Elvis Presley: 45 Fascinating Things That Aren’t Well Known About The King
Elvis Presley, “The King” without a crown, is one of the most polarizing music legends of the 20th century. Before there was Beyonce, Taylor Swift, or Shawn Mendes, this man was taking over the world with his lively shows, animated dance moves, provocative lyrics, and distinctive voice. We can’t also deny that the ladies were falling head over heels for his distinctive look. He was so iconic that he reportedly inspired at least 85 000 impersonators though we bet there’s more. Decades after his death, his influence can still be seen and heard from various musicians all over the globe. And though plenty of Elvis fans would already know all the details of the legend’s life, there is a whole new generation out there just discovering The King. So, here we are helping out these new fans get to know their new idol.
Elvis Grew Up a Loner
Elvis was a master at working the crowd, but he wasn’t born waving all that charisma around. He grew up a loner, and his guitar would often be his companion at school. This, of course, resulted in bullying from his peers, and they would often make fun of the music he played.
As one story goes, kids would often pelt him with rotten fruit. At one point, these horrible miscreants cut his guitar strings. Students who knew how much Elvis treasured his guitar banded together and scraped enough money to buy him new strings. We bet those bullies have long eaten and choked on their words and actions.
Elvis was a Twin
If his twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, survived, Elvis might not have been the man we know of today. Sadly, Elvis didn’t even get to know his twin since Jesse didn’t survive the complicated birth their mother endured. Because of that, their mother also never had another child.
Elvis and his mother became very attached, and she was known to be overprotective of him. When she died, Elvis was grief-stricken. Although he grew up alone, he did eventually have three stepbrothers when his father remarried.
The Death of His Mother Broke His Heart
Elvis deeply loved his mother, Gladys. He was devastated when he heard she was ill. He was serving in the military at the time, but upon receiving the news, he immediately came back to be by her side. Sadly, she passed away from a heart attack at the age of 46.
When she died, Elvis was recorded saying, “She’s all I ever lived for. She was always my best girl.” He was so grief-stricken that there were reports that some guests were uncomfortable with his display of overwhelming sorrow. It’s also said that he was never the same after she died and that he carried this deep sadness until his death.
He was Turned Down at an Audition When He Was 19
Not everyone immediately saw the potential Elvis had. At 19, he was ready to serve his music to the world, but he was promptly shut down by the gospel quartet Songfellows when he auditioned for them. The judges probably deeply regretted that but imagine what would’ve happened if Elvis did get in.
At that point, though, it hardly mattered since Elvis’ career was already starting to take off. The year before he auditioned, he paid a good $4 to record his first song, which is said to be a gift to his mother. When the group rejected him, his name was already starting to make the rounds in the Memphis music scene.
Elvis Never Had Natural Black Hair
All you ever need to do an Elvis impersonation is the hair. Elvis practically owns that trademark side slicked style. However, he wasn’t born with those shiny, black locks. It was shoe polish at first and then hair dye.
The legend was actually born with sandy blonde hair. He started dyeing his hair that raven shade because he believed it gave him an edgier look. Although the shoe polish wasn’t the best idea, it seems like he made the right decision since you couldn’t really get Elvis without that signature do. Blonde Elvis just seems wrong.
He Loved His Comics
This isn’t wholly confirmed, but it is believed that Elvis modeled his look after a certain DC superhero, Captain Marvel Jr., The singer, grew up reading the comics and was such a massive fan of it that he brought it into his own brand.
For one, there was the hairdo and the sideburns. They distinctly look like the superheroes, although some also claim that Elvis based it on Tony Curtis. There were also the half-cape outfits that Elvis wore on shows which greatly resemble Captain Marvel Jr.’s cape. Lastly, the singer also used a lightning symbol, much like the character’s emblem. No one’s 100% sure about all this, but if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that Elvis loved his comics. They can still be found in the Graceland attic.
“Elvis the Pelvis”
It’s a little crasser than “The King,” but Elvis definitely deserves this nickname. Not everyone can gyrate and move his hips as he did on stage. And we got to say, is that it does make his performances a lot more interesting especially when you see all the horrified faces of some of the religious viewers.
Apparently, that’s what happens when you take Elvis’s guitar from him. For his performance of Hound Dog on TV, host Milton Berle requested he perform without his guitar. In response, Elvis rocked the stage by sashaying around the mic stand.
The ‘Elvis the Pelvis’ Dance Almost Got Him Arrested
While fans loved ‘Elvis the Pelvis,’ religious leaders and critics didn’t, which wasn’t unusual considering that in his time, TV was still squeaky clean and the “holier than thou” morals were still all the rage. Simply put, his hip gyrating action was what people called “offensive” at the time.
When Juvenile court judge Marion Gooding went to one of his concerts in 1956, the judge was so appalled that he threatened to have Elvis arrested. He warned the star to tone down his act, or else he’ll be walking out of his next show in handcuffs. Hilariously, the judge said he’d only allow “limited side to side movements.” Oh, the poor thing.
Elvis Didn’t Want a Guitar For His Birthday
The King of Rock ‘N’ Roll wasn’t always into music. Although different stories say different things, one this was clear: Elvis didn’t want a guitar for his 11th birthday. Instead, he wanted a riffle or a bicycle. Since his overprotective mother didn’t want him to get into any trouble, she bought him a $6.95 guitar.
We couldn’t say he didn’t love it since right after he got his first-ever guitar, Elvis learned to play it. He also started singing, and as we all know, he was pretty good. He was so good that when he was 12, a local radio station asked him to sing on one of their shows, but since Elvis was still in his shy stage back then, he declined. That guitar changed music history.
Elvis Bought Graceland in the First Year of His Career
While most of us can only dream of buying ourselves a mansion at any point in our careers or our lives actually, Elvis was already living in his by his first year as a singer at the age of 22. He bought the 13.8-acre state in Memphis, Tennessee in 1957 for $102 500.
Since his death, it has now become one of the most prominent landmarks in the US. And since it was opened to the public in 1982, it had become the second most-visited house in the country. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people would visit to see the house, the memorabilia, and, of course, the Jungle Room, where Elvis last recorded some sessions.
The King Took a Break at the Height of His Career to Join the Military
Elvis’s ride at the top was interrupted by a little something called the Cold War. And even though at that time he was gaining fame, had $400 000 to his name, and received the love and adoration of millions of fans daily, when his number was called, he didn’t hesitate to join the army.
He left behind the luxury lifestyle in 1958 and stayed there for two years until 1960. He also told the media that he wanted no special treatment and just wanted to be treated like everyone else who was drafted. “The army can do anything it wants with me,” he told them.
Elvis’ Military Duty Was Postponed for the Movie King Creole
Elvis was one of the most unbothered people in the world when he got drafted in 1957. His legions of fans, on the other hand, were the opposite. A lot of them wrote to the military to excuse the singer from military duty. As we all know, though, Elvis himself submitted to serve.
He did, however, get special permission to postpone his army service. He was granted eight weeks to finish the film King Creole; that’s why he ended up starting training in 1958 rather than in 1957. In the army, he was promoted to sergeant, and his stay there even inspired the musical Bye Bye Birdie.
He Loved Packing
Even though the singer didn’t get his desired birthday gift when he was 11, he did finally get that riffle as an adult and plenty more. He let his obsession with the weapons free and started his gun collection. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the best gun owner out there.
Elvis would often carry his guns around but that’s the least scary part out of all this. He would often just leave them lying around. Tom Jones recalls the legend leaving a pistol behind in his dressing room for anyone to take. Elvis was also a little too trigger happy. One of his exes, Ginger Alden said he shot a TV set. The scariest incident, however, was when he shot the headboard while she slept to grab her attention. Sounds like he should’ve stuck with guitars.
“Elvis’ Singing Wasn’t Sexy, It Was Pornographic”
Aside from the gyrating hip dance moves, critics found Elvis’ very singing to be a tad too sexy. While Elvis was in the military, his record label RCA put together four albums from old recorded material. And as it seems, they were already running out of material when Elvis came back.
Even before he could fully get back home, they had Elvis recording during a train stop on the ride home. This resulted in the Elvis Is Back! Album which was an instant hit. With some of its provocative songs, one critic said, “Elvis’ singing wasn’t sexy, it was pornographic.” We guess he was right?
The King of Guilty Pleasure Food
Elvis loved food. He loved anything fried, especially deep-fried pickles and bacon. It took up a huge chunk of his diet. One of his all-time favorites is a sandwich made of two slices of bread, peanut butter, sliced banana, and bacon pan-fried in butter. He loved it so much that he even had it named after him.
One of his biggest indulgences, though, which is even more dangerous looking than the Elvis sandwich, is the Fool’s Gold Load. This was made from a butter-coated hollowed-out French bread stuffed with a pound of bacon, a jar of jelly, and a jar of peanut butter. Elvis reportedly once flew from Memphis to Denver just to get this. No judgment here though because as scary as that sounds, it also seems delicious!
The Eccentric Rock Star Had a Pet Chimpanzee
A dog didn’t seem fitting with The King, so he got himself a chimpanzee named Scatter. Before the monkey came to Graceland, though, he was stealing the spotlight in the TV station WMC-TV. And when he came to live with Elvis, he did the same thing but maybe not in the most pleasant of ways, to the guests, at least.
The monkey would often make guests, well, scatter. He would throw things at them and hide in bathrooms and scare the souls out of people. The ladies particularly didn’t like him since he was trained to lift their skirts and peek underneath. He also bit some guests.
Elvis Loved to Play Cop
As it seems, maybe Scatter didn’t come up with all his prankster attitude all by himself as his owner was one as well. Elvis loved his fans very much, and one of the ways he’d show them his love is by dressing up as a cop and pulling people over.
According to Priscilla Presley, Elvis would dress up as a cop and stop unsuspecting motorists. And while those poor souls were going back through what they could possibly have done wrong, Elvis would surprise them with a “ticket,” his autograph. Then, he’d say, “You’re welcome.” And boy, do those autographs cost a lot!
The Rock Star’s Relationship With Priscilla Would Be Illegal Today
Strangely enough, while people were objecting to Elvis’s dance moves, no one batted an eye towards his relationship with Priscilla. She was only 14 when Elvis met her in Germany while he was serving in the army. He was 24 at the time.
Although she was swept off her feet in the first moments of their relationship, dating the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll, whose fame was only increasing by the day, was difficult for Priscilla. She later revealed, “I was kind of lost really in who I was earlier in my life, I really didn’t have teenage years. I learned so much about him and was with him so much that I thought the way he did.”
He Almost Starred in West Side Story
At one point in time, Elvis’s deep vocals would’ve been the star of the hit musical West Side Story. Director Robert Wise offered the rock star the lead role of Tony, and he was inches close to saying yes; however, his manager Colonel Parker didn’t feel like it was the right movie for the King.
With Elvis backing out, the producers of the musical started looking for other candidates which included Anthony Perkins, Burt Reynolds, and Warren Beatty. In the end, they settled with the Tony we know, Richard Beymer. It might have been a blast to have Elvis there, but we really couldn’t imagine him singing Tonight or Something’s Coming.
Elvis Refused to See Priscilla Without Makeup
In all their time together, the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll never saw his wife barefaced. And it was his explicit command that he didn’t. According to Priscilla, he never wanted to see her getting dressed or putting makeup on. He only wanted to see the end result.
Priscilla wore makeup around him 100% of the time. Elvis also insisted she looks her best at all times, meaning she has to watch her weight and always dress nicely. He even came on several shopping trips to help pick out clothes she could wear. As Priscilla said, the King wanted a bit of mystery.
The King Has a Black Belt in Karate
While in the army, Elvis got into karate. He studied the fighting style of Chito-Ryu with his instructor Hank Slemansky, and he got so good at it that before he went home, he got his black belt. He then proceeded to study it until his death and use it in his stage performances.
One time, he showed off his skills to the King of “Shock” Alice Cooper. On a visit, Elvis handed Alice a gun and told him to put it to his head. Although conflicted, Alice did as asked, and Elvis perfectly flying-kicked the gun out of his hand and proceeded to trip him and pin him down by the neck. Cool and yikes at the same time.
Elvis Inhaled HIs Tooth Cap While Filming Jailhouse Rock
Elvis had his fair share of injuries, but one of the more serious ones happened on the set of Jailhouse Rock from his tooth. In the opening dance number, Elvis had to slide down a pole, and while he was doing that, he lost the cap of his tooth.
It was lodged in his lung, and he needed immediate surgery to get it out. The procedure was reportedly done on set, and the doctors had to separate his precious vocal cords to get the retrieval instrument in. Fortunately, this didn’t damage anything, and though Elvis was hoarse the next few days, he made a grand recovery.
The King of Rock ‘N’ Roll Didn’t Write His Songs
With over 600 songs in his discography, Elvis shockingly never wrote a single one. He’s given the title of co-writer in some songs, but that’s because his management usually demanded songwriters to give up 50% of the credit.
The King of Rock ‘N’ Roll reportedly didn’t want to be tied to one genre. So, he recorded songs from various composers so he could put his own spin and personality on them. This worked out for the best for him because he did such a great job at owning the songs that it was very easy to believe he was the writer.
He Had Other Romantic Interests Aside from Priscilla
Elvis only ever married one woman, but that doesn’t mean there was just one woman in his life. When he arrived in Germany, Priscilla wasn’t the only woman that caught his eye. There, he met the 19-year-old Elisabeth Stefaniak.
Elvis originally hired her to handle his fan mail. But, apparently, Elisabeth ended up handling more than that. However, their little romance ended when Elvis was sent back home, and that was when he turned to the future, Mrs. Presley. Elisabeth wasn’t the last other love interest to grace Elvis’ life though.
Elvis and Priscilla’s Marriage Was Really Complicated
The pair made an adorable couple; however, there is no denying that their marriage was a little messed up. In 1971, just a year before their divorce, Elvis had an affair with a woman named Joyce Bova. This affair resulted in an unwanted pregnancy that sadly ended in an abortion.
Surprisingly, Elvis wasn’t the only unfaithful one in the marriage. She revealed that when Elvis started growing more and more distant, she found hobbies for herself, and one of them was karate. With that, she met karate instructor Mike Stone, and they began an affair. When Priscilla and Elvis divorced, she continued to date Mike. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t last either.
Elvis Had a Secret Phobia
A lot of people worshipped Elvis almost to the point of treating him with God-like reverence. But, he was human, after all, and unknown to many, he was scared of germs. Yep, that’s right. This rowdy, guitar-slinging man was a germaphobe.
In an interview with Daily Mail in 2015, Priscilla dished that her ex-husband would only drink from the part of cups above the handle, knowing that people rarely drank from that part. He also wasn’t a fan of eating at other people’s homes. If he had to, he had to bring his own silverware.
President Nixon Gave Elvis a Badge
Elvis loved collecting police badges from all over the country, and he was proud of his collection. Among all those badges, though, he held the Narcotic Officer’s badge closest to his heart. Why? Because the president of the United States gave it to him.
The badge was actually Elvis’ idea. He requested the White House for it. More bizarrely, Nixon had no qualms about giving it to him. In exchange for it, Elvis gave the president a World War II handgun. The singer also apparently told Nixon that The Beatles were inspiring anti-American sentiment, and he was there to help curb that.
Elvis Became Distant With His Wife After Having a Child With Her
Elvis’ relationship with his wife was already on the rocks right after they got married. And according to Priscilla, their marriage further deteriorated because of one surprising factor: their child. According to her, after their daughter Lisa Marie was born, they just grew more distant.
Lisa Marie proved that she had a lot of her father in her, though. She is a musician in her own right, and she has released three albums. One of them, To Whom It May Concern, was even a gold-certified release in 2003. Much like her mother, she was also married to a legendary icon, Michael Jackson.
The King Might Have Helped Eradicate Polio
The cure for polio was found in 1953 by a scientist Jonas Salk. Two years later, a vaccine was made available to the public. Unfortunately, doctors were having problems convincing people to be vaccinated with it. So, they came up with a brilliant plan: a PR stunt. And who better to do it than one of the most beloved celebrities of the time, especially to the youth, Elvis Presley.
Before he went on stage to perform on the Ed Sullivan show, Elvis got a polio vaccine from the doctors in front of the press. Word got around. The press did their job, and lo and behold, cases of the disease decreased by 90% before 1960. Well done, Elvis!
Elvis Starred in Over 30 Films
This once shy kid wasn’t just an excellent performer; he was a talented actor as well. From gracing the covers of albums, The King also graced the covers of movie posters. It served as somewhat of a double victory for him since the films would drive his fans to the theatre and then to the music store afterward to buy the record for the movie’s soundtrack.
He might’ve had some cutesy films titled Tickle Me and Easy Come, Easy Go, but a lot of people actually believed that if his acting was taken a little bit more seriously, he could’ve also dominated the film industry and stood next to the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean. Most critics would often say that his jam-packed singing career didn’t let him live up to his potential acting career.
The King Hired an Illegal Immigrant
We think it’s fair to say that Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker is one of the most successful in the industry’s history. He was instrumental in taking Elvis’ career to the heights it reached after all. One thing that most people overlook about him, though, was that he was an illegal immigrant.
Tom was born as Andreas van Kuijik in the Netherlands. He never became a naturalized U.S. citizen despite living in the US for most of his life. Rumors had it that the reason why Elvis never performed outside of North America was that they didn’t want to risk getting Tom deported. As it seems, The King didn’t care since Tom was so good at his job.
The High Collars Weren’t Just a Fashion Statement
One of the most prominent features of Elvis’ outfits were the high collars. As he grew older, these high collars started appearing more and more in his wardrobe, and pretty soon, it was rare to see The King without them. And he wore them not because he loved them.
In her 2016 memoir titled A Little Thing Called Life, Elvis’ ex-girlfriend Lisa Thompson revealed that the high necks were a result of one of Elvis’ insecurities, his neck, which he referred to as a “skinny little chicken neck.” Apparently, his parents teased him about it when he was a child, and because of that, he had taken to covering it.
The Jumpsuits Were Extremely Heavy
Oh, the jumpsuits. Somehow, The King made those things work. Aside from his hair, those fun, sparkly jumpsuits were an iconic feature of his stage performances. Surprisingly, those things aren’t light. They reportedly weighed 25 to 30 pounds EACH. And those were some of the lightest.
As the years went by and as they added more bling to the jumpsuits, they grew a lot heavier. The heaviest was 75 pounds. Seriously, how could Elvis have performed in those? Elvis’s most expensive and most iconic jumpsuit piece was “The American Eagle,” otherwise called the “Aloha”. It cost 65 000, but if anyone tried to make that today, it would cost a lot more than that.
The King Had a Very Specific Grocery List
By now, we’re all aware of Elvis’s deep love of his Elvis sandwiches. But again, he loved food in general, so that’s not the only thing stocked up in his pantry. In fact, he had a strict list of grocery items that needed to be on hand at all times.
The items in the Elvis grocery list were fudge cookies, gum, ice cream, brownies, meatloaf, shredded coconut, cans of sauerkraut, “wieners,” banana pudding (cooked fresh nightly), one case of Pepsi, one case of orange drink, and six cans of biscuits. All this cost him $500 weekly. If he craved anything off the list, he simply needed to press a button under the dinner table to have it brought to him.
Elvis Released an Album Without a Single Song on it
Much like other singers, Elvis was obligated to produce albums, but his contract didn’t explicitly say that that they had to have music. In 1974, he released Having Fun With Elvis On Stage. It was only filled with recordings of Elvis’ banter in between recording songs. There wasn’t one lick of music in it.
Critics came at it teeth, claws, and all. One critic, Mark Deming, was probably one of the harshest, saying, “Some have called Having Fun With Elvis On Stage thoroughly unlistenable, but actually it’s worse than that; hearing it is like witnessing an auto wreck that somehow plowed into a carnival freak show, leaving onlookers at once too horrified and too baffled to turn away.” Ouchie.
Elvis Bought President Franklin Roosevelt’s Presidential Yacht
Nixon wasn’t the only president associated with Elvis. In 1964, the rock star legend bought FDR’s 165-foot yacht, the Potomac, which was also known as the late president’s “floating white house.” After the president’s death, the ship was decommissioned, and it passed different owners’ hands before finally landing on Elvis’ who paid a grand $55 000 for it.
Elvis didn’t keep it for himself, though. He didn’t parade around and host extravagant parties on it night after night. He actually donated it to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. The hospital then sold it to raise money. This is only one of the frequent acts of charity Elvis did.
The Rock Star Legend Had a Facelift
Even Elvis wasn’t immune to the immense pressure for entertainers to retain their youthful look. It affected him greatly in his later years. One of the things he tried to keep looking young, according to his ex, Linda Thompson, is a facelift. That might’ve been the safest thing he tried, though.
He dabbled in pharmaceutical drugs in his attempt to stay beautiful and deal with his weight problems. At one point, he reportedly even subjected himself to a two-week sedation period where he only left the bed to eat little food, bathe, and use the restroom. According to his stepbrother David Stanley, it got to the point he could barely eat.
He Entrusted His Hair to Only One Hairdresser
The King only let one man and one man only cut his hair. This man was none other than Mr. Gil, who was the hairdresser to Elvis’s mother Gladys as well. Wherever Elvis was, Mr. Gil was ready to travel and follow even if it was just for a short snip.
Celebrities do this all the time. And with Elvis, he might have wanted someone he knew to cut that luscious head of hair of his. What’s a little creepy about Mr. Gil though, is that he kept plenty of Elvis’s hair trimmings. He then auctioned them all off when the King passed away.
Elvis Had a Bit of Bromance with Johnny Cash
The rock icon wasn’t stingy with appreciation. He was a music legend, but he was also a fan of many great artists. One of his absolute idols was the country music icon, guitarist, actor, and author Johnny Cash. As it may, Johnny was a fan of Elvis as well.
The pair were good friends and would often express how much they admired each other with impersonations. Alongside Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, they were both part of the Million Dollar Quartet, a recording of an impromptu jamming session they had at the Sun Record Studios in 1956.
He Almost Starred in A Star Is Born
Before the Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper version, A Star is Born was first made in 1937, starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor. It was followed by the 1954 version starring Judy Garland and James Mason, and it was revived again in 1976, starring Barbara Streisand.
Barbara reportedly had Elvis as her first choice to act opposite her. At that time, the King’s acting and music careers were already going downhill. The role might have put him back on the map but for some reason, he declined. Some people say that he passed on the project because the subject matter was too personal while some say he didn’t want to be overshadowed by Streisand.
Elvis Would Watch Three TV’s at the Same Time
It seems a little overwhelming and noisy to have three TV sets turned on in front of you, but that’s how Elvis liked to watch TV. Whenever he had some free time, Elvis would park in front of his TVs. He was reportedly inspired by President Lyndon Johnson, who watched different news programs on three TVs at once.
Elvis would end his TV downtime, though whenever Robert Goulet would appear. Reports conflict, but some say that the rock legend hated Goulet so much. There’s the shooting the TV with a pistol while Goulet was performing on screen. And then, Elvis could reportedly be heard screaming, “That jerk’s got no heart. That will be enough of that sh**!”
The Rock Icon Also Dyed His Lashes
As you already know, Elvis dyed his hair at the beginning with shoe polish. Later on, he finally switched to the much friendlier hair dye, Miss Clairol 51 D, “Black Velvet.” Apparently, Elvis didn’t just dye his hair. To keep his look consistent, he also dyed his lashes.
For the sake of beauty, the rock legend went to great lengths to maintain his look. After all, who wants stark black hair with blonde lashes? Unfortunately, this habit came back to bite him with plenty of health problems later in life.
The Bodyguards’ Book
There were many books published about the rock legend in his lifetime, and even after, however, none of those were as close to the truth of the life of Elvis as Elvis: What Happened? It was written by three of his former bodyguards and contained plenty of details and secrets about Elvis’s personal life.
It was released on August 1, 1977. Before that, Elvis tried to pay off the publishers not to release it. However, he didn’t succeed. The book’s contents reportedly exacerbated his health conditions, and two weeks later, on August 16, the King passed away.
Elvis’s Body was Almost Stolen
Elvis was buried next to his mother in Memphis’ Forest Hill Cemetery. Just two days after his burial, though, a group of men attempted to steal his body to hold it for ransom. Fortunately, the body was well enclosed in a 900-pound steel-lined, copper-plated coffin.
Three of the thieves were immediately arrested. However, the failed attempt had spooked everyone. In fear that someone would try again, they moved Elvis and his mother’s body to the Meditation Garden in Graceland. It was one of Elvis’ favorite spots on the property.