On this day in 1935, Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. One of the greatest musical icons of all time, he starred in 31 feature films, shattered numerous Billboard chart records and broke teenage hearts everywhere before his death in 1977.
You might not know that the Levitt is also a part of Elvis’ rich musical history: his first paid performance on a major stage was at the site now called Levitt Shell (formerly known as the Overton Park Shell). On July 30, 1954, he opened for Slim Whitman and Billy Walker, and in 2013, his only child Lisa Marie Presley also performed at Levitt Shell, free of charge.
In honor of what would have been Elvis’ 80th birthday, here are 10 more surprising facts you might not know about the King!
- Elvis had an identical twin. His older brother, Jesse Garon Presley, was stillborn.
- His signature coif wasn’t naturally black—he dyed it that way! Naturally a sandy blond, Elvis was fastidious about his image, even resorting to shoe polish early in his career.
- He was a martial arts aficionado. First introduced to karate while serving in the army, he went on to earn a black belt and helped establish the Tennessee Karate Institute.
- He once received a “C” in music class. His eighth grade teacher told him he had no aptitude for singing.
- Of the over 600 songs he recorded, he wrote very few of them. Although he had writing credits on multiple songs including “All Shook Up,” he mostly interpreted new versions of old standards or had songs composed for him.
- He was director Robert Wise’s original choice to play Tony in West Side Story. Elvis’ famously opinionated manager, Colonel Tom Parker, turned that part down—as he did with the lead role in the 1976 remake of A Star is Born.
- Aside from his Lifetime Achievement Award, he only won 3 GRAMMYs, and all were in the same category. Despite 14 nominations in multiple genres including country and R&B, his wins in 1967, 1972 and 1974 were all for his work in gospel music.
- He loved horses. Elvis owned a variety of pets including a chimpanzee, spider monkeys, peacocks and mynah birds, but one of his particular favorites was a golden palomino named Rising Sun, now buried at Graceland near his owner.
- No photographs or recordings exist of his first and only meeting with the Beatles. During the Fab Four’s second U.S. tour, Elvis hosted an informal get-together and jam session at his home in Bel Air, but purposely chose not to contact the press.
- He only performed 5 times outside the U.S. Despite massive popularity worldwide, Elvis’ international performances were limited to three cities in Canada, rumored to be because his manager had immigrated illegally and feared he wouldn’t be let back into the United States if he left.
What’s your favorite Elvis trivia?