Elvis Aaron Presley, in the humblest of circumstances, was born to Vernon and Gladys Presley in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. His twin brother, Jessie Garon, was stillborn, leaving Elvis to grow up as an only child. He and his parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948, and Elvis graduated from Humes High School there in 1953. 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, he began his singing career with the legendary Sun Records label in Memphis. In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. By 1956, he was an international sensation. With a sound and style that uniquely combined his diverse musical influences and blurred and challenged the social and racial barriers of the time, he ushered in a whole new era of American music and popular culture.
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, he has sold over one billion records, more than any other artist. His American sales have earned him gold, platinum or multi-platinum awards for 150 different albums and singles, far more than any other artist. Among his many awards and accolades were 14 Grammy nominations (3 wins) from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received at age 36, and his being named One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation for 1970 by the United States Jaycees.
Without any of the special privileges his celebrity status might have afforded him, he honorably served his country in the U.S. Army. His talent, good looks, sensuality, charisma, and good humor endeared him to millions, as did the humility and human kindness he demonstrated throughout his life. Known the world over by his first name, he is regarded as one of the most important figures of twentieth century popular culture. Elvis died at his Memphis home, Graceland, on August 16, 1977.
In 1992, the American public voted on a matter of vital national importance: young skinny Elvis or old fat Elvis? Allowing the public to select the artwork for the Elvis Presley stamp was an unprecedented move by the U.S. Postal Service. Pre-addressed ballots were distributed in post offices around the country and in the April 13, 1992, edition of People magazine. America spoke, returning nearly 1.2 million ballots to the Postal Service, and the choice was clear: More than 75 percent of voters preferred young skinny Elvis.
The stamp was dedicated at Graceland just a few moments after midnight on January 8, 1993—Elvis’s 58th birthday. Across the country, reaction to the voting process was boisterous and opinionated. Members of Congress debated the worthiness of Elvis as a stamp subject, newspaper editorialists made lofty pronouncements, and presidential candidate Bill Clinton publicly voiced his support for the younger Elvis. Meanwhile, comedians and cartoonists used the opportunity to poke fun at the Postal Service, the 1992 presidential candidates, and even Elvis himself. A decade later, the Elvis stamp is still one of the most talked-about stamps ever issued by the Postal Service—and the most popular U.S. commemorative stamp of all time.