The Other Side Of Elvis Presley You Never Knew

The King is one of the most polarizing figures in music and left behind a treasure trove of vintage photos, vivid stories and viral hits to prove it. From wild spending habits to the way he liked his women (as his wife, Priscilla, reveals), Elvis Presley was one of a kind. But there was more to the King than gyrating hips and all-white suits. Our favorites facts are #21#10 and #1!

#29. Las Vegas

Music critics despised Elvis Presley when he first showed up to rock and roll Las Vegas in 1956. It wasn’t quite the swinging sixties yet, as the town was still owned by a member of the Rat Pack, an informal group of entertainers centered on the Las Vegas casino scene. The WWII generation wasn’t quite ready for the hip-shaking King, but he rolled in any way.

Photo: Courtesy of Elvis Echoes Of The Past

Las Vegas Sun writer said, “As he stands up there clutching his guitar, he shakes and shivers like he is suffering from itchy underwear and hot shoes.” But the generations had changed by the early 70s, and the King made Vegas his home base. Elvis was Vegas, and Vegas was him.

#28. Graceland

In 1957, Elvis shelled out $102,500 for Graceland, the Memphis mansion that served as his home base for two decades. Situated on nearly 14 acres, it was built in 1939 by Dr. Thomas Moore and his wife Ruth on land that once was part of a 500-acre farm dubbed Graceland in honor of the original owner’s daughter, Grace, who was Ruth Moore’s great-aunt.

Photo: Courtesy of VOA News

The entertainer made a number of updates to the property over the years, including the addition of music-themed iron entrance gates, a “jungle room” with an indoor waterfall and a racquetball building. In 1982, five years after Elvis was found dead in a bathroom at Graceland, his ex-wife Priscilla Presley opened the estate to the public for tours.

#27. Modest Goodbye

August 16, 1977, was a day that, much like the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the news –Elvis Presley‘s funeral two days later became a media circus. With thousands of fans arriving in Memphis to pay their respects to the King at Elvis’ Graceland.

Photo: Courtesy of US Weekly

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. President Jimmy Carter’s message to the nation was; “With Elvis Presley, a part of our country died as well”.

#26. President Nixon

Elvis was back at the top, at least for a little while. He had always dabbled in drug use over the years, and by the mid-1960s, he used prescription pills regularly. His drug use was beginning to show its effects on him, which made his meeting with President Richard Nixon in 1970 all the more awkward.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

Elvis met Nixon in the Oval Office of the White House and had an odd request for the president. He asked the president if he would grant him a badge as a narcotics agent. This seems like an outrageous request, except for the fact that the President granted his wish, despite his lack of training.

#25. Eating Disorder

Elvis was always a well-sized man, being 6-feet-tall and having a size-11-shoe, but toward the end of his life he certainly gained a lot of weight. By 1977 journalist Tony Scherman wrote, “Presley had become a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self”.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

Another journalist said, “is almost unrecognizable, a small, childlike instrument in which he talks more than sings most of the songs, casts about uncertainty for the melody in others, and is virtually unable to articulate or project”. His performances were turning into spectacles, as he also suffered from glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon.

#24. Depression

The Elvis Presley that performed “Aloha From Hawaii” in 1973 wasn’t the Elvis that opened in Vegas in 1956. He had prescriptions coming in from five doctors, became depressed and developed poor personal habits, and sometimes became so concerned about his weight, he would lay in bed for days without eating.

Photo: Courtesy of The Inquisitor

When the King’s music gave way to rock and roll the likes of The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, Elvis could still be found on the strip rocking for a crowd that paid $17.50 for his show and a lobster dinner. The King was, and had always been, a man of the people.

#23. Jell-O

Elvis gained another short-lived nickname that stuck around about as long as Jell-O nailed to a wall. We can all be happy that the “Atomic Powered Singer” didn’t stick and understand that a nickname like that came from the United States at the height of its nuclear testing and in the group think of the Cold War.

Photo: Courtesy of March Matron

Speaking of bombs going off, Elvis Presley soared into the stratosphere with his debut album “Elvis Presley.” It was the first rock and roll album to go number one, and it stayed there for an astonishing ten weeks in 1956. Elvis had hit the ground running and was a star right off the bat.

#22. Mother

Eventually, Elvis would choose both. But at age 11, his mother got the guitar instead of the rifle. She wanted to keep his fingers stringing instruments instead of pulling triggers (though she was only delaying his affinity for guns for the time being).

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

It may come as a surprise to some that the ultimate performer was exceptionally shy when growing up. He learned to play the guitar as soon as he got it and started singing too. He was so good at singing that when he was 12 years old, a local radio station offered him a chance to sing on one of their shows, but he turned the opportunity down for a reason that’s very un-Elvis: he was too scared.

#21. Sandwich

Elvis was a big-time fan of food. It’s more what he ate that was his downfall than the way he ate it. He was fond of the “Fool’s Gold Loaf” of bread, which was hollowed out and stuffed with peanut butter, jelly, and a pound of bacon.

Photo: Courtesy of The Guardian

He was such a fan of peanut butter that he had his favorite variation of the sandwich named after him. His grandmother later shared her recipe in a cookbook: Two slices of bread, peanut butter, sliced banana, and bacon. No judgment here, as that just sounds so good.

#20. Yacht

In 1964, Elvis paid $55,000 for the Potomac, the 165-foot-long vessel that served as FDR’s “floating White House” from 1936 to 1945. Constructed in 1934, the Potomac originally was a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. After the president’s death in 1945, the ship was decommissioned and had a series of owners before Elvis bought it.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

Elvis’ yacht donation was one of many charitable acts after he would make during his life. In addition to giving away cars, jewelry and cash to friends and strangers, he performed a number of benefit concerts. One such performance, in 1961, generated more than $50,000 toward the completion of the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii.

#19. Police

Giving Elvis a badge was probably a bad idea. He loved to dress up as a police officer and pull people (mainly women) over to give them his autograph, being the first person in uniform to hand someone a “ticket” and say, “you’re welcome”. And those autographs were worth something, so rather than paying, the unsuspecting motorist was coming up!

Photo: Courtesy of Rolex Magazine

Priscilla is said to have disapproved of the practice, and a lot of other aspects of the King’s life. In 1972 the two were divorced, much to the happiness of women across the country. It’s rumored that Elvis would allow “good looking girls” to enter Graceland after hours, and one night, there were 152 ladies (ahem!) waiting outside!

#18. Colonel Parker

Parker was Elvis’ most trusted confidant and played a big role in taking Elvis to the top of the charts. But his background was a little fuzzy, and because he worked as a carnival promoter before the music industry, he seemed like an unlikely candidate to enjoy so much success.

Photo: Courtesy of Blurtonline

Often times Parker would refer to Elvis as “my attraction,” as if he were part of the carnival. Once upon a time he also painted sparrows yellow and sold them as canaries. As much as Elvis liked him, Parker was a shady man. When Elvis died it was discovered Parker was taking in half of what Elvis made.

#17. Illegal Immigrant

The idea to get married was another one suggested by Colonel Parker. He was always extremely conscious of the King’s image and went to great lengths to ensure he was well received. He thought the union would make Elvis more popular to the public, and pushed for Elvis and Priscilla to get married.

Photo: Courtesy of Popexpresso

Lesser known was the fact that Parker was an illegal immigrant from Holland. Elvis never once did a European tour, and only played in Canada for a handful of days during his career. It’s rumored that Elvis didn’t travel abroad because Parker would’ve been deported if he applied for a passport, and they weren’t going to risk that.

#16. Gun Love

Elvis may have gotten a guitar when he was 11 years old, but when he became an adult he finally got that rifle he wanted, and a whole lot more. Elvis loved guns and carried them around frequently. Tom Jones even remembers when Elvis carelessly left a pistol in his dressing room for anyone to take.

Photo: Courtesy of Wizard Vanish

A girlfriend of Elvis’ named Ginger Alden even recounted a time when Elvis fired a gun at a TV set. That’s not all. She also recalled a time when he fired a bullet into a headboard as she slept. He apparently did it to “grab her attention”. Let’s just say Elvis’ reasons for firing got pretty casual.

#15. Chimpanzee

Eccentricities are something that comes with fame (cause hey, when you got a lot of attention, you have to fight to keep it), and for Elvis that manifested itself in many ways. One way, in particular, was when he adopted his pet Chimpanzee Scatter. The chimp was a troublemaker from the outset, and Elvis was largely responsible for that.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

Scatter would show up wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and when Elvis hosted parties at Graceland he would terrorize the guests. Reports say that he received a sharp uppercut form a lady guest when he put his hands where they didn’t belong. He was also known to make big, loud entrances. Wonder where he learned that?

#14. Elvis Phobia

An interesting fact about Colonel Parker is that he used to paint Sparrows yellow and sell them as canaries to make ends meet before he met Elvis. Hopefully, he didn’t sell those birds to any minors, but when it came to Elvis apparently, he was a straight shooter, and Elvis rewarded him handsomely for it.

Photo: Courtesy of Yahoo

Elvis probably never would’ve touched those birds, as reports from Priscilla tell us that he was a germaphobe. According to her, he used to sip his glasses from the part above the handle, knowing that no one before would’ve drunk from that part of the glass.

#13. Lisa Marie Presley

In 1961 Elvis hit his stride as an actor and played the title role in Can’t Help Falling in Love With You. He also produced a number one single with a song of the same name. He did the same thing with “Return to Sender” the following year. He was dominating the entertainment business. But something was missing.

Photo: Courtesy of Country Rebel

After seven years of courtship, Elvis and Priscilla finally tied the knot, though rumor has it that it wasn’t their call. They had their only child together shortly after, a daughter they named Lisa Marie. But after they had a child, Elvis became distant from his wife, and the couple called it quits by 1972.

#12. Regular Soldier

Priscilla was concerned that her lover’s career would suffer from him being a regular soldier. She wanted him to go into the Special Service, which isn’t for the inept, but a place where he could do performances for the army, and would have contact with the press, and enjoy safeties that weren’t afforded to other soldiers.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

But Elvis had a manager that was top notch and clairvoyant and correctly determined that if Elvis did his time in the service, it would make him immensely popular. Colonel Tom Parker would have the King’s back through thick and thin over the years, and Elvis trusted him throughout his whole career to point him in the right direction.

#11. Priscilla’s Makeup

Despite their long relationship, and indeed, marriage, Elvis asked that the love of his life to always look her best and to uphold his idealism of her as a perfect beauty. No sweats and ice cream pints for her.

A source revealed: “Throughout Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s time together, the king of rock never really saw his wife without makeup“.

Photo: Courtesy of Vogue

Later in life, Priscilla also revealed that she wore makeup around him 100% of the time, and he didn’t want to see her get dressed or do her hair or any of the other things ladies do to look their best. According to Priscilla, Elvis liked the mystery. Knowing the competition for her man was fierce, Priscilla obliged.

#10. Priscilla and Elvis

Priscilla Presley met Elvis Presley in 1959 when she was 14. At that time, Elvis was serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. They began a romance, and Priscilla eventually followed Elvis to the United States. Eight years after they met, Priscilla and Elvis were on married on May 1, 1967, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their daughter, Lisa Marie, was born the following year, in 1968. Although their marriage didn’t last long (they divorced in 1973), Elvis and Priscilla remained friends, and raised Lisa Marie together, until his death in 1977.

Photo: Courtesy of Jetss

Elvis filmed Clambake in Los Angeles while Colonel Parker made the wedding arrangements. The ceremony took place at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, in the small second-floor suite of the Colonel’s friend, owner Milton Prell. The nuptials were presided over by Nevada Supreme Court Justice David Zenoff and took less than ten minutes. In true Colonel Parker style, a press conference was held immediately afterward, followed by a breakfast reception for 100 guests, including many members of the press.

#9. RCA

The record label that Elvis was signed with was RCA, and they managed to put together four albums from old recorded material during the King’s tenure in the military. When he got back, he was rushed into the studio, even recording a song during a stop on his train ride home.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

The result was 1960s classic “Elvis is Back!” The album was an instant success. It produced such memorable songs as Elvis’ rendition of “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”The album inspired one music critic to say, “Elvis’ singing wasn’t sexy, it was pornographic.” And with song titles like that, it’s easy to understand why.

#8. Charity

Elvis would’ve been a great soldier to serve with, and his generosity gained him fantastic fanfare. He bought everyone in his unit an extra set of fatigues and donated all of his army salaries to charity. He wasn’t just a music star anymore: He was turning into America’s son. Women loved him; men wanted to be him.

Photo: Courtesy of Marpop

While in the army, Elvis also got seriously into karate and studied the fighting style of Chito-Ryu by his instructor Hank Slemansky. Elvis would take the stage after his tour and use his moves during his acts. Before he left Germany in 1960, he was so good that he received his black belt.

#7. Dating Elvis

In a press conference on the day he arrived back at Graceland, Elvis played down his relationship with ‘the girl he left behind’. But in truth, though he was dating Anita Wood and several actresses, he seemed to have reserved a special place in his heart for ‘Cilla‘. For the time being, Elvis went along with Colonel Parker’s belief that an all-consuming relationship would hurt his image and be bad for his career. Priscilla patiently waited for their reunion.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

During their conversations, Elvis would discuss his career, even his relationship with Anita Wood, causing Priscilla to wonder where she fit in. However, he also insisted that he wanted her to visit Graceland. Cilla just had to hang on. And she did for nearly two years, even amid newspaper and magazine articles linking Elvis to beauties such as Juliet Prowse and Tuesday Weld.

#6. Meeting Priscilla

In Germany, 14-year old Priscilla would hang out at the Eagles Club, a place for eating and entertainment. According to Priscilla, she’d often just listen to the jukebox and write letters to her friends. One day, a handsome man looking somewhere in his mid-twenties approached Priscilla. His name was Currie Grant. He asked Priscilla: “How’d you like to meet Elvis Presley? My wife and I are good friends of his.”

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

Of course, Priscilla agreed, and the night she was to meet Elvis, she wore a white and navy sailor dress. Elvis lived off base in Bad Nauheim. On the evening of Sunday, September 13, 1959Currie, his wife, and Priscilla drove for forty minutes to get to Elvis’ house. Out of nervousness, Priscilla didn’t speak much. When she finally arrived, entered the house, and met Elvis, he’d taken a liking to her right away. He even seemed to be trying to impress Priscilla with his songs he’d play her.

#5. Serving Time

Elvis’ ride at the top was short-lived, or at least delayed for a while in 1957. During the Cold War, the United States instituted a peacetime draft to keep their numbers up in the face of the Soviet threat. When Elvis’ number was called, despite being one of the most famous people in the world, he reported for duty.

Photo: Courtesy of National Post

Elvis was conscripted into the United States Army in 1958 where he served until 1960. By then, he had fancy cars, women across the country losing their minds over him, many toys, and over $400,000 cash in a bank account. He had to leave it all behind while he fulfilled his duty to the country.

#4. United States

An estimated 40 percent of Elvis’ music sales have been outside the United States; however, with the exception of a handful of concerts he gave in Canada in 1957, he never performed on foreign soil. A number of sources have suggested that Elvis’ manager, Colonel Parker, turned down lucrative offers for the singer to perform abroad because Parker was an illegal immigrant and feared he wouldn’t be allowed back into the U.S. if he traveled overseas.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

The King had recorded over 600 songs in his career and his style was so unique he is perhaps impersonated more than anyone on the planet. He broke down barriers that paved the way for future rock and rollers and lived one hell of a life in the process.

#3. Music Scene

Elvis was a successful film star, but his absence from the music scene saw his celebrity wane. Other major bands such as the Beatles, Queen, and the Rolling Stones were topping the charts and rock and roll had exploded onto the mainstream, in large part due to him. The King wasn’t about to sit back and watch his throne be taken.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

According to reports, sometime around 1968, Elvis took a walk down a busy Los Angeles street and no one recognized him. He had come a long way from girls fainting and crying when they saw him. It was enough to cause him to relaunch his career, which he did with his television concert titled “Elvis.”

#2. His Hair Was Not Black

As legend has it, a local DJ played Elvis’ “That’s All Right” 14 times in one day. The Memphis listeners loved it, but the only problem was they didn’t believe Elvis was white. The only thing black about Elvis was his hair, and he used shoe polish to make that happen.

Photo: Courtesy of Rock n Tech

By 1955 Elvis was rising, but nowhere near the household name status, he enjoys today. In that same year, he bought a ’55 Fleetwood Series 60 Cadillac (his second Cadillac). He gave it to his mother who didn’t even have a driver’s license, but that didn’t stop him from touring in it with Scotty Moore and Bill Black in 1955 and 1956. You can view the pink Cadillac today at Graceland.

#1. Turned Down

When Elvis was 19 years old, he auditioned to join a gospel quartet called Songfellows. In a move the judging panel probably later regretted, they turned him down. But that ended up working out for all of us because Elvis had already started recording songs.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

The previous year, Elvis recorded his first song. He paid $4 to have the song tracked, and it was a gift for his mother. By then Elvis was in Memphis, Tennessee after his family moved there when he was 13 years old. In 1954, the same year he auditioned for the Songfellows, he was about to make an already budding music scene in Memphis rock and roll.

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  • About Author

    Luke H.

    Certified Translator recently graduated at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
    Gamer. Bookworm.

    What we do in life echoes in eternity.

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