Elvis Presley’s birthday comes around in the beginning of the year on January 8. Despite many people telling him he couldn’t hold a tune, he went on to become one of the most popular singers and performers in American history. Many Americans make the pilgrimage to Graceland, Presley’s former estate in Memphis, to celebrate the man and his life.
History of Elvis Presley’s Birthday
Elvis Aron Presley was born January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. His identical twin brother was delivered 35 minutes before him, stillborn. In high school, Presley received a C in music. When his music teacher told him he had no aptitude for singing, he brought in his guitar and sang recent hit, “Keep Them Cold Icy Fingers Off Me”. A classmate later recalled that the teacher agreed that Elvis was right when he said that she didn’t appreciate his kind of singing.
In August 1953, Presley paid for a few minutes of studio time to record a two-sided acetate as a gift for his mother, with slight hopes of being discovered. In 1954, Presley cut a second acetate, but nothing came of it. Not long after, he failed an audition for a local vocal quartet and professional band, both telling him he had no future in singing.
Sam Phillips, Sun Records producer who had taken an interest when Elvis recorded his first acetate, was looking for a white man who could bring black music to a broader audience. He brought Elvis in to record Jimmy Sweeney’s ballad “Without You”, but he was unable to do it justice. Phillips asked Presley to sing as many numbers as he knew and was affected enough to invite two musicians to work something up for a session. In a moment of unwinding and messing around, Presley took his guitar and started to play a blues song while jumping and dancing. Bassist, Bill Black and guitarist Winfield “Scotty” Moore, started dancing and playing with him. Phillips, who was starting to leave, stuck his head back in and asked,
“What are you doing?”
“We don’t know!”
“Well back up… and do it again.” Phillips began taping their session. This was the sound he was looking for.
Elvis Presley’s Birthday timeline
December 21, 1970
Elvis meets the President
Elvis attends a widely covered meeting with then President Richard Nixon, and offered to work with hippies to combat the use of illegal drugs.
February 1, 1968
Welcome to the world, Lisa Marie
Elvis's first and only child, Lisa Marie, is born in Memphis.
March 2, 1960
Elvis returns to the United States from military service and the train carrying him from New Jersey to Tennessee was met with large crowds along the route.
Elvis records Elvis' Christmas Album, which tops the charts and features the bluesy "Santa Claus is Back in Town."
March 23, 1956
Rock 'n' roll history
Elvis releases his self-titled debut album, which becomes the first rock 'n' roll album to top the Billboard charts.
Elvis Presley’s Birthday FAQs
How old would Elvis Presley be 2019?
Elvis Presley, born in 1935, would be celebrating his 84th birthday if he was still alive in 2019. In 2020, we celebrate his 85th birthday!
Is it Elvis Presley's birthday today?
If today is January 8, then put on your blue suede shoes and celebrate Elvis Presley’s birthday!
What nationality is Elvis Presley?
Elvis’ mother was of Scots-Irish and French Norman decent while his father’s ancestry is of German and Scottish origin.
Elvis's Five Best Films: He Made Some Bad Ones, But Some Good Ones Too
Love Me Tender
While not the lead, Elvis's appearance in Love Me Tender stands out in this post-Civil War drama.
The lightweight musical comedy was perfect for Elvis in the lead role.
A bit campy, but a risk for Elvis as he played a character who had committed murder.
In this classic, Elvis plays a singer who finds overnight success in a New Orleans nightclub but also trouble with a notorious gangster played by Walter Matthau.
Elvis on Tour
This 1972 documentary film -- made just five years before his death -- is an inside look into the singer's showmanship and ability to dazzle his audience.
Stats about Elvis Presley
31 Feature films
Did you know that not only was Elvis a famous singer, but he was also quite the actor. In fact, he starred in 31 feature films as an actor and two theatrically released concert documentary films, all of which enjoyed financial success. For a number of years, he was one of Hollywood’s top box office draws and one of its highest-paid actors. He also had three network television specials — “Elvis” in 1968, “Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii, via Satellite” in 1973, and “Elvis in Concert” in 1977. They were among the most highly rated specials of their time.
150 RIAA certified albums and singles
It is estimated that more than one billion Elvis Presley records have been sold worldwide. From his early sessions at Sun Records to the end of his career and beyond, Elvis albums and singles enjoyed strong sales across every format-vinyl, cassette, CD and digital. In America alone, Elvis has had 150 different albums and singles that have been certified gold, platinum, or multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), with more certifications expected as research into his past record sales continues and as current sales go on. It is estimated that 40% of Elvis’ records have been sold outside the US.
14 Grammy nominations
Elvis received 14 Grammy nominations from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). His three wins were for gospel recordings — the album “How Great Thou Art” in 1967, album “He Touched Me” in 1972, and his live Memphis concert recording of the song “How Great Thou Art” on the RCA Victor label in 1974. In 1971, NARAS also recognized him with their Lifetime Achievement Award (known then as the Bing Crosby Award). Elvis was 36 years old.
How to Celebrate Elvis Presley’s Birthday
Make a pilgrimage to Graceland
Elvis loved his estate in Memphis, Graceland, and after his passing made sure it would be open to his fans. You'll likely have company — more than 650,000 people tour Graceland each year, but what better way to celebrate the King of Rock 'n' Roll's birthday than at his place?
Hire an Elvis impersonator
No American singer has as many impersonators as Elvis. Throw a birthday party for Elvis and hire a local impersonator to entertain your guests. Serve Elvis's favorite sandwich, a concoction with peanut butter, bananas, and bacon. Yum!
Buy some Elvis classics
Elvis recorded hundreds of songs, so pick up some of his music or stream it on your favorite online music service. You'll likely find a channel dedicated to Elvis's music on Spotify or Pandora, so spend the day enjoying some of the King's rock, rockabilly, gospel, or country recordings.
Why Elvis matters
The face of early rock
Elvis was a bridge between the early blues-based rock pioneered by African American artists and rock 'n' roll for a broader audience. While he often covered African American artists — some would say appropriated them — he ushered in the beginning of the rock explosion in America.
He broke the rules
Prior to Elvis, the American moral police set the tone for how music and culture was consumed in America, particularly by young people. Elvis brought out the screaming youth, especially young women, and pushed back against the authority structure of the culture.
There's life after death
Few American figures are still part of the cultural landscape this long after their deaths. Elvis is still talked about and his life (and death) debated. His music and movies remain influential. And, according to some, he may still be walking the earth somewhere.