Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Elvis Presley
By L. Fernando
If ever a single musician deserved credit for taking the essence of Rock ‘n’ Roll music out of the shadows of African American culture and the early tunes of Chuck Berry and Ray Charles, and almost singlehandedly propelling it into the limelight of the American public, that musician is Elvis Presley. And with his boyish allure, southern charm and enigmatic presence, Elvis Presley is a subject that one could spend half a lifetime digesting. Today is the time for you to acquaint yourself with ten things you probably did not know about the man affectionately referred to as The King.
He was born an identical twin
Elvis Aaron Presley entered the world a few hours before dawn on the 8th January, 1935. He was born to the young couple Vernon and Gladys Presley, in a tiny, two-bedroom ‘shotgun house’ that Vernon had built in preparation of his new family. But, Elvis did not enter this world alone. A mere 35 minutes before he was delivered, Gladys had, with great difficulty, delivered Elvis’s twin brother who was tragically stillborn. The Presleys named the baby Jesse Garon Presley before laying him to rest in an unmarked grave, and chose Elvis’s middle name, Aaron, in remembrance of his stillborn twin brother.
Elvis’s close friends and family have said that throughout his life, Elvis was tormented by a great sense of grief and guilt for his lost twin. His mother, Gladys, has even said in interviews that she felt that his semi-lucid sense of loss was the crucible that forged his destiny to achieve great things, because he “possessed the power of two people, and was living for two souls.” Certain psychologists that have chosen to study the enigma of The King’s mind have also agreed with Gladys’s views, describing it in what they term as the ‘twinless twin syndrome.’ They say that once a person is made aware that they once had a twin, it sets in motion a never ceasing emotional pendulum within the person’s psyche; on one hand such a person feels the insurmountable need to prove themselves unique and a completely separate person, but on the other hand, yearn for contact with their lost twin and endure painful feelings of guilt due to their success. In fact, later on in his life, it was clear to those around him that Elvis was never at rest emotionally, and he himself would refer to his dead twin as his “original bodyguard.” It is said that he also sought communion and re-union with his twin through books, religion and meditation, sensing that his dead brother was a spiritual guide who directed him to search for meaning in life.
He did not really want his first guitar
When Elvis turned 11, his parents could not afford the bicycle that he wanted for his birthday so he asked his parents for money to buy a rifle instead. His mother, who was not too pleased with his second choice of gift, managed to talk him into getting a guitar instead, and the young Elvis bought his first guitar for $12.95 from the local hardware store. It was with this guitar that Elvis would build his musical journey on, starting with a few simple guitar lessons from friends and uncles. He would also go onto use the guitar for his very first recordings with Sun Records that would open the floodgates to his fame.
But, his obsession with guns would continue through later life. At the time of his death Elvis had nearly 40 guns in his possession including a sub-machine gun. And according to those closest to him, Elvis was fond of having a few guns on or around him at all times. They even recall how he used to shoot at TV sets if they showed either Robert Goulet or Mel Torme. Elvis was also reported to have even performed a few shows with a pistol in each boot after receiving an assassination threat.
Elvis was awarded a medal for marksmanship and another for sharpshooting during his service in the United States Military and also had a Smith & Wesson signature revolver designed in his honor.
He had a strange way with women
The legend is that Elvis could make any girl fall into bed with him by just looking into her eyes.
Even before the fame and super-stardom, Elvis exhibited an ability to charm and enthrall women; he was fired from his first job as an usher of a local movie theater for accepting free candy from the girl who worked the concession stand. And with his meteoric rise to fame, Elvis was soon signing ‘Elvis’ on the left breasts of star-struck female fans and ‘Presley’ on their right. He would also eventually date some of the most beautiful women in America from actresses to beauty queens. Elvis’s enigmatic pull over the female mind was such that the first riot after one of his shows took place in Jacksonville, Florida, after he closed the show by saying “Girls, I’ll see you backstage.” It is also reported that Elvis had a significant problem with teenage boys wanting to beat him up on his tour stops.
Still, for all The King’s enchantment over women, he was also afflicted by a troubling psychological complex. Suffering from a troubled childhood beginning from the day of his birth when he lost his twin, Elvis grew up being smothered with affection and over protected by his mother. This in turn resulted in Elvis growing up an emotionally stunted man-child, who needed someone to take care of him at all times. This also resulted in a deeply ingrained fear in Elvis that he might be inadequate as a lover and a paranoia that he would not live up to women’s expectations beneath the sheets. Elvis thus developed a psychological complex which drew him uncontrollably to young virgins whom he felt would not demand full-on-sex from him and would not have any prior experience to compare him against. This led to Elvis developing a series of strange relationships with girls as young as 14 while he was in his early twenties. Elvis was even reported to have turned away gorgeous and willing 20 year olds from his bed during this period of his life.
Although Elvis’s fascination with what he termed as his ‘young cherries’ might disturb some, it is reported that Elvis never moved beyond heavy petting and kissing with his younger ‘lovers.’ In fact his agent at the time, Byron Raphael, has stated that he would more often than not teach the girls to put on make-up the way he liked and stop at heavy make out sessions. Raphael also recalls one incident in which he brought three young girls into Presley’s bedroom. He says that even then Elvis did not go beyond kissing and affectionate fondling, and eventually fell asleep with his arms around them, as his records played in the background.
Like Elvis himself was fond of saying – “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand, son. You never walked in that man’s shoes.”
He only performed five official concerts outside the United States
Despite his immense popularity the world over, Elvis performed a mere five concerts outside of the United States, and all of those in Canada. He did give an impromptu performance while on leave from the U.S. Army in Paris but it was not an official concert and he never performed outside of the United States again.
Although he was planning a European tour at the time of his death, his lack of worldwide appearances was partially attributed to the international travel restrictions his manager Colonel Tom Parker faced, due to his shoddy past. Before signing on to manage Elvis, the Colonel was a small-time crook and was infamous for painting sparrows yellow and selling them as canaries.
The Colonel and The King shared a love-hate relationship due to the Colonel’s overbearing style of management that Elvis felt at times restricted his creativity and freedom. Yet, most of Elvis’s close friends have observed that a person as emotionally fragile as Elvis needed the Colonel’s firm hand guiding him on some level, and that was the reason that they stuck together for so long. It is also reported that the Colonel got 50% off everything Elvis made since 1967 and also earned additional pay as a technical advisor for all of Elvis’s movies.
He owned a pet chimpanzee
No rock star is complete without his eccentric possessions, and Elvis truly understood this when he adopted a chimpanzee named Scatter from a children’s entertainer in Memphis. Scatter was a well trained performer and also had a proclivity for peeking under women’s skirts. Elvis is said to have found this trait hilarious and was known to amuse himself by gathering his female friends together and unleashing Scatter on them. Scatter died of liver failure due to the drinking problem that the he developed over his tenure with The King. There are also rumors that a maid poisoned the chimp after it had bitten her. (Rumors that Scatter peeked under the maid’s skirts and ran around yelling the color of her knickers are yet unconfirmed)
He was threatened with arrest for gyrating
In August, 1956, Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding attended one of Elvis’s early concerts in Florida and was treated to an eyeful of The King’s grooving hips. The judge later threatened to have Elvis arrested if he did not tone down his stage act and warned him that he would only permit “limited side-to-side movements.”
There are an estimated 250,000 Elvis impersonators.
You only know you have hit it big when significant numbers of people start imitating you; and Elvis enthusiasts and magazines worldwide place the number of Elvis impersonators anywhere between 80,000 and 250,000.
But you know you are a god on earth when you have an entire association dedicated to the profession of imitating you. While Iron Maiden have the Iron Maiden’s, The Beatle’s have Beatlejuice and Oasis have No Way Sis, Elvis Presley has the A.P.E.P.T.A – more commonly known as the Association of Professional Elvis Presley Tribute Artists.
He was a natural blonde
Elvis’s signature slick and shiny raven hair was actually a dye job. The King was in fact born blonde and started dying his hair black to achieve an edgier look. The hair dyes he used to achieve his signature look are Miss Clairol 51D and Black Velvet & Mink Brown by paramount. Elvis has also confessed to dying his hair with black shoe polish in his do-it-yourself salad days.
He was a religious punter…of sorts
In addition to his over the top jackets and bell-bottoms that would sometimes weigh over two stone, Elvis also wore a cross, a Star of David, the Hebrew letter Chai, and other religious symbols around his neck. His reasoning behind this was quite simple – “I don’t want to miss out on heaven due to a technicality.”
He traded a $5000 watch for a $5 one
Rock ‘n’ Roll super-gods in their own right, the members of Led Zeppelin were reportedly huge fans of Elvis and were desperate to meet him while touring the US. They finally got the chance to meet The King in Los Angeles in 1973 and were pretty much rendered speechless. Apparently the only thing John Paul Jones could do during the initial stages of this meeting was compliment Elvis on his watch. The King in true princely fashion had then broken the ice by promptly swapping his 5000 dollar gold and diamond timepiece for Jones’ Mickey Mouse watch.
Elvis Presley who charmed the whole world with his undeniable talent, good looks and charisma passed away at his Memphis home, Graceland, on August 16, 1977, bidding farewell to his millions of fans that mourned his loss as they would a family member.