Featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
When most people think of Elvis Presley, the “King of Rock and Roll,” typically comes to mind. Some may even get “All Shook Up” thinking about his possible drug addiction or even the conspiracy theories that he may still be roaming the Earth somewhere.
But there are so many other tidbits about this bedazzled jumpsuit-wearing “Big Hunk O’Love” that the girls just “Can’t Help Falling in Love” with. Let’s rock and roll before these puns get to be a little “Too Much.”
Elvis recorded his first song at the age of 18, and it cost him $4
In 1953, Elvis paid $4 to record a song as a birthday gift for his mother. Unfortunately, Elvis’ mother never heard the song as the Presley family didn’t own a record player, and Elvis never released this tune publicly. A year later, the King followed up this mishap by recording “That’s All Right Mama.” And the rest was history; by 1956, he was Elvis.
Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion is the second-most visited home in the United States
Following the death of Elvis, his ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, opened their estate for tours to the public. On average, nearly 600,000 fans visit Graceland to see Presley’s home, compared to the 1.25 million visitors of the White House, each year.
Believe It or Not!, Elvis bought the Memphis mansion for $102,500 in 1957 when he was only 22 years old. Today, Graceland belongs to Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’s daughter, and the total economic impact on the city of Memphis from Graceland visitors is estimated to be $150 million per year or possibly much more.
Elvis was a seventh-degree black belt in karate
Starting his training in Europe in 1958 while in the Army, Elvis studied martial arts until his death in 1977.
He even showed off his skills in a 1971 encounter with the King of “Shock,” Alice Cooper, in a hotel in Las Vegas. Elvis requested Cooper to show up at the hotel, where Liza Minnelli, Chubby Checker, and Linda Lovelace greeted him. Upon arrival at the room, Elvis brought Cooper to the kitchen, opened a drawer, and handed him a loaded pistol, asking Cooper to put it to his head.
In an interview with Daily Mirror, Cooper stated, “A little voice in my left ear was telling me, ‘Go on, kill him, you’ll always be the guy who killed Elvis.’ In my other ear was another voice saying, ‘You can’t kill him, it’s Elvis Presley, wound him instead, you’ll only get a few years!’”
Within seconds, Elvis’s perfectly-executed flying-kick sent the gun through the air, all while he tripped and pinned Cooper to the ground by his neck.
“That’s how you stop a man with a gun.” – Elvis Presley
Elvis inhaled his tooth cap while filming Jailhouse Rock in 1957
Elvis’s third movie was the famous MGM film Jailhouse Rock. While sliding down a pole in the opening dance number, Elvis lost the cap off his tooth. Now lodged in his lung, Elvis required surgery while on set to remove it. The surgery required the separation of his famous vocal cords.
Though he was a little hoarse for a few days following, Elvis’s recovery was fairly easy.
The irony of this situation? The Jailhouse Rock character Elvis was playing, Vice Everett, had an injury to his vocal cords hoping there would be no lasting damage to his singing voice.
Elvis was a natural blonde
Elvis’s classic look as tall, dark, and handsome is not exactly all-natural. While tall and handsome certainly hold up, Elvis was actually a natural blonde until his late teens! Even after his hair began to darken with age, it never truly got to the shade we know and love.
Before he could afford the expensive luxury of real hair dye, Elvis opted for a cheap, DIY alternative — shoe polish! Of course, later in his life, he upgraded to a signature mix of the real stuff: Miss Clairol 51D and Black Velvet, and Mink Brown by Paramount.
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Elvis’s jumpsuits gained about 50 pounds during his run
Elvis first started wearing his iconic jumpsuits in the early ’70s. Each of them weighed around 25-30 pounds. In the later years, as they became more intricate with embroidery and jewels, some weighed in at about 75 pounds!
Elvis’s heaviest jumpsuit was his most expensive and most iconic, The American Eagle—otherwise known as, the “Aloha.” In all of its glitz and glamour, this suit cashed in at approximately $65,000. Today, it would cost four times that amount to make that same suit!
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Elvis is the second most paid deceased celebrity
Forbes’ latest annual list of top-earning deceased celebrities, put Elvis in the second-place spot. In 2023, The King earned $100 million just $15 million behind the number one spot, Michael Jackson. Back in 2007, Elvis snagged the number one placement, earning upwards of $49 million.
Despite being dead for over 40 years, Elvis still sells about 1 million albums each year.
The King of Rock had a twin brother
Elvis was born just 35 minutes after his identical twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley. The two were born in their parents’ two-room house in East Tupelo, Mississippi. Jesse Garon, who was stillborn, was buried in an unmarked grave in Priceville Cemetery the next day. Though Jesse’s time was short, Elvis spoke of his twin throughout his life.
Elvis made his Las Vegas debut in 1956 and didn’t return to the Vegas stage until 1969
Elvis first performed in Las Vegas on April 23, 1956 when he was just 21 years old.
He didn’t perform on a Vegas stage again for 13 years, but he did return back to Las Vegas a few different times before his comeback in 1969 — including to film the hit movie Viva Las Vegas in 1963 and to marry Priscilla in 1967.
Elvis’s Vegas comeback show on July 31st, 1969 was one of his most iconic moments as a performer. He then went on to sell out 837 consecutive shows through December 1976, before his death.
Elvis never learned to read music, nor did he write or compose a single song
Elvis recorded more than 600 songs in his career and did not write a single one. It’s said that he never allowed himself to be tied into one style, so he recorded songs written by dozens of different composers. This left opportunity to bring his own brand of emotion, energy, and feeling into his music.
On some of his records, he is listed as a co-writer, due to his label demanding certain songwriters to give up 50% of the credit before Elvis began recording it.
Elvis only appeared in one commercial during his career
In 1954, Elvis agreed to film a commercial for Southern Maid Donuts. He sang the happy song on the Louisiana Hayride in return for a box of hot glazed donuts. He sang, “You can get them piping hot after 4 p.m., you can get them piping hot, Southern Maid Donuts hits the spot, you can get them piping hot after 4 p.m.”
Unfortunately, the commercial was never released.
Besides commercials, Elvis made 17 major television appearances and starred in 31 movies. In 2004, a jukebox musical, All Shook Up, was released with music from Elvis Presley. However, the movie featuring the most Elvis tunes is Disney’s Lilo & Stitch. This animated feature hosts seven Elvis hits—more than any movie Elvis starred in himself!
Elvis never performed outside North America
Aside from a small handful of concerts in Canada in 1957, Elvis has never performed on foreign soil.
While the exact reason has not been confirmed, many sources believe it was decided by his manager, Colonel Parker. He refused offers for Elvis to perform in other countries because Parker was an illegal immigrant. He was afraid he wouldn’t be allowed back into the U.S. after the tour. Interesting enough, about 40% of Elvis’s music sales have been from outside the United States.
Elvis bought Franklin Roosevelt’s presidential yacht
Known as FDR’s “floating White House” from 1936-1945, the 165-foot Potomac was originally a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter. After the president’s death in 1945, the ship had a series of owners before Elvis bought it for $55,000 in 1964. Elvis gave the ship to St. Jude’s Hospital, who sold it to raise money for medical work.
Elvis Presley will forever go down as one of the most iconic performers of the 20th century. And while there are so many other interesting facets of his life, we “Thank you, Thank you very much” for learning just a few of the King’s more obscure facts with us.
In true Presley fashion, Elvis has left the building.
By Michela Pantano, contributor for Ripleys.com
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