Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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July 7th
Elvis Hits the Airwaves
On the night of July 7, 1954, Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips played a brand-new recording of the song “That’s All Right” sung by 19-year-old Elvis Presley, who lived there in Memphis. Right away, listeners starting calling, demanding that he play it again, asking exactly what kind of music it was – blues? rock ’n’ roll? – and wanting to know more about the singer.

Dewey played the song fourteen times that night. During one break, he called the Presley home, wanting to get Elvis down to the studio for an interview. Elvis, who’d been told that his record might be on the radio, had been too nervous to listen. “I thought people would laugh at me,” he later explained. So he’d gone to the movies.

Dewey asked his mother to find him, saying, “I played that record of his, and them birdbrain phones haven’t stopped ringing since.” Mr. and Mrs. Presley hurried to the theater, searched the dark rows, found their son, and hustled the boy off to WHBQ for the interview.

As a child, Elvis Presley soaked up gospel music at church. He listened to country music on The Grand Ole Opry radio show, blues singers on the streets of Memphis, spirituals at tent revivals, symphony orchestra concerts in the park, opera on the family’s wind-up Victrola.

“What kind of singer are you?” the manager of a Memphis recording studio asked him when he made his very first record. “Aw, I sing all kinds,” he answered. “Who do you sound like?” she  pressed. “I don’t sound like nobody,” he insisted.

His answer was more than youthful boasting. Presley’s unabashedly original style embraced all kinds of American music and crossed all borders of race, class, and region. As biographers have noted, that democratic principle of his music helped win legions of fans.

American History Parade
1846
Naval forces raise the American flag at Monterey, proclaiming California part of the United States.

1865
Four people are hanged in Washington, D.C., for conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

1898
The United States annexes Hawaii.

1946
Italian-born Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini is canonized as the first American saint.

1954
Elvis Presley makes his radio debut on WHBQ in Memphis.

1976
West Point enrolls its first women cadets.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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