8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Elvis Presley

Photo: Ollie Atkins
Photo: Ollie Atkins

Elvis Presley is kind of a big deal. While England spawned greats like the Beatles, Elvis was king in North America. After all, they don’t call him the King of Rock and Roll for just any reason.

With the number of records sold reaching 1 billion (yeah…a fucking billion), Elvis has sold more albums than just about any other artist in history. Despite his fame and recognition, there are a surprising amount of things you’ve probably never even known about the Mississippi-born musician—like the fact that he never once toured outside North America, which means the guy sold 40 percent of his records to people around the world who had likely never even seen him perform a show.

Here’s a handful of things you probably didn’t know about the King.

1) There were almost two Elvises in the world

Elvis was born on Jan. 8, 1935 at his parent’s small home in Mississippi … but he wasn’t the only one born that night. Jesse, who would have been Elvis’ older brother by 35 minutes, was stillborn, and buried the next day in an unmarked grave at the Priceville Cemetery in Tupelo. Throughout his career, Elvis would mention his twin from time to time, but most people never realized that there were almost two, identical Elvises in the world … I guess you could say, “There can be only one.”

2) Elvis’ name is Norse for “all wise”

While most people today hear the name “Elvis” and immediately think of Elvis Presley, the name Elvis is actually far older, originally being a Gaelic term for “rock.” … I’m sorry, I was trying to impress you. I don’t know what it means. I’ll be honest, I don’t think anyone knows what it means anymore. Scholars maintain that the translation was lost hundreds of years ago.

According to the internet, the name could actually derive from ye olde English name of “Eall-wīs,” which means “all-wise” … if you believe everything you read on the internet that is.

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3) Elvis owned FDR’s presidential yacht “the Potomac”

This one seems like something that was really made up, but I can assure you — it wasn’t. After FDR’s death spelled the end of his “floating White House,” the boat went through a few other owners before none other than the King himself purchased the boat in 1964 for a whopping $50,000. The boat was only briefly owned by Elvis however, and he soon after donated it to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital to raise money.

Ironically, the boat would later wind up in the hands of some not-so patriotic peeps who used the Potomac to smuggle drugs into San Francisco. In 1980, the old, old wooden ship was seized and later restored and opened to the public as a historical piece.

4) Elvis’ manager was an illegal immigrant

If you know anything about Elvis’ manager, it’s that he was a controversial guy, infamous for creating the “talent manager” role and with stealing a huge amount of wealth from Elvis. While most talent managers take something like 10 percent of earnings, Colonel Tom Parker took half. Anyways, we’re not here to talk about how shitty of a person the Colonel was, we’re here to talk about how he was an illegal immigrant and thus forced Elvis to never tour outside North America … well so much for that.

Originally named “Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk,” the Colonel was born in the Netherlands in 1909, until he immigrated illegally to America. Upon arriving, he created the persona of a West Virginia man named “Tom Parker.” Being an illegal immigrant, many say that he turned down offers for Elvis to perform outside the U.S. because he was afraid he might not be allowed to return.

5) The iconic Elvis look was based on a comic book

Synonymous with the slick, black hair, Elvis’ jumpsuits were one of his most prominent features during his time as a performer. The concept for his flashy jumpsuits actually came from a favorite comic of the King’s, Captain Marvel Jr. Elvis’ collection of these comics is still supposedly in the Graceland attics to this day, and he even put Captain Marvel Jr.’s symbol of a lightning bolt on his home’s walls, which you can see at his home today.

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6) Elvis’ most beloved pet at Graceland was a chimpanzee

While I wouldn’t recommend anyone keep a chimp as a pet (‘cause they have a tendency to forcibly remove the genitals of those they don’t like, as well as throwing their poo), much like Michael Jackson, Elvis too owned a chimpanzee. The chimp, whose name was fittingly “Scatter” (remember what I said about throwing poop?), was purchased by Elvis from an entertainer in Memphis who used him as a prop for children’s parties. According to sources, Scatter’s favorite form of monkey business was to peek under women’s skirts, something Elvis presumably found hilarious … cute. Scatter is buried somewhere near Graceland today, having died from liver disease (he was known to hit the bottle) while some suggest he was poisoned by a maid he bit.

7) Elvis was an avid reader, especially with Spiritualism

Later on in his life, Elvis became an avid reader and a diehard Spiritualist. Confined to the upstairs portion of Graceland by his own choosing, Elvis became quite the recluse in the years leading up to his death. Many nights were spent reading books like Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet” or “The Mystic Bible” by Dr. Randolph Stone. Perhaps his most cherished book was Joseph Benner’s “The Impersonal Life,” which covered self-discovery and leading a spiritual life. According to the Graceland website, Elvis bought hundreds of copies of Benner’s book to give to family and friends.

8) Elvis could kick your ass

While most know him for his hip swangin’ moves, Elvis also had moves of a more lethal sort. Everyone knows Elvis served in the Army, but did you know that during his time there, he also fell in love with martial arts? Over the course of the next 15 years, Elvis progressed through the ranks of karate during weekly lessons until he received his black belt, even opening his own karate school in Memphis back in the ‘70s. In addition to his large collection of books on Spiritualism, the King also many books on the art of karate, many of which you can see in his collection today.