Cars And Guitars: 1962 Corvette and Elvis

Cars And Guitars: 1962 Corvette and Elvis’ “Return To Sender”

The perfect driving experience and the melding of music and machines is what Cars and Guitars is all about. So buckle up, drop it into reverse, and floor it back a thousand years to when the King of Rock and Motorama sports cars ruled the earth. For Cars and Guitars #19, we’ve paired the 1962 Chevrolet Corvette and the song “Return to Sender,” by the one and only, Elvis Presley.

We’ll also zoom in on the events of the day, reconstructing the pop culture arena that sprouted these two icons. To kick this episode off, look at this video clip of “Return To Sender,” to get in the mood. Dig the nautical stage backdrop, the band’s sailor outfits, and Elvis in black with his crazy dance moves. The call-and-response vocal arrangement and the saxophone squawks are pure magic.

A Magical Time

1962 was a pivotal year for America, Elvis, and the Corvette. WWII was darn near 20 years back in the mist, and America was in full post-war bloom. The baby boom was producing millions of new Americans and Dwight Eisenhower’s Interstate initiative opened up the suburbs to all these newly minted families. John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960 and along with his wife Jackie, ushered in a chic era of American romance, power, and fashion, dubbed “Camelot.”

President and First Lady with daughter Caroline and son John Jr.

At the age of 43, Kennedy became the youngest man ever to hold the office. His victory was a historic moment, as he narrowly defeated Republican Vice President Richard Nixon. Kennedy’s poise and charm during televised debates played a crucial role in securing his win. Additionally, he was the first Catholic to become president, marking a significant milestone in American history.

Mighty General Motors

GM was the Apple Computer of the industrial world in the fifties and sixties. The Chevrolet Corvette debuted on January 17, 1953, to throngs of people attending General Motors’ Motorama at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. This was the world’s first look at what would become Chevrolet’s halo vehicle. With exotic Motorama bodywork styled by GM’s legendary Harley Earl, the whole world took notice. GM had over half of the US car market at the dawn of the sixties and set the styling and tempo of industry trends. Other car makers had to scramble to keep up with the mighty General.

GM’s iconic headquarters at 3044 Grand Avenue, Detroit, Michigan. The company moved to its current location in 1996.

Borrowed Time

Little did anyone know at the time, this picture-perfect version of old-school America was on borrowed time. Kennedy would be assassinated in 1963, the Beatles would dethrone Elvis permanently, and the arguably long-in-tooth C1 Corvette would be obsolete when the C2 Corvette debuted. 1962 was the last hurrah of old-school America, and soon riots, war, and strife would consume the country.

1962 Corvette. Dog dish caps are always a win.

The Elvis Phenomena

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi. He skyrocketed from humble beginnings to become one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century. His music career began at Sun Records in 1954, where he recorded his first single, “That’s All Right,” blending country, blues, and gospel influences. His energetic performances and charismatic stage presence caught the attention of audiences and industry professionals.

In 1956, Elvis released his self-titled debut album, which included hits like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Blue Suede Shoes.” These songs showcased his unique blend of rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and soulful vocals. His fusion of these genres resonated with fans nationwide, propelling him to stardom.

Elvis in the fifties. Taylor Swift ain’t got nothing on him.

Elvis’s live performances were electrifying, characterized by his signature hip-shaking dance moves and powerful voice. His controversial appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, where he was filmed only from the waist up due to his provocative style, further fueled his fame.

Worldwide Sensation

Beyond music, Elvis ventured into acting and became one of the first multimedia stars in music history. He starred in a total of 31 feature films, including Love Me Tender (1956), Jailhouse Rock (1957), and Girls!, Girls!, Girls!, which featured “Return to Sender.” While some of these movies were schlocky, they contributed to his iconic status, but he would regret in later years.

He enlisted in the Army in 1958 and spent two years serving the country, picking up where he left off when he got home. He made movies for years and ruled both the music charts and the box office.

Trouble At Home

Elvis’s personal life was marked by tremendous fame, wealth, and struggles. He married Priscilla Beaulieu in 1967, and they soon gave birth to a daughter named Lisa Marie. Elvis met Priscilla when she was just 14 years old and waited until she was 18 to propose. Sadly, their marriage ended in divorce in 1973.

The pressure of stardom was relentless. After the Beatles dethroned “The King” in 1964, he had an incredibly successful TV special in 1968, and his stardom was rekindled. This clip from the special “Trying To Get Back To You,” showcases Elvis singing like his career depended on it, which it did.

This is a live performance, with no click track, pre-recorded vocals, drum loops, or obscenities. Just a blistering live performance that in your humble author’s opinion, one of the best rock vocals ever recorded. It is Elvis at his very best and perfectly illustrates the impact this moment had on his career.

Tragically, his health deteriorated due to years of prescription drug abuse. On August 16, 1977, he was found unresponsive at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee. He was pronounced dead at the age of 42. His death was attributed to a heart attack, likely exacerbated by his drug use.

Elvis Presley’s legacy endures through his music, films, and cultural impact. His influence on rock and roll, pop culture, and entertainment remains unparalleled. He has over 30 number-one hits throughout his career and remains a key figure in rock and roll.

1968 Elvis Pressley Comeback Special

Last Hurrah for the C1 Corvette

The 1962 Corvette was the end of the line for old Corvettes with exposed headlights. The biggest news for Corvette that year was the debut of the 327 cubic-inch V8 engine, replacing the smaller 283 cubic-inch engine. This new powerplant came in various configurations, with the base model sporting a 4-barrel carburetor, producing 250 horsepower.

Enthusiasts could also opt for a fuel-injected 327 with 360 horsepower, 50 horsepower more than the 1961 model’s 283 mill. There were three transmissions offered for the year. The standard three-speed manual transmission, an optional four-speed manual, and the trusty two-speed Powerglide automatic,

The First Hybrid Corvette

The 1962 Corvette blended both the current Corvette styling with a sneak peek of what was to come for 1963. The car married a de-chromed front clip of the quad-headlamp C1, with the tail of the Sting Ray racer concept grafted on the back. This also introduced the legendary four-round tail light styling signature that would become a trademark for Corvette over several decades.

The 1960 Corvette XP-700 concept was designed and built in 1960 under the personal supervision of Bill Mitchell. This concept established the styling direction for the 1961 and 1962 Corvette, minus the bubble top.

To make this hybrid Corvette meld together, the side coves now blend seamlessly with the body color, creating a cohesive look. Side trim was eliminated and headlamp bezels were painted body color, giving the car a cleaner appearance. A new finned vent leading the side cove added a touch of sophistication. Wide whitewalls were replaced by a set of thoroughly modern one-inch stripe tires that updated the look of the car immensely. Despite being considered a “transitional” model, the 1962 Corvette enjoyed robust sales. A total of 14,531 units were sold, solidifying the Corvette’s popularity and profitability.

My Letter Kept Coming Back…

“Return to Sender” was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1962 and debuted in his feature film Girls! Girls! Girls! The song was written by Winfield Scott and Otis Blackwell specifically to suit Presley’s rock and roll musical style. In the song, the songwriters laments a relationship with a spiteful partner. Released on October 2, 1962, the tune received critical acclaim for its melody and call-and-response vocal arrangement.

“Return to Sender” became one of the most successful hits of Elvis’s career. It topped the charts in several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The catchy tune and relatable theme resonated with audiences, making it a timeless classic in Elvis’s repertoire. On the Billboard Hot 100, “Return to Sender” spent a total of 13 weeks on the charts, peaking at #2. It’s as catching and popular today, 62 years after its release.

Sunny Post-War Days, But Clouds On The Horizon

The world was heating up in 1962. America teetered on the brink of nuclear war as the USSR planned to deploy missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from the coast of Florida. President Kennedy demanded their removal, leading to intense negotiations. The crisis was resolved when the Soviets agreed to remove Cuban missiles in exchange for the removal of U.S. missiles in Turkey.

John Glenn, became the first American to orbit the Earth aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft. His successful mission bolstered the U.S. space program and inspired generations of space enthusiasts. The legendary Hollywood actress and cultural icon, Marilyn Monroe, tragically passed away at the age of 36. Her mysterious death continues to captivate public interest and speculation. The Telstar 1 communication satellite was launched into space, enabling live television broadcasts and international communication via satellite signals. It marked a leap forward in global connectivity. Last but not least,  Johnny Carson began his legendary tenure as the host of “The Tonight Show”. His wit, humor, and interviews with celebrities garnered top ratings for years.

Cruising into the Future

Sure, 1962 might have been a turning point, but that doesn’t mean progress has to be a one-way street. The Corvette continues to push boundaries. Today’s models boast unthinkable horsepower and technology, yet retain the uniquely American design that started it all. Electric AWD Corvettes are already here, offering a new-age rocketship ride. The future of the Corvette is bright, fueled by the same spirit of American ingenuity that created it.

Elvis’ legacy isn’t confined to a bygone era either. His music continues to inspire new generations of musicians across genres. From rockabilly revivalists to hip-hop artists sampling his beats, Elvis’ influence is unwavering. Today’s artists are taking his rebellious spirit and weaving it into new sounds, ensuring the King’s legacy keeps evolving.

The world is a very different place today, but the things we yearn for from that era – the smell of gasoline, the thrill of the open road, and the power of music – live forever. Cars and Guitars isn’t just about nostalgia, it’s about celebrating human achievement and the desire to push the envelope, to create something immortal.

So, crank up “Return to Sender,” drop the top on your Corvette (or any car that makes your heart race), and hit the loud pedal. The open road awaits, thundering with possibilities and the echoes of a yesterday that lives forever.

About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an editor at Power Automedia. He digs all flavors of automobiles, from classic cars to modern EVs. Dave loves music, design, tech, current events, and fitness.
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