30 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Elvis

Trivia and oddities about the "King of Rock and Roll"

Elvis on stage
Elvis on stage. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

1. The Acid Trip. Although he'd been fascinated by the appearance of the new, then-legal drug LSD, and had already used the Memphis Mafia as guinea pigs in a controlled "trip" that summer, it wasn't until December 28, 1965 that Elvis decided to take the plunge himself, along with girlfriend Priscilla Beaulieu. Since the King was averse to most illegal drugs and not much of a drinker, the possibilities appealed to him...

especially since he was on a spiritual journey at the time, the kind of thing that acid was supposed to aid. Read more

2. Stalin and Jesus. The year 1965 saw Elvis on a search for deeper meaning -- like so many who have conquered the world, he found life oddly dull and unsatisfying. Aided by new Mafioso Jerry Schilling, he embarked on a whirlwind tour of religious and metaphysical thought, along with some trips to cults that promised enlightenment. His quest came to a head, however, in a strange desert hallucination occurring on March 5, 1965, one that had nothing to do with drugs or drink. Read more

3. Elvis and Elvira. Strange but true -- the one-time Cassandra Peterson, known to fans as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, was once Vegas' youngest showgirl. Presley took a professional interest in her, advising her to focus on her singing, which he thought was impressive. But this wasn't another chorus girl conquest...

everyone's favorite Eighties TV horror host was able to keep her virginity. Until Tom Jones came along.
 

4. The Temper Tantrum. Contrary to popular opinion, Elvis lashed out at the Colonel on several occasions when he thought his career was going in the wrong direction -- most notably, the infamous "Hound Dog" incident on Steve Allen's TV show.

But on June 26, 1954, he exploded before his career had even begun: according to Sun Records employee, when Elvis was called in to record a demo called "Without You" (whose original singer had vanished without a trace), Presley found he couldn't match the anonymous performance and, according to Dave Marsh's book Elvis, he beat the walls of the studio and repeatedly shouted "I hate him! I hate him!" The singer whom Elvis could not match is lost to history. Read more


5. Elvis the Usher. Everyone knows The King started out driving a truck, but before that, he worked as an usher... and for those of you not old enough to know what that is, he led folks to their seats in the local movie theater, specifically, the Loews State Theater right there on Memphis' Main Street. And, perhaps predictably, he only lost the job because the girls liked him a little too much. He'd get the last laugh, though, when Jailhouse Rock would premiere there! Read more

6. TCB and the real Mafia. That famous lightning-bolt "TCB" logo came to define Elvis Presley in the Seventies... he even gave out "TLC" medallions to favored ladies which stood for "Tender Loving Care." However, many members of Elvis' famed "Memphis Mafia" have claimed the acronym (which stands for "Taking Care of Business") and the lightning bolt which always accompanied it is a direct tribute to Vegas Mafia iconography.

(Although some associates have also claimed it was a sign from God, or a tribute to the comic hero Shazam.)

7. Elvis and Goulet. Did Elvis really hate Vegas rival Robert Goulet? Some say he did, enough to shoot out the TV set Goulet was appearing on in the King's suite at the International Hotel. The official line now is that Elvis' display of marksmanship was totally random, though more than one Presley associate claims the King did not get along with Goulet due to an old rivalry over early Elvis girlfriend Anita Wood. Read more

8. The Second Elvis. Elvis may have been one of a kind, but he was actually born two of a kind... part of a set of twins. The other, to be named Jesse Garon Presley, died during birth, which was not terribly uncommon for a family in 1935 Mississippi. Elvis was haunted by the presence of a twin his entire life, say associates, and the unmarked grave where Jesse lies still exists in Priceville Cemetery, Tupelo, MS.

Read more

9. Elvis gets Bewitched. The King had a number of romantic liaisons in the Sixties, most of them famous. Yet few know about his reportedly deep love for Elizabeth Montgomery, better known as the original Samantha on TV's Bewitched. And although Elvis played knight in shining armor on at least one occasion, Montgomery's marriage, career, and the times both lived in keeping these two from realizing their romance.

10. His last book. Ever the ardent spiritualist, Elvis died reading one of his favorite books: The Scientific Search For The Face Of Jesus by Frank Adams. The King had specifically requested it a few weeks earlier, having heard that it proved the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, said to be Jesus' burial wrapping.​

11. The King loses his crown jewels. The popular image of Elvis as a mansion-dwelling, fabulously wealthy man is only partly true: when he died, the King was nearly broke, thanks to the divorce from Priscilla, his extravagant spending, and the endless maneuvering of Colonel Tom Parker. In fact, Elvis sold off the rights to most of his catalog in 1974 just to stay afloat, and it took years after his death for Priscilla to turn Elvis' estate into a money-making venture again. Read more
12. Dorsey Brothers Stage Show. Most folks think of Ed Sullivan when they consider Elvis Presley's rise to TV fame, or maybe Steve Allen. In truth, it was this famous pair of swinging big-band brothers who opened the door for Elvis' multimedia barnstorming -- a move which, ironically, would eventually edge their style of music off the charts. Read more
13. West Side Elvis. Most fans are aware that Elvis was offered some plum acting roles in his lifetime, chief among them the role Kris Kristofferson would play opposite Barbra Streisand in the second remake of A Star Is Born. But few know that director Robert Wise originally chose Elvis to play Tony in the landmark musical West Side Story. The Colonel, as usual, interfered, saying the role was wrong for his meal ticket. The producers then auditioned Warren Beatty, Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins, Burt Reynolds, Troy Donahue, Bobby Darin, Richard Chamberlain, and Gary Lockwood before settling on Richard Beymer. Elvis would have been required to sing "Something's Coming" and "Tonight"! Read more
14. Southern Maid Doughnuts. Before he was managed by the Colonel, who considered commercials beneath the King's dignity, Elvis made his one and only radio spot for a product, Southern Maid Doughnuts out of Garland, TX. No recordings of this November 6th, 1954 jingle are known to exist, although Johnny Cash's spot can be heard on at least one compilation. Presley was said to be quite fond of the donuts, having acquired a taste for them in Shreveport during his Louisiana Hayride days. You can still sit at the same counter he did! Read more
15. His favorite movies. Elvis was known to rent out Memphis' Memphian theater -- all of it -- so that he could watch private screenings of new films with his entourage. And he apparently had great taste in films, too: his favorites, in chronological order, were The Ten Commandments, Rebel Without A Cause, Dr. Strangelove, The Pink Panther and Dirty Harry movies, and The French Connection. His all-time favorite, however, may have been Patton, starring George C. Scott; he memorized every line of it and could repeat it at will. And his Dirty Harry fixation led directly to his purchase of a .44 Magnum. Read more
16. Elvis the Red? Even the most casual Elvis fan knows he was born in Tupelo, MS, and grew up in Memphis. Yet his actual family lineage is impressive, as well: Author Allan Morrison has apparently traced the King's family history back to Lonmay, Scotland, and further claims that Elvis is the direct descendant of Andrew Presley, who landed in South Carolina in 1745. And although unprovable, Morrison is fairly sure the Presley name goes back to a band of Vikings! Read more
17. The Hound Dog Incident. The Steve Allen Show "Hound Dog" performance has entered into the realm of legend by now, emblematic of the strained relationship between Elvis and the popular culture of the time. But while many fans thought Elvis was enjoying himself by singing to an actual basset hound, in truth he felt humiliated -- exploding in anger at the Colonel backstage for agreeing to such a stunt, and making the backing Jordanaires swear to never mention the appearance again. Read more
18. His last words. Elvis always kept his mind on the future, even as he was physically and emotionally falling apart near the end of his life. So it shouldn't be surprising that the last words anyone heard him utter, as he headed to the bathroom, were about just that. They're not profound by any means, but they are telling: "Billy, son," he said, referring to his upcoming series of concerts, "this is gonna be my best tour ever." Read more
19. His last song. Similarly, Presley's last performances, both public and private, don't reveal much in the way of understanding his demise -- if he was planning on slipping away into obscurity or simply realizing his mortality, it didn't show in the music. Then again, the very circumstances make his song selection seem sadder than usual. Read more
20. Don't. Elvis only ever commissioned one song personally; usually he was content to sing whatever was given him (at least in the beginning, when the monstrous consequences of the Colonel's sweetheart songwriting deals hadn't yet occurred to him). But famed songwriting team Lieber and Stoller knew just what to do when Elvis approached them in April of 1957 and asked them to write "something real pretty." The result was the smash "Don't." Read more 21. Elvis in Vegas -- Part One. The singer may have revived his career to a startling degree by playing Sin City, but not many fans are aware that he tried the town on for size earlier in his career, egged on by the Colonel -- and that his April 23, 1956 appearance were a resounding flop. However, he did score one of his biggest and most defining hits by enduring the humiliation, after he caught a house band tearing into Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog." Read more
22. The death of James Dean. Not only was James Dean an icon of ordinary, frustrated Fifties youth, he made quite an impression on the King, as well. And although Dean died before Elvis even made his bones, the King was obsessed with him; he even cried when he learned of his death. And Presley's brief romance with Natalie Wood was brought about entirely by Elvis' fascination with Dean's cinematic co-stars. Read more
23. The Gunnery's mistake. Elvis' Army years have been the subject of much discussion, if only because of what he did in his off hours, and how little his fans minded waiting for him. But his singing career was almost cut short by his service; a Pentagon official made him a tank gunner, which almost ruined the King's hearing until Memphis "Mafiosi" Lamar Fike got the Colonel to straighten it all out. Read more
24. It's Now Or Never. One of the King's biggest hits was written way back in the 19th century as the operatic standard " O Sole Mio," but since it took full measure of the singer's natural vocal tendencies, he wanted it bad, eventually turning it into the hit "It's Now Or Never." And he wasn't the first singer to do an English-language version of what had already been a pop hit, either. Read more
25. The stage fight. Any number of female fans rushed the stage to get at Elvis, mostly in his early years, when getting at him was much easier. But on February 18th, 1973, Presley's midnight show at the Las Vegas Hilton was interrupted by four men who foolishly decided to shake his hand. But Elvis' karate hobby, fortunately, allowed him to immobilize them.
26. The unknown Elvis. Elvis' 1968 "comeback" special restored his place on the rock music throne, and rightly so. Yet to get the King to agree to it, producer Steve Binder had to first convince him he wasn't King anymore by taking him down to Sunset Boulevard to see if he'd get mobbed. He didn't.
27. The King and the Killer. Jerry Lee Lewis was a friend of Elvis' from the old Sun days, but his penchant for showing up late, smarting off to cops, and carrying handguns led to his arrest... one that was pinned on Elvis for years, but which the Killer camp puts down to a mere misunderstanding. Turns out someone named "The Killer" should never joke about coming to Graceland in order to murder Elvis.
28. "If I Can Dream" and Bobby Kennedy. You may know that Elvis' '68 special was designed to make him relevant again, and that the time period it was released in was one of the most turbulent in American history. Yet not many know that director Steve Binder specifically commissioned the closing song -- a replacement for "Silent Night," which was the Colonel's idea of goodbye -- as a statement, a reaction to the death of Bobby Kennedy just a few days earlier. Read more
29. No shoe shine. Although the myth persists, there is no truth to the rumor that Elvis ever made any public or private disparaging remarks about African-Americans. In fact, the most notorious remark attributed to him, about blacks being fit only to "buy my records and shine my shoes," has been fully disproven. Read more
30. Elvis the sleepwalker. As a kid, Elvis suffered from a family addiction -- sleepwalking! There's no way of knowing whether the drugs taken in his later years curbed the affliction, but he'd stopped by the time he reached full adulthood. Nevertheless, sleeping on cue would become of paramount importance in his hectic professional life. Read more