Can you believe it’s been more than 40 years since Elvis Presley passed away? The King of Rock and Roll lived the quintessential rags-to-riches story, going from a two-room house to Graceland, and traveling all around the world in his 42 years of life. Let’s take a look back at his life, his family and the legacy he’s left behind.
Birth Of The King
Vernon Elvis Presley married Gladys Love Smith on June 17, 1933, in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. When the couple learned that Gladys was expecting, Vernon borrowed $180 for materials to build them a home in Tupelo. He built a two-room house with the help of his father and brother. On Jan. 8, 1935, Gladys gave birth to Elvis Aaron Presley inside their little home. The house is still standing in its original location. It has been restored and decorated for the public to tour.
A Difficult Birth And Loss
Gladys suspected she was carrying twins due to the size of her belly and the double kicks she felt throughout the pregnancy. Gladys’ labor was long and difficult. When a baby finally emerged, Jessie Presley, the attending family members and midwife realized he was stillborn. It was Vernon’s father who announced that there was another baby coming, and Elvis was born healthy.
Perhaps due to the loss of her firstborn child and an inability to bear more children, Gladys was fiercely devoted to, and protective of, Elvis. The family lost the shotgun house Elvis’ father built when Vernon had to serve eight months at the Parchman Farm (the Mississippi State Penitentiary) for altering a four-dollar check. The family remained in Tupelo, Mississippi throughout his childhood, moving from one rental to another.
Faith And Family
Vernon was a deacon at the Assembly of God Church in East Tupelo. This was actually where Vernon and Gladys met. Every Sunday, the family worshiped at the little church. Elvis began to show an interest in music at the weekly worship services.
Discovering His Calling
Elvis received his first guitar as a young boy. Frank Smith, the pastor at the family’s church, taught him how to play. When he was 10 years old, Elvis sang “Old Shep” at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in Tupelo while standing on a chair. The budding musical icon reportedly won $5 in fair ride tickets. In addition, his performance was broadcast on Tupelo’s WELO radio, making it his first broadcast performance.
Starting His Career
After graduating high school in 1953, Elvis worked at a machinist shop but still loved to sing. That very summer, he paid about $4 to record a demo acetate record as a birthday gift for his mother. Sam Phillips, the Sun Records founder who recorded the demo, told his assistant to keep a copy and make a note: “Good ballad singer. Hold.” The following year, Phillips called Elvis and helped him begin his singing career.
Elvis recorded his classic song “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956. RCA released it on vinyl and it sold more than 300,000 copies within the first week on the market. It didn’t take long to reach Billboard’s No. 1 spot on the pop singles chart. It also hit No. 1 on the country chart and No. 5 on the R&B chart. “Heartbreak Hotel” was Elvis’ first RIAA-certified gold record, meaning it sold at least 1 million copies.
On March 16, 1957, Vernon and Gladys saw a 10,266-square foot home on 13.8 acres in Memphis, Tennessee for $102,500 and put down a $1,000 deposit. On March 25, Elvis purchased the property. The home was already named Graceland after the original owner’s aunt. The current address of Graceland is 3764 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, TN 38116.
Joining The Army
Elvis registered with the U.S. Selective Service System when he turned 18. He was still in high school and received a student deferment during the Korean War. Four years later, he received another deferment, as he was filming “King Creole.” However, once his work was completed, he was called to serve. He was inducted on March 24, 1958 and spent two years serving in the Army.
Gladys Presley’s Passing
Elvis’ mother became very ill in early August of 1958, while the singer was still in basic training. When she was hospitalized with acute hepatitis, Elvis was granted emergency leave and visited her on Aug. 12 and 13. When he went home to Graceland to rest on Aug. 14, Gladys suffered a heart attack and died. She was just 46 years old.
A Significant Meeting
In September 1959, while Elvis was serving the U.S. Army in Germany, he met his eventual wife, Priscilla Ann Beaulieau, who lived in the country because of her stepfather, who served in the military. The pair met when Priscilla, then a teenager, was invited to a party at Elvis’ home.
Leaving The Army
Although he did not receive his formal discharge from the Army Reserve until March 1964, Elvis left active duty in March 1960 at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He held a press conference in his father’s office at Graceland when he returned home, talking about how much he had missed Memphis. He also answered a few questions about the young lady he had been seeing in Germany.
Back To Work
Just two weeks after leaving the Army, Elvis was back in the recording studio. The resulting album was appropriately titled, “Elvis is Back!” RCA shipped the LP just four days after the recordings were completed. A month later, he began filming his fifth film, “G.I. Blues,” with Juliet Prowse. He filmed an astounding 10 more films over the next four years, including “Blue Hawaii” in 1961, “Girls! Girls! Girls!” in 1962 and “Viva Las Vegas” in 1964.
Vernon Presley temporarily moved to Germany while his son was stationed there. During this time, he met Davada (Dee) Stanley, the wife of a career military man also stationed there. Soon after they met, Stanley divorced her husband. She and Vernon were married in July 1960 and soon moved into Graceland along with her three young sons.
Shortly before Christmas in 1966, Elvis got down on one knee and popped the question to 21-year-old Priscilla. He presented her with a 3.5-carat diamond ring (with 20 surrounding, detachable diamonds) and she said, “Yes.” The pair said their vows on May 1, 1967, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. They flew from Las Vegas to California in Frank Sinatra’s Lear jet and spent their honeymoon in a 5,000-square foot Palm Springs home Elvis leased for a year.
Baby Makes Three
On Feb. 1, 1968, nine months to the day after Elvis and Priscilla tied the knot, their only daughter was born. While there are rumors that Lisa Marie Presley was named, in part, after Marie Parker, the wife of Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, Priscilla has said this is not true. In a 2015 Facebook post, Priscilla stated, “Elvis and I spent many nights looking through name books. She wasn’t named after anyone. We liked the sound of Lisa Marie Presley.”
The Fairy Tale Wouldn’t Last
Although there were rumors of infidelity, Priscilla has said that his constant traveling came between them. She told Huffington Post in a 2015 interview.
“It was difficult, especially at a young age, being a new wife and automatically being a new mother and being in rock and roll. The three really don’t mix,” she said. “I wanted to be a mom and yet, I traveled a lot and Elvis wanted me to be with him. It was a tug of war of trying to make it all work.”
Priscilla moved out on her own with Lisa Marie in 1972. In October 1973, Elvis and Priscilla’s divorce was finalized. Elvis and Priscilla remained close even after their divorce. There was no formal visitation schedule and Lisa Marie spent a great deal of her time with her father.
The King Is Gone
On Aug. 16, 1977, Elvis passed away. His fiancee, Ginger Alden, found him on the bathroom floor in the early morning hours. It was too late to save him. The official cause of death was cardiac arrest, however, it is believed that prescription drugs contributed to his early death. Elvis was only 42 years old. He is buried at Graceland alongside his parents.
Elvis’ father, who’d lived to see two sons and his first wife pass away, had been struggling with heart problems for some time when he died in 1979. Vernon Presley was 63 years old when he died of a heart attack. He had been the executor of Elvis’ estate, most of which was left to Lisa Marie.
Life After Elvis
Priscilla Presley never remarried following her divorce from Elvis. However, she had a son, Navarone Garibaldi, with her longtime partner, Marco Garibaldi. Priscilla also became an actress and is known for her charity work.
Lisa Marie’s Marriages
Lisa Marie Presley has been married four times. She married musician Danny Keough in 1988. The couple had two children. Their daughter, Danielle Riley, was born May 29, 1989, and their son, Benjamin, was born Oct. 21, 1992. The couple divorced in 1994.
A Royal Marriage
Lisa Marie’s second marriage was to pop star Michael Jackson. The King of Pop and the daughter of the King of Rock and Roll wed in 1994. The marriage lasted two tabloid-filling years before the couple divorced in 1996.
A Hollywood Marriage
More Wedding Bells and Babies
In 2006, Lisa Marie Presley was married for a fourth time. Her marriage to musician Michael Lockwood produced twin girls, Harper Vivienne Ann and Finley Aaron Love. Elvis’ fraternal-twin granddaughters were born in 2008. Lisa Marie and Lockwood divorced in 2016.
The King’s Famous Granddaughter
Elvis’ oldest granddaughter (Lisa Marie’s oldest child), Danielle Riley (who goes by Riley Keough), is an actress and model. She has been movies such as “Magic Mike,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Logan Lucky.” Her resemblance to her famous grandfather has been noted.
Other Family Resemblances
While Riley might have inherited some of her grandfather’s looks, she’s not the only one. Elvis’ only grandson, Benjamin Presley Keough, bears a striking resemblance to the King. Like his grandfather, Benjamin has a passion for music. Check out the uncanny resemblance in this photo from 2010 taken while Riley and Benjamin were taking part in a ceremony commemorating Elvis’ 75th birthday.