What do you imagine when you think of Elvis Presley? Perhaps you think of the slick pompadour haircut? The iconic sparkly white Aloha suit? Or do you remember his energetic dance moves that set America on fire? Elvis Presley was the embodiment of the American Dream. Rising to fame in the mid-1950s, he became the biggest name in Rock N’ Roll.
Despite his success in show business, Elvis Presley had a much different personal life. His “rags to riches” story has greatly impacted people not only in the US but throughout the globe. From being turned down by a gospel singing quartet during his teenage years and recording his first song for just $4 to the journey of being the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music, his story is truly inspiring.
Elvis truly was one of a kind and won the hearts of millions of people across the world. Not only for his musical prowess, but also because of his charitable deeds and efforts against segregation in Southern America. He often cited African-American musicians as his inspiration and left a lasting influence on the community.
His impact was so immense that President Jimmy Carter said Elvis “permanently changed the face of American popular culture” posthumously. Quirky, energetic and flamboyant, Elvis Presley is the undisputed King of Rock and Roll. So, how well do you know the king? If not, then we have you covered. Today, we have brought some lesser known facts about him.
1. A Perfectionist
Elvis was a hardcore perfectionist. By the end of 1955, he already had two dozen singles under his belt and had nearly 18 months of non-stop tour lineups. The hardworking up-and-comer quickly rose to stardom within the next six months following his famous yet controversial appearance on NBC’s The Milton Berle Show on June 5, 1956.
He introduced Hound Dog on The Milton Berle Show, where he stirred a massive controversy after leaving his guitar backstage and grabbing the attention of audience with his energetic, exaggerated body movements. His exaggerated gyrations drove girls in the audience wild, but enraged parents and prudes throughout the country.
The performance propelled him to eminence quickly, and Hound Dog went on to be one of his best-selling songs. Though the backlash didn’t deter the promising singer, it wasn’t acceptable for him in a positive way. Later, he went on recording the song for a total of 31 times until he felt it had been perfected.
2. Lavish Generosity
Elvis was never particularly careful with his vast wealth, but what mattered the most to him was the happiness of people around him. Not only his musical influences, but also his gift-giving was legendary. Not one of Elvis’ close friends came up empty-handed.
According to some of the gift recipients, he gave such lavish gifts over the years just because he loved seeing the satisfied look on their face. Anyone familiar with him may know about his fondness of giving away Cadillacs. But, Cadillacs were just a small portion of his gift-giving.
Generally, he gave out something to anyone out of genuine love and admiration, while some reinforced the power balance in a relationship and some served as a way of apologizing. He even gave out a car to a maid working for his family after knowing that she had to walk a mile from her home to get to the nearest bus stop.
To his future wife, Priscilla, he had given a puppy, which she had named Honey. He was buying gifts for her even a decade after their divorce. Perhaps, because of his love of giving, he was fond of Christmas. From awarding his employees with a $1000 Christmas bonus to travelling with his own personal jeweler to have a ready supply anytime he felt the urge to give a gift, the King’s generosity was unexplainable.
He took his gift-giving to new heights after handing out rings and his customized Gibson guitar to the audience at a North Carolina show in 1975. Not to be missed, he bought the decommissioned presidential yacht USS Potomac and donated it to St Jude’s Children Hospital, which sold it for a huge amount. However, apart from all these, his talent, his humor and his generosity was the greatest gift of all.
3. International Performances
Elvis only performed for a total of 5 times outside the US. All of these were done on a 3-day tour of Canada. It would be the last time Elvis performed on international soil. There was never an explicit reason stated for this, but many assumed this was because his manager Thomas Andrew Parker, who was an illegal immigrant from Holland and could get deported if he ever applied for a passport.
4. Military Service
Elvis was among those who didn't take an easy way around. While he received a draft notice back in December 1957, he was already a well-known name in the entertainment world. He served in the army for two years until March 1960. While he had an option to take many comfortable army jobs, he went to become a simple soldier.
Starting off as a driver for the army, he was later promoted to Sergeant. After his release from military service, he was able to find a new fan base among an older age group, thanks to his army career and releases of several ballads over rock and roll songs.
5. Modifying Lyrics
While performing at the new International Hotel in Las Vegas back in April 1969, Elvis decided to have a little fun with the sold-out crowd. After performing for 58 consecutive sold-out shows, he got in the mood to be funny and would change some of his lyrics while singing. His playful move of changing words ended up making the event an hysterical one.
He changed "Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there" to "Do you gaze at your bald head and wish you had hair" and an audience member in the front row lifted his wig, showing his baldness as he swayed to the music. That particular moment kept Elvis laughing making it hard for him to continue singing.
6. Natural Hair Color
Apart from the music of the cherished rock 'n' roll legend, his style, hairstyle, and even the quiff are fondly remembered by many. More importantly, his iconic pompadour and slick hair have always been a source of adoration and of course, an Elvis trademark as well.
Originally brown, his natural hair color darkened to give it a brown fade growing up. He later dyed his hair jet black. As much as the style suited Elvis, the hair color sharpened his facial structure as well.
7. Acting Career
Throughout his career, he sang over 600 songs and re-recorded over a thousand tracks. After earning initial success as a singer, he also appeared in 31 movies. He debuted in the 1956 movie, Love Me Tender and starred in several hit movies, including Jailhouse Rock, Follow That Dream and Blue Hawaii.
While many looked up to him as an idol, when it comes to acting, Elvis wanted to be like James Dean and Marlon Brando. His acting was also well received by the fans and critics. However, he sadly couldn't spread his charm in the movie industry as he did in music.
Elvis Presley: Eight Facts You May Not Know About the King of Rock 'N' Roll
25 FUN FACTS ABOUT ELVIS PRESLEY, THE KING OF ROCK & ROLL