowed future developments;
  • Roots music echoes the concerns found in American literature Historian Charles Wolfe writes, One of the key narrative lines running through all four programs of American Roots Music is the perception of roots music as a powerful and unacknowledged folk literature.

Robinson then talked with some blacks who knew Elvis and included their remarks in his JET article. Back in Tupelo, Dr. Zuber told Robinson, 'I knew him when he was a kid. He used to play the guitar and go around with quartets and to Negro 'sanctified' meetings. He lived near the colored section, and people around here say he's one of the nicest boys they ever knew. He just doesn't impress me as the type of person who would say a thing like that.

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  2. He was a bad-ass white boy. Songs like these could be heard as whole musical histories, works whose lives depended on a continual and conscious interaction with the music that came before them, much of which was black in origin.
  3. Elvis honestly replied, 'I never said anything like that, and people who know me know that I wouldn't have said it'.
  4. The hip swiveling that merely disgusted conservative whites amounted to theft for blacks.

Indeed, in heavily segregated Memphis of that day, Presley was regularly seen at black-only events. In June 1956, a Memphis newspaper reported that Elvis had attended the Memphis Fairgrounds amusement park on a designated 'colored night'.

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More on this below. As Elvis left the Hudson Theater on July 1, 1956 his fans reached out for an autograph and to touch their idol. King defends Elvis In a Sepia article, B. He's carried away by it. When I was in Memphis with my band, he used to stand in the wings and watch us perform. As for fading away, rock and roll is here to stay and so, I believe, is Elvis. He's been a shot in the arm to the business and all I can say is 'that's my man'.

In his 1957 investigative article in JET, Louie Robinson concluded that not only did blacks know Presley; he also knew blacks. When Robinson asked about the origin of his 'earthy, moaning baritone' singing voice, Presley responded, 'I never sang like this in my life until I made a look at the interesting history of race music first record - That's Alright, Mama.

Robinson's Conclusion Robinson did confirm that Presley was making more money singing rhythm and blues than black performers of the day. And as for the accusation that Presley was making buckets full of money off songs written by blacks, who earned very little for their songwriting talents, Robinson quoted Otis Blackwellwriter of two huge Presley hits ' Don't Be Cruel ' and ' All Shook Up '. Without giving specific numbers, Blackwell confirmed, 'I got a good deal.

Elvis - 'I always liked that kind of music'. Robinson was impressed with Presley's honest evaluation of his contribution to the genre.

Nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people.

  • The band that wanted to be Muddy Waters was now surrounded by a world of rock musicians that wanted to be them;
  • It's one of the factors;
  • Songs are an important cultural form through which people assert and preserve their own histories in the face of changing social conditions.

Let's face it; I can't sing it like Fats Domino can. But I always liked that kind of music. Robinson had also heard, by 'word of mouth', that Elvis made the infamous comment to Edward R.

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Since records verified that Presley had never appeared on 'Person to Person', Robinson ultimately concluded that no proof existed that Elvis had ever made the alleged racial statement anywhere.

Thus, JET magazine, highly respected among American blacks in 1957, not only cleared Elvis of voicing the racist comment, but also portrayed him as a young white man who fostered race equality in both his professional and private life.

Elvis probably thought he had put the rumor to rest a look at the interesting history of race music good. Little did he know that all these years after his death it would continue to live on as an urban legend. The idea of Elvis racism would not die so easily. Musicologists scoff at talk of a racist Elvis A dirt-poor outcast at segregated Humes High School, he wore pink shirts and pomaded hair like the folks he admired down on Beale Street.

King, who later defended him in Sepia: Crudup, he said, used to 'bang his box the way I do now, and I said if I ever got to the place where I could feel all old Arthur felt, I'd be a music man like nobody ever saw'.

It was statements like these that caused Elvis to be seen as something of a hero in the black community in those early years. In Memphis the two African-American newspapers, 'The Memphis World' and 'The Tri-State Defender', hailed him as a 'race man' - not just for his music but also for his indifference to the usual social distinctions.

Elvis Presley and Racism | The Ultimate, Definitive Guide

This could be said to be purely circumstantial, of course, but the poses taken and comradely obvious in these snapshots do not seem to point to some sort of deep-seated racism on Presley's part. You will see in the photos though that the friendships where long lasting, with photos of Elvis with Sammy Davis Jr from the 1950s to 1969 for example.

And possibly the best two examples lie directly below. Elvis was there when it mattered: Although Elvis' recording contract did not permit him to perform at the fund-raiser for radio station WDIA, he set off a sensation.

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All from just a brief emergence from behind the curtain!! King The radio station called itself the 'Mother Station of the Negroes'. In the aftermath of the event, a number of Negro newspapers printed photographs of Elvis with both Rufus Thomas and B.

King 'Thanks, man, for all the early lessons you gave me', were the words The Tri-State Defender reported he said to Mr. When he returned to the revue the following December December 6, 1957a stylish shot of him 'talking shop' with Little Junior Parker and Bobby 'Blue' Bland appeared in Memphis's mainstream afternoon paper, 'The Press-Scimitar', accompanied by a short feature that made Elvis' feelings abundantly clear. Elvis Presley and B.

Ellis Auditorium on December 7, 1956. Elvis attends with George Klein.

  1. With the advent of radio, a broad range of Americans were exposed to a diversity of musical styles, as there was no way to "segregate" the airwaves.
  2. Elvis had a great respect for black folk at a time when black folks were considered niggers, and who gave a damn about nigger music? From a very early age growing up in a poor Southern community Elvis spent much of his early years absorbing the music of local impoverished black communities like Shake Rag in Tupelo and later on the Beale Street area of Memphis.
  3. Elvis, unlike most white teenagers would delight in attending the colored East Trigg Baptist Church where he would hear local black gospel music. Musicologists scoff at talk of a racist Elvis A dirt-poor outcast at segregated Humes High School, he wore pink shirts and pomaded hair like the folks he admired down on Beale Street.
  4. It shows how far apart country and rap, and the cultures they sometimes represent, is, even in 2013.

Photos by Ernest Withers. Below, when Elvis returned to the revue the following December December 6, 1957a stylish shot of him 'talking shop' with Little Junior Parker and Bobby 'Blue' Bland appeared in Memphis's mainstream afternoon paper, 'The Press-Scimitar', accompanied by a short feature that made Elvis' feelings abundantly clear.

Little Junior Parker 1932-1971 was a successful and influential Memphis blues singer and musician. He recorded the song Mystery Train in 1953, two years before Elvis made it one of his classic Sun singles. Who's the real king? While Elvis rocketed to stardom, resentment grew among talented musicians whose similar-sounding records weren't getting the same play. The hip swiveling that merely disgusted conservative whites amounted to theft for blacks. More than one player laid claim to Elvis' gimmicks.

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Blues shouter Wynonie 'Mr. Blues' Harris told Sepia: The current crop of shouters are rank impostors. They have no right to call themselves the kings of rock and roll. I am the king of rock and roll'. Flamboyant singer Little Richard pointed out stinging economic disparities: Theft One of the favorite arguments of the anti-Elvis cadre is that one of his most memorable recordings, Hound Dogwas 'stolen' from Big Mama Thornton, an incredibly talented black blues singer who recorded her sultry, simmering version in 1953.