10 Amazing Facts About Elvis Presley

The King of Rock & Roll came from humble beginnings to pave the way for a new generation of sound, leaving a legacy that has surpassed time.

Mar 17, 2024By Kassandre Dwyer, M.Ed History
elvis presley facts

 

Music is a hobby many enjoy but is not always agreed upon by different generations. However, once in a while, an artist comes along that spans not only genres but personal tastes while standing the test of time. Elvis Presley was one of those remarkable artists, making an impact on multiple genres, starring in movies, and even serving in the military. He became beloved by millions, but his career and life were cut short by a heart attack at age 42. Check out these ten intriguing facts about this music legend.

 

1. Elvis Presley Dyed His Hair

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Young, blonde Elvis in the 1940s. Source: Showbiz Cheat Sheet

 

Elvis’ jet-black pompadour was world-famous. However, it was partly an illusion. Elvis was, in fact, born blonde, and although his hair began to darken somewhat as he aged, it never got darker than light brown.

 

Aspiring to look like his heroes Tony Curtis and Marlon Brando, he began dying his hair black and continued to do so throughout his career. However, as a young teen, he couldn’t always afford a dye job and had to make do with shoe polish. Once he was able to consistently afford dye, Elvis used a unique mixture of three different shades to achieve his signature look.

 

2. Elvis Had a Twin

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This cenotaph, which spells Jesse’s name incorrectly, is visited by thousands of tourists at Graceland annually. Source: Only in Your State

 

Elvis Aron (later changed to Aaron) Presley was raised as an only child by his parents. However, many don’t realize that Elvis had a twin brother. Jesse Garon Presley was born 33 minutes before his brother, a stillborn baby. The pair were born at home on January 8th, 1935 in Mississippi. Jesse was buried in Priceville Cemetery the next day.

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Though Elvis never met his brother, he felt deeply connected to him throughout his life. He often visited his brother’s grave and spoke to him. Some psychology experts think that this deep bond helped Elvis in his determination to succeed in the music business and aided him in connecting with audiences around the world as if he were trying to connect with his lost brother.

 

3. He Met His Future Wife While in the Army

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Priscilla and Elvis Presley at their wedding. Source: People

 

Elvis served his country in the Army on active duty from 1958-1960, then continued in the Army Reserve for four more years after that. During his active duty, he was stationed in Wiesbaden, West Germany, where he met his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu Wagner. She was in ninth grade at the time, and he was 24.

 

They began to date but took a short break when Elvis moved back to the US in 1960. However, by the time 1963 rolled around, they were hot and heavy again, and Priscilla moved to the United States to be with Elvis and finish her studies there, living alongside him at Graceland. They married in Las Vegas in 1967.

 

4. He Had a Black Belt in Martial Arts

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Elvis with martial arts master Ed Parker, giving a 1974 karate demonstration in Memphis. Photo courtesy of Graceland. Source: Commercial Appeal

 

Another interest Elvis picked up in Germany was the art of karate. He studied with karate masters in Germany and also during his leave time in Paris. When he moved back to the United States after his tour, he was ready to test for his black belt, a promotion he earned on July 21, 1960. He continued to train in the craft and eventually attained the rank of 7th-degree black belt in 1973. Friends of Elvis recall that practicing karate brought him a great deal of spiritual peace and contentment.

 

5. Five Halls of Fame Welcomed Him

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Part of the Elvis exhibit at the Rock n ’Roll Hall of Fame. Source: Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame

 

Elvis has been inducted into five Halls of Fame: the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Gospel Hall of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and the R&B Hall of Fame. He is often referred to as “The King” of rock n’ roll for the impact he had on the revolutionization and development of the genre.

 

6. He Bought Graceland at Just 22 Years Old

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The mansion, Graceland. Source: Graceland

 

Elvis’ iconic home, Graceland, is one of the most famous residences in the United States. In 1957, his second year of superstardom, when Elvis was just 22 years old, he purchased the house and grounds for just over $100,000. His parents moved to the spacious home with him and his future wife, and later, their only daughter lived there as well. He bought the home, just over 10,200 square feet, with almost 14 acres of land. Later, with renovations and additions, the size of Graceland grew to over 17,500 square feet.

 

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Elvis smiles in this undated photo. Source: Spinditty

 

It opened to the public in 1982, five years after Elvis’ death. The property was added to the American National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and is visited by over 600,000 tourists annually, helping to make Memphis a tourism destination. Visitors can tour the mansion’s rooms, see Elvis’ famous jumpsuits, and visit the stables. Graceland was home to many animals over the years, not just horses but also monkeys, a mynah bird, dogs, and a turkey.

 

7. He Was Burned in Effigy

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Elvis’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan in September 1956. Michael Ochs photo. Source: Greenwich Time

 

While Elvis was wildly popular with many music fans, some people viewed him as public enemy number one. Those who opposed him and his style of music believed that the developing rock n’ roll genre was leading America’s young people astray, corrupting them and exposing them to improper ways of life. With his wild dress, sexy good look, and wild hip-thrusting dance moves, Elvis was everything that conservatives hated about the genre.

 

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Elvis, dancing here with Ann Margaret, had legendary moves. Source: Las Vegas Sun

 

Elvis performed on the popular Ed Sullivan Show, a television variety program, multiple times while his career was taking off. His second performance on the show, which took place on October 28th, 1956, is perhaps the most memorable. Presley performed his hit “Hound Dog” to sky-high broadcast ratings.

 

However, not everyone was happy. Angry crowds gathered in cities such as Nashville and St. Louis, some even going so far as to burn effigies of the superstar in protest of his music and decorum. Partly as a result, on his third appearance on Ed Sullivan, the network required that the star only appear on camera from the waist-up to censor his provocative dance moves.

 

8. Elvis Inhaled His Tooth Cap, Requiring Surgery

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Elvis in a scene from Jailhouse Rock. Source: Turner Classic Movies

 

An accident almost halted Elvis’ career just as it was beginning. In 1957, he had two movies to his credit and was filming his third, Jailhouse Rock. In the film, Presley’s character was to slide down a pole in spectacular fashion. However, Elvis accidentally struck his face on the pole while filming, hitting so hard that a cap on his tooth came loose. Then, reeling from the injury, he accidentally inhaled the porcelain piece, though, at the time, he thought he had swallowed it.

 

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The cap wasn’t the only famous dental work of the King’s. Elvis’ crown was sold at auction in 2007. Source: Heritage Auctions

 

The next morning, the singer experienced chest pain and was rushed to the hospital. It was soon determined that the tooth cap had lodged itself in the singer’s right lung. In order to remove the cap, the surgeon would have to deftly separate the performer’s precious vocal cords and access the problematic object. Fortunately, the doctor had a steady hand, and though he was a bit hoarse for a while, Elvis made a complete recovery and was back to work in a few days.

 

9. His Jumpsuits Were Flashy…and Heavy

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Elvis onstage during a 1972 concert in Madison Square Garden. Thomas Monaster photo. Source: CNN

 

Elvis’ image is closely tied to his glitzy jumpsuits, which he started sporting in the 70s. When he started wearing them, the outfits weighed 25-30 pounds with all their material and adornments, but as time went on, some weighed as many as 75 pounds, covered with intricate embroidery and jewels.

 

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Elvis in his “American Eagle” Jumpsuit in 1974. Source: ThemeLoader

 

Elvis’ heaviest jumpsuit was also his most expensive and perhaps his most iconic. The “American Eagle” or “Aloha” suit was created in 1973 and worn for shows in Hawaii. He also later wore it on tour in 1973 and 1974. White with red pleats and a blue-lined cape to match, the suit became iconic. It cost $65,000 to make and would cost over $440,400 to manufacture in January 2024. Today, the suit is on display at Graceland.

 

10. He Couldn’t Read Music & Didn’t Write Songs

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Mike Stoller contributed a number of songs that helped Elvis’ career skyrocket, including “Hound Dog.” Photo by Jessica Pons, 2022. Source: NPR

 

Despite his immense talent, Elvis never learned to read music. In addition, despite recording over 600 songs in his career, he didn’t write a single one. Instead, he recorded songs written by dozens of composers over the years. He is listed as a co-writer on some songs, such as “That’s Someone You Never Forget,” due to demands by his label that this occur for the song to be recorded.

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By Kassandre DwyerM.Ed HistoryKassie is a farmer with a passion for history who has a day job teaching middle school social studies in her hometown. In addition to earning NBCT certification and M.Ed. in History, she holds an M.Ed in Curriculum & Instruction and a B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture/Animal Science. She is particularly interested in telling the stories of often overlooked historical perspectives or hidden truths, and is especially intrigued by the history of America’s Indigenous peoples, war, and the “wild west.”