If you’re a real Elvis Presley fan, you knew well before the coverage of his upcoming birthday that he would have turned 75 on Friday. The celebration will be marked by tribute concerts, movie marathons, book releases and more, proving that The King is still king.
You also probably know that Presley was a twin, that Priscilla was only 14 when she met her future husband and that he liked fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Here are 75 things that you may not have known about him.
1. Elvis is Norse for “all wise.”
2. Presley almost died in a Tupelo, Miss., tornado when he was 15 months old.
3. Research shows that “Elvis” is one of the most popular passwords for computers.
4. When Presley was 2, he wiggled out of his mother’s grip and joined the choir to sing during an Assembly of God Church service.
5. When he was 10, he sang “Old Shep” during a children’s talent show. He finished fifth.
6. At 11, Presley got a guitar. He really wanted a bicycle (some say a rifle), but his parents couldn’t afford it.
7. Once a boy he was wrestling with broke a hip.
8. The first time Presley recorded, it was for his mother. He paid $4 to Sun Studio to press two songs — “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” — as a gift for her.
9. Presley recorded anywhere from 600 to 1,200 songs, depending on whether the list includes unfinished works, alternate versions, bootlegged recordings, etc.
10. After Presley’s first TV appearance in 1956, Jackie Gleason said, “The kid has no right behaving like a sex maniac on a national show.”
11. Parents got freaked out, too. On New York’s Long Island, a 14-year-old girl told the press: “My parents locked up my Elvis records, and my father broke my record player.”
12. Another Long Island teen is captured in a set of iconic Alfred Wertheimer photos in 1956 — the white-gloved girl got out of a cab with her father in midtown Manhattan, saw Presley there, talked to him and broke down crying when he left.
13. Sometimes, Presley would sign autographs on fans’ breasts — “Elvis” on the left and “Presley” on the right.
14. In 1965, Presley talked about entering a monastery.
15. Presley started wearing a chai necklace because his mother Gladys’ maternal grandmother was Jewish — the reason why he added a Star of David on his mother’s gravestone in the mid-1960s.
16. When asked why he wore the necklace, he said, “I don’t want to miss out on going to heaven on a technicality.”
17. He also is said to have been partly Scottish, Irish, German, Welsh, Cherokee Indian and French.
18. A tartan was created in 2007 for the 30th anniversary of Presley’s death. It contains pink, baby blue, black and gold.
19. Presley’s 1961 hit “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is set to the melody of “Plaisir D’Amour,” an 18th century French love song.
20. Presley loved biscuits and gravy, potato cheese soup and meatloaf with mushroom gravy, but he also loved the fat-free, antioxidant-rich, very healthy beefsteak tomato.
21. He hated fish, and wouldn’t allow Priscilla to eat it at Graceland.
22. Presley preferred to take sponge baths, using a rag and soap.
23. As a teenager, Presley worked as an usher at Loew’s State movie theater in Memphis. He was fired when another usher ratted him out for getting free candy from the girl working the concessions stand.
24. He got to wear another type of uniform when he joined the ROTC in the 10th grade.
25. Although Presley was honored by his commanding officer for his “cheerfulness and drive and continually outstanding leadership ability,” some Presley insiders felt that his time in the Army tamed him too much.
26. The Germans called Presley “the rock and roll matador.”
27. He liked to smoke thin German cigars.
28. While serving in the Army overseas, his one disappointment was never meeting Brigitte Bardot.
29. Presley’s movie idol was Tony Curtis, who had black shiny hair.
30. Presley used Miss Clairol 51 D, “Black Velvet.”
31. The first time Presley’s hair was professionally colored, the makeup department at Paramount used “mink brown” to make it look black on screen.
32. Presley once used black shoe polish when he did it himself.
33. He also dyed his eyelashes, which caused health problems later in life.
34. In between filming 1956’s “Love Me Tender” and 1957’s “Loving You,” Presley had his nose done, his teeth capped and his acne treated.
35. Several big-time stars say they were influenced by Presley after seeing him perform when they were kids, including Bruce Springsteen, Roy Orbison and Cher.
36. Presley’s romance with Natalie Wood was short-lived, some saying it ended because he was just not that into her (and didn’t like the way she smelled).
37. He performed “Unchained Melody” only during the last six months of his life.
38. Some commentators say Presley’s voice spanned three octaves.
39. Presley had a slight stutter.
40. Presley used A&D ointment to keep his lips soft.
41. When he was young, Presley could lose several pounds during a concert.
42. Later in life, Presley topped the scales at 250 pounds.
43. Presley loved “The Tonight Show,” until Johnny Carson joked about him being “fat and 40.”
44. Presley was said to be as fit as a 21-year-old when he taped the ‘68 Comeback Special. He was actually 33.
45. He almost didn’t go onstage the first night taping the NBC show.
46. He recorded 15 songs with the word “blue” in the title.
47. “Queenie Wahini’s Papaya,” “Yoga Is as Yoga Does” and “There’s No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car” are just some of the strangely titled songs Presley recorded for his movies.
48. In the 1970s, Presley would start every concert with “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” a 19th century Richard Strauss tone poem and the theme of the 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” because he liked its rhythm and movements.
49. Viewers in the United Kingdom did not see the worldwide “Aloha From Hawaii” special because the BBC refused to pay the price for the 1972 concert.
50. Presley met the Beatles in 1965, although his manager, Col. Tom Parker, had to force him into having them over to his Bel Air, Calif., house.
51. He met Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys in 1975, but Wilson says the meeting ended badly when he made an unexpected karate move on Presley after Presley asked him not to.
52. Here’s what Presley and President Richard Nixon said to each other during their 1970 meeting celebrated in the famous photograph: “You dress kind of strange, don’t you?” Nixon said, to which Presley responded, “Well, Mr. President, you got your show, and I got mine.”
53. The meeting was a secret until The Washington Post broke the story about a year later.
54. Presley once gave Muhammad Ali a robe declaring the boxer “The People’s Champion.” (Ali gave Presley gloves that said, “You’re the greatest.”)
55. After receiving a kidnap-assassination threat, Presley performed with a pistol in each of his boots.
56. For his 36th birthday, Presley treated himself to police equipment.
57. In the early 1970s, Presley would impersonate a police officer, driving around with a blue light, long flashlight, a billy club and guns, and pulling people over. Instead of giving out tickets, he would hand drivers autographs.
58. During a concert at Nassau Coliseum in 1975, he threw a guitar into the audience, saying, “Whoever got the guitar can keep the damn thing. I don’t need it, anyway.”
59. Some members of the Memphis Mafia called Presley “Crazy.”
60. Presley’s karate name was “Tiger.”
61. He once broke a woman’s ankle while showing her a karate move at his hotel suite in Las Vegas.
62. Presley was a “dog” in Chinese astrology.
63. He was Patrick Swayze’s guardian angel, four psychics told the late actor.
64. Some believe that Parker had the ability to hypnotize Presley, especially before he’d go on stage.
65. It is believed Presley was prescribed about 10,000 pills the year he died.
66. When Presley played Madison Square Garden in 1972, he rented the New York Hilton’s top floor.
67. Minnie Mae Presley, Elvis’ grandmother, lived at Graceland.
68. Presley had a pet turkey. His name was Bowtie.
69. He also owned a basset hound, two great Danes, a chow chow, a Pomeranian, several horses, some donkeys, some peacocks and guinea hens, ducks, chickens, a chimpanzee, a monkey and a mynah bird.
70. Presley, his parents and grandmother aren’t the only ones buried at Graceland. So is his golden palomino quarter horse, Rising Sun.
71. It’s not clear where Scatter, Presley’s pet chimp, is buried. Some believe the hard-drinking animal died of liver disease; others say he was poisoned by a maid he had bitten.
72. Presley believed he would die in his 40s, like his mother.
73. Presley’s last words were, “OK, I won’t,” when he assured Ginger Alden, his last girlfriend, that he wouldn’t fall asleep reading in the bathroom.
74. It is estimated that there were about 170 Presley impersonators when he died in 1977. Today, some say there are 250,000.
75. The first post-death Presley spotting was in Kalamazoo, Mich., where a mother of five told the Weekly World News that she saw him in a grocery store and at a Burger King.
SOURCES: “Baby, Let’s Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him”; “The Elvis Encyclopedia”; “Essential Elvis”; “The Definitive Elvis”; “Are You Hungry Tonight? Elvis’ Favorite Recipes”; “Elvis 1956”; “The Unmaking of Elvis Presley: Careless Love”; goelvis.com; elvispresleynews.com
// Notes from the Road
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