The instant expert: Elvis Presley

The instant expert on the life and times of Elvis Presley.

Powered by automated translation

Float through any social event with M's fast facts. This week Kevin McIndoe looks at the life and times of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'n' Roll, who was born on this day in 1935

THE BASICS "Elvis was the greatest cultural force in the 20th century. He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it was a whole new social revolution," said Leonard Bernstein. Says it all.

THE MAN Born in Tupelo in the US state of Mississippi on January 8, 1935, the surviving twin son of Vernon and Gladys Presley. Married Priscilla Beaulieu in 1967, and the couple had a daughter, Lisa Marie, exactly nine months after their wedding, in 1968.

WHY IS HE SPECIAL? The King of Rock 'n' Roll. The best-selling solo artist in the history of popular music, with about one billion records sold. Elvis took sounds from gospel, country and blues and moulded it into what came to be rock 'n' roll.

A TALENT SHOW SENSATION? Yes and no. Despite singing Old Shep at a talent show when he was 12 (he came fifth), Elvis had proper jobs, working as a cinema usher (he got the sack for flirting with girl customers) and as a truck driver for the Crown Electric Company while he trained to be an electrician. After walking into Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1953, he paid US$4 to record two songs on acetate. Sun's boss, Sam Phillips (eventually) took a chance on him and signed him a year later. After RCA bought Elvis's contract for $40,000 in 1955, the world of popular music was never the same again.

A GOOD SINGER THEN? Absolutely. Much more than "a-huh-huh". Technically, a baritone with a vocal range spanning two-and-a-half octaves, Elvis had one of the greatest voices in popular music. As a supreme interpreter of a lyric, he could rock out on Hound Dog, bare his soul on Always on My Mind, and plead in It's Now or Never ("My l-o-o-o-o-v-e won't wait!"). He adjusted his pitch and volume to suit a number, and his phrasing was usually immaculate.

AND AN ACTOR TOO, RIGHT? That's debatable. Made a promising start with the release of Love Me Tender in 1956 and got good reviews for his performance in Jailhouse Rock (1957). Of the 31 feature films he made, none was ever nominated for an Oscar in any category, which won't surprise you if you've seen most of them. As the flower power movement took hold, his movies began to bomb and he made no more feature films after 1969.

THE END OF HIS CAREER? Far from it. Elvis got himself back on track with a TV special in 1968, where his musical talent simply sparkled as he performed his classic hits. His black leather outfit showed his taste for showmanship was still alive and kicking, too.

AH, THE CLOTHES! Yes, a sartorial style-setter as well. Elvis wore pink (his favourite colour) when most men wouldn't have dared. In the Fifties, he donned sharp suits, pegged trousers, high collars and (occasionally) jeans. Thirty years before men moulded their manes with mousse, he dyed his hair black and sculpted it. In the Seventies, his stage costumes - sequinned, caped jumpsuits - were the stuff of legend, adorned with more bling than Diddy later wore on a good day. However, the suits expanded along with the King's waistline.

SO A BIT OF A FOODIE? Not a lover of haute cuisine but he certainly liked those peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches fried in butter. Elvis hated fish and wouldn't let his family eat it. Towards the end of his life, he rarely got out of bed before noon and although he was a modest 5ft 11in tall, his weight soared to 17 stone.

Seven things you didn't know about the King

GIG GRIEF Elvis played only five concerts outside the US (all in Canada in 1957). His infamous manager, "Colonel" Tom Parker, believed there was little money to be made from foreign tours. But it has been claimed Parker was an illegal immigrant and might not have been re-admitted to the US had a world tour gone ahead.

MISSED IT Elvis never went to England, but did touch down in Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire, Scotland, while on his way back to the US from military service in Germany.

HOME TRUTHS He bought his Memphis home, Graceland, in 1960. It is the second most visited home in the US, after the White House.

A BIG DAY He shares his birthday with two other pop legends: David Bowie (1947) and Shirley Bassey (1937).

MAKEOVER Elvis had his teeth capped, his nose fixed and his acne treated in 1956.

TRUE BLUE He recorded 15 songs with the world "blue" in them.

UM, PROBABLY NOT The name Elvis in Norse means "all wise".