Rock Out to These 6 Facts About Elvis Presley – Interesting Facts (2024)

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by Bennett Kleinman

Original photo by Shawshots/ Alamy Stock Photo

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Few entertainers have achieved greater acclaim than the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Elvis Aaron Presley. From his humble beginnings in Tupelo, Mississippi, to his lavish later years spent at Graceland, Elvis lived a fascinating life, and his performances and songs remain almost as beloved today as when they were first recorded. In honor of the King’s birthday on January 8, we’ve compiled six facts about one of the most renowned musicians of the 20th century.

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Elvis Never Performed Outside of North America

Despite being a global sensation — an estimated 40% of his record sales occurred internationally — Elvis never performed outside of North America. In fact, the only time he ever held a show not on U.S. soil was during a series of three Canadian concerts, in Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver, all in 1957.

His tendency to stick stateside had little to do with his rumored fear of flying, however, as he still traveled by plane to perform in Hawaii in 1973. The most widely accepted (if still unconfirmed) reason for the lack of foreign gigs has to do with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Parker was born in the Netherlands, and reportedly feared that his status as an undocumented immigrant would make returning to the United States impossible. That may have been why he only booked Elvis on North American concerts.

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Elvis Was a Natural Blond and Used Shoe Polish as Hair Dye

You’d be hard-pressed to find evidence of Elvis’ natural blond hairstyle, as only one known photo exists, hanging on the wall of Graceland. From a young age, Elvis dyed his hair jet black with shoe polish — which was cheaper than hair dye — in an effort to make his blue eyes stand out. Elvis also began applying eyeliner to further accentuate his eyes around 1960, a trick he learned from actor Tony Curtis. As Elvis rose to fame, he continued to dye his hair to maintain his image, though he eventually shifted from shoe polish to a patented hair dye combination of Miss Clairol 51D and Black Velvet/Mink Brown by Paramount. Elvis later enlisted the services of Larry Geller, a beloved stylist in West Hollywood who also worked with stars such as Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen.

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Elvis Didn’t Write Any of the Songs He Performed

Despite recording over 600 songs throughout his career, Elvis’ skills were lacking on the songwriting front. In a 1957 interview with Dig magazine, he explained, “I never wrote a song in my life… I’ve never even had an idea for a song.” In fact, Elvis never learned how to read or write music. That didn’t stop him from being credited as co-writer on many tracks, as his label demanded that certain songwriters give up 50% of authorship for any songs that Elvis recorded.

This isn’t to say Elvis went about the recording process lazily — quite the opposite. In the recording studio, he sometimes did 40 takes of a single track until it was perfect.

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Elvis Earned Several Black Belts in Karate

Elvis began training in the shotokan style of karate in 1958 under a man named Juergen Seydel while he was stationed in Germany as a member of the U.S. Army. Upon returning to the United States in 1960, Elvis earned his first black belt in the style of chito-ryu from Hank Slemansky. Elvis later studied in a Memphis dojo under Kang Rhee, where he received a seventh degree black belt in 1973 and an eighth in 1974. Rhee wrote a book about his experiences training Elvis, noting that he “was the only person I ever saw wear boots into the dojo,” and that the musician “insisted on using real firearms” during training instead of wooden ones. Elvis was so passionate about karate that he later co-founded the Tennessee Karate Institute in 1974. Some have questioned whether his black belts had more to do with his celebrity status than his skills, but his love for martial arts was undeniable.

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Elvis Appears on the Most Popular Commemorative U.S. Stamp of All Time

First issued by the United States Postal Service on January 8, 1993, a stamp featuring Elvis Presley went on to become the most popular commemorative stamp of all time. In 1992, two prospective designs were presented — one of a young Elvis from the 1950s and another of an older Elvis from his 1973 performance in Hawaii — with the former eventually selected by a whopping 75% of 1.2 million mail-in votes. Some 500 million copies of the stamp — three times the usual run — were printed by the USPS. Elvis would be honored with yet another commemorative stamp in 2015, making him the only musical artist with two USPS stamps featuring their likeness.

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Elvis Purchased FDR’s Old Presidential Yacht

During his presidency, Franklin Delano Roosevelt recommissioned a 165-foot former Coast Guard cutter known as the USS Potomac as his official presidential yacht. Dubbed the “floating White House,” the yacht went largely unused after FDR passed away in 1945, though it was later purchased by Elvis Presley in 1964 for $55,000. Elvis didn’t purchase the yacht for personal use, however; instead, he donated it to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in 1964 so that they could resell it to raise money.

The yacht isn’t the only presidential connection that Elvis shares. Genealogists also discovered that Elvis is actually a sixth cousin once removed of President Jimmy Carter.

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Bennett Kleinman

Staff Writer

Bennett Kleinman is a New York City-based staff writer for Optimism Media, and previously contributed to television programs such as "Late Show With David Letterman" and "Impractical Jokers." Bennett is also a devoted New York Yankees and New Jersey Devils fan, and thinks plain seltzer is the best drink ever invented.

Rock Out to These 6 Facts About Elvis Presley – Interesting Facts (2024)
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