The Incredible Ride That Was Elvis Presley’s Life
Andrew Parker - September 5, 2019

Lester

By Shel Silverstein

Lester was given a magic wish
By the goblin who lives in the banyan tree,
And with his wish he wished for two more wishes-
So now instead of just one wish, he cleverly had three.
And with each one of these
He simply wished for three more wishes,
Which gave him three old wishes, plus nine new.
And with each of these twelve
He slyly wished for three more wishes,
Which added up to forty-six -- or is it fifty-two?
Well anyway, he used each wish
To wish for wishes 'til he had
Five billion, seven million, eighteen thousand thirty-four.
And then he spread them on the ground
And clapped his hands and danced around
And skipped and sang, and then sat down
And wished for more.
And more...and more...they multiplied
While other people smiled and cried
And loved and reached and touched and felt.
Lester sat amid his wealth
Stacked mountain-high like stacks of gold,
Sat and counted -- and grew old.
And then one Thursday night they found him
Dead -- with his wishes piled around him.
And they counted the lot and found that not
A single one was missing.
All shiny and new -- here, take a few
And think of Lester as you do.
In a world of apples and kisses and shoes
He wasted his wishes on wishing.
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The King of Rock and Roll, the Tiger, the Pelvis. Elvis Presley was a larger than life character who quickly became one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. But how much does the world really know about Elvis? We’re giving you VIP access to the man behind the myth.

 

Elvis’s Twin

 

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Elvis Aron Presley was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was the son to a young couple, Vernon and Gladys Presley, in a small house Vernon built for his growing family. Elvis’s identical twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, was delivered 35 minutes before him. Tragically, Jesse was stillborn. Gladys’s complicated pregnancy resulted in her never having another child.  

 

 

Before He Broke Loose

 

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The world knows Elvis as a larger than life megastar who’s hip-gyrating, lip-curling stage presence had the world swooning. But as a young man, Elvis was shy and modest. He reportedly addressed adults as “sir” and “ma’am.” When he was learning the guitar as a young boy, he was too shy to sing in public!

 

Rocky Rock N Roll

 

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When he was 19 years old, Elvis auditioned for a gospel quartet group called Songfellows. The judging panel turned him down, a decision they surely regretted in the years to come.

 

 

The Hair

 

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To this day, Elvis is known for his iconic hair. His signature jet-black, slick and shiny hair was actually dyed and styled purposefully. Apparently, Elvis was a natural blonde! When he was just starting off, Elvis dyed his hair using black shoe polish. He took great care of his mane by growing his sideburns and styling with rose oil and vaseline.

 

Return To Sender

 

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Elvis asked his parents to get him either a bicycle or a rifle for his 11th birthday. Reportedly, they were unable to afford such gifts, so they gave him his first guitar. He was disappointed with the gift. He bought the guitar for $7.90 at Tupelo Hardware store. 

 

 

The Big Guns

 

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Since he was a young man, Elvis had a fascination with guns. He avidly collected guns throughout his life and carried guns with him wherever he went. Even during his concerts he kept a gun in his boots or tucked in his belt.

 

Covering His Bases

 

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Elvis wore a cross, a Star of David, the Hebrew letter Chai, and other religious symbols daily. He said, “I don’t want to miss out on heaven due to a technicality.”

 

 

Fashion Sense

 

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Elvis’ over the top outfits are iconic. His jackets and bell-bottoms sometimes weighed over 28 pounds. The classic white trousers and jewel-studded top are among Elvis’ classic wardrobe staples.

 

Many Hats

 

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Elvis’ hairdresser, Larry Geller, connected with the king from their shared interest in spiritual questions. Their conversations revealed Elvis’secret anxieties. “I mean there has to be a purpose…there’s got to be a reason…why I was chosen to be Elvis Presley…” Geller gave Elvis books on religion and mysticism, which he read avidly.

 

 

Voracious Reader

 

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Elvis was an avid reader. He kept books at his home, Graceland, and he also took many books on the road with him on tour. Elvis’ favorite books are worn and used; he often underlined his favorite passages and wrote notes in the margins.

 

Lonely Street

 

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Elvis opened up to his hairdresser and confidant, Larry Geller, about his secret thoughts and worries. He reportedly said to Geller, “I swear to God, no one knows how lonely I get. And how empty I really feel.” He opened up on love, too. He said that one day he wanted to settle down and have a family so he wouldn’t feel “lonesome right in the middle of a crowd.”

 

 

Jitter Bug

 

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In a 1956 interview that was only released in 2011, Elvis defended his controversial dance moves. “I guess the first thing people want to know if why I can’t stand still when I’m singing. Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people just sway back and forth. I just sort of do ‘em all together I guess.”

 

Sweet Son

 

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The first song Elvis recorded was a gift to his mother. He recorded two songs, “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.” He gave them to Sun Studio and paid $4 to record the songs.

 

 

Record-Breaking Recordings

 

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Reportedly, Elvis recorded between 600 to 1,200 songs. The definitive number fluctuates depending on if you consider Elvis’ unfinished works, alternative versions, and bootleg recordings.

 

A New York Minute

 

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Elvis Presley’s first national television appearance was on January 28, 1956. He performed on The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show in New York. He stayed at the Warwick Hotel on 52nd Street and ate dinner at the Hickory House restaurant.

 

 

Shock The Stage

 

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During his first televised performance on The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show, Elvis sang “Shake Rattle & Roll/Flip Flop & Fly” and “I Got A Woman.” Producer Jackie Gleason said after Elvis’ performance, “The kid has no right behaving like a sex maniac on a national show.”

 

Love and Loneliness

 

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Elvis gave an interview in 1956 in which he candidly reflected on love and loneliness. He said, “Am I in love? No, I thought I’d been in love, but I guess I wasn’t, it just passed over. I guess I haven’t met the girl yet. But I will, and I hope I won’t be too long because I get lonesome sometimes.”

 

 

The Elvis Sandwich

 

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The notorious Elvis sandwich, or simply The Elvis, is a known favorite of Elvis Presley. It consists of toasted bread with peanut butter, sliced or mashed bananas, and bacon. Some other variations of the sandwich have honey and are frequently cooked in a pan. The recipe for the sandwich has been published in cookbooks and newspaper articles. It’s even sold in restaurants, such as Peanut Butter & Co.

 

Famous Fans

 

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Elvis’ music changed the lives of countless celebrities. Elton John recalled hearing ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ for the first time. “The weekend, my mum came home with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and that changed my life. … Elvis Presley changed everyone’s life. I mean, there would be no Beatles, there would be no Hendrix. There would be no Dylan.”

 

 

Making History

 

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Elvis’ songs had a colossal impact on not only his career but rock and roll history forever. ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ was his first nationwide hit and it completely changed future stars lives, including John Lennon, George Harrison, Keith Richards, and Robert Plant. Paul McCartney said that the song was ‘the most important artistic creation of the modern era.’

 

Hot Track

 

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Mae Boren Axton was known in the music industry as the “Queen Mother of Nashville.” She co-wrote the hit single ‘Heartbreak Hotel.’ She vowed to Elvis that she would write his first million-seller hit song. A couple of months later, Axton pitched the song to Elvis. He was reluctant at first, but after hearing it he was hooked. He is said to have said, “Hot dog, Mae, play it again!” Axton played the song 10 times and he knew the whole song by heart by the time he left. 

 

 

Fit For A King

 

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Elvis never forgot his country roots, especially when it came to his favorite food. He loved southern classics like biscuits and gravy, potato cheese soup, and meatloaf with gravy. He never ate fish, however, and even wouldn’t allow his wife, Priscilla, to eat it at home in Graceland.

 

Larger Than Life

 

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Later in his life, Elvis weighed 250 pounds. The Washington Post’s Style section wrote in June 1976 wrote, “Elvis is fat.” After his Maryland Capital Centre performance, the article declared, “Not only is he fat, his stomach hangs over his belt, his jowls hang over his collar, and his hair hangs over his eyes.”

 

 

Fragile Ego

 

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Elvis loved comedy, including Monty Python and Johnny Carson. Elvis turned to humor to lift his spirits when he was facing tough times. But on his 40th birthday in January 1975, Elvis misconstrued a joke from The Tonight Show. “Elvis was always crazy about Johnny Carson…Johnny was doing his monologue one night and Elvis was watching him. Johnny said something about Elvis being ‘fat and fort.’ And boy, Elvis turned against him after that. He wouldn’t hardly watch him anymore. Elvis took stuff like that hard…”

 

No Love Between Legends

 

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The Beatles met Elvis at his house in Bel Air, California in the summer of 1965. According to Tony Barrow, the Beatles’ press officer in the 60s, it did not start well. The conversation was awkward until, “They all started jamming and that is when the party took off,” Barrow said. “With words, they didn’t have much to say. But as soon as they got into the music the conversation began to spark.”

 

 

Epic Karate Moves

 

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Brian Wilson from Beach Boys told Jimmy Fallon in 2012 about the time he met Elvis. Brian said that he met Elvis in a recording studio in Hollywood. He asked Elvis to come to listen to something they were recording and he said sure. Brian jokingly did a karate chop move because he knew Elvis knew karate. Elvis didn’t appreciate it and just left.

 

President Meets The King

 

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President Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley met on December 21, 1970, at the White House. Presley showed up to the meeting in a purple velvet suit, a gold belt, and a Colt. 45 pistol. The President said, “You dress kind of strange, don’t you?” To which Elvis responded, “Well, Mr. President, you got your show, and I got mine.”

 

 

Private Business

 

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The meeting between Elvis and President Nixon was a secret until The Washington Post broke the story a year later. The infamous photo that was taken of the two men in the Oval Office at 12:30 p.m. is the most requested photograph in the entire U.S. National Archives.

 

Presley’s Pets

 

 

Elvis loved animals. He had many pets throughout his life. Elvis’ mother, Gladys, had chickens, and Elvis had a turkey named Bowtie. Vernon, Elvis’ dad, raised hogs. Also, Elvis owned some donkeys which he kept in his empty swimming pool. Australian fans sent him a wallaby, which Elvis donated to the Memphis Zoo. He also had peacocks, but after they pecked at his cars he donated them also to the Memphis Zoo.

 

 

Imposter Kings

 

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When Elvis died in 1977, there were reportedly 170 Presley impersonators. Today, there are approximately 250,000 Elvis impersonators out there remembering the King.

 

Who Fired The King

 

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One of Elvis’ first jobs was at Loew’s State movie theater. As a teenager, he was an usher at the movies in Memphis where he was working on his smooth moves with the ladies. He sweet-talked the candy girl at the concession stand to give him free candy. Another usher ratted him out for it and was fired. 

 

 

The King Reporting For Duty

 

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Between March 1958 and March 1960, Elvis served in the United States Army. He was the most well-known name in the world at the time of his draft. He was offered the chance to enlist in Special Services to entertain the troops. But he decided to serve like any other soldier. This decision earned him a lot of respect among his fellow soldiers. People back home began to view him in a positive light. 

 

Naughty King

 

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Everyone had something to say about Elvis. Whether it was good or bad depended on the person. Many parents, religious leaders, and teachers saw Elvis as being a sex-crazed boy who needed to stop dancing so provocatively. Others loved Elvis’ unique style, free-style dancing, and handsome face. 

 

 

Madonna & Elvis

 

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This photo was taken on September 11, 1970, in Detroit. It shows a young 12-year-old Madonna Louise Ciccone excited to get a chance to meet The King. Elvis had left his limousine to head for the Detroit Hilton hotel where he rented 75 rooms for his band and entourage. A crowd of about 50 fans swarmed him, all pushing and screaming to get close to him.