He was distantly related to former U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jimmy Carter.
Elvis’ popularity faded in the 1960’s with the rise of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and others.
He successfully relaunched his career with a 1968 television special that came about because Elvis had walked down a busy Los Angeles street and had no one recognize or approach him.
Elvis’ famous black hair wasn’t real. His natural color was actually brown.
Elvis purchased his first guitar when he was 11 years old. He had wanted to buy a rifle, but his mother convinced him to get the guitar instead.
He played only five concerts outside the U.S., all on a 3-day tour of Canada in 1957. Many believe this was due to his longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Parker was an illegal immigrant from Holland who would have been deported had he tried to get a U.S. passport.
Col. Parker, prior to managing Elvis, reportedly painted sparrows yellow to sell them as canaries.
Elvis was 6 feet tall and was a size 11 shoe.
In 1947, a local radio show offered a young Elvis, age 12 at the time, a chance to sing live on air, but he was too shy to perform.
At 18, Elvis paid $4 to make his first record, it was a gift for his mother.
In 1954, Elvis auditioned for a gospel quartet named ‘The Songfellows’. He didn’t make it.
That same year, a local radio DJ played Elvis’ version of ‘That’s All Right’. He went on to play it 13 more times that day, but had trouble convincing his audience that Elvis was white.
His breakthrough hit was ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, released in 1956. The song has been inspired by a newspaper article about a local suicide.
When performing on TV in 1956, host Milton Berle advised Elvis to perform without his guitar, reportedly saying, “Let ’em see you, son.” Elvis’ hips caused outrage across the U.S. and within days he was nicknamed ‘Elvis the Pelvis’.
A Florida judge called Elvis “a savage” that same year because he said that his music was “undermining the youth.” He was subsequently forbidden from shaking his body at a performance, so he waggled his finger instead in protest.
Elvis bought his mansion, Graceland, in Memphis, TN in 1957 for $100,000. It was named by its previous owner after his daughter, Grace.
Performing “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” in Las Vegas in 1969, Elvis did one of his frequent lyric changes to amuse himself. Instead of “Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?”, he sang “Do you look at your bald head and wish you had hair?”
In 1956, he began his film career with a western, Love Me Tender. His second film, Loving You, featured his parents as audience members. Following his mother’s death in 1957, he never watched the film again. He went on to make a total of 31 movies in his career.
In December 1957, Elvis was drafted into the U.S. Army, earning a $78 monthly salary. During his brief two-year stint on active duty, he was unable to access his music-generated income of $400,000.
In 1959, while serving overseas in Germany, Elvis (then 24 years old) met his future wife, 14 year-old Priscilla Beaulieu. They were married 8 years later.
Elvis’ 1960 hit “It’s Now or Never” so inspired a prisoner who heard it in jail that he vowed to pursue a career in music upon his release. The artist, Barry White, was then serving a 4-month sentence for stealing tires.
Elvis and Priscilla’s only daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, was born in 1968. Lisa Marie later married Michael Jackson and actor (and Elvis obsessive) Nicholas Cage. Mr. Cage is reportedly the only person outside of Presley’s immediate family to have ever seen Elvis’ Graceland bedroom.
Elvis recorded more than 600 songs, but did not write any of them.
Recording Hound Dog in the studio, Elvis reportedly demanded 31 takes.