1935 - 1977
Simply put, Elvis Presley was the first real rock & roll star. A
white Southerner singing blues laced with country, and country
laced with gospel, he brought together American music from both
sides of the colour line and performed it with a natural
hip-swiveling sexuality that made him a teen idol and a role
model for generations of cool rebels. He was repeatedly
dismissed as vulgar, incompetent, and a bad influence, but the
force of his music and his image was no mere merchandising feat.
Presley signaled to mainstream culture that it was time to let
go. Four decades after his death, Presley’s image and influence
remain undiminished. While certainly other artists preceded him
and he by no means “invented” rock & roll, he is indisputably
recording artist, Presley’s accomplishments are unparalleled. He
is believed to have sold over 1 billion records worldwide, about
40 percent of those outside the U.S. The RIAA has awarded
Presley the largest number of gold, platinum, and multiplatinum
certifications of any artist in history; as of early 2001, 131.
His chart performance, as tracked by Billboard, is also
unmatched, with 149 charting pop singles: 114 Top 40, 40 Top 10,
and 18 #1s.
Presley was the son of Gladys and Vernon Presley, a
sewing-machine operator and a truck driver. Elvis’ twin brother,
Jesse Garon, was stillborn, and Elvis grew up an only child.
When he was three, his father served an eight-month prison term
for writing bad checks, and afterward Vernon Presley’s
employment was erratic, keeping the family just above poverty
level. The Presleys attended the First Assembly of God Church,
and its Pentecostal services always involved singing.
In 1945 Presley won second prize at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair
and Diary Show for his rendition of Red Foley’s “Old Shep.” The
following January he received a guitar for his birthday. In 1948
the family moved to Memphis, and while attending L.C. Humes High
School there, Presley spent much of his spare time hanging
around the black section of town, especially on Beale Street,
where bluesmen like Furry Lewis and B.B. King performed.
Upon graduation in June 1953, Presley worked at the Precision
Tool Company and then drove a truck for Crown Electric. He
planned to become a truck driver and had begun to wear his long
hair pompadoured, the current truck-driver style. That summer he
recorded “My Happiness” and “That’s Where Your Heartaches Begin”
at the Memphis Recording Service, a sideline Sam Phillips had
established in his Sun Records studios where anyone could record
a 10-inch acetate for four dollars.
Presley was reportedly curious to know what he sounded like and
gravely disappointed by what he heard. But he returned to the
Recording Service again on January 4, 1954, and recorded “Casual
Love Affair” and “I’ll Never Stand in Your Way.” This time he
met Phillips, who called him later that spring to record a song
that Phillips had received on a demo, “Without You.” Despite
numerous takes, Presley failed miserably and at Phillips’
request just began singing songs in the studio. Phillips then
began to believe that he had finally found what he had been
looking for: “a white man with the Negro sound and the Negro
Phillips enlisted lead guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill
Black, both of whom were then playing country & western music in
Doug Poindexter’s Starlight Wranglers. Though some sources cite
the date of their first meeting as July 4, 1954, the three had
actually rehearsed for several months, and on July 5, 1954, they
recorded three songs: “I Love You Because,” “Blue Moon of
Kentucky,” and the A-side of Presley’s eventual debut, Arthur
“Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s All Right.”
Two days later Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips (no relation
to Sam) played the song on his Red Hot and Blue show on radio
station WHBQ. Audience response was overwhelming, and that night
Presley came to the studio for his first interview. Scotty Moore
became Presley’s manager, and “That’s All Right” b/w “Blue Moon
of Kentucky” became his first local hit. After playing local
shows, Presley made his first--and last--appearance at the Grand
Ole Opry on September 25. Legend has it that after his
performance he was advised by the Opry’s talent coordinator to
go back to driving trucks.
By October Presley had debuted on The Louisiana Hayride, a
popular radio program on which he appeared regularly through
1955. He made his television debut on a local television version
of Hayride in March 1955. Meanwhile, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” b/w
“I Don’t Care If the Sun Don’t Shine” were hits in the Memphis
In early 1955 Moore stopped managing Presley, although he would
continue to play in Presley’s band for several years. Presley’s
new manager was Memphis disc jockey Bob Neal. Colonel Thomas
Parker first entered Presley’s career when he helped Neal make
some tour arrangements. Presley, still considered a country act,
continued to perform locally, and in April he travelled to New
York City, where he auditioned unsuccessfully for Arthur
Godfrey’s Talent Scouts program. But on May 13 his performance
in Jacksonville, Florida, started a riot, Presley’s first.
“Baby, Let’s Play House” b/w “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s
Gone” was released and hit Number Ten on the national C&W chart
That September, Presley had his first Number One country record,
a version of Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train” b/w “I Forgot to
Remember to Forget.” By this time Colonel Parker, despite
Presley’s agreement with Neal, had become increasingly involved
in his career. When RCA purchased Presley’s contract from Sun
for a then unheard-of $35,000, Hill and Range, a music publisher
with which Parker had some connections, purchased Sam Phillips’
Hi-Lo Music for another $15,000. In addition, Presley received a
$5,000 advance, with which he bought his mother a pink Cadillac.
(It remains among his possessions preserved at Graceland.)
Presley became a national star in 1956. He and Parker traveled
to Nashville, where Presley cut his first records for RCA
(including “I Got a Woman,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “I Was the
One”), and on January 28, 1956, the singer made his national
television debut on the Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show, followed by
six consecutive appearances. In March, Parker signed Presley to
a managerial agreement for which he would receive 25 percent of
Presley’s earnings. The contract would last through Presley’s
lifetime and beyond.
Presley performed on the Milton Berle, Steve Allen, and Ed
Sullivan television shows. The Colonel arranged Presley’s debut
at the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas that April, but the
two-week engagement was canceled after one week due to poor
audience response. In August he began filming his first movie,
Love Me Tender, which was released three months later and
recouped its $1 million cost in three days. Elvis’ hit singles
that year were all certified gold; they included “Heartbreak
Hotel” (Number One), “I Was the One” (Number 19), “Blue Suede
Shoes” (Number 20), “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” (Number
One), “Don’t Be Cruel” b/w “Hound Dog” (Number One), “My Baby
Left Me” (Number 31), “Love Me Tender” (Number One), “Anyway You
Want Me (That’s How I Will Be)” (Number 20), “Love Me” (Number
Two), and “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold” (Number 19). By
early 1957 he was the idol of millions of teens and the perfect
target for the wrath of critics, teachers, clergy, and even
other entertainers (including many country performers), all of
whom saw his style as too suggestive; he was nicknamed Elvis the
Pelvis by one writer. Presley repeatedly claimed not to
understand what all the criticism was about. On January 6, 1957,
when Presley made the last of his three appearances on Ed
Sullivan’s show, he was shown only from the waist up.
In March 1957 Presley purchased Graceland, a former church that
had been converted into a 23-room mansion; the next month “All
Shook Up” began an eight-week run at Number One. It was preceded
in 1957 by “Poor Boy” (Number 24), “Too Much” (Number One), and
“Playing for Keeps” (Number 21). Presley’s next single was his
first gospel release, “(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For
Me)”; it went to Number 25.
Presley was also the first rock star to cross over into films
with consistently commercial, if not critical, success. His
second film, Loving You, was released in July 1957, and “(Let Me
Be Your) Teddy Bear” from the soundtrack hit Number One on the
pop, country, and R&B charts, as did “All Shook Up,” and
“Jailhouse Rock,” the title song from Presley’s next movie,
which featured Lieber and Stoller songs. Other hit singles from
1957 were “Loving You” (Number 20) and “Treat Me Nice” (Number
That December Presley received his draft notice but was granted
a 60-day deferment to complete filming King Creole, a drama
based on the novel A Stone for Danny Fisher, costarring Carolyn
Jones and Walter Mattau. These first four feature films are
considered to be his best. Early in the game, Presley truly
intended to be taken seriously as an actor. Unfortunately, once
he left the service, the choice of roles was left entirely up to
Colonel Parker, and the results were rarely satisfactory for
either the audience or Presley. However, since Presley would not
tour again until the early ’70s, it was through the films that
most fans saw him. Despite anything that might be said of these
films, that reason alone accounts for their massive success.
On March 24, 1958, Presley entered the army. The preceding
months brought two hits: “Don’t” (Number One, 1958) and “I Beg
of You” (Number Eight, 1958). He took leave a few months later
to be with his mother; Gladys Presley died the day after his
arrival home in Memphis, on August 14, 1958. In later interviews
Presley would call her death the great tragedy of his life. In
the years since his death, much has been written about his
relationship with his mother and her impact on him. She was
without question the most important person in his life. At her
funeral, he cried out, “You know how much I lived my whole life
just for you,” words that were both true in the moment and
prophetic, for the absence of Gladys, and his love for her,
seemed to have never really left his mind. He was shipped to
Bremerhaven, West Germany, and in January 1960 was promoted to
sergeant. He was discharged that March.
Colonel Parker, meanwhile, had continued to release singles
Presley had recorded before his departure, ensuring that while
Elvis was gone, he would not be forgotten. He scored a number of
hits in absentia, including “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck”
(Number Two, 1958), “Don’tcha Think It’s Time” (Number 15,
1958), “Hard Headed Woman” (Number One, 1958), “Don’t Ask Me
Why” (Number 25, 1958), “One Night” (Number Four, 1958), “I Got
Stung” (Number Eight, 1958), “(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such
as I” (Number Two, 1959), “I Need Your Love Tonight” (Number
Four, 1959), “A Big Hunk o’ Love” (Number One, 1959), and “My
Wish Came True” (Number 12, 1959). In 1958 alone, Presley earned
over $2 million. Shortly after returning to civilian life,
Presley made his first stereo record, “Stuck on You” (Number
One), and in late March 1960, he taped a TV program with Frank
Sinatra, The Frank Sinatra-Timex Special.
In July, Presely’s father remarried. Vernon Presley’s second
wife, Davada “Dee” Stanley, and her three sons would later write
Elvis: We Love You Tender, one of dozens of insiders’ tell-all
biographies that were published following his death. Also at
this time, Presley gathered more closely around him the friends,
employees, and hangers-on who would become known as the Memphis
Mafia and would accompany him almost constantly until his death.
Presley’s world became increasingly insular.
The films G.I. Blues and Flaming Star were released in 1960, and
“It’s Now or Never” hit Number One in both the U.K. and the U.S.
Presley had five Number One U.S. hits: “Stuck on You,” “It’s Now
or Never,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight” (1960); “Surrender”
(1961); and “Good Luck Charm” (1962). Other Top 10 singles
included “I Feel So Bad” (Number Five, 1961), “Little Sister”
(Number Five, 1961), “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame”
(Number Four, 1961), “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (Number Two,
1961), “She’s Not You” (Number Five, 1962), “Return to Sender”
(Number Two, 1962), “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise” (Number
Three, 1963), and “Bossa Nova Baby” (Number Eight, 1963).
Meanwhile, over Christmas 1960, Priscilla Beaulieu, the teenage
daughter of an army officer whom Elvis met in Germany, visited
Graceland. In early 1961 she moved in to live, it was said,
under the supervision of Presley’s father and stepmother.
Interestingly, the press largely went along with the spin
Colonel Parker put on the story, and few seemed troubled that
the King of Rock & Roll shared his domain with his teenage
After a live performance on March 25, 1961, at a benefit for the
USS Arizona, Presley left the concert stage. He spent the next
eight years making B movies: Wild in the Country; Blue Hawaii
(1961); Follow That Dream; Kid Galahad; Girls! Girls! Girls!
(1962); It Happened at the World’s Fair; Fun in Acapulco (1963);
Kissin’ Cousins; Viva Las Vegas; Roustabout (1964); Girl Happy;
Tickle Me; Harum Scarum (1965); Frankie and Johnny; Paradise,
Hawaiian Style; Spinout (1966); Easy Come, Easy Go; Double
Trouble; Clambake (1967); Stay Away Joe; Speedway; Live a
Little, Love a Little (1968); Charro!; The Trouble with Girls
(and How to Get Into It); Change of Habit (1969). With a few
exceptions, the soundtrack music was generally poor. But by the
mid-’60s Presley was earning $1 million per movie plus a large
percentage of the gross. Most of the movies had a concurrently
released soundtrack LP. Four of them hit Number One (Loving You,
G.I. Blues, Blue Hawaii, Roustabout), and an additional seven
were Top 10. Presley often made his displeasure with these films
known to friends and associates, but Colonel Parker would not
relent in his insistence that his sole client stick with a
winning formula. Years later, in 1974, Parker’s shortsightedness
as a manager resulted in his refusing Barbra Streisand’s offer
to have Presley costar with her in what became a hit remake of A
Star Is Born. Parker felt Streisand didn’t deserve equal billing
Meanwhile, the younger rock audience heard Presley disciples
like the Beatles more often than they heard Presley himself. But
Presley did not disappear and he was not, like most American
rockers, swept away by the British Invasion, though the Top 10
became increasingly beyond his reach, with only “Crying in the
Chapel” (which he recorded in 1960) at Number Three (1965)
making the cut. Presley turned increasingly inward, focusing on
his family. On May 1, 1967, Elvis and Priscilla were wed in Las
Vegas; on February 1, 1968, their only child, Lisa Marie, was
born. Fearing he had been forgotten, Presley made a last-gasp
bid to regain his footing. He defied Colonel Parker and followed
the advice of director Steve Binder for his “comeback”
television special. (Parker had wanted it to be a Christmas
show.) Over the summer Presley taped the surprisingly raw,
powerful Elvis television special that was broadcast on December
3 to high ratings. Its soundtrack reached Number Eight. It
included his first performance before an audience in over seven
years (though many portions were taped without an audience). It
also spun off his first Top 15 single since 1965, the socially
conscious “If I Can Dream” (Number 12, 1968). The importance of
this moment in Presley’s life cannot be overestimated. Years
later, the ’68 comeback special still stands as one of the most
powerful performances in rock history.
With that success behind him, Presley turned to performing in
Las Vegas. His month-long debut at the International Hotel in
Las Vegas began on July 26, 1969, and set the course for all of
Presley’s future performances. His fee for the four weeks was
over $1 million. Riding the crest of his comeback, Presley
released a series of top singles, including “In the Ghetto”
(Number Three, 1969), “Suspicious Minds” (Number One, 1969--his
first chart-topper in over seven years), “Don’t Cry Daddy”
(Number Six, 1969), and “The Wonder of You” (Number Nine, 1970).
He toured the country annually, selling out showrooms,
auditoriums, and arenas, frequently breaking box-office records.
Until his death, he performed a total of nearly 1,100 concerts.
There were two on-tour documentaries released, Elvis: That’s the
Way It Is (1970) and Elvis on Tour (1972), the latter of which
won the Golden Globe Award for Best Doucmentary.
Presley was honoured with countless Elvis Presley Days in cities
across the country, and the U.S. Jaycees named him one of the 10
most outstanding young men in America in 1970. His birthplace in
Tupelo was opened to the public, and on January 18, 1972, the
portion of Highway 51 South that runs in front of Graceland was
renamed Elvis Presley Boulevard. That October, Presley had his
last Top 10 hit with “Burning Love” (Number Two).
Meanwhile, Presley’s personal life became the subject of
countless tabloid headlines. Priscilla, from whom Presley had
been separated since February 1972, refused to return to
Graceland, and on his birthday in 1973 he filed for divorce.
Less than a week later the TV special Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii
was broadcast via satellite to over a billion viewers in 40
countries, an indication of his international appeal, although
(with the exception of three dates in Canada in 1957 and an
impromptu performance while on leave in Paris in 1959) Presley
never performed outside the U.S. The special’s soundtrack album
became his last Number One album in 1973.
Outwardly, Presley appeared to have been given a second chance.
He was more popular than ever, and the fan worship that would
blossom into one of the biggest personality cults in modern
history was taking hold. Offstage, however, Presley was plagued
by self-doubt, poor management, and a basic dissatisfaction with
his life. He repeatedly threatened to quit show business, but
debts and his financial obligations to his large extended
family, employees, and assorted hangers-on made that impossible.
Unbeknownst to the public until after his death, Presley turned
to drugs. Soon after he left the army, he became increasingly
wary of the public and would often rent whole movie theatres and
amusement parks to visit at night. By the late ’60s he was
nearly a total recluse. Among the many books written by Presley
by those who knew him, Priscilla’s account, Elvis and Me, goes
so far as to suggest that he might have suffered a total nervous
breakdown. Although it now seems clear that Presley was taking
drugs--namely amphetamines--while in the service (and perhaps
even before), his abuse of prescription drugs, including
barbiturates, tranquilizers, and amphetamines, increased during
the last years of his life. Several painful physical conditions
may have initiated this trend. Ironically, he remained devoutly
spiritual, never drank alcohol, and publicly denounced the use
of recreational drugs. In one of his few unplanned excursions
from Graceland, he actually showed up at the White House in 1970
to meet President Richard M. Nixon and received an honorary Drug
Enforcement Administration agent’s badge. Days later he was
given a special tour of FBI headquarters, where according to FBI
files made public after Presley’s death, the singer offered to
provide information on persons he believed were a bad influence
on American youth.
Toward the end of his life, however, his onstage presence began
to deteriorate. He would babble incoherently and rip his pants,
having grown quite obese, and on at least one occasion he
collapsed. Despite his clearly worsening health, he maintained a
frantic tour schedule. This was due to the fact that in 1973
Colonel Parker had negotiated a complex deal whereby Presley
sold back to RCA the rights to many of his masters in exchange
for a lump-sum payment of which only $2.8 million came to him.
Essentially, after 1973 Parker was earning nearly 50 percent
commission (as opposed to the 10 percent industry standard).
Worse, however, Presley was not earning any more royalties on
sides recorded before 1973, although they continued to sell in
the millions year after year. Parker’s need to satisfy personal
gambling debts was said to be the reason for the self-serving
deal. On top of it all, Presley opposed tax shelters on
principle; he naively relied on his father for business advice;
and he gave away expensive gifts and cash heedlessly. The
result, by the mid-’70s, was near-certain financial disaster.
Presley’s last live performance was on June 25, 1977, in
Indianapolis. He was reportedly horrified at the impending
publication of Elvis: What Happened?, the tell-all written by
three of his e-bodyguards and Memphis Mafiosi that was the first
printed account of his drug abuse and obsession with firearms,
to name just two headline-grabbing revelations. The book came
out on August 12. On August 16, 1977--the day before his next
scheduled concert--Presley was discovered by girlfriend Ginger
Alden dead in his bathroom at Graceland. Although his death was
at first attributed to congestive heart failure (an autopsy also
revealed advance arteriosclerosis and an enlarged liver), later
investigation revealed evidence that drug abuse may have been at
least part of the cause of death. Because the family was allowed
to keep the official autopsy report private, additional
speculation regarding contributing factors in Presley’s death
has run wild. Through the years, several insiders have insisted
that he was suffering from bone cancer, to name just one
unsubstantiated claim. In September 1979 Presley’s private
physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos, was charged by the Tennessee
Board of Medical Examiners with “indiscriminately prescribing
5,300 pills and vials for Elvis in the seven months before his
death.” He was later acquitted.
Thousands gathered at Graceland, where Presley lay in state
before he was buried in a mausoleum at Forest Hill Cemetery in
Memphis. After attempts were made to break into the mausoleum,
Presley’s body and that of his mother were moved to the
Meditation Garden behind Graceland. Nearly two years later, his
father, Vernon, died and was also buried there. With Vernon
dead, all of Presley’s estate passed on to Lisa Marie.
Court battles over the estate ended in June 1983 after 21 months
of litigation with a settlement that ended four lawsuits. One of
the terms of the agreement called for Parker to turn over most
of his interest in Presley’s audio and video recordings to RCA
and the Presley family in return for a large monetary
settlement. Lisa Marie’s court-appointed guardian ad litem,
Blanchard Tual, wrote in his report on Presley’s financial
affairs that Parker had “handled affairs not in Elvis’ but in
his own best interest.” Parker died of a stroke in February 1997
at the age of 87. Priscilla Presley assumed control of the
estate and through a number of business moves made the Presley
estate many times more valuable than it had ever been during
Elvis’ lifetime. The cornerstone of the Elvis Presley
Enterprises, Inc. (EPE) financial empire is the Tennessee state
law Priscilla Presley pushed for that guarantees to heirs the
commercial rights to a deceased celebrity’s image and likeness.
As a result, the name Elvis Presley is, technically speaking, a
trademark, and anyone selling Presley-related merchandise in the
U.S. must pay EPE an advance fee plus a royalty on every item
Claiming the funds were needed to maintain the property (the
estate was valued at only $5 million in 1979 and the costs to
maintain Graceland are estimated at nearly half a million
dollars annually), Priscilla Presley opened Graceland to the
public in the fall of 1982. Although it is not preserved in
exactly the way Elvis Presley left it, and the second floor,
where his bedroom is located, remains off-limits to the public,
millions have come from all over the world to pay homage to the
King of Rock & Roll. In 1991 Graceland was added to the National
Register of Historic Places. At last count, around 600,000
people visit Graceland annually. In the mid-’90s, the Presley
estate was estimated to have been worth over $100 million. At
the turn of the century, it was estimated that the presence of
Graceland was responsible for bringing $100 million into the
local Memphis economy. The Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation
was created in 1985 by EPE to support various causes.
Presley’s sole heir, Lisa Marie, married a fellow Scientology
follower, Danny Keough, in 1988. They had two children: Danielle
and Benjamin Storm. In 1993 they were divorced, and in May 1994
she married Michael Jackson. They divorced in 1996, after 18
months of marriage. In August 2005, Lisa Marie sold 85 percent
of her share of the Presley estate to CKX Inc., which also owns
19 Entertainment, the company responsible for the American Idol
TV show. Lisa Marie kept the Graceland property and most of its
belongings. In February 2006, CKX announced its plan to increase
Graceland’s tourist-destination profile.
Hundreds of books about Presley have been published in the U.S.
alone. His enduring power as a cultural force is beyond the
scope of this biography, but it has been examined by a number of
authors, including Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus, and Peter Guralnick,
to name a few. Guralnick’s award winning two-volume
biography--Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley
(1994) and Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley
(1999)--is perhaps the closest to a definitive account as we
will ever have. In 1986 Presley was among the first 10
performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In
2002, Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation,” from the
Roustabout soundtrack (1968), was remixed by JXL (a.k.a. Junkie
XL--the DJ-producer allowed his name to be truncated for the
remix) and became a Number One U.K. hit, helping propel a new
compilation, 30 #1 Hits, to healthy sales worldwide. (It reached
Number One itself in the U.S.) 30 #1 Hits was later followed by
2nd to None (Number Three, 2003), both of which were folded into
a three-disc box titled Hitstory.
musician, actor. Born Elvis Aron Presley on January 8, 1935, in
Tupelo, Mississippi. (He later changed the spelling of his
middle name to the biblical form of Aaron.) From very humble
beginnings, Elvis Presley grew up to become one of the biggest
names in rock and roll. He was originally supposed to be a twin,
but his brother Jesse Garon (sometimes spelled Jessie) was
stillborn. Raised by loving, working-class parents, Presley's
family had little money, and they moved around a lot. He was
deeply devoted to his parents, especially his mother Gladys, and
was raised to have a strong faith in God. Presley attended the
Assembly of God Church with his parents where the gospel music
became an important influence on him.
Presley got his first guitar at the age of ten, and had his
first taste of musical success by winning a talent show at Humes
High School in Memphis. After graduating in 1953, he worked a
number of jobs while pursuing his musical dream. He cut his
first demo record at what later became known as Sun Studio that
year, and before long, Sam Phillips, the record label owner,
decided to take the young performer under his wing. “That’s All
Right” was Presley’s first single in 1954. Presley began touring
and recording, trying to get his first big break.
In 1955, Presley began to develop a following with fans being
drawn to his unusual musical style, provocative gyrating hips,
and good looks. That same year, he signed with RCA Records, a
deal worked out by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Presley was
on a roll, scoring his first number one single with “Heartbreak
Hotel” and first number one album, Elvis Presley, and signing a
movie contract with Paramount Pictures—all in 1956. Despite the
uproar his sexy dance moves caused, he also becomes a popular
guest on a number of television variety shows.
Soon Presley appeared to be everywhere—on the radio, television,
and on screen. His first film, Love Me Tender (1956), was a box
office hit. Even a stint in the U.S. military couldn’t put a
damper on Presley’s thriving career. He received his draft
notice in 1957 and was inducted into the army the following
March. He eventually served in Germany about a year and a half.
Shortly before Presley left for Europe, his beloved mother died.
He was granted a leave and returned to Memphis for the funeral.
Deeply saddened by her death, he returned to duty. While in
Germany, his spirits lifted a bit when he met a young teenager
named Priscilla Beaulieu.
After leaving the army in 1960, Presley resumed his career and
soon rose right back to the top of the charts with the
soundtrack for his film GI Blues. He continued recording music
and acting in such films, as Blue Hawaii (1961), Girls! Girls!
Girls! (1962), and Viva Las Vegas (1964). His films were often
hit or miss with critics and audiences alike, but they made a
profit and the soundtracks usually sold well. By the late 1960s,
however, Presley appeared to be losing his box office appeal.
Proving he was still the king of rock and rock, he did his first
television special in 1968, which is often referred to as the
’68 Comeback. He wowed audiences with his performance, which
showcased his talents as a singer and a musician.
Around this time, his personal life also seemed to be on an
upswing. He and Priscilla wed in 1967 and had a daughter, Lisa
Marie, together the next year. Unfortunately, this joyous time
would not last. By the early 1970s, Presley’s marriage was
falling apart. The couple divorced in 1973, and Priscilla
received custody of Lisa Marie. He was also wrestling with other
personal problems, including a growing addiction to prescription
drugs. The once thin rock star now battled a weight problem. His
destructive lifestyle caught up with him that fall—he was
hospitalized for related health problems.
Despite his personal obstacles, Presley remained a popular draw
in Las Vegas and on tour. He gave his last concert in June 1977
in Indianapolis, Indiana. After the concert, Presley returned
home to his Memphis mansion, Graceland, to prepare for another
tour. Sometime on the morning of August 16, he died of heart
failure. He was only 42 years old.
During his amazing career, Presley helped popularize rock and
roll music in America. He also won three Grammy Awards for his
gospel recordings. A major musical force, Presley had 18 number
one singles, including “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Good Luck Charm,” and
“Suspicious Minds” as well as countless gold and platinum
albums. He was one of the first performers inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. More recently, Presley has
been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998 and
the Gospel Music Association’s Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001
in recognition of his contributions to both genres of music.
Even after his death, Presley has remained a popular music icon.
Over the years, several documentaries and films have explored
the film of this enigmatic performer, including the 2005
television miniseries starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Elvis.
His Memphis home, Graceland, is open to the public and numerous
fans from around the world visit the legendary residence each
year, especially around Presley's birthday and the anniversary
of his death.
Twin brother Jesse Garon Presley died at birth (Elvis was
delivered 35 minutes later).
Earned a black belt in karate. 
Won three Grammy Awards, all for his Gospel music.
His hair colour was blonde until his early teens. As he got
older his hair became darker. By the time he had his hair cut
for the army at age 22 its natural color was dark chestnut
(according to Charlie Hodge, who served with him in the army).
Was originally considered for the Kris Kristofferson role in A
Star Is Born (1976), but Elvis turned it down because manager
Tom Parker refused him permission to act in a movie where he
wouldn't have top billing. Also, he didn't like the fact that
the producer, Jon Peters, was completely unknown.
Owned a pet chimpanzee called "Scatter".
Has more multiplatinum album sales than any other performer,
with twelve albums selling over 2 million copies.
Father of Lisa Marie Presley (b. 1st February 1968).
Interred at Graceland Estate, Memphis, Tennessee, USA.
His autopsy detected ten different drugs in his bloodstream.
Is a direct descendant of Abraham Lincoln's great-great
grandfather, Isaiah Harrison.
Had 18 Billboard #1 Songs, the first "Heartbreak Hotel" in
March, 1956; the last, "Suspicious Minds" in Sept. 1969.
Has sold over 1,300,000,000 albums worldwide; more than any
other musical artist/group in the world, including The Beatles.
When The Beatles came to America in 1965 there was only one
person they wanted to meet - Elvis, and on August 27, 1965 they
got their wish and according to John Lennon spent an entirely
enjoyable evening at the Presley home in Bel Aire, California,
talking, singing and laughing with each other.
Bought Graceland mansion on 19 March 1957 from Mrs. Ruth Brown
Moore for $102,500. The mansion, built of tan Tennessee
limestone, consists of 23 rooms and 13.7 surrounding acres. The
Music Gates were installed in April of 1957.
His television debut was on the regionally telecast Louisiana
Hayride (1955) (TV), 5 March 1955 in Shreveport, Louisiana.
In September 1955, "Country Song Roundup" magazine was the first
to feature an article on Elvis, calling him a "folk music
In April of 1955 Elvis auditioned for a spot on Arthur Godfrey's
"Talent Scouts" (1948) and was turned down.
Elvis' body was placed in a family crypt in Memphis on 18 August
1977. On 29 August 1977, however, an attempt was made to steal
the body but the plan failed and three men were charged with
trespassing and released on bond. Because of this incident,
Vernon Presley, received approval from the Memphis Adjustment
Board to allow reinterment of the bodies of Elvis and his mother
Gladys Presley to the Meditation Garden behind Graceland, which
took place on 2 October 1977.
The book he was reading at the time of his death was "The
Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus" by Frank O. Adams,
(Psychical Aid Foundation, USA, 1972).
From the time they met up until his death, Elvis always sent a
roomful of flowers to Ann-Margret whenever she opened up a show
in Las Vegas.
Was one of the performers featured on a set of stamps of rock
and blues legends issued by the U.S. Postal Service in June
Mother Gladys bought him his first guitar at age 12 (1947)
1953 graduate of Humes High School, Memphis, TN.
Was one of the first people in the U.S. to own a "Betamax"
Honorary Member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity.
After seeing him in concert, Liberace suggested adding flashy
costumes into his act. Elvis took his advice, and became famous
for his gold lame jackets and jewelled white jumpsuits. He later
reserved a seat for Liberace at many of his concerts.
One of only a handful of artists inducted into both The Rock &
Roll Hall Of Fame and The Country Music Hall of Fame. Others
include Johnny Cash and Hank Williams.
Died with about $5 million in his bank account.
Elvis did not like confrontation. He wanted to fire his manager,
Tom Parker, many times. He would tell his friends "Tell Parker
he's fired." His friends would go tell him, then Parker would
say "Tell Elvis to tell me personally". Elvis never would.
"Heartbreak Hotel", which spent 17 weeks at #1 on Billboard's
country chart (and 10 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100) was the #1
country song of 1956.
Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
His 1977 country hit, "Way Down," was the #1 song on Billboard
magazine's country singles chart the week of Elvis' death. Nine
other songs would go to #1 on Billboard's country charts between
1956 and 1981: "I Forgot to Remember to Forget," "Heartbreak
Hotel," "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You," and the two-sided
#1 hit "Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel" (all 1956); "All Shook Up,"
"(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" and "Jailhouse Rock" (all 1957);
"Moody Blue" (1977); and "Guitar Man" (1981, a remixed version
released more than three years after his death). Most of his
1950s #1 country hits were also #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as
In Sam Lovullo's book "Life in the Kornfield" (which recalled
his years as producer of the country music TV series "Hee Haw"
(1969)), he remarked that Elvis was a big fan of the show and
had always wanted to perform on it. However, according to
Lovullo, Elvis remarked they'd have to tape his spots in the
middle of the night, knowing that if manager Tom Parker found
out, he'd never clear his appearance. Several months after
Elvis' death, his father, Vernon Presley, appeared on "Hee Haw"
and spoke about how the world would always love him and remember
Hysteria over "Elvis sightings" after his death were lampooned
in the Mojo Nixon song "Elvis Is Everywhere" and "Elvis Is Dead"
by Living Colour.
His personal entourage were known as the "Memphis Mafia", and
were given matching rings by Elvis. The diamond and gold rings
sported a thunderbolt and the letters "TCB" (reportedly standing
for "Take Care of Business"). Elvis was buried wearing one of
Pictured on a 29¢ US commemorative postage stamp issued 8
January 1993, the 58th anniversary of his birth. This was the
inaugural issue in the Legends of American Music series.
In 2002, a re-mixed version of one his more obscure recordings,
"A Little Less Conversation", became a dance club hit, and
topped the charts in the United Kingdom.
The lightest Elvis ever weighed, as an adult, was 170 lbs in
1960 following his discharge from the U.S. Army. The heaviest
was at the time of his death, which was 260 lbs.
Was always known to be generous to a fault with family, friends
and even total strangers. Anyone who admired any posession of
his, from one of his many Cadillacs to any bit of bric-a-brac in
his home, often found themselves the new owners of that
He fell in love with Elizabeth Montgomery on the set of Kid
Galahad (1962), she visited his house on two occasions. Nothing
came of it as she was married to Gig Young at the time, but they
remained good friends until he died.
Inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (sponsored by the
Gospel Music Association) in 2001.
Made the first ever musical video of all time: Jailhouse Rock
When Ed Sullivan finally allowed him to appear on "Toast of the
Town" (1948), he was filmed from the waist upwards only once, on
his third and final appearance in January 1957.
His 1960 single "It's Now Or Never" is one of the best selling
singles of all times (if not THE best selling single), with
sales estimated to be between 25 and 30 million copies.
He is responsible for the best selling single of the 1950s
("Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel", 1956) and that of the 1960s ("It's
Now Or Never", 1960).
His 29¢ commemorative postage stamp issued in 1993, sold more
copies than any other postage stamp in U.S. Postal Service
A remix of his song "A Little Less Conversation" which was
featured on the soundtrack to the film Ocean's Eleven (2001)
became a Billboard #1 hit single over twenty years after
The Beatles were admirers of his work and, although John Lennon
said they enjoyed his company very much, Elvis himself,
ironically, thought that they were a bad influence on America's
Was extremely proud of his Cherokee roots. Wanted to be more
open about it but was advised against it, according to some
sources by Tom Parker, since this was around the time that there
were still racial tensions in the US. Sometimes the audiences
were "deceived with the truth" like in G.I. Blues (1960) when
his character tells about his Cherokee background. In real life
his Cherokee roots started with his maternal great-great-great
grandmother Morning Dove White and it was even rumored in
Memphis that he had Cherokee blood from his father's side of the
family as well, though never confirmed.
He was allegedly offered roles in The Rainmaker (1956), The
Defiant Ones (1958), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), West Side
Story (1961), Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), The Fastest Guitar
Alive (1967), Midnight Cowboy (1969), True Grit (1969), Willy
Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), A Star Is Born (1976) and
He said his favorite of his films was King Creole (1958).
Angered Ed Sullivan by singing the gospel song "Peace In The
Valley" on his show after Sullivan asked him not to.
He was a distant cousin of President Jimmy Carter.
Was a Deputy Sheriff in Shelby County, Tennessee.
Hal B. Wallis, producer of 8 Elvis films, dreamed of making a
western starring John Wayne and Elvis.
In 1973 he met with Led Zeppelin members Robert Plant and John
Paul Jones in Los Angeles. An idol to the members of Led
Zeppelin, Elvis wanted to meet "who was outselling him" at
concerts (Zeppelin was in the midst of a record-breaking tour
that year). A meeting was arranged with two of the four band
members (Plant and Jones). Plant was so awestruck at meeting his
idol in person that he could barely speak to him. Jones, nearly
as awestruck as Plant, made small talk with the "King," and
mentioned what a beautiful watch Elvis wore. Elvis, always the
generous one, instantly traded his $5,000 gold and diamond watch
for Jones' $10 Mickey Mouse watch. This broke the ice with all
of them, and they became fast friends. Throughout the early
'70s, members of Led Zeppelin even attended a few of Elvis'
concerts, and were granted the privilege of sitting in the front
row by the King himself.
He named his favorite films as: Rebel Without a Cause (1955), A
Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Dirty Harry (1971).
Was an Army veteran. He was drafted in 1958, stationed in West
Germany and discharged in 1960. Presley, who achieved the rank
of Private First Class, was a public relations headache for the
Army, according to U.S. military documents released by the
Pentagon on June 9, 2005. "Elvis Presley will not be released in
a manner different from any other inductee serving overseas,"
the Army's adjutant general wrote to citizens who complained
following reports that the rock 'n' roll icon would get an early
"good behavior" discharge. When he entered the Army at Memphis,
Tennessee, on March 24, 1958, there was a public outcry from his
fans, and protests flowed to Washington, including a
hand-written plea released by the National Archives and Records
Administration. "Dear Mamie," one correspondent wrote to
then-first lady Mamie Eisenhower. "Will you please, please be so
sweet and kind as to ask Ike [President Dwight D. Eisenhower] to
please bring Elvis Presley back to us from the Army? We need him
in our entertainment world to make us all laugh." A 1959 Army
memo set out the Presley problem: "When Private First Class
Presley was first inducted, there was considerable adverse
public reaction . . . alleging that he would receive
preferential treatment in the Army. This impression has been
largely replaced by a public impression of a good soldier
serving his military obligation . . . Many teenagers who look up
to and emulate Private First Class Presley will . . . follow his
example in the performance of their military service.".
On December 21, 1970, he paid a visit to President Richard Nixon
at the White House in Washington, D.C. The meeting was initiated
by Presley, who wrote Nixon a six-page letter requesting a visit
with the President and suggesting that he be made a "Federal
Agent-at-Large" in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
More people watched Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii (1973) (TV) (live
via satellite TV broadcast) than watched Neil Armstrong walk on
He only performed two concerts outside of the United States,
both in Canada.
Son of Vernon Presley and Gladys Presley.
Recorded 33 takes of "Hound Dog".
His favorite sports were raquetball and football.
Passed out from exhaustion after recording "If I Can Dream".
After production of his 1968 NBC television special he told
producer Steve Binder he would never make another movie or song
he didn't believe in.
Once sent $1,000,000 to Buford Pusser, the crimefighting
Tennessee sheriff who was the subject of the 1973 film Walking
Once gave a robe to Muhammad Ali which said 'The Peoples
His favorite actors were Marlon Brando and James Dean, the
latter Elvis considered an acting genius (in a 1956 interview).
His two favorite books were "The Holy Bible" and "The Impersonal
His favorite class in high school was wood shop.
His mansion, Graceland, is the 2nd most-visited house in
America. The first is the White House.
Elia Kazan wanted him for several movies but Tom Parker refused
to allow Elvis to act in those movies.
The last film he saw at the cinema was The Spy Who Loved Me
Tried to get a print of Star Wars (1977) to show his daughter,
Lisa Marie Presley, the day before he died.
He is mentioned in the song "Three Minute Boy" by Marillion
(from their 1998 album "Radiation").
Was on the school boxing team at Humes High School.
Loved football and often had three televisons set up at
Graceland to watch all of the games.
He used to play touch football at Whitehaven High School during
the '60s and early '70s with kids around the neighborhood.
Helped to support an All-Negro Day at the Memphis Zoo in 1956.
In 1975 he purchased a poor black East Memphis woman an electric
wheel chair and picked her up and personally sat her in it. The
woman's teenage daughter told Elvis she liked his car. He gave
it to her and even gave her boyfriend a job.
He was a huge fan of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and had
requested to meet him in 1966, but the meeting never happened.
Was a huge fan of the television shows "The Jeffersons" (1975),
"Good Times" (1974), "Happy Days" (1974) and "The Flip Wilson
Once an opera singer attended one of his 1950s concerts and met
him backstage. The singer told Elvis that he sang like a
hillbilly and needed singing lessons. Elvis replied by saying,
"Thanks for the advice, but how many of the thousands of people
out there tonight came to hear you sing?".
His surname was Anglicized from the German Pressler during the
Civil War. His ancestor Johann Valentin Pressler emigrated to
North America in 1710. Pressler first settled in New York, but
later moved to the South. Jaime Pressly is also a descendant
from him. A connection between the Pressleys of Oprah Winfrey's
great-grandfather and the ancestors of Elvis Presley has been
posited but not confirmed. He also had Scottish, Dutch ,
Cherokee and Jewish ancestry among others. There is a Star of
David and a Cross on his mother's grave.
Shown on a 5.50 kr postage stamp issued by Sweden in 2004.
He was the #1 touring act in America for 1977; the year he died.
This, despite the fact that he was well below par and only
toured until July, is quite an achievement.
Held the world indoor attendance record for a concert, which was
at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, on Dec' 31st '76. There
was 62,500 in attendance, with another record for takings in a
single show $850,000.
Held a single day's attendance record for his march 74 shows at
the Houston Astrodome in march '74 -- 89,000 fans for two shows.
He was voted the 3rd Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artist of all time
by Rolling Stone.
According to a show on the A&E Biography channel, he once
attended a concert for singer Connie Francis and had to leave
for emotional reasons once he heard her sing the old Italian
song "Mama", as his mother had recently died.
Shares a birthday with fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members
David Bowie, The Doors guitarist Robby Krieger and legendary
promoter Bill Graham.
Lived with Linda Thompson for four and a half years years, from
1972 to 1976. She was a former "Miss Tennessee," actress and
songwriter. Other than Priscilla Presley, Thompson was the most
significant romantic relationship that Elvis ever had.
As an infant he survived a tornado in Tupelo, MS, that killed
Is portrayed by Kurt Russell in Elvis (1979/I) (TV), Bruce
Campbell in Bubba Ho-tep (2002), Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Elvis
(2005) (TV), Tyler Hilton in Walk the Line (2005), Val Kilmer in
True Romance (1993) and Michael St. Gerard (I)' in Elvis (1990).
Suffered from chronic insomnia.
Is mentioned in Shania Twain's song "That Don't Impress Me Much"
His tombstone gives his name as "Elvis Aaron Presley", whereas
he was in fact named "Elvis Aron Presley". Although this fueled
conspiracy theories that he had faked his death, it is generally
believed he changed his middle name so it would be the same as
the Biblical Aaron.
Spoofed in Eminem's music video "Without me"
Had glaucoma in the 1970s.
At the time of his death in 1977, he was the second biggest
selling recording artist of all time, after Bing Crosby.
He was a born again Christian who loved to sing gospel music.
Not one of Elvis' 31 feature films or either of his two music
documentaries were nominated for a single Academy Award in any
He had two full face-lifts and rhinoplasty during the mid-1970s.
On one of these visits to hospital he was accompanied by Linda
He worked with legendary guitar player Hank Garland from 1957 to
Was director Robert Wise's original choice to play Tony in West
Side Story (1961).
Portrayed by Jason Alan Smith in Crazy (2007/I).
Nephew of Vester Presley.
Most of the films he starred in were not critically acclaimed -
although he received good reviews for Flaming Star (1960) and
King Creole (1958) - but only Wild in the Country (1961) failed
to get its money back.
In the month following his final concert at Indianapolis on 26
June 1977, he was reported to have gained a further 50 lbs in
Is portrayed by Val Kilmer in True Romance (1993). Like Presley,
Kilmer also has Cherokee heritage.
Of his many impersonators, his personal favorite was Andy
Prior to being signed by RCA in November 1955, Elvis was known
as "The Hillbilly Cat" in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.
Although his height was measured as 6' when he joined the army
in 1958, photographs show Elvis was wearing his army boots at
the time which may have slightly increased his height.
Is portrayed by Michael St. Gerard in Great Balls of Fire!
His song "Heartbreak Hotel" is based on a suicide note left in a
Florida hotel suite.
Elvis topped the Forbes list of deceased highest earners for the
fourth consecutive year, with earnings of $45 million in the
In 1977 alone, his personal physician Dr George Constantine
Nichopoulos (usually referred to as "Dr Nick") had prescribed
10,000 hits of amphetamines, barbiturates, narcotics,
tranquilizers, sleeping pills, laxatives, and hormones for
Barbra Streisand originally wanted Elvis to play the role of
John Norman Howard in A Star Is Born (1976), but the studio
couldn't meet Tom Parker's demands ($1 million plus equal
billing with Streisand).
Among the actors who coveted the role, Elvis dreamed of playing
Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), but could not get an
One of his biggest hit songs, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", was
actually written in 1926 and first recorded by Al Jolson.
He was an avid collector of guns and badges.
Is the subject of the song "Elvis Ate America" on the album
Passengers Original Sountrack 1.
Once claimed Robert Mitchum was the inspiration for his famous
hairstyle. Presley met Mitchum to discuss the possibility of
starring together in Thunder Road (1958), but unfortunately Tom
Parker's demands for Presley's salary could not be met.
Is portrayed by Peter Dobson in Forrest Gump (1994).
Along with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, Elvis
was a member of the celebrated "Million Dollar Quartet", so
named because they were money-makers for Sam Phillips' Sun
Newspaper reports indicated that Sammy Davis Jr., Farrah
Fawcett, Burt Reynolds and John Wayne were supposed to attend
Presley's funeral, but they did not turn up. Ann-Margret, James
Brown and George Hamilton were the only celebrities in
He was seriously considered for the role of the Texas Ranger in
True Grit (1969) starring John Wayne. Unfortunately, Tom
Parker's demand that Presley receive top billing could not be
met, so the part went to Glen Campbell instead.
He was offered a role in the animated film Gay Purr-ee (1962).
His autopsy detected fourteen different drugs in his
bloodstream, ten in significant quantity.
His home Graceland in Memphis is the second most popular private
tourist attraction in the United States after the White House,
and is estimated to bring in $150 million to the city itself
Named the highest earning deceased celebrity for the sixth
consecutive year in 2006 by Forbes.com.
He was considered for Ricky Nelson's role in Rio Bravo (1959)
starring John Wayne and Dean Martin. However, by the time
filming began in May 1958 Presley was stationed with the US army
He is credited as a co-writer of "(I'll) You'll Be Gone" (1965).
This was the B side of the hit from his film Girl Happy (1965),
"Do The Clam". It is found in his five-CD box set of '60s
recordings. Elvis composed the lyrics and brought the song to a
In 1973 he was the biggest taxpayer in the US.
It was estimated that he earned earned $4.5 billion in his
With a lot of entertainers making a living mimicking Elvis,
Jimmy Buffett wrote a song called "Elvis Imitators" making
mention of a few of Elvis' films, song titles, and mannerisms.
Has sold 1.8 billion records worldwide, more than any other
artist or music group.
Was discovered by Sam Phillips.
Inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame for his outstanding
contribution to British music and integral part of British music
culture. [11 November 2004]
Both his parents were unemployed welfare recipients.
In 1970 he wrote to J. Edgar Hoover requesting to join the FBI
at the height of its campaign against political protests in the
Met President Lyndon Johnson at the White House in 1965.
Was voted best singer of all time by Q Magazine.
Has been portrayed by Val Kilmer, Harvey Keitel, Jonathan Rhys
Meyers, Kurt Russell, Don Johnson, Bruce Campbell, David Keith,
Rob Youngblood and Peter Dobson.
The last song he performed in public was "Can't Help Falling In
Love". at The Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana in
He did an early '60s concert in Hawaii, and donated the proceeds
to help build the USS Arizona memorial.
Has sold 1.1 billion records worldwide, more than any other
artist or group apart from The Beatles.
Turned down leading role in The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967),
which went to his friend Roy Orbison.
In 2007 the National Rifle Association (NRA) released an Elvis
Presley Tribute Revolver, officially authorized by his estate.
Following a concert in Hawaii in 1961, Presley concentrated on
making movies and he did not perform live before an audience
again for eight years until his return to Las Vegas in 1969.
Ranked #2 on VH1's 100 Sexiest Artists.
Ranked #8 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Rock & Roll.
As a young man, Elvis idolized a gospel group called The
Statesmen. According to Elvis' backup singer and lifelong friend
Joe Moscheo, Elvis' leg-twitching dance moves were inspired by
The Statesmen's bass singer, 'Big Chief' Wetherington, who was
famous for his leg twitching.
Between 1957 and 1969, he performed only two concerts and made
just two television appearances.
In 1962 he ceased almost completely to record non-soundtrack
songs until his 1969 album "From Elvis in Memphis".
In July of 2005, Presley was named one of the top 100 "Greatest
Americans," following a vote organized by Discovery Channel. In
the vote, Presley ranked ahead of all entertainers and in 8th
place behind Presidents Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, George
Washington, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, plus Martin Luther
King and Benjamin Franklin.
His records have spent a total of 79 weeks at the #1 position in
His records have spent 2,574 weeks in both the UK singles and
album charts, way ahead of his closest competitors Cliff Richard
(1,982), Queen (1,755), The Beatles (1,749) and Madonna (1,660).
He was planning his first ever European tour in 1978.
In Alexandria, Louisiana, early in 1977 a local journalist
complained that the singer was on stage for less than an hour
and "was impossible to understand." In Baton Rouge, Presley
didn't go on stage at all. He was unable to get out of his hotel
bed and the rest of the tour was canceled.
Investor CKX paid $100 million for an 85% interest in Presley's
income in February 2005.
Robbie Williams dedicated his song "Advertising Space" to him.
He is credited as a co-writer of "(I'll) You'll Be Gone" (1965).
This was the B side of the hit from his film Girl Happy (1965),
"Do The Clam". It is found in his five-CD box set of '60s
recordings. Elvis composed the lyrics and brought the song to a
recording session.He is also listed in the writer's credits to
Of his movies, the one he disliked the most was Clambake (1967).
His favorite actors were James Dean, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood,
Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando - who ironically strongly
Some of his favorite movies were Rebel Without a Cause (1955),
The Magnificent Seven (1960), Bullitt (1968) and Dirty Harry
Mentioned in Walter Kirn's novel "Thumbsucker".
He was a great fan of Peter Sellers.
Was a fan of Tony Curtis.
On seeing Elvis Presley in rehearsal for "Stage Show" (1954) for
which he was the producer, Jackie Gleason described Elvis as
"Marlon Brando with a guitar".
Was the first entertainer to introduce karate in an American
motion picture (Flaming Star (1960)).
Was a master guitar player.
While he never joined any political party, his political views
were somewhat mixed. During the early 1960s he was an outspoken
admirer of liberal President John F. Kennedy. He later confessed
to "weeping openly" at the news of Kennedy's death. Later in
life, however, he made a more conservative move on the political
spectrum. He began singing the praises of President Richard
Nixon, and his right-wing streak culminated in a visit to the
White House in December 1970. During the visit, Presley was
photographed giving the President a handgun, which was (for
security reasons) presented but not given. Presley spoke of his
admiration for Nixon, revealed his disgust at the hippie
counterculture, spoke disparagingly of The Beatles (he said that
having earned their money in America, they had then left for
England to promote "anti-American" feelings), fervently
expressed his patriotism, offered to infiltrate and go
undercover in left-wing hippie groups, asked to be appointed a
federal narcotics agent, and even hugged the president twice.
Nixon, for his part, was not sure if Presley was serious or not,
but granted his request and made him an honorary federal agent.
Nixon said he was equally parts bewildered and amused by the
encounter, thanked Presley for his support, and the picture of
the duo has become one of the most famous photos taken in the
White House. On Presley's death in 1977, the former president
asked Americans to lower their flags all over the country as a
mark of respect.
He was good friends with Johnny Cash, going back to their Sun
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