30 facts about Elvis you probably never knew

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Elvis Presley may have died 44 years ago this month, but you would never know it by looking at the data. According to the streaming service Spotify, he averages roughly 13 million listeners every month, thanks to the enduring popularity of such songs as “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and countless others.

Graceland, his Memphis estate, greets approximately 600,000 tourists every year, making it the second-most-visited formerly private home in the United States. The first most-visited is the White House. Indeed, the saying that “the King is gone but not forgotten” is a major understatement.

Despite Presley’s continued dominance over American popular culture, there are still a lot of facts about his life and career that many people don’t know. Read ahead and find out 30 facts that you may not know about the king of rock ‘n’ roll, even if he’s your hunka hunka burning love.

Elvis Sun promo
Wikicommons / Public Domain, Photographer Unknown

1. He didn’t write his own songs

While Elvis Presley sang some of the best-known songs in pop history, he wrote exactly none of them. His first single, “That’s All Right,” was written and performed by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, and Presley performed songs written by other artists for his entire career.

Elvis boyhood home
Wikicommons / Angjett

2. He had a stillborn twin

Elvis was born on January 8, 1935, approximately half an hour after his twin brother Jesse Garon, who was stillborn. Jesse was buried the next day in an unmarked grave.

Elvis Jailhouse Rock
Wikicommons / Public Domain, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.

3. His father did jail time

Elvis grew up dirt poor, supported by a father who mainly worked odd jobs. In 1938, his father ,Vernon, spent the better part of a year in prison for forging a check for four dollars, but who knows? Maybe it inspired his son to perform “Jailhouse Rock.”

Elvis statue
Wikicommons / Ken Lund, Las Vegas

4. He did well in school, but not in one surprising class

Elvis graduated from high school in 1953, becoming the first member of his immediate family to do so. But while he did well enough to graduate, there was one class that he could not master and for which he received the dreaded grade of “F” – music class!

Elvis framed paycheck
Wikicommons / Bjoertvedt

5. He worked some ‘real’ jobs

Coming from a working-class family, it was natural for Elvis to go out and get a job after finishing school. His first jobs included working at a machinist shop and driving a truck, but in 1954, before he had finished his first year in the workforce, he recorded “That’s All Right,” bringing his blue-collar career aspirations to an end.

Graceland
Wikimedia Commons / Maha

6. He was a homeowner at 22

In 1957, Elvis bought his mansion, Graceland, for approximately $100,000. He was the ripe old age of 22.

Graceland living room
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

7. Junichiro Koizumi went there!

If you haven’t heard of Junichiro Koizumi, that’s OK – he was Prime Minister of Japan in 2006 and a huge Elvis fan. He visited Graceland that year with former President George W. Bush, who was himself the first sitting President of the United States to visit the mansion.

Tom Parker
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

8. Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was actually a Dutch carnival barker

Elvis’ manager was born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk in Holland. He changed his name to Tom Parker and worked as a carnival barker and later as a dog catcher before starting a career managing country musicians.

Elvis in the army
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

9. Elvis was s sergeant in the army

Elvis was drafted into the army in 1957. Rather than demand V.I.P. treatment, he conducted himself as a model soldier and achieved the rank of sergeant before being honorably discharged to return to his career.

IMAGE elvis-sworn-in | Wikicommons, Public Domain, Associated Press/Standard-Sentinel March 25, 1958, page 1

Elvis photo
Nic shad / Wikimedia Commons

10. Elvis became more popular after serving in the military

While some might have worried that putting Elvis’ career on hold while he served would do it harm, the opposite was true. The soundtrack to the first movie he made after his discharge, “G.I. Blues,” topped the Billboard chart for 10 weeks and it stayed on the chart for 111 weeks, the longest of any album in his career.

IMAGE elvis-army-framed | Wikicommons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0, Nic shad

Elvis and Scotty Moore
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

11. He never performed anywhere but North America

No one would debate the fact that even in death, Elvis is a global superstar. What’s more incredible is that he achieved that status without ever performing anywhere except in the United States, and a few dates in Canada.

Elvis and Ed Sullivan
Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain, CBS

12. He was burned in effigy

Elvis appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1956 to a television audience of 60 million people, but while the performance inspired a lot of audience members to pick up guitars and practice their dance moves, not everyone who saw it was happy. Mobs in Nashville and St. Louis took to the streets in a state of outrage over his swiveling hips and burned him in effigy.

FDR yacht
Wikimedia Commons / Christopher J. Wood

13. He bought FDR’s yacht

In 1964, Elvis bought a yacht called the Potomac, which had previously belonged to former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He donated it to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, who sold it to raise money.

World War II memorial Hawaii
Wikimedia Commons / Adamdiemond

14. He helped get a Pearl Harbor memorial finished

Elvis performed a benefit concert in 1961 that generated more than $50,000 for the completion of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Hawaii, a tribute to the more than 1,000 people who died in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Construction of the memorial had paused when it ran out of money, but the benefit concert generated enough money to finish it, and it was dedicated a year later.

Old microphone
Miloš Jurišić / Wikimedia Commons

15. Elvis made his first recording for four dollars

Elvis’ first commercially-released single may have been “That’s All Right,” but it wasn’t his first time in a recording studio. That happened in 1953, when he paid a grand total of four dollars to record a song for his mother as a birthday present The song has never been released publicly.

Alice Cooper
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

16. Alice Cooper was tempted to kill him

Elvis was a seventh-degree black belt in karate, and he was eager to show off his skills in a 1971 hotel room encounter with shock rocker Alice Cooper. Cooper said that Presley handed him a loaded gun, which he knocked out of Cooper’s hand with a kick. But Cooper said that in the split second that he held the gun, he was briefly tempted to achieve greater stardom by becoming “the guy who killed Elvis.”

IMAGE elvis-alice-cooper | Wikicommons, Public Domain, Associated Booking Corporation

Elvis in the movie Clambake
United Artists

17. He was actually blonde

While every single iconic photo of Elvis Presley depicts him with jet black hair, he was actually fair-haired until his teens. When he got famous, he could afford all the black hair dye he wanted, but up until then, he achieved his signature look with heaping helpings of shoe polish.

Stack of money
Wikimedia Commons

18. He’s the second most highly-paid dead celebrity in the world

Forbes magazine did the math and determined that in the period from October 2018 to October 2019, Elvis earned $39 million, despite being dead for over 40 years. He would have held the number one spot if not for Michael Jackson, who earned a staggering $60 million during the same period.

Elvis on a motorcycle
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

19. He’s credited with co-writing songs he didn’t co-write

Elvis never wrote any of his own songs, but he still appears as co-writer on some of them, since his record label demanded that certain songwriters give up partial credit in exchange for having Elvis record their songs. This was reportedly the case with “All Shook Up,” which Presley said in an interview was the closest he ever came to writing a song, since he came up with the title.

Lilo & Stitch
Disney

20. The movie with the most Elvis songs is not an Elvis movie

Elvis starred in more than 30 movies, but the one that contains the highest number of his songs is the 2002 Disney movie “Lilo & Stitch.” That movie contains five original Elvis songs and two Elvis songs performed by other artists.

Blue Moon
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

21. The Elvis song catalog is really blue

Elvis recorded over 600 songs in his career, and 15 of those songs have the same word in the title – blue. They include “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

Elvis' mother's headstone
Wikimedia Commons / Darrin Lee Memmer

22. He was always a mama’s boy at heart

Elvis’ mother Gladys died of a heart attack in 1958 while he was serving in the army. According to those who knew him and also according to numerous books on the subject, her passing had a devastating effect on him, and he was never the same again afterwards.

Graceland interior
Wikimedia Commons / Terry Waggoner

23. Graceland is very good to the city of Memphis

Graceland is owned today by Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, and its status as a tourist attraction has been very good for the city in which it resides. The city of Memphis has been estimated to receive approximately $150 million annually from tourist pilgrimages to the mansion.

Elvis jumpsuits
Wikimedia Commons / Takashi Hososhima

24. Those jumpsuits were really heavy

In the 1970s Elvis began wearing jumpsuits for his live performances, and the jumpsuits were really heavy. They became more so as they were gradually more embroidered and bejeweled. One such jumpsuit weighed in at a hefty 75 pounds.

Elvis
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

25. He was pro-vaccination

Vaccine hesitancy isn’t new – when Jonas Salk’s miracle cure for polio was rolled out, people lined up to get it, but teenagers were slow to get the jab. Elvis quite happily rolled up his sleeve and let doctors inject him with the vaccine, and the photograph of the event made teenagers decide to get the shot themselves. Too bad he’s not here today.

Elvis with a gun
Elvis History Blog

26. He liked playing with guns

Elvis liked guns. He really, really, really liked guns. According to a former girlfriend of his, Ginger Alden, he fired a gun at a TV set – hey, we hate commercials too – and also shot a headboard above her while she slept, to “grab her attention.” It worked!

Read more about his antics with guns at the Elvis History Blog.

Elvis
Wikicommons / Public Domain

27. He made one commercial, and it never aired

Elvis filmed a commercial for Southern Maid Donuts in 1954 that consisted of him singing the product’s jingle. The fact that he was paid for this service with a box of donuts is perhaps a sign that he was not yet a household name. The fact that the commercial was never released is probably a sign of the same thing.

Viva Las Vegas
IMDB.com / MGM Studios

28. He performed in Las Vegas over 800 times

Elvis had performed once in Las Vegas in 1956 and didn’t return until 1969. After that, he performed 837 consecutive shows, until December 1976.

Elvis and Liberace in Las Vegas
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

29. His first Vegas show was a bust

Despite racking up hundreds of sold-out shows in Las Vegas in the 1970s, his success in that city was far from guaranteed. He had played there in 1956, when it was still very much the domain of the Rat Pack, and a Las Vegas Sun critic wrote of his performance, “He shakes and shivers like he is suffering from itchy underwear and hot shoes.”

What Elvis may have looked like today
Wikimedia Commons / Colesterol Matemático

30. Some people think he still walks the earth

Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977, but that hasn’t stopped legions of fans from entertaining fantasies that he’s still alive. Some of them have even gone ahead and created their own digitally-enhanced versions of what he might look like if he were alive today, perhaps fresh off of hanging out with Tupac Shakur and Harambe the gorilla.

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