11 Facts About Elvis Presley’s Life & Career
Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer / Sunset Boulevard / Corbis / Getty Images
Learn 11 Facts About Elvis Presley’s Life You May Not Have Known Before
Elvis Presley was, and still is, one of the most highly-admired figures in music history. His influence was so great he was dubbed as “The King of Rock and Roll,” or just “The King” for short.
Years after his death, the man who brought us endless hits such as “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” remains a source of intrigue for many. Hundreds of books, articles, and documentaries have been produced about Elvis, his music, and his life.
With so much information out there about Elvis, you would think that people know everything there is to know about him. But there are a few tidbits about him that only the most devoted fans know.
We’ve gathered some of those facts to share with you today!
1. Elvis Owned A Wide Array Of Unusual Pets
Elvis liked to surround himself with a group of interesting people, and he apparently felt the same way about animals too! Throughout his life, Elvis owned a bunch of unusual pets, including a pet chimpanzee he named Scatter.
Scatter weighed in at a whopping 40 pounds, according to author Alanna Nash who wrote about him in Baby, Let’s Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him. Apparently, Scatter also liked to sneak peeks under the skirts of Elvis’ lady friends. Eek!
In addition to Scatter, Elvis once owned a pet turkey named Bow Tie, along with some horses, donkeys, peacocks, ducks, chickens and more. Of course, “The King” had to have a “Hound Dog” of his own, so he also owned a basset hound!
2. He Survived One Of The Most Intense Tornadoes In History
While Elvis’ death at the age of 42 was untimely, he almost died decades earlier when he was still a toddler. When Elvis was only 15 months old, his family was caught right in the middle of an F5 tornado during the 1936 Tupelo-Gainesville outbreak.
To put the severity of the storm into perspective, F5 tornadoes are the most intense and destructive. The History Channel published a detailed article about the Tupelo-Gainsville tornado, describing the damage it caused. Winds reached speeds of 261 mph, and 200 people were reported to have lost their lives.
In some instances, the tornado killed entire families. But miraculously, Elvis and his family survived the storm.
3. A Vocal Quartet Turned Elvis Down Early In His Life
Shortly after he cut his first recordings, Elvis went to an audition for a local vocal quartet in his area. But believe it or not, he was actually turned down!
Peter Guralnick writes in his biography about “The King” that Elvis completely failed his audition. Supposedly, Elvis told his father after the audition that they turned him down because they said he “couldn’t sing.”
One of the Songfellow members, Southern gospel legend Jim Hamill, later said the reason they turned Elvis down was because he didn’t seem to have a good sense of how to harmonize.
Elvis didn’t let the failed audition get him down. He scored his first number one hit a couple of years later, and they just kept coming!
4. Elvis Only Ever Performed Five Concerts Outside Of The U.S.
Although Elvis would have loved to perform around the world, he never got the chance. He only ever performed five shows outside of the United States, and they were all in Canada.
As to be expected, Elvis’ fan base reached global proportions, and he had a large following in Europe. Despite his wishes to tour there, his manager, Colonel Parker, allegedly held him back from doing so.
Elvis’ cousin Billy Smith spoke about his unfinished plans to perform in Europe during an interview with The Elvis Information Network, saying, “He talked about it many, many times, and we all looked forward to the day that happened. Unfortunately, it never came to pass.”
Despite the fact that he never toured in Europe, Elvis’ popularity there remains strong to this day.
5. He Had A Presidential-Sized Taste In Yachts
The History Channel writes about one of Elvis’ extreme purchases in its article titled 7 Fascinating Facts About Elvis. In 1964, Elvis decided it was time for him to invest in a yacht. However, “The King” didn’t settle for just any old yacht, but a presidential one.
The then $55,000 yacht Presley purchased named the Potomac once belonged to president Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR had referred to the yacht as his “floating White House,” and used it from 1936-1945.
When FDR died, the Potomac changed hands a few times before it was finally donated to the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The hospital later sold it to earn money, and Elvis was the one who purchased it.
6. Elvis Shares A Birthday With David Bowie
Longtime Elvis fans know that he was born on January 8, 1935. Insanely devoted fans know that he was actually a twin, but that his twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, was stillborn.
But few people have any clue that Elvis shares a birthday with another music legend. It turns out that English singer, songwriter, and actor David Bowie was also born on January 8.
Presley was 12 years old on the day that David was born in London, England. David grew up to idolize Elvis, and considered him to be one of his greatest inspirations. Author Christopher Sandford writes in his book Bowie: Loving the Alien, that David actually wrote the song “Golden Years” to offer to Elvis, but he turned it down.
7. He Had A Black Belt In Karate
Joe Esposito, Elvis’ longtime friend and road manager, said “The King” fell in love with karate while he was serving in the Army. He carried that passion throughout the rest of his life.
Elvis qualified for his first-degree black belt just two years after he started practicing karate. He was a multiple-degree black belt by the time of his death in 1977.
Taking things one step further, Elvis incorporated karate moves into his movies and live performances. It’s even been said that his famous white jumpsuits were inspired by karate gis.
8. Elvis Honored His Mother Gladys By Sending Fresh Flowers To Her Grave Every Week
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Elvis’ beloved mother, Gladys, died on August 14, 1958. She was 46 years old. Elvis was only 23 at the time.
On the 65th anniversary of Gladys’ passing, Graceland honored her by placing a bouquet of roses in her room in the mansion. Graceland shared that Elvis had fresh flowers sent to his mother’s grave in the Forest Hill Cemetery every week after she was laid to rest.
Gladys’ coffin was later moved to Graceland. She was buried next to Elvis and her husband, Vernon.
Elvis passed away on August 16, 1977, just 19 years and two days after his mom.
9. He Had Naturally Blond Hair When He Was Young
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Elvis is known for his jet-black hair. But did you know “The King” was actually a natural blond? Yes, he was born with blond hair!
As he grew older, Elvis’ hair darkened. But it was never naturally black in color. He started dyeing his hair to achieve the look he’s so well-known for today.
There are a few photos of Elvis with his naturally blond hair, and you can see one above.
10. Elvis Purchased His Graceland Mansion For $102,500
Elvis purchased his now-famous Graceland mansion for just $102,500 in 1957. By the time of his death in 1977, the mansion and its grounds were worth a lot more.
11. He Earned A “C” For Music Class In School
Like the Songfellows, Elvis’ eighth grade music teacher wasn’t a fan of his musical style. As Peter Guralnick wrote, Elvis received a less-than-stellar grade for his middle school music class…a “C.”
Elvis’ music teacher told him that he wasn’t a good singer, hence the low grade. The next day, Elvis aimed to prove his teacher wrong. He brought his guitar to class and sang, but his teacher still wasn’t impressed.
One of Elvis’ classmates recalled the moment to Peter. The classmate said that the teacher “agreed that Elvis was right when he said that she didn’t appreciate his kind of singing.” We wonder how Elvis’ music teacher felt after he became one of the most popular singers in history?
Which of these facts about Elvis surprised you the most?