Little Bits of History

 October 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2017

1956: Elvis Presley gets a polio vaccine on national TV. Poliomyelitis, sometimes called polio or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. The disease causes muscle weakness or even paralysis and can last for just hours to days. However, not everyone fully recovers and some are left with lasting deficits to the muscles affected. About 2-5% of children and 15-30% of adults who contract the disease die. The disease has been around since pre-history but the numbers have waxed and waned over time. In the early 20th century, there was a surge in the number of cases seen in the US. Since the disease is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective against it and instead, the best outcome comes from not ever getting infected. A search for a vaccine began in 1935 with disastrous results.

In 1950, there was an outbreak with 58,000 cases reported in the US and in 1955, another outbreak lead to 35,000 cases. Dr. Jonas Salk produced an injectable vaccine made up of killed polio virus. It was widely tested and found to be between 80 and 90% effective against this disease which left mostly children with lifelong crippling aftereffects. While many people did respond to the news and got small children vaccinated, older people – especially teens – were not getting the protection. There were a variety of reasons for this. Apathy was one since the name “infantile paralysis” left many older people unaware that they could still catch the virus. Another was cost, because to be adequately immune took three injections at a cost of $3-5 per each visit. The last major block to vaccination was the fear of shots.

Using teens themselves to help spread the word that their own peer group needed to be immunized was helpful. Public officials enlisted teen icons as a way to help. To that end, on this day Elvis Presley was vaccinated live on TV. He was in New York City to tape a guest appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, when he was approached by the New York City Health Department and they decided to launch a publicity stunt. It worked and the vaccination rate soared from 0.6% to over 80% in the next six months. While the event was only locally televised, it was covered in the national media which helped spread the word to even more of Elvis’s fan base.

Work on a better vaccine continued and in 1961, Albert Sabin’s attenuated (weakened) living virus oral vaccine came on the market. It was both cheaper to produce and easier to administer. In April 2012 the World Health Assembly declared it had completed the polio eradication program globally. The Americas were declared polio free in 1994 and the rest of the world joined in the hopeful status. Today, there are only two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where there are still naturally spreading epidemics. These can, of course, then spread to neighboring regions via contagious transmission.

Childhood vaccines are one of the great triumphs of modern medicine. Indeed, parents whose children are vaccinated no longer have to worry about their child’s death or disability from whooping cough, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis, or a host of other infections. – Ezekiel Emanuel

Humans have always used our intelligence and creativity to improve our existence. After all, we invented the wheel, discovered how to make fire, invented the printing press and found a vaccine for polio. – Naveen Jain

When I was about 9, I had polio, and people were very frightened for their children, so you tended to be isolated. I was paralyzed for a while, so I watched television. – Francis Ford Coppola

Polio’s pretty special because once you get an eradication, you no longer have to spend money on it; it’s just there as a gift for the rest of time. – Bill Gates



January 14

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 14, 2017

1973:  Elvis Presley puts on a concert. The summer before, President Richard Nixon had visited China and there was immediate satellite images of his time there. Colonel Thomas Parker, Elvis’s manager, decided that Elvis could be seen worldwide as well and set up a way to make that happen. He wanted to share The King with the entire world and it was “impossible for us to play in every major city” so something else had to be done. It was hoped to have things in place by October or November at the latest, but it might have interfered with MGM’s release of a documentary, Elvis on Tour. On September 4, 1972 Parker made an announcement from Las Vegas telling of the future concert on this date. It was to be the first satellite broadcast of a concert and Parker hoped for 1 billion viewers. This was a bold statement because of the timing of the event and the time differences around the globe. Other performances had been broadcast live, including The Beatles and Maria Callas, but these were not concerts put on by a single artist.

Another thing mentioned at the announcement in Las Vegas, there was to be no admittance or cover charge at the door. Instead, people were asked to make a donation to charity to enter. Eddie Sherman, a columnist from the Honolulu Advertiser, asked Parker if the donations could go to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund since Lee was the writer of “I’ll Remember You” – a song Elvis was still singing. This was another chance for Parker to broadcast Elvis’s charitable efforts and agreed.

Marty Pasetta was chosen as the producer and director of the concert. He attended a concert in November and found Elvis “boring” and the event lacking in physical excitement. He brought ideas to Parker who refused. Pasetta, even though Parker said it was useless, approached Elvis and was pleasantly surprised to find the artist amenable to any suggestions which would make the concert better. A runway was added which let Elvis get closer to his audience. He did three shows in November in Hawaii, the original dates for the satellite date, and then gave another press conference and reiterated the charity sponsorship.

A taped version of the concert was made on January 12 just in case anything went wrong. Elvis appeared in both shows in his iconic American Eagle white jumpsuit designed by Bill Belew. Pasetta directed the concerts (he was also in charge of directing the Oscars during this time). There was no charge for either the January 12th or 14th concerts but still, $75,000 was raised for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. The concert took place at the Honolulu International Center (now the Neal S. Blaisdell Center) and was aired in over 40 countries across Asia and Europe (where it was broadcast the next day and during prime time). In the US, it was not aired until April 4 because the concert date was the same as Super Bow VII which took precedence. According to Elvis Presley Enterprises, between 1 and 1.5 billion people watched the one-hour broadcast live, a world record.

Rhythm is something you either have or don’t have, but when you have it, you have it all over.

The image is one thing and the human being is another. It’s very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.

Every time I think that I’m getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.

From the time I was a kid, I always knew something was going to happen to me. Didn’t know exactly what. – all from Elvis Presley

Million Dollar Quartet

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 4, 2015
Million Dollar Quartet*

Million Dollar Quartet*

December 4, 1956: The “Million Dollar Quartet” has an impromptu jam session. Gathered together in the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee were four big names. The first to show up was Carl Perkins. He arrived with his brothers in order to record some new material as well as some remixed older songs. Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, brought in a relative newcomer to play the piano for Perkins. Jerry Lee Lewis would soon have his first record released but he was generally speaking, an unknown outside Memphis. Next to show up was a 21-year-old phenomenon who stopped by with his girlfriend. Elvis Presley had been a Sun Record commodity but had moved on to RCA Victor. Marilyn Evans came with him. Presley talked with Phillips for a while and then listened to a playback of Perkins’s work and pronounced it good.

Presley entered the studio and started jamming with the boys there. And then another Sun artist came in – Johnny Cash. He had had a few hits on the country charts, but hadn’t broken into mainstream music yet. In his own autobiography, when writing about this day, Cash said he arrived first. Jack Clement was the engineer that day and when the four men started playing and singing together, he was smart enough to record the session. Evans slipped out after a while and the four men continued to sing and play. While they were having fun, Phillips called the local paper and they sent over a writer and photographer. When the picture appeared in the Memphis Press-Scimitar the next day, it was headlined with “Million Dollar Quartet”.

All four men would go on to be big names in the music industry in the late 1950s and helped to shape the course of music history, at least in the US. They each had illustrious careers. In 1969, Shelby Singleton purchased Sun Records and after doing so, went through more than 10,000 hours of tape. He also licensed much of Sun’s catalog to the English Charly label for issuance in Europe. As the two went through the catalog, they came upon a portion of the jam session from this date. In 1981, Charly/Sun issued The Million Dollar Quartet, an album containing 17 tracks. Most of the music was gospel/spiritual in nature as these were songs all the men had grown up with and were able to sing together.

Several years later, after more of the session was discovered, a second album was released called The Complete Million Dollar Session. Again it was released only in Europe. In 1990, RCA distributed it as both a CD and an LP album called Elvis Presley – The Million Dollar Quartet. A 50th anniversary release in 2006 had an extra 12 minutes of music never before available. This later source of the material was from a copy of the session owned personally by Elvis. This last issue contained about 95% of the recordings made on this date. There are 46 tracks which are mostly incomplete and interspersed with chatter between the artists.

I think I’d be remiss not to record this. – Jack Clement

We found three reels. You could always argue that there were more. But in the first you can hear Elvis arriving and in the last you can hear him leaving. I doubt that there are more. – Ernst Jorgensen

An old fashioned barrel-house session with barber shop harmonies resulting. – Bob Johnson

I was there – I was the first to arrive and the last to leave, contrary to what has been written – but I was just there to watch Carl record, which he did until mid-afternoon, when Elvis came in with his girlfriend. At that point the session stopped and we all started laughing and cutting up together. Then Elvis sat down at the piano, and we started singing gospel songs we all knew, then some Bill Monroe songs. – Johnny Cash

Also on this day: The Boss – In 1875, Boss Tweed escaped from prison.
Watch This – In 1791, the first Sunday newspaper was published.
Surf’s Up – In 1969, Greg Noll rode a big wave.
Home on the Grange – In 1867, the Grange was formed.
The King of Burgers – In 1954, Burger King is founded.

* “Million Dollar Quartet” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

You’re in the Army Now

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 24, 2014
Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

March 24, 1958: Elvis Presley is inducted into the US Army. Elvis was born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi and his identical twin brother was stillborn 35 minutes later. As an only child, Elvis formed a very close bond with both his parents. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948 and for almost a year they lived in rooming houses. While in eighth grade, Elvis received a C in music and his teacher told him he had no aptitude for singing. The next day, he brought his guitar to school and sang a popular song in order to change her mind. All she would agree to was that she didn’t like his kind of singing.

By 1950 he was practicing guitar with Jesse Lee Denson, his neighbor, and with three other boys they formed a music group and played frequently in the area. Elvis never had any formal music training and could not read music. However, he was able to listen to and copy the songs he heard played in jukeboxes. In August 1953 he brazenly walked into the offices of Sun Records to record a couple songs. He recorded again in January 1954 and none of these songs went anywhere. He ended up driving a truck instead. Again in the recording studio on July 5, things were going poorly when Elvis grabbed his guitar and played an older song, singing boisterously. This was the sound the studio was looking for.

First came more recording and then Elvis was invited to play on television. His hit, “Heartbreak Hotel” brought him fame and a chance to expand. His first TV appearance on the Milton Berle Show was on April 3, 1956 and he then made appearance with both Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan. His first appearance on Sullivan’s show was seen by about 60 million viewers or 82.6% market share. In his first year recording for RCA, then one of the largest music companies, Elvis’s recordings accounted for half of their singles sales. He was a star.

But when he was 21, he – like every other American male – was up for the draft. His manager worked for more than a year to get him into Special Services, but when the draft notice came, Elvis insisted on being just one of the guys and not getting any special treatment. Elvis assumed his career was already over anyway. During basic training, he was notified that his mother was ill. He was given a pass and made it home just two days before she died. After finishing training he was station with the 3rd Armored Division in Friendberg, Germany. It was there a sergeant introduced him to amphetamines. Elvis thought they not only energized him but also were great for strength and weight loss. His drug use would be a contributing factor in his death. All his army buddies insist that he wasn’t given special treatment but did do special things for his compatriots. He was discharged on March 2, 1960 and got back to his regularly scheduled stardom.

Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me. I can’t help it.

I don’t know anything about music. In my line you don’t have to.

When I was a boy, I always saw myself as a hero in comic books and in movies. I grew up believing this dream.

The image is one thing and the human being is another. It’s very hard to live up to an image, put it that way. – all from Elvis Presley

Also on this day: Alaska Mess – In 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground and began to spill oil.
Cruising – In 1898, the first American built automobile was purchased.
Metropolitan Life – In 1868, the insurance company was formed.
Beating a Killer – In 1882, Robert Koch announced the cause of TB.

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Hound Dog

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 5, 2012

June 5, 1956: Elvis Presley appears on The Milton Berle Show. The 21-year-old from Tupelo, Mississippi first performed in 1945 when ten-years-old in a singing contest held at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. He came in fifth and won $5 (≈ $60 today). A few months later he received his first guitar for his birthday, even though he had been hoping for a rifle. His uncle taught him to play the guitar. In September 1948 the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. In the early 50s, being somewhat of a rebel, although a shy one, he grew sideburns and let his hair grow, unlike most of his peers.

In 1953 he recorded his first songs. A receptionist asked him what type of singer he was and Elvis said he sang all kinds of music. She then asked who he sounded like, he answered with a flippant, “not like anyone else.” After his session, she labeled the one day King of Rock and Roll as a good ballad singer. Elvis got a few more recording sessions the following year and during one of the session, began “acting the fool” and suddenly he was recording a new style of music, really sounding like no one else. Elvis got gigs in Nashville and Las Vegas.

While in Las Vegas, Elvis and his band went to see Freddie Bell and the Bellboys and heard them perform “Hound Dog” a blues song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Freddie Bell rewrote the lyrics and Elvis enjoyed their performance. Elvis asked Freddie if he could use the song. Freddie agreed and so Elvis began performing the song himself, accompanied by his own dance moves. On this day, he performed the song for Uncle Miltie and 40,000,000 viewers. The audience seemed to enjoy the performance. The next day, the network was deluged with people worried about the morality of the entire country being debased due to Elvis’s dance moves.

The next month, Elvis performed on the Steve Allen Show. For this show, he was dressed in a tux. Allen disliked rock and roll but did not insist that Elvis “tone down” his act in any way. Elvis came onstage, bantered with Allen, and then sang “I Want You; I Need You; I Love You” and then Steve Allen brought out a hound dog, wearing a top hat and Elvis sang “Hound Dog” for the dog and his fans. His dance moves were much tamer; it is speculated he was intimidated by the whole tuxedo business. He crooned to the dog, who remained placid throughout the performance. At the end of the song, Elvis gave the dog a big hug.

A live concert to me is exciting because of all the electricity that is generated in the crowd and on stage. It’s my favorite part of the business, live concerts.

From the time I was a kid, I always knew something was going to happen to me. Didn’t know exactly what.

I don’t do any vulgar movements.

I happened to come along in the music business when there was no trend.

I’m not trying to be sexy. It’s just my way of expressing myself when I move around. – all from Elvis Presley

Also on this day:

Simon Legree is Exposed – In 1851 Uncle Tom’s Cabin began to see print.
World War II – In 1941, Chongqing was bombed killing thousands.
Bobby – In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was shot.

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The King

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 15, 2010

Movie poster from the Elvis Presley movie, Love Me Tender

November 15, 1956: Elvis Aron Presley makes his movie debut when Love Me Tender premieres. Presley made a total of 31 films, the last in 1969. Jailhouse Rock in 1957 and King Creole in 1958 were both critically acclaimed and are classics today. He became the highest paid actor in Hollywood.

He was more than an actor. He has sold over 1,000,000,000 – one billion – records. He had more than 150 albums and singles go gold, platinum, or multi-platinum. He had 149 hits on the American pop charts, 114 in the top 100, 40 in the top 10, and 18 at number 1. Even though he did not perform outside of America [except for five shows in three Canadian cities in 1957] he was the recipient of awards from around the globe: from Norway to South Africa and from England to Japan.

He made his network television debut in 1956 when he appeared on Stage Show. He made two appearances on The Milton Berle Show and during one he performed Hound Dog in such a manner as to cause a national scandal. Ed Sullivan invited him to three performances and paid an unprecedented $50,000 for Elvis to sing. Elvis did sing, but was filmed only from the waist up. No scandals for Ed.

Elvis was more than an entertainer. He was a generous man. He gave away Cadillacs, cash, and jewelry on a whim. In 1961 he gave a benefit concert and raised $65,000 for the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. In 1973 he filmed a television special in Hawaii and did not charge for admittance to the taping. However, he did ask that his audience contribute what they could and gave the proceeds, $75,000, to the Kui Lee Cancer Fund. His eponymous Charitable Foundation continues his work even today.

“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do ‘em all together, I guess.”

“The first time that I appeared on stage, it scared me to death. I really didn’t know what all the yelling was about. I didn’t realize that my body was moving. It’s a natural thing to me. So to the manager backstage I said ‘What’d I do? What’d I do?’ And he said ‘Whatever it is, go back and do it again’.”

“I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants.”

“Rhythm is something you either have or don’t have, but when you have it, you have it all over.”

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.” – all from Elvis Aron Presley

Also on this day, in 1959 the Clutter family murders took place becoming Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.