Originally Posted by davidhunternyc
I think this is your first poll, David, where I would have to guess "neither." I really never really liked any of their music. I went to Graceland once and was stupified with how kitsch the whole experience was. I couldn't stand his house. However, after the house tour I went to the other building where they had his music memorabilia and showed a historic timeline of his music. I have to say, it kind of stunned me listening to his real early music. Played next to the blues tunes it came from, I was totally impressed with his talent and the revolutionary nature of his music. In the end however, I do not listen to Elvis. I would rather listen to R.L. Burnside and the Elvis's historic precedents.
In referring to his early material, I assume you are talking about the Sun sessions, which were produced by Sam Phillips, who later sold Elvis's contract to RCA. That early material does in fact highlight his feeling for the blues and R&B material that inspired him. But it also shows a profound country influence. To me that's the essence of his greatness; he fused blues and country in a way that might have been done before, but probably not as well, and not in a way that caught the imagination of the record-buying public.
Elvis may not have been the king of rock n roll, but he sure was the king of rockabilly.
That said, I still voted for Chuck Berry because echoes of his guitar can be heard in everything from the Beatles and Stones to Guns and Roses and James Blood Ulmer (who has explicitly cited him as an inspiration.) He also may be the greatest lyricist in the history of rock music. He perfectly captured the emerging youth sensibility of the time, which is all the more impressive since he was already in his 30s when he had his first hit. He wasn't a pimple-faced kid whining about how school sucked and longing for the cute girl next door. He was a distanced observer writing with skill, nuance, and economy about a particular place and time. Yet his songs are timeless.