THIS WEEK IS Elvis Week -- August 11-19.

Here are 20 things you should know about the King:

  1. Even in the south, Elvis was a pretty strange name. "The first time I heard it, I said 'Weird name,'" recalls Scotty Moore, who played guitar at Presley's first recording session at Sam Phillip's Sun Records. "Sam's secretary wrote it down for me." 
  2. Elvis had an amazing memory. He'd hear songs on the radio and then sing them immediately. "It seemed like he knew every song in the world," Moore says. "Country, pop, R&B. Elvis had a sponge for a brain when it came to lyrics." 
  3. He was very polite. "He was always taught manners," Sam Phillips says. "His mother thought there was no reason to treat people except with great respect. If you didn't say 'yessir' and 'nosir', that was a cardinal sin." 
  4. But you wouldn't like him when he was angry. "He was real slow to anger," Phillips says. "But once he was angered pound for pound I don't know of a person who was stronger. I remember one time at the gas station out the back of the Peabody Hotel. This one person who didn't like his long sideburns wouldn't leave him alone. Elvis had him down on the concrete in no time flat." 
  5. Colonel Tom Parker really was a colonel. Kind of. Presley's legendary manager was given an honorary colonel's commission in October 1948 by Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis. Parker did serve in the U.S. Army in 1930 and 1931, but he didn't attain the rank of colonel. (Parker wasn't his real name, either.) 
  6. Elvis's gold suit was the genuine article. The colonel had it designed for him for the opening date of a 10-city tour in 1957. It was made by famous Hollywood tailor Nudie Cohen and cost $2,500. During the show, Elvis fell to his knees and left a pile of gold leaf on the stage. Afterward, a distraught Parker begged him never to do such a move again. 
  7. He really loved his mother, Gladys. At her funeral in 1958, he tried to jump into her grave. For days afterward, he carried him nightgown around with him. 
  8. Uncle Sam first got him into drugs. Private Presley was given amphetamine pills by a sergeant in 1958, and he became an epic pill enthusiast. He bought them in quart bottles from the dispensary. 
  9. But he never got drunk. Ernst Jorgensen, RCA Records' official Presley archivist and historian: "It wasn't like Elvis never drank alcohol as a principle. He just drank very little." 
  10. He was a very spiritual man. Larry Geller, who became Presley's hairdresser and guru in 1964, introduced him to spirituality. Geller gave him books he would cherish for the rest of his life: Autobiography of a Yogi, The Impersonal Life and Beyond the Himalayas. "I've always known there had to be a purpose for my life," Presley once said, "There's got to be a reason why I was chosen to be Elvis Presley. 
  11. He nearly became a monk. In March 1965, Presley, driving his RV outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, saw the face of Joseph Stalin in a cloud. "And then it happened," he said. "The face of Stalin turned into the face of Jesus, and every fiver of my being felt it." He decided to enter a monastery. Then he changed his mind and began work on the film Harum Scarum instead. 
  12. He made 31 movies over 13 years. "Elvis hated most of those later films," says friend and bodyguard Red West. "I mean, in Stay Away, Joe they had him singing to a bull." 
  13. Elvis could pick hits. But he couldn't write his own songs. "There are exceptions, when he changed arrangements so drastically that he got a writer's credit," Ernst Jorgensen says. "That's what happened on 'Don't Be Cruel' and 'All Shook Up'. But Elvis never thought of himself as a writer." 
  14. He once slept with the entire chorus line of a French nightclub show. On leave in Paris in 1959, Presley and several of his army friends took the dancers from the Lido nightclub back to their hotel suite. The next afternoon, the Lido's manager called the hotel. He needed the girls back, he insisted, so he could reopen for business that night. 
  15. He never sold more records in a year than in 1956. That's when the single "Hound Dog" and its B-side, "Don't Be Cruel," sold 4.6 million copies in the United States. 
  16. And never fewer than he sold in 1967. That year was the nadir of his Hollywood period. "The Easy Come, Easy Go EP never charted," Jorgensen says. "That's when Presley's management realized something had to change. The movie was horrible. The songs were poor and poorly recorded, with bad arrangements. And Elvis didn't sing them particularly well. I'm told the Cokes and burgers during the sessions were OK." 
  17. He didn't think the Las Vegas comeback was going to work. Sam Phillips went to Presley's opening night in Vegas in July 1968. "He combed his damn hair about 50 times before he went out, and that was a pretty good indication that he was real nervous," Phillips recalls. "he hadn't been on stage for about nine years. But before he got through his opening medley, there was a standing ovation. And then everything was over, baby." 
  18. Pinball Wizard? Nope. "He loved pinball," Phillips says, "but he liked to cheat a little bit. That's the only thing I ever saw him cheat on. 
  19. Elvis was an officer of the Memphis police force. Shelby County sheriff Roy Nixon made the King a chief deputy in 1970. He had legal authority, and could have made arrests. 
  20. "Fat Elvis" wasn't as fat as commonly believed. "He was a lot less overweight than people think," Jorgensen says. "In the Fat Elvis period, the last three years of his career, he was bloated. He had a lot of water in his body.


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