In the world of modern music, artists like Madonna, Brittany Spears, and Miley Cyrus have all been known to use sexual gyrations in their musical videos and live performances.
These seductive displays are commonplace today, but in the 1950’s were considered vulgar and shocking. Then came Elvis Presley, the man who would become the King of Rock and Roll, with his undulating hip movements that made girls scream and their boyfriends seethe with envy.
Presley can be credited with creating the whole concept of a sexual performance. Until Elvis emerged from the tiny hamlet of Tupelo, Mississippi, moved to Tennessee, and began shaking his hips as he sang rockabilly songs that often cleverly made use of sexual innuendo, no one had ever seen such behavior from a musician. When Elvis brought his unique brand of performance to the Grand Ole Opry for an audition, he was told to go back to being a truck driver. Even the most popular television host of the day, Ed Sullivan, said that he would never let Elvis be on his show, but when Presley’s fame skyrocketed, the dour Sullivan relented. Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and performed his classic hit, “Hound Dog.”
Just a few seconds into the song, Presley began wriggling his hips and sending the audience of young girls into a frenzy. For his part, Sullivan wasn’t overly impressed but he was pleased enough with the performance to invite Presley back several times. The executives at CBS, however, weren’t so eager to embrace Presley’s style.
They voiced their opposition and ultimately forced Sullivan to agree that Elvis would only be filmed from the waist up. It didn’t matter. Presley’s charisma extended far beyond his hips and he went on to become what many still regard as the best musical performer of all time.