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The ingenious way Elvis Presley even made money off his haters

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This is an encore episode that aired originally on January 25, 2014.

When Elvis Presley hit the airwaves in 1954, rock and roll as we know it discovered its first bookend.

His original five singles on the Sun label, were regional hits in the Southern U.S., but his impact was beginning to send tremors throughout the music industry.

In November of 1955, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips ran into financial difficulties and sold Elvis’s contract to RCA Records for $35,000 – which was the largest sum paid for a singer up until that time.

In March of the following year, a cigar-chomping ex-carnival promoter named Colonel Tom Parker signed Presley to a management contract. It would be a partnership that would last until Presley’s death 21 years later.

Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley. (YouTube) While Colonel Parker instantly understood his young singer was becoming the hottest act around, he also figured his popularity might last two years, at most.

So Parker was determined to ride that short wave for all it was worth by marketing Presley in ways no other manager had ever dreamed of.

With his new RCA contract, Elvis insisted on recording a song inspired by the suicide of a lonely man who jumps from a hotel window.

It was called Heartbreak Hotel. The record company was completely against it, saying nobody would be interested in a song that morbid.

Elvis was unfazed, and recorded it anyway. The song topped Billboard’s charts for seven weeks, going to number one on the country & western and R&B charts, and became Elvis’s first million selling record.

Seeing that national success, Colonel Tom Parker started to plan an extensive marketing campaign to make his boy the number one attraction in North America.

All the while, Elvis harboured a secret desire to be a movie star. It is believed that this was Elvis’s real goal in life.

Presley bought his first guitar at just 11 years old. (Getty Images) So in 1956, Presley made his first movie, titled Love Me Tender.

The film was a huge hit, and there were one million advanced sales for the title song – a first for a single in music history.

Sensing a marketing opportunity that no music manager had every considered before, Colonel Parker signed a deal with a Beverly Hills movie merchandiser for $40,000.

The goal was to turn Elvis into a brand.

It was a revolutionary strategy, as it was the first all-out merchandising campaign ever aimed at the teen market.

In just a few months, over 50 different Elvis-themed products were produced, from charm bracelets and necklaces, to scarves, teddy bear perfume, Topps bubble gum cards, and sneakers… to record players, hats, and lipsticks in “Heartbreak Pink” and “Hound Dog Orange”  – sold with the slogan, “Keep Me Always On Your Lips.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that by the end of 1957, Elvis merchandise had grossed over $22 million dollars.

By 1962, Colonel Parker’s share of that booty would become an eye-popping 50%.

A whole other market. (thatericalper) His most ingenious product, though, was “I Hate Elvis” buttons. The Colonel even made money from people who despised his hip-swivelling star.

When Elvis went into the army for a two-year posting in 1958, this sustained merchandise marketing helped keep his image alive. When he returned in 1960, it was as if Elvis hadn’t skipped a beat.

The nearly 50 year-old Colonel Tom Parker had not only promoted the first major rock and roll star in history, he had designed the first-ever blueprint for marketing rock and roll that included not just the music, but movies, TV shows, concerts and hundreds of products.


For more stories from Under The Influence, click or tap on the “Listen” tab to hear the full episode.

You can also find us on the CBC Radio app or subscribe to our Podcast.


Under The Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio – a 1969 Airstream trailer that’s been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O’Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search for the hashtag: #Terstream.

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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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