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Five Interesting Facts About Elvis Presley That You Probably Didn't Know
Stories about Elvis Presley are legion, and much about his personal life is well-known. His craving for peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches, for example, or his love of cars and motorcycles. Or the fact that he met his wife Priscilla in Germany and fell in love with her when she was still in her early teens.
Here are some fun and interesting facts about Elvis Presley that you may not know.
1. His September 1956 Gig on the Ed Sullivan Show Wasn't His TV Debut -- and Ed Wasn't Even There
By 1954, nineteen-year-old Elvis Presley had become a singing sensation. Although his career was well-established in records, on the radio, and at public concerts, television was something new. His debut came on March 5, 1955 on Louisiana Hayride, a regional program originating from Shreveport's station KWKH.
His first national TV appearance came almost a year later, on January 28, 1956, on CBS's Stage Show, produced by Jackie Gleason and hosted by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. Elvis had a six-week gig on the show, singing such favorites as "Blue Suede Shoes," "Shake, Rattle and Roll," and "Heartbreak Hotel." On April 3rd of that year, he appeared on The Milton Berle Show, singing to servicemen and -women aboard the USS Hancock in San Diego. Then, on July 1st, he appeared on The Steve Allen Show, singing "Hound Dog" to a literal hound dog.
Going on the Sullivan show was a logical choice, but at first Sullivan swore that Elvis would never appear on his show. Sullivan was too concerned, apparently, with putting Elvis' fabled gyrations on what was supposed to be a family show. Sullivan only relented when he realized that Allen had crushed him in the time slot they shared.
As it happened, Sullivan wasn't even there to witness the gyrations. He was recovering from a near-fatal car accident that he and his son-in-law had been in six weeks earlier near his home in Connecticut, and his hosting duties were assumed by Charles Laughton -- not an unusual scenario in the days of live TV. (Sullivan couldn't have seen them live anyway, from his studio in New York. Elvis was actually in Hollywood filming Love Me Tender and broadcasting remotely.) Sullivan did show up, however, for Elvis' second appearance seven weeks later and reportedly couldn't understand why all the teenage girls were screaming.
2. His Father Was an Elvis, Too
Before Elvis Presley came along, most people would have been hard-pressed to name an Elvis, famous or otherwise. It was not an unusual name for Southern boys, however, and stemmed from the Old Norse word alviss meaning all wise or intelligent. One of the boys who got the moniker was Elvis's father, Vernon Elvis Presley, and Elvis Aaron Presley was named for him.
Actually, Elvis's birth certificate reads Elvis Aron Presley (with one a), a spelling which some have suggested was intended to match the name Jessie Garon Presley, Elvis's stillborn twin. More likely the odd spelling was just an oversight on Vernon's part when arranging for the paperwork. Elvis eventually had his middle name legally changed to Aaron, with two a's, which was the spelling he preferred.
3. He Was a Deputy Sheriff
Like many celebrities, Elvis was always concerned for his personal safety, and even though he often had an entourage, he liked the idea of carrying a gun. Unfortunately, it was illegal at the time for a private citizen to own a handgun in Tennessee.
Elvis got around this problem when Selby County Sheriff Roy Nixon deputized him.
There's no real evidence that Elvis ever acted as a deputy, but he certainly enjoyed being part of the law enforcement community. As a kid, he sometimes dreamed of being a cop, and when he was touring as a singer, he became quite friendly with the police and security people who were assigned to accompany him. He also belonged to several police organizations and had an extensive collection of police badges. One of the badges he cherished most was a Federal Narcotics Officer's badge which he cajoled President Richard Nixon into giving him when he visited the White House in December 1970. Before he left town, Elvis also visited the FBI and managed to procure permission to carry a handgun in all fifty states.
4. He Owned a Chimpanzee
Elvis loved animals, dogs especially, which he sometimes gave as gifts. There were a number of dogs at Graceland. Elvis also kept a stable there. And although he never owned any, Elvis also had a great admiration for tigers.
One exotic animal he did own, though, was a chimpanzee named Scatter, which he acquired from the owner of a Memphis television station and which, understandably, became a novelty. He and his buddies -- the so-called Memphis Mafia -- taught the chimp to do tricks, most notably pinching women and drinking bourbon while sitting on a barstool. Cute as those antics may have been, they eventually got old and Scatter spent most of his last days at Graceland locked in a cage.
Love Him Tender
5. He Doesn't Sing in All His Movies
Elvis made 31 movies in his career (as well as two documentary films). Some of these films were pretty good. Others were terrible. Some were quite unusual, such as Change of Habit, where Elvis played opposite Mary Tyler Moore, who played a nun, and Kissin' Cousins, where Elvis played twins, one of whom was blond. Almost all of them, however, were pure Elvis, which is to say they had a lot of singing and gyrating.
To cast Elvis in a movie that has him far away from a microphone or at least a guitar is a notion that borders on heresy. Yet he made one film where he doesn't sing at all -- at least not onscreen.
The film was called Charro! and it was a western. In it, Elvis plays a bearded character named Jess Wade, who is framed for stealing a cannon and committing murder during the Mexican struggle for independence. The film is about Jess going after the real culprits, and through it all Elvis doesn't sing a word. His singing voice can only be heard during the opening title sequence.
Needless to say, the movie did not do nearly as well as his some of his other films and is largely forgotten today. Go figure.