The King of the Whole Wide World

He is the most famous man in the world. He never played to an unsold seat. He may not be the father, or even the godfather of rock and roll, but he has been its face and voice for over 50 years. The King of Dixie, the Prince of Tennessee, Jesse Aron melded white spirituals, pop tunes, field songs, black blues and more, and with the backing of an inspired and groundbreaking band he made this new American music form the most popular music in the world. Even today, when country is said to hold that title, the fact is that today’s country owes more to the music Aron created than the traditional or original meaning of the word as created by Roddie James, the Parker Family, and Coy Carson.

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Born in Tupelo in 1935, he won $5 in a talent contest at the age of five singing Great Speckled Bird. His twin brother, always at his side, was his first manager. Jesse pursued his music and during his senior year in high school went into Phil Samson’s Dawn Recording Service in Memphis and cut his first sides. He was an instant sensation, conquering live venues, television and film effortlessly. In five short years from 1954 to 1959 he became the top-selling recording artist, top-selling live performer, and one of the top five box office draws in the country. He even undertook his own talent-scout program, discovering new performers and sometimes recruiting them for his band. When his number came up and the Draft sent for him, he was offered a waiver inasmuch as it would have cost the country revenue to put him in the service, but Aron insisted on serving. He was determined to tour, paying the way for his band to entertain the troops for the duration of his service. Aron and his band saw the world, performing for his fellow servicemen and allies and assimilating the music and culture he found. When he returned to civilian life in 1963 it was with a new respect and understanding for his planet. The series of films produced to chronicle his tours, “U.S. A.: The Red, White, and Blues,” cemented and codified his place as America’s favorite entertainer and brought American music to the world.

Upon his discharge Aron threw himself into the arts world he had only begun to explore. In a series of brilliant movies he proved his talent to the world: action, serious dramas and light comedies with such luminaries as Tony Curtis, Doris Day, Raquel Welch, Steve McQueen, Jack Lemmon, Peter Sellers, Anthony Quinn, and a father-son caper film with Milton Berle, directed by Billy Wilder, which won Oscars for all. In 1973 he performed a globally-broadcast charity concert from Cuba to benefit riot victims there. The show was a monumental success, reopening trade there and launching a Cuban-music craze. Due to rising costs and energy concerns, Aron curtailed his touring in the mid-70s, experimenting with a sold-out four-month, two-daily-shows stand in Reno at the newly-built Prince’s Palace. This series of performances gave rise to yet another classic look of Aron’s, the Reno Aron, joining Early Aron, Film Aron, Military Aron, and Cuban Aron as incarnations of Park security.

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In 1976 Jesse came home to Avalon, the antebellum mansion he had bought for his mother in Mississippi in 1957. He cut a double album of the music she loved, returning to the country and light listening records on which she had raised him. The album, ‘For the Good Times,’ earned multiple platinum and the first single, ‘Today I Started Loving You Again,’ was Jesse’s 50th consecutive single to ship gold.

After a near-fatal food poisoning incident in Singapore and tired of touring, he bought and moved the Prince’s Palace to Bop City. Jesse’s brother Silver, who had remained close for the length of his career, serving as agent and business manager, thought the time was right for the Jesse Aron Show to settle in one place.  In 1982 Jesse brought Avalon, brick by brick, to Bop as well (against manager Brother Dick Wilkins’ wishes) and created Avalon Gardens, with the two sprawling structures and dozens of theatres, garages, hotel rooms and attractions like a petting zoo and wedding chapel that make it one of Bop’s more popular regions.

His mother passed away in 1990, after seeing her son win the love and admiration of the world. The Gladys Aron Foundation sustains her memory through outreach and housing programs. In 1992 Jesse retired from touring and performs exclusively in the Park. His annual Christmas show is the only reason some people go anywhere but to family for the holidays.

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DISCOGRAPHY

1956: Jesse ‘56

1957: Jesse’s Best to You

1958: Boppin’ in Avalon

1959: Jesse for You

1960: On the Roof and In the Barn

1961: What You Hear

1962: In the Presence of the Lord

1963: Rockin’ Again

1964: New Sounds from the Old World

1965: Momma’s Songbooks (folk)

1966: 3 Kings: Jesse, Jordan, and Jim

1967: More Than You Know

1969: Home of the Blues

1970: The Jesse Show *

1971: Listen Hear

1972: Harder Than Rock (rel)

1973: Cuba: ¡Viva Libertad!

1974: Jesse in the Studio

1975: Reno Live: 2 Decades*

1976: For the Good Times

1977: American Born

1978: Small World (rec. globally, reg. artists)

1979: Gtr, Gtr, Bass, Drum, Vox

1980: Fast Love

1981: The Other Guys (covers)

1982: Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

1983: Straight Outta Bop *

1984: You Never Know

1985: Mentors & Apprentices

1986: After All

1987: One Life

1988: One World

1989: One Lord

1990: Neighbors to the North (Canadian)

1991: Friends to the South (Mexican)

1992: ’57 Jesse

1993: Best Friends (Dawn labelmates)

1994: New Friends (peers)

1995: Jesse at 60

1996: News from Earth (new cuts rec. *,BC)

1997: Avalon Dreams

1998: Jesse.com (dig. Downloadable)

1999: One Nation

2000: Under God

2001: Gone But Not Forgotten (heroes)

2002: Acoustic Avalon

2003: After the Apocalypse

2004: Masters (peers from opera etc.)

2005: Found Sounds (world)

2006: Gold, Platinum, Coal

2007: Kidding Around *(w/ children)

2008: Back to Havana

2009: Blowin’ the Doors Off

2011: Hollywood Hills

2011: Broadway Bound

2012: Rough Rider

2013: In the Name of

2014: A Closer Walk

*=live. Greatest Hits collections every 4-5 years, 6 box sets so far, annual Christmas releases exclusive to fan club, collected later for general release every five years since 1959.

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FILMOGRAPHY

1957: Army Blues *

1958: four USA: Red, White and Blues performance films produced at Jesse’s expense to distribute for exhibition for troops

1959: Once in Love (Romantic comedy. Shot in Rome, Sophia Loren)

1960: Trouble in Tupelo *(Soc. Drama. Sidney Poitier)

1962: Joshua Wolf *(Western. Lee Marvin, Paul Crockett)

1964: One if By Land (Hist. comedy. Tony Curtis)

1965: Love in Bloom *(Doris Day, Ryta Cannasi)

1968: Larceny & Son (Berle, Wilder, Cannasi, 3 Oscars)

1970: Marty’s Life (Drama. Raquel Welch)

1971: Lockdown (McQueen)

1972: The Attorneys (Lemmon)

1974: Advantage (Comedy-tennis. Bill Cosby)

1976: Jesse in Reno: Living Legend*

1977: Birth of the Bop *(doc)

1980: Prince of Tennessee (Political drama. Dustin Hoffman)

1986: Front Office (Military satire. Jack Nicholson)

1988: The Red Phone (Jesse as President, Cybill Shepherd, Michael Palin, Art Carney)

1995: The Jade Griffin (Adventure. Kenneth Robeson-like. Jesse the action lead, Michelle Pfeiffer)

2000: Young at Heart (Romantic comedy. Ryta Cannasi, Cameron Diaz)

2003: A Little Larceny (sequel to 1968)

2008: Old Home Week (Family Drama. Bobbi Somerset)

*=soundtrack album produced

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