Elvis Presley, The Man Behind the Image

Elvis Presley publicity photo for The Trouble with Girls, 1968
Elvis Presley publicity photo for The Trouble with Girls, 1968 | Source

The distinctive name invokes a range of responses whenever it's spoken. But what is the story of the real man behind the fame and the music?

Elvis Presley was a generous man, a compassionate man, an avid reader, a collector of guns, a karate expert. He traveled in fast circles of fame, fans and foes and often overlooked the distinctions between them. He also had a passion for fast cars, beautiful cars, even pink cars. His collection of fine automobiles included a 1975 Dino Ferrari 308 GT4 Coupe, a 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II and a 1973 Stutz Black Hawk in which Elvis went home to Graceland for the last time on August 16, 1977.

His 1955 pink Cadillac is one of the most famous cars in the world. He owned motorcycles including a 1966 Harley chopper, 1965 Honda and two 1976 Harley Davidson Electra-Glide 1200 bikes. His collections included a fleet of golf carts, go-carts, dune buggies, snowmobiles and jets. A private pistol range was nestled near his racquetball court in the serenity of his five hundred acre horse farm in Memphis, Tennessee known as Graceland.

The 1955 Pink Cadillac
The 1955 Pink Cadillac

Expensive Toys

Elvis owned two jets which were used for fun and travel during his hectic concert tours of 1975–77. The “Lisa Marie” was also referred to as his “Flying Graceland” and featured a conference room with six leather chairs, a living room with suede sofas, televisions, video cassette recorders and a quadraphonic stereo, popular in the era for its realistic sound effects.

He bought a former commercial airline which seated ninety six passengers, the Convair 880 plane, for a quarter of a million dollars in 1975 and spent an additional seven hundred fifty thousand dollars in refurbishing it. His other jet is a ten passenger Lockheed Jet Star with a galley, a bar, a private lavatory and a Sony stereo system.

Elvis' Lockheed JetStar on display at Graceland
Elvis' Lockheed JetStar on display at Graceland | Source

The House Where Elvis was Born

By Ken Lund from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Ken Lund from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Presley's Home in Tupelo

A man of humble beginnings, Elvis was the second born of a set of identical twins on January 8, 1935; his brother Jessie Garon Presley was stillborn. Elvis was named after his father, Vernon Elvis Presley, a hard working man who moved his family from their two room home in Tupelo MS where Elvis was born. They moved to Memphis, TN, where the Presley family would continue to struggle, residing in public housing in the poor neighborhoods. A grateful and dedicated son, Elvis worked part time jobs to help support his family while attending Humes High School.

Suspicious Minds, Elvis


Elvis' Mansion in 2001
Elvis' Mansion in 2001 | Source

Visiting Graceland

Entering Graceland for the first time in 2001, I was taken aback by the overwhelming presence of this revered entertainer who gave so much back to the community. Surrounded by his collection of magnificent guitars including his 1956 Gibson J-200, his Stradivarius-copy violin, his ebony Story & Clark baby grand piano and the gracious appointments in his memory-filled home, it became apparent this was a man of many musical talents.

His gratitude, generosity and humility were rare in one so entrenched in the rewards of his stardom. It was not unusual for Elvis to give money to strangers. His wisdom revealed itself with the story of his tossing five thousand dollars out of the upstairs window of his hotel room. The money landed on a crowd of well dressed and pretentious “high society people”. When they scrambled into the fountain to claim the fallen cash, Elvis remarked, “See, they’re not so high class after all.”

These are the actual costumes Elvis wore when performing on stage
These are the actual costumes Elvis wore when performing on stage | Source
One of Elvis' Stage Costumes
One of Elvis' Stage Costumes | Source

During Elvis’ 23 year career he received numerous plaques and keys to the city along with proclamations and many honors from his fans.

In December 1970, Elvis met then President Richard Nixon in the Oval office of the White House. He presented Mr. Nixon with an antique gun as a gift from his sizable gun collection which included a gold Pietro Baretta, two Smith & Wesson .357 Magnums, a Python .357 Magnum, a Colt Frontier Scout .22, a Derringer, and three Colt 45 automatics. Mr. Nixon gave Elvis a genuine Federal Narcotics Agent badge for his collection, which later led to idle speculation that Elvis was really an undercover agent.

A picture of Elvis' album cover - G.I. Blues
A picture of Elvis' album cover - G.I. Blues

A Generous Man

Elvis’ generosity included an annual tradition to issue checks to at least fifty charities. Beyond the well documented gifts from his benefit concerts, little is mentioned about the cash he gave to friends and strangers, the hospital bills he paid to support needy families, the homes he bought and cars given away with little if any public recognition. Elvis never forgot what it was like to be poor.

In 1961, Elvis performed a benefit concert raising over $65,000 toward building of the U.S.S. Arizona World War II Memorial in Hawaii, whose completion had stalled due to lack of funds. Elvis’ contribution was the largest single donation to the project and engendered a renewed level of public and media attention that enabled the project’s completion. The U.S. Navy placed a wreath in his honor at the memorial at the news of Elvis’ death in 1977.

Elvis was an entertainer who not only gave back to the community, he served his country completing a tour of duty in the Army during his incredibly popular years, 1958-60. Although often requested to do so, he maintained a personal commitment not to perform in concert during his time of service. These silent years were marked with two significant events that would forever change the young singer’s life: the death of his Mother at the age of forty-six and Elvis’ introduction to Priscilla Ann Beau lieu, who years later would become Elvis’ wife and mother of his child, Lisa Marie Presley.

The Hall of Gold Albums at Graceland

Graceland’s Hall of Gold houses gold and platinum albums and singles, representing the sale of over one billion records worldwide, beyond that of any other entertainer in recording history. Elvis was nominated for fourteen Grammy awards, taking home three for “How Great Thou Art” in 1967, for the gospel album “He Touched Me” in 1972 and for a live concert performance of “How Great Thou Art” in 1974. His lifetime achievement award was earned at the age of thirty-six.

Pool at Graceland


Elvis had 149 songs listed among the top 100 pop singles chart, 114 of which made it to the top forty, with 40 singles in the top ten. Eighteen singles made it all the way to number one of Billboard’s Hot 100 list, among these number one hits: Heartbreak Hotel, Don’t Be Cruel, Hound Dog and Love Me Tender (from 1956); Teddy Bear, Jailhouse Rock and All Shook Up (1957); Don’t, and Hardheaded Woman (1958). Are You Lonesome Tonight reached the number two spot in 1960,and his singles Good Luck Charm (1962), Suspicious Minds and In the Ghetto (1969) which reached number one status, bring back fond memories in a time when a new genre of music of the Love Generation began to overtake Rock ‘n Roll.

Elvis Aaron Presley's Final Resting Place on his property, RIP King
Elvis Aaron Presley's Final Resting Place on his property, RIP King | Source

This once shy boy who climbed the ladder of success retained a sense of gratitude and humor, who beyond being gifted, remained respectful of his parents, in particular his mother, Gladys Presley, whom he adored. What’s not to love about an appreciative, grateful and talented child who loved his Mama?

If you visit Memphis, Tennessee, be sure and take the time to spend a day surrounded by the memories of this great man, Elvis Presley, and visit his beloved home. These few words fall short of the depth of the man but Graceland will touch your heart.

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© 2010 Peg Cole


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 6 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

I think the thing I like most about Elvis is his heart - so full of passion and soul. He created some beautiful music!

Oh, I love your dog! It looks like mine a bit - is your dog Chow - mine is half chow and a real sweetheart - lots of love like Elvis!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

When I was twelve, Elvis was that incredibly beautiful boy on the big screen, who could magically conjure up a band on the beach, and sing and dance his way into feelings I didn't even begin to understand. When I was sixteen, Elvis played on the radio when my boyfriend and I drove down back gravel roads looking for a place to smoke up and make out. When I was in my mid twenties, Elvis was an overweight, sell-out singing "My Way" on a vegas stage, on a par with Englebert Humperdink, and Tom Jones.

Elvis was my youth and I mourn that he passed away so far from his roots. When you can buy every toy you ever wanted, how mundane life must have felt, how empty. Certainly, it couldn't have been much of a family life for the young Lisa Marie (else why would she have married Michael Jackson -- what sane woman would? except for the money.)

I too visited Graceland, and thought the place dark and macabre. Anyone would have become terminally depressed in that overbearing, somber decorating -- in the worst of taste.

Imagine being prisoner in that place -- because he was. He never knew the freedom of walking out his door and strolling the neighborhood.

I think he died a very unhappy man, despite his success and material possessions.

GeneralHowitzer profile image

GeneralHowitzer 6 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

The enigmatic elvis is highlighted very well with this hubs thanks a lot for sharing another great Hub Peg.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

kartika - Truly Elvis was a musical genius whose life and music has touched many generations. Thanks for stopping in to read. And I love Dolly too - she was a Pound puppy so we can't be sure of her heritage - most likely Chow and Golden. Her personality was unmatched by any dog I've known. Yes, she was truly loved.

Mordechai, Yes, you do look a lot like Elvis, only fuzzier.

Lynda - we're about the same age (I'm older by a year). Too late to really enjoy the Elvis phenomenon as a teen, I was listening to Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Rolling Stones and others. We mocked Elvis in his Vegas days. I was never a true screaming fan like the girls in the 50s.

I had a similar experience at Graceland. It was somber and sad on a cold and rainy winter day. But it transformed me from my previous indifference; I saw a different side of the legend and felt a sadness that his life, so full of things, didn't bring him the happiness many people think that money will bring. I love his gospel music and his generosity. We were told of his death while I was working a flight through Tennessee and the shock and sadness that filled our plane was amazing. Thanks for dropping in to comment. You're always welcome.

General, thank you for reading this Elvis hub and for your nice comments.

keira7 profile image

keira7 6 years ago

Hi my dear PegCole17, what i liked about Elvis, not only the music but also the way he was. The man was a legend and even with that he was very modest, and I liked him even more for that. Brilliant work as always. I have been reading your hubs didn't write comment but rate them up. I am glad to be your follower. You are a great writer. Thanks for great hubs and very good infos. Bless you.:)

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Keira7, Merci beau coup for reading my hubs and for your comments about Elvis. So many talented ones live such troubled lives ever uncertain about their true friends. He was a shy boy inside with an incredible gift for music and performing. Thanks for rating the hubs and feel free to comment if you have time. I'm looking forward to your next one too. Blessings back to you!

K Partin profile image

K Partin 6 years ago from Garden City, Michigan

Hi Peg, great hub, you did him proud. He will always be the "King" Thanks K.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Uhhhh Thank yew, thank yew very much. God bless.

Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

Hi peg. When I was a little girl I told my mom when I grew up I was going to marry Elvis. Great hub

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Granny's House, What was it like being married to The King?

pastella13 6 years ago

What a great insight into Elvis's past and achievements. Pink's my favourite colour. What a fantastic car he had. Elvis will never be forgotten.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thanks pastella13. Ahhhh, yes, The King and his cars. . . Always nice to see your face here on the hub. Take care.

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

I am a big Elvis fan - he still hasn't been gone near IMHO as the KIng - the great entertainer and one of the true great voices. Thank you for the tour of Graceland. I have never been and I love that you told us al the neat stuff that isn't normally covered with Elvis - he did like his guns didn't he. I remember the story of him shooting his TV up. Just great music right up to the end with Moody Blue.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hey billyaustindillon - I must admit I had to look up the meaning of IMHO. LOL! I'm so out of touch.

Elvis was an incredible man, still the reigning King. And I hadn't heard about shooting up the TV. Hah ha. Sounds about right. Thanks for reading and for your comments. I learned something today.

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

I love Elvis even though he was just before my time. I had a good friend die a couple months ago who was the best Elvis impersonator I have ever seen. He was Elvis 24/7 though—the whole 40 years I knew him. I have been thinking a lot about Elvis since my friend died. I might even write about him.

Your Hub is fabulous! I enjoyed it very much. Thank you for the good read.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi James, Please accept my deepest condolences on the passing of your good friend. Perhaps they will now share the stage on a different plane. So very sorry for your loss.

I'll be looking forward to an Elvis hub from you. And thank you so much for your kind words about this one.

butterflystar profile image

butterflystar 5 years ago from A Place of Success :)

Great HUB! Loved it, I visited Elvis's house when I was young, My father and mother were huge Fans of Elvis hence i got to go to see his home and it is a memory I will never forget :)

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello butterflystar, Thanks for reading this and for sharing your fond memories from your childhood. Nice to see you here! Peg

moonlake profile image

moonlake 5 years ago from America

Loved Elvis. I was in Germany at the same time he was there. One night a bunch of us went to the skating rink on base and someone pointed out Priscilla. She looked the way we all looked in those days.

Enjoyed your hub.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Moonlake, That is incredible. Too bad you didn't have a cell phone back then to snap a picture of her. She still looks great doesn't she? The boufant teased hair and black eyeliner was so cool then. Thanks for stopping by.

hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

Thank you very much for providing your readers with a more in-depth account of Elvis Presley. Prior to reading your article, I had no idea how compassionate and generous this man truly was, and it certainly sheds new light that endears me to Elvis even more. My mother was a supervisor at a gift shop located on the Coco Palms Hotel grounds, an area that provided a backdrop for at least two of Elvis' movies. During my senior year in high school, I was waiting for my mom in the shop when a striking young man who I thought at the time had the fairest white skin was shopping for some postcards. My mom later asked me, "You know who that was, right?" When I shook my head, she looked at me incredulously and said, "That was ELVIS PRESLEY!"

Aloha and mahalo for this beautiful hub, Peg!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hawaiianodysseus, Joe. What a wonderful story about your mom at the gift shop. I love that. You know, I had no idea of Elvis' generosity until I visited Graceland and learned more about him. His music was a tiny bit before my prime but was still very much loved and played by my elder sister. (Hahah - right, that's what they all say, before my time.) Anyhow, I love him now more than ever and will never forget working the flight out of Memphis the day we heard about his passing. The entire plane was eerily silent and some even shed tears. One of my most memorable trips.

Thanks for reading this tribute and for the lovely comment.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas

What a great tribute to Elvis! I have often read about his generosity and I love the quote you put in here, “See, they’re not so high class after all.”

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Au fait, Elvis was and remains an icon in the world of music. Even our current generation has respect and admiration for his breakthrough musical style.

I loved that comment he made, too. I follow Priscilla Presley on facebook and she seems to be a genuinely nice person who still loves Elvis.

DJ Anderson 23 months ago

Hello, Peg,

I am from Elvis country. Born and raised within miles of his birth place. Every one knew some one - who knew someone - that was either friends of his family or had gone to school with him, or his parents. My

grandfather used to tell us that Elvis' grandfather's farm joined his land.

We never knew if he was teasing us or telling the truth. He was a big jokester. My first mother-in-law swore that she used to go to the same church and even baby sit Elvis.

I was probably 3 1/2 years old when all the family and neighbors drove to a school auditorium to hear Elvis in concert. All I remember were women screaming and some man trying to sing to very loud music. Scared the crap out of me and Mother had to take me to the car. It never occurred to them that a 3 year old would not have an appreciation of an

up and coming rising star. Oh, Yes, I remember it well!

The first album I owned was, "His Hand In Mine". It was recorded in 1960. It was the only album I owned for many years. I learned every song and would sing along.

You have written a comprehensive review of Elvis' life and times. He touched many lives. My favorite recording was his trilogy recorded live.

It is "Dixie", "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "All My Trials".

You might like to check it out on youtube.

Great hub, Peg.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 23 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello DJ, What a great story you've shared here. I can only imagine the reaction of a small child in a loud auditorium with screaming women. The fact that you grew up in his home town is interesting. I imagine everyone who ever came to visit wanted to drive by his former house.

I appreciate your suggestion to check out his other work. I love the recording of "The Battle Hymn", it has always been one of my favorite Thank you for coming by and for the wonderful comment today.

DJ Anderson 23 months ago

Peg, Elvis bought the land around his little home in Tupelo and developed a park for little league and a children's play ground and picnic area. I had driven by the little white house a hundred time, but had never stopped to walk through the two room house. My husband and I were moving out of town and I said, it is a shame that we have never walked through the famous little home.

Well, it took all of about 5 minutes. It is unbelievably tiny.

I have never walked through Graceland. My Mother's family members were all from Memphis and an aunt lived only a few hundred yards from Graceland. I must admit, every time we drove by, I secretly yearned to

catch a sighting of Elvis.

When he died, people actually took off work and school to go hold a candle vigil. I have a friend who lives in Memphis and every year, on the evening of his death, she and hundreds more stand outside the gate to light candles. She has met people from all around the world who return year after year.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 23 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

DJ, My taste in music as a teen didn't include Elvis as he was more popular in my older sister's years. But, after touring Graceland, it was amazing how much respect I gained for his contributions and accomplishments beyond the music industry. I would love to see the little house in Tupelo where he was born. It is an inspiring story of achievement and talent. Truly, standing at his grave site in Graceland, there was a tangible feeling of his presence. The crowd was amazingly reverent and quiet as we walked outside by the pool. The people who pay tribute year after year are true fans.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 21 months ago from Home Sweet Home

oh i sure missed him, he is such a cool crooner, too bad he had taken the wrong turn

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Peachpurple, It seems as if celebrities are prone to taking turns that lead to disaster. Thanks for dropping in today.

jandee profile image

jandee 21 months ago from Liverpool.U.K

I think he was quite shy which is common in showbiz people. I used to be driven around Manchester,UK, in the big pink car,rather a pink one the same as in the snap,it was my friends( GI boyfriends car)

Lovely reading about him,thanks for nice post

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thanks for the visit, Jandee. So nice to see you here. I love big pink Cadillacs or any Cadillac, for that matter.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 21 months ago from North America

So many coincidences. Elvis Presley was a distant cousin of mine on my mother's side. My father had a twin that died before birth. One of my friends had a son born on Elvis's birthday in 1977, the year The King died. The friend, who was an Elvis Tribute Artist for charity, died in 2011 just a few hours from the anniversary of Elvis's death.

It is very good to see your positive write up about Elvis's good works, because several books by those in his "posse" and some hangers-on are pretty negative. The film "Elvis, That's the Way It Is" gave me the creeps in parts and I don't know if I want to go to Graceland.

Thanks for the Hub.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

That is fascinating, Patty. What an interesting family history. I never saw that movie but I really enjoyed visiting Graceland. I was really impressed by the facts of his generosity to strangers. It was eerie to visit his final resting place on the site and stand in the rooms where he had lived.

Thank you so much for sharing your part in the history of the man.

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 21 months ago from California

Such a generous man--I was struck by that--

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Audrey, Yes, that's what endeared him to me as well. I saw the cancelled checks from multiple donations he made annually. His generosity was staggering.

George Webber 19 months ago

i heard my first Elvis song in September of 1967 when i was 11 years old.i can't go even 1 day without listening to his music.Elvis's generosity truly inspired me as on July 4th,2012 i won $100,000 on a $5.00 scratch ticket and for the next 6 months i went back to the gas station i won at and twice a week i would buy gas for 1 and often 2 other people.i also bought meals for people and gave to charity and i would always buy extra lottery tickets and then turn around and give them out to people in line behind felt so good to touch other people's lives......just as Elvis did.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello George, You sound like a generous and thoughtful person. I'm glad you came by to share your experience and your musical interest in Elvis.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 14 months ago from Orlando, FL

Elvis lives on...

A fabulous hub tribute to the king!

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 14 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Sunshine, Thinking about you today.

mary615 profile image

mary615 14 months ago from Florida

I remember seeing Elvis on the old Ed Sullivan show performing Jail House Rock! I knew right away he was going to go straight up as a big star.

He appeared to me as a shy person; the way he "ducked" his chin and glanced downward.

I enjoy watching his old movies on TV. He really could act, too.

I would love to visit Graceland some day.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 14 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Mary, We weren't allowed to watch that show until much later in life even though we regularly watched Ed Sullivan as children. He did seem to be shy and modest, despite his amazing talent. I hope you get to Memphis one day and visit Graceland. It is strangely moving to stand where he once stood and see his home, collections and stand at his grave site.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 14 months ago from Queensland Australia

Elvs was a great entertainer and very generous man. I will always be a fan. Great hub, Peg.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 14 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you, Jodah. Me, too.

savvydating profile image

savvydating 6 months ago

Just this morning, I was trying to remember Elvis' gospel album so that I could plug it into Pandora. Thank you for that.

I appreciate your focus on Elvis' generosity and how he never forget his roots. In my mind, as in many others, he will always be The King. He introduced the world to rock n' roll, and there is no one like him. No doubt, he has gone on to meet his Maker, whom he loved.

Your article is well written and very inspiring. We can all take a lesson from Elvis to do what we can to help the poor.

Happy Sunday, Peg!

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Savvydating, Thanks for the visit and the thoughtful comment. I found myself liking him even more when I discovered his generosity and private nature. I liked his gospel music, too.

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