Elvis Presley facts: The King of Rock and Roll's songs, films, marriage, children, and tragic death

21 March 2022, 11:15 | Updated: 2 October 2023, 11:55

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Where do you even start with The King?

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Elvis Presley is undoubtedly one of, if not the most successful recording artist of all time. Over 40 years since his death, he still remains one of the most popular singers around the world.

In what would have been his 85th year, Gold looks back at some of the most important moments and facts that every Elvis fan should know.

  1. Where and when was Elvis Presley born?

    Elvis Presley with His Parents
    Elvis Presley with His Parents. Picture: Getty

    Elvis Aron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, to parents Vernon Elvis (1916 to 1979) and Gladys Love (1912 to 1958).

    He was born in a two-room 'shotgun' house that his father built especially for the occasion. His identical twin brother, Jesse Garon, was delivered 35 minutes before him, but was sadly stillborn.

    Elvis soon became close to both parents and formed a very close bond with his mother. He first found his love for music at his family's church.

    On his mother's side, Elvis's ancestry was Scots-Irish, with some French Norman. It is believed by biographers that her great-great-grandmother, Morning Dove White, was Cherokee Indian. His father's ancestors were of German or Scottish origin.

    In 1938, his family lost their home after Vernon was found guilty of altering a check written by his landowner and employer. He was jailed for eight months.

  2. How did his music career start?

    Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley in 1956
    Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley in 1956. Picture: Getty

    Elvis's music career began in 1954, when he recorded at Sun Records in Memphis with producer Sam Phillips, who was looking to take the sound of African-American music to a wider audience.

    Playing on rhythm acoustic guitar, Elvis was joined by lead guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, and performed a unique style of rockabilly, an uptempo mix of country music and rhythm and blues.

    With drummer DJ Fontana joining, Elvis and his group were signed by RCA Victor in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who would then manage him for over two decades.

  3. What are Elvis's biggest hits?

    Elvis Presley - Return To Sender [Video]

    We'd be here forever if we listed every single one of Presley's hits, but some of his most famous songs include:

    - Jailhouse Rock

    - Can't Help Falling in Love

    - Always on My Mind

    - Suspicious Minds

    - Hound Dog

    - A Little Less Conversation

    - In the Ghetto

    - Blue Suede Shoes

    - It's Now or Never

    - Return to Sender

    - Love Me Tender

    - Heartbreak Hotel

    - The Wonder of You

    - Are You Lonesome Tonight

  4. When did Elvis join the army?

    Private Presley
    Private Presley. Picture: Getty

    On March 24, 1958, Elvis was drafted into the US Army as a private at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.

    A huge media story, hundreds of people greeted him as he stepped from the army bus. He said at the time that he did not want to be treated any differently from anyone else, saying: "The Army can do anything it wants with me."

    He started basic training at Fort Hood, Texas. During a two-week leave in early June, he managed to record five songs in Nashville.

    After training, he joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany, on October 1. Other soldiers have spoken of the singer's request to be seen as an ordinary soldier, and of his generosity.

    He donated his Army pay to charity, bought TV sets for the base, and also bought an extra set of outfits for everyone in his unit. He returned to the US on March 2, 1960, and was honorably discharged three days later with the rank of sergeant.

  5. When did he get married and did he have any children?

    Elvis and Priscilla
    Elvis and Priscilla. Picture: Getty

    While in Friedberg, Elvis Presley met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu.

    They later married seven-and-a-half years after meeting, in 1967 in Las Vegas. They separated in 1972.

    The couple had one child together: daughter Lisa Marie Presley, born in 1968. Lisa Marie has also had a career in the music business, recording three albums. She has been married four times, including to singer Michael Jackson.

    Elvis has four grandchildren via Lisa Marie, including actress and model Riley Keough.

    Riley Keough (left) and Lisa Marie Presley (right)
    Riley Keough (left) and Lisa Marie Presley (right). Picture: Getty
  6. What movies was in Elvis in?

    Viva Las Vegas Official Trailer #1 - Elvis Presley Movie (1964) HD

    By the 1960s, Elvis devoted much of his time to making Hollywood movies and soundtracks, most of which were derided by critics.

    His debut was in Love Me Tender for 20th Century Fox, and he would later say that King Creole was his favourite out of all his films.

    In total, Elvis made 31 dramatic movies.

  7. When did Elvis die?

    Elvis Presley in 1977
    Elvis Presley in 1977. Picture: Getty

    The book Elvis: What Happened?, written by the three bodyguards fired by Elvis the previous year, was published in August 1977. It was an first exposé about Presley's years of drug misuse.

    By then, Elvis was struggling with various health issues: glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon, each possibly caused by drug abuse.

    On the evening of Tuesday, August 16, 1977, Elvis was scheduled to head to Memphis for the start of another tour.

    That afternoon, his partner Ginger Alden found him in an unresponsive state on a bathroom floor. Attempts to revive him failed, and his death was confirmed at 3.30pm.

    President Jimmy Carter praised Presley with having "permanently changed the face of American popular culture". Thousands of people visited outside Graceland to view the open casket.

    Presley's funeral was held at Graceland on August 18. Around 80,000 people lined the processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery, where Presley was buried next to his mother.