Elvis Presley is the undisputed king of rock ‘n’ roll and one of the most influential people of the 20th Century. The legend that has inspired at least 85,000 impersonators around the world is known for bringing rock into the mainstream with his lively shows and animated dance moves – and his iconic look certainly helped him make it happen. While a great many things are known about Elvis Presley, the lesser known, more mysterious aspects of his career and private life are truly fascinating. Read on to learn the surprising facts about the king of rock you have to know.
1. Merely Average?
Not everyone recognized the king of rock’s talent right away. In school, Elvis Presley’s music teacher told him he was merely average. Presley was something of a loner, and his classmates often teased him for playing “hillbilly music.”
That might be why – although Presley was known to be an eccentric, supremely confident performer later in life – he was shy to perform publicly as a kid. You wouldn’t know it by his antics later in life, though, on and off the stage. Read on to learn about the not-as-shy Elvis.
2. Elvis Presley Never Had Natural Black Hair
Elvis Presley, the eternal king of rock ‘n’ roll, is known for a great many things, one of which was his hair. But Presley’s signature black, shiny hair wasn’t his natural look. It was a dye job.
The rock icon was actually born blonde and started dying his hair when he was young to achieve a more edgy look. Moreover, and in his younger years, Elvis has confessed he used black shoe polish to get the job done. But Presley’s edgy persona wasn’t always channeled toward music.
3. Elvis Didn’t Really Want A Guitar
The king of rock wasn’t always interested in rock – or music, for that matter. In fact, he didn’t get his first guitar until he was 11 years old. Right after he got it, Presley learned to play and play well.
The king originally wanted a rifle instead of a guitar, but his mother made sure he didn’t get his hands on one. Of course, that would prove to play in his advantage. As you’ll learn, though, Presley would never lose his interest in firearms.
4. He Never Performed Outside Of North America
By the time Elvis made it big, people all over the world wanted to get a piece of him. He was selling out shows throughout the United States singing “Heartbreak Hotel” and “That’s All Right,” but unfortunately for his fans overseas, they’d have to keep waiting.
While Presley performed in Canada in 1957, he never played outside of North America. It’s curious that the most popular musician of the time didn’t tour the world, and there are many speculations as to why he didn’t. Some of those speculations have to do with his manager, about whom you’ll soon learn more.
5. Just A Regular Soldier
It’s pretty well-known that Elvis Presley took a break from his music career when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1958 – something almost unimaginable for a star to do today. And the move gained him much respect from his haters.
When he was drafted, Presley refused an offer to enlist in Special Services to entertain and live in priority housing. Opting instead to serve as a regular soldier, he won over an initially skeptical segment of America that first saw him as a negative cultural influence. He would win over someone else during his time in the army, too.
6. The King Met His Wife When She Was 14
Shortly after he was drafted into the army, the king of rock ‘n’ roll was stationed in Germany. It was there that he first laid eyes on the stunning Priscilla Beaulieu, whom he would eventually marry.
Priscilla was just 14 years old at the time, and Presley was 24. Entering a romantic relationship with one of the biggest stars in the world came at an emotional cost to the young girl, as you’ll soon learn.
7. Dating Elvis Wasn’t Always Easy For Priscilla
As great as it would seem for any young woman to be the object of Elvis Presley’s desire, Priscilla Beaulieu’s romantic relationship with the international star weighed on her. It wasn’t always easy to walk in Presley’s shadow from such a young age.
“I was kind of lost really in who I was earlier in my life, I really didn’t have teenage years,” she has said. “I learnt so much about him and was with him so much that I thought the way he did.” Priscilla wasn’t the only one to fall prey to Presley’s charms in Germany, though.
8. Elvis Didn’t Like Spending Nights Alone
In addition to having the ability to rock out like no other, Elvis Presley was known to be gentle at times, especially in his younger years. It is widely believed that the king didn’t like spending nights by himself.
Some speculate his desire to not be alone while he slept was due to the hardship he faced in coping with the loss of his mother, who passed shortly before he was sent to Germany. In any case, Presley made sure he had someone by his side throughout his service. And, as you’ll soon learn, it wasn’t always Priscilla.
9. The King’s Romantic Interests
During his time in Germany, Presley’s romantic interest wasn’t limited to Priscilla, who was the daughter of a U.S. Navy pilot. The international star seems to have wanted to acquaint himself with the local culture, too.
The king also had a romance with a beautiful 19-year-old German girl named Elisabeth Stefaniak, whom he had hired to handle his fan mail after she asked him for an autograph. Their romance ended when Presley returned to the states, and his attention returned to the Ms. Presley-to-be.
10. Elvis Only Ever Married One Woman
Elvis Presley is known to have been a ladies’ man, and some might expect that would mean he was married to various women throughout his life. But the king only ever married one woman, and that woman was Priscilla Beaulieu.
Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas in 1967. And even though the two made an adorable couple, the deeper aspects of their marriage remind the world that they were still human together. Priscilla has revealed a surprising fact about their relationship that sheds light on how the two interacted away from the cameras – read on to find out what it was.
11. Elvis Never Saw His Wife Without Makeup
Throughout Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s time together, the king of rock never really saw his wife without makeup, Priscilla has said. The king also didn’t like to watch his wife getting dressed. To Elvis, she said, mystique was very important.
“He never wanted to see me getting dressed, he wanted to see the result of getting dressed,” Priscilla said. She complied, admitting only in later years that she always had a little bit of makeup on.
12. The Choice To Marry Wasn’t Entirely Up To Elvis Or Priscilla
The lines between career and personal life become blurred in show business, especially for stars as big as Elvis was. Some claim that, while Elvis and Priscilla were clearly in love with each other, the decision to tie the knot wasn’t only theirs.
Presley’s big-time manager, Colonel Tom Parker, is rumored to have been the one to decide that the pair should get married when they did – for the good of Presley’s public image, of course. The two lovers’ official union didn’t last too long, though.
13. Elvis Became Distant After His And Priscilla’s Child
Elvis and Priscilla Presley split up in 1972, just a few years after they were married. It is well known that Presley’s relationship with his wife began to deteriorate shortly after they married, but one of the reasons, according to Priscilla, is surprising.
Things changed between the king and his wife, according to Priscilla, after they had a child together. They began to become more distant, and ultimately, the relationship fell apart. That wasn’t the only secret Presley’s ex-wife revealed about the rock legend, however.
14. The King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’s Secret Phobia
Elvis Presley was, apparently, a germophobe. That’s right: The rowdy, guitar-playing man’s man was terrified of germs, Priscilla told the Daily Mail in 2015. And the star went to great lengths to make sure he was protected.
The king of rock didn’t like eating at other people’s homes, and when he did, he would take his own silverware. According to Priscilla, “he would drink where the handle was, knowing that no one would ever drink at that side.”
15. Elvis Had A Pet Chimpanzee
No eccentric rock star’s image is complete without an exotic pet, and as the king of all rock stars, Elvis Presley’s was one of a kind. The king owned a very active pet chimpanzee named Scatter.
Scatter was a fitting name, considering the chimp would run around Presley’s parties at his Graceland mansion screaming and startling guests, often clad in suits or Hawaiian shirts. Scatter was apparently taught a few naughty tricks, one of which earned him an uppercut to the chin by one of Presley’s lady friends. Think that’s wild? Just wait.
16. Elvis Loved Guns
As mentioned, Elvis Presley loved firearms maybe as much as he loved guitars. And he wasn’t necessarily the most careful gun owner in the world. One of Presley’s friends, singer Tom Jones, said he once discovered a gun that Elvis had allegedly casually discarded in a dressing room.
On another incident recounted by Ginger Alden, an ex-girlfriend of Presley’s, the king fired at a television set – talk about eccentric. And these weren’t Elvis Presley’s only incidents involving guns. Just wait until you hear about another event recounted by Alden.
17. That’s One Way To Get Attention
It’s safe to say that when you’re a star, the temptation and ability to live on the edge is tremendous. One incident involving Elvis Presley and firearms as recounted by his ex-girlfriend sounds like it was quite the close call.
According to Ginger Alden, Presley once shot a bullet into their bed headboard while she slept as an “attention getter.” Phew. The rock star’s antics didn’t end with chimps or guns, though, as you’ll soon find out.
18. Elvis Employed An Illegal Immigrant
Elvis employed an illegal immigrant: his manager. Colonel Tom Parker, who was perhaps the most successful manager in the history of entertainment in America, was actually not born in the United States, contrary to popular belief.
He was born in the Netherlands as Andreas van Kuijk, and never became naturalized as a U.S. citizen after he moved to the States. That didn’t matter to Presley, though. His ability to sell did, and, as you’ll soon learn, Presley rewarded him more than fairly.
19. The King Was Generous
Throughout his career, the king of rock ‘n’ roll has credited Colonel Parker for helping him make it big. And Parker was well compensated: He took as much as 50 percent of Presley’s earnings toward the end of his life.
Presley was known to many as being generous – especially to family and friends. And he pulled some pretty wild stunts to express his gratitude to his fans, some of which involved pretending to be a law enforcement officer. Read on to find out exactly what went down.
20. Presley’s Cop Costume
Like many of history’s biggest stars, Elvis Presley loved his fans very much. According to Priscilla Presley, Elvis would sometimes dress as a police officer to stop cars on the road and give the driver a “ticket” – his autograph.
The king pulled various other stunts to surprise his loyal fans and remain in the spotlight. Believe it or not, Presley received a real badge later in his life. And you’ll never guess who gave it to him, though.
21. Elvis Presley And President Nixon
In 1970, Elvis Presley had the sudden urge to meet the president of the United States at the time, Richard Nixon. The president granted his offer, and during their meeting Presley, bizarrely enough, requested a federal narcotics badge.
Even more bizarrely, Nixon agreed to give him one. The Republican wasn’t the only president the rock king reached out to, and, as you’ll soon learn, it appears Elvis Presley didn’t discriminate based on political party.
22. Elvis Had A Unique Favorite Sandwich
Everyone who eats sandwiches has a favorite sandwich. Some of the more common ones are tuna fish, peanut butter & jelly, and ham & cheese. There may or may not be some healthier options available, too.
Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich was none of those – a star like him couldn’t afford to be cliché. The king’s choice of sandwich was a peanut butter, bacon, banana, and honey sandwich – perhaps fittingly the most complex combination of flavors imaginable.
23. Elvis Had A Close Relationship With His Mother
Perhaps the most surprising fact on this list is that Elvis Presley was a mommy’s boy. The king was intensely close with his mother throughout her life, and it is widely known that the two shared a special bond.
After achieving monumental success at a very young age, Presley initially purchased his famous Graceland mansion for his parents. Even after his mother passed away, the superstar heartthrob kept her clothes and possessions at the mansion.
24. The King Didn’t Want To Miss Out On Heaven
Not necessarily known for being a religious man, Elvis Presley didn’t appear to outright object to the idea of religion. The star had it good on planet earth and didn’t want to miss out on heaven either.
Picking just one religion, though, was too risky for the king of rock ‘n’ roll. He had said he didn’t want to miss out on heaven “due to a technicality,” and decided to make sure he wouldn’t by wearing a cross, Star of David, and the Hebrew word “Chai” around his neck.
25. Elvis Actually Had A Face-lift
The king of rock ‘n’ roll had an image to maintain, and he was very well aware of it. At a certain point, Elvis noticed he didn’t look as young as he had used to. Five years later, at age 40, according to ex-girlfriend Linda Thompson, Presley had a face-lift.
A touchy topic for most celebrities, it was allegedly the only surgery the king of rock underwent to preserve his youthful look. But he did other things in attempt to remain attractive, and not all of them were healthy.
26. Elvis Battled To Stay Young
In his later years, Elvis Presley battled with pharmaceutical drugs and weight problems in an attempt to stay beautiful. One of the downsides of fame, there is tremendous pressure on entertainers to retain their youthfulness as they age.
And it’s not easy. Elvis allegedly even engaged in a two-week sedation period to lose weight. During this period, the rock legend reportedly only left his bed to bathe, use the restroom and eat small portions of food.
27. At One Point, Elvis Could Barely Eat
Eventually, Elvis Presley got to the point that he could barely eat, according to his step brother David Stanley. It was a touchy period for the king of rock, but he toughed it out for as long as he could.
In his later years, the king would often fall asleep mid-meal, and Stanley would have to help him eat. But even in times of hardship, Presley didn’t give up his star-induced antics he was so famous for.
28. The King’s Modest Send Off
Elvis Presley is one of the biggest icons of the 20th century and is repeatedly recognized as such, so some would have expected a big funeral to see him off. One to match the grandiose nature of his parties filled with booze, lovely ladies and chimpanzees.
But that wasn’t the case. Three stars came to see Presley off: actors George Hamilton, Ann-Margret and James Brown, not including his family and friends, of course. But maybe a smaller event was more in line with how Elvis was in his youth: low-key and out of the spotlight. And what happened to Graceland?
29. What Happened To Graceland?
After the king of rock ‘n’ roll died on August 16, 1977, Graceland was a contentious mansion. Bankers wanted to sell the home, but Priscilla Presley disagreed. She had a different idea for solving the mansion’s financial problems.
Priscilla believed opening the house to tourists would bring in more money than selling it would, and it happened at her beheast. Graceland opened to the public in 1982, and eventually became a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
As the legend of the king of rock and roll, lives on there are many more hidden secrets that only came to the surface after he passed. Read on for even more interesting facts about Elvis Presley.
30. A Bizarre Comparison
When Elvis Presley made a name for himself in the 1950s, the older generation couldn’t really buy into his sexualized dance moves and antics on stage. While his army of fans were certainly into it, many people weren’t and they even made quite a ludicrous comparison.
Some people resorted to comparing the king of rock’s performances, as well as the teenage girls who attended them, to Adolf Hitler’s rallies. That’s quite an exaggerated comparison if we say so ourselves. This wouldn’t be the only outrageous thing ever said about Elvis Presley, though.
31. High Collars
Elvis Presley was always preoccupied with his physical appearance to keep himself looking young and charming. Have you ever noticed that the king of rock only liked to rock high collars? Perhaps you have, but they weren’t just to make a fashion statement.
There was actually a reason Presley donned high neck collars, and his ex-girlfriend Lisa Thompson revealed the reason in her 2016 memoir A Little Thing Called Life. Elvis was allegedly very insecure about his neck calling it a “skinny little chicken neck” ever since his parents teased him about it when he was a child.
32. A Stillborn Twin
Elvis Presley was in fact a twin, but his twin brother Jesse Garon was sadly stillborn. His mother Gladys underwent a very difficult birth on January 8, 1935 in her and Vernon Presley’s two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi.
The unfortunate events surrounding Jesse made Gladys very ill and she had to be rushed to hospital. After that, she was never able to bear more children. There was no funeral for Jesse, and Vernon opted to bury the infant’s body in a shoe box in an unmarked grave. Elvis became very haunted by this and later searched for his twin’s resting place, but never found it.
33. Baby Talk
It is no secret that Elvis Presley was a mommy’s boy, but could you have guessed that he spoke in baby talk to Gladys?! That’s right, Elvis used to call his mother by pet names and spoke to her in baby talk well into his adult life.
This might explain why Elvis and Priscilla’s relationship fell apart after they had a baby. Psychologists have speculated that because of deep adoration of his own mother, it became very difficult for him to maintain a relationship with the mother of his own child. If you thought this hidden secret was bizarre, wait until you see what’s next.
34. “Hound Dog” Wasn’t His Song
Over the last few decades, several critics of the king of rock have accused him of stealing “Hound Dog” from Big Mama Thornton, who originally recorded the song in 1953. Her rendition, however, didn’t receive as much popularity as Elvis’s Presley’s 1956 version.
Presley’s fans believe it is unfair to accuse him of culturally appropriating a song because of the nature of the music industry in the ’50s. Back then, there wasn’t really such a thing as one song belonging exclusively to one artist. Many musicians would perform different renditions of the same song or even covers of a song that popular songwriters wrote. What’s more, popular songwriting and producing duo Jerry Leiber and Michael Stoller actually penned “Hound Dog.”
35. Popular Password
The king of rock didn’t only leave behind a legacy of the best songs, his name is also a favorite among a very strange group of people. Indeed, fans or not, the name “Elvis” is one of the most popular passwords for computer users.
It’s no surprise that Elvis Presley become a legend of the music world and left a legacy behind him, but he probably would have never guessed that his name would become forever inscribed in the world wide web. We’re not done yet, read on fore even more fascinating hidden secrets about Elvis.
36. Dyed His Eyelashes
You already know that Elvis was a natural-blonde and dyed his hair jet black with shoe polish. Well, it turns out that the king of rock and roll also dyed his eyelashes black, which makes sense because come to think of it, who would want black hair and blonde lashes?
This habit actually caused Elvis many healthy problems in his later life because of how often he used to use his dying techniques. This wasn’t the only physical qualm Elvis suffered from as you’ll soon find out.
37. Designated Hairdresser
Elvis Presley only trusted just one man to cut his hair, and he was none other than his mother Gladys’s hairdresser Mr. Gill. His hairdresser was prepared to travel to any place in order to cut Elvis’s hair.
The creepy part is that this Mr. Gill held onto many of Elvis’s hair trimmings and auctioned them off after the king of rock died. Now that’s one strange hidden secret, but the next seems even stranger.
38. Johnny Cash Fan
The king of rock was a legendary musical talent, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t recognize and appreciate the talents of other famous musicians. One of his favorites was Johnny Cash, the country music icon, guitarist, actor, and author.
The two were actually friends and loved and admired one another very much to the extent that they even tried to impersonate each other. That’s what you call a major bromance! They were both part of the Million Dollar Quartet, which was an impromptu jamming session between them and Jerry Lee Lewis in 1956, at the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.
39. The Book That Killed Presley
Just two weeks before Elvis Presley passed away on August 16, 1977, the book Elvis: What Happened? was released on August, 1. The book was written by three of his former bodyguards and detailed many secrets about his personal life.
He tried to pay the publishers before to stop them from publishing the book, but to no avail. The details in the book only exacerbated his ailments such as an enlarged colon, blood pressure, liver damage, and glaucoma.
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