10 Things You Should Know About Elvis Presley, the Undisputed King of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Elvis Presley (1935-1977)

Worldhistoryedu.com presents 10 very important things you should know about Rock ‘n’ Roll legend and one of the greatest cultural icons of the 20th century Elvis Presley (1935-1977).

1.      He went from rags to riches and fame

Born in a working-class family, money had to be spread thin in Elvis Presley’s family. When he was 13, he and his family relocated from Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. It was not uncommon for the Presley family to move from one place to another as his father took several odd jobs. In spite of all those hardships, his family, particularly his mother, was able to instill strong values in Elvis. The talented singer best epitomizes the American Dream, as he went from rags to riches and fame.

2.      His actual middle name was Aron

Elvis Presley was born on January 8, 1935 to parents – Vernon Elvis and Gladys Love. His full name was actually Elvis Aron Presley. Owing to his deep religious upbringing, Elvis later changed his middle name from Aron to Aaron – a name derived from the Bible.

3.      Elvis Presley had a twin brother

Elvis and his identical twin brother, Jessie Garon, were born in a two-bedroom house in Tupelo, Mississippi. Jessie is believed to have arrived about half an hour before Elvis. However, Jessie did not survive; he was stillborn and buried at the Priceville Cemetery. The death of his twin brother meant that Elvis had no siblings while growing up.

4.      He was closest to his mother

Elvis’ mother – Gladys Love – was his rock and shield all throughout his childhood and early youth. Gladys- an Assembly of God Church member – raised Elvis in very refined Christian values. She also encouraged him to follow his love of gospel music. After his father – Vernon – was incarcerated on charges of check forging, Elvis’ mother had to step in and cater for the young Elvis.

5.      Elvis’ first public performance was at a local singing contest

As student at East Tupelo, Elvis’ academic performance was at best above average. Unbeknownst to many fans of his, Elvis actually performed poorly in music class. He was a very shy and quiet kid at school. However, he did catch the attention of the staff and pupils when he sang during the school’s morning prayer. His teachers advised his mother to sign him up for a singing contest at a fair show in October, 1945.

Elvis, 10 years old at the time, sang a song titled “Old Shep” to the crowd. Although, he came fifth in the competition, his melodic voice got a number of applause from his first audience.

6.      He was the first person in his immediate family to secure a high school diploma

As stated earlier, the Presley family was the very definition of the 1940s and 1950s working-class folks. Hoping to chart a different course for her son, Elvis’ mother paid very close attention to his education. In 1953, the future Rock ‘n’ Roll icon graduated from Humes High school, becoming the first person in his close family to secure a high school certificate.

To support his mother, Elvis proceeded to take up a number of odd jobs shortly after graduating. He once worked as an assistant at a mechanical and fitting shop. For a brief period of time, he employed as a truck driver.

7.      Elvis Presley’s manager of twenty years was crucial in his success

Colonel Tom Parker (left) managed Elvis’ career for more than two decades

Known as Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ life-long manager was quite a character in several regard. First of all, his actual name was not Tom Parker; instead he was born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk. The Dutch-born talent manager is believed to have illegally entered into the United States in his youth before changing his name to Tom Parker.

Elvis manager covered his track by posing as a West Virginia-born , who would later work with a number of traveling carnivals. After working a number of jobs, Parker ultimately went into the talent show business, managing a number of country musicians at the time.

In 1955, Parker facilitated the purchase of Elvis’ contract by RCA from Sun Records. Subsequently, Parker went on to become Elvis’ manager. And the rest they say is history. Colonel Tom Parker brilliantly managed the career of Elvis, turning Elvis into superstar in less than a year. Under Parker’s guidance, Elvis released his first single titled “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956. The single, which sold more than 1 million copies, rose to the top of Billboard’s pop album chart.

Did you know: Colonel Parker avoided booking shows for Elvis outside of North America for fear that the authorities would find out he came into the U.S. illegally? Regardless of this, it has been estimated that about 40% of the icon’s music sales came from overseas.

8.      Elvis Presley was in the U.S. Army between 1958 and 1960

Already a household name by 1957, Elvis Presley received his army draft notice in 1957. A year later (in March 1958), he was inducted as private in the Army (second Armored Division) at Fort Hood in Texas. While stationed in Texas, his dear mother Gladys, 46, died on August 14, 1958. His posting to Friedberg, West Germany could not have come at a better time, as it helped the singer to recover from his personal loss.

In Friedberg, Elvis served a driver in the Third Armored Division. Elvis is believed to have met his future wife Priscilla Beaulieu while in Europe. Priscilla, who was the daughter of an Air Force captain, was 14 at the time. Elvis and Priscilla courted for a while before tying the knot in 1967 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The couple welcomed their only child – daughter Lisa Marie – in 1968.

As at the time he was discharged from the Army, Elvis had attained the rank of sergeant.

9.      The King was scorned by a small section of the public

Elvis featuring in publicity photos for the film Jailhouse Rock (1957 )

Elvis’ highly sexualized dancing style did not go down well with a small section of the American public. His dancing style, which often involved gyrating hips and lip curling, was seen by many as a perfect complement to his amazing voice. However, there were some few groups of people who saw all of that as very vulgar.

After appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1956, an effigy of Elvis Presley was hanged and burnt in St. Louis and Nashville. The protesters complained about how Elvis’ performances on the family-inclined TV show could corrupt young boys and girls in America. In subsequent appearances, the show runners purposely filmed from Elvis’ waist upward in order to avoid causing uproar from those small sections of the American public.

10. At just the age of 22, he acquired his Graceland mansion for over $100,000

The estimated cost of the massive mansion at Memphis – Elvis Graceland – was in region of $100,000. The 14 acre-property, which Elvis Presley acquired in 1957, went on to become his home for close to twenty years. The property’s name, Graceland, came from name of the original land owner’s daughter, Grace. The property itself was constructed by a man called Dr. Thomas Moore in 1939.

As the years rolled in, Elvis renovated the place, adding an indoor waterfall, a garden, and a tennis court. A few years after his death in 1977, Elvis’ former spouse Priscilla allowed the public to tour the massive mansion. It has been estimated that Graceland attracts over half a million tourists and fans annually.

In 1993, the property was inherited by Lisa Marie Presley – Elvis’ only child.

Did you know: America’s 43rd President George W. Bush visited Graceland in 2006? Bush was in the company of Junichiro Koizumi, then Prime Minister of Japan. The latter was believed to be a huge fan of Elvis, the King.

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