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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Jail House Rock Premiered 50 Years Ago Today in Memphis Tennesee

The King is dead! Long live the King! The King of Rock and Roll, that is. Not too long after the meteoric raise of Elvis upon the music charts, the King of Rock and Roll was introduced to movie fans and his films became as popular (if not more so) as his music. We all know the string of later films that remain prominent in the minds of most film lovers. However, these were less than stellar productions pumped out one after another for pure profit. Before the repetitive storylines of Girl Happy, Spinout or Clambake reached the silver screen, there was a brief period in Elvis' career when he was taken somewhat seriously by his directors and fellow cast members. Elvis really tried too; before giving up and giving in to the Colonel and a parade of bad scripts and horrible soundtracks. One of those early gems was Jailhouse Rock.

Not only is this early Elvis movie among the best of all the pictures he made in his 31 film career, the songs are pure early Elvis; good old Rock and Roll! Just wait till you see the dance sequence for the song "Jailhouse Rock". It's Elvis at his swivel-hipped best. One of the reasons is because the band in the film is Elvis' real-life band which included Scotty Moore on electric guitar and Bill Black on stand-up bass. Both had been with Elvis since his beginning in Memphis at Sun Records. And in the recording studio scenes, the piano player is Mike Stoller (Jerry Leiber and Stoller were a songwriting team, which wrote many of the major hit rock songs of the 1950s). With familiar talent like that backing the King there's no doubt he felt right at home on the studio sets of Hollywood.

Originally choreographer Alex Romero created a dance for the song "Jailhouse Rock" that was in a style apropos for a more classically trained dancer than Elvis Presley. But when Romero realized that his plans for the number were never going to work, he asked Elvis how would he normally move to the song, leading Elvis to become the uncredited choreographer for what many consider his most famous dance number in all of his movies.

In the listing of the American Film Institute's "100 years, 100 Songs", "Jailhouse Rock" was voted #21. The prominent placement of the film on such a high profile list indicates the long lasting impact Elvis has had upon pop culture. Yes, popular musicians have been making their way into cinema since the advent of sound, and they will continue to do so until movies disappear from the entertainment landscape. But unlike so many other music acts, Elvis was very special. He had something extra, something timeless and an indescribable, something that simply exploded off the silver screen. However, that talent was best in its natural, raw state. Unfortunately, it became tainted when harnessed by his over controlling manager, Colonel Parker. Who knows what roles the King might have played, if only he had been allowed.

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