An RTÉ Entertainment Retrospective

Elvis:The Life and
Times of the King

45 years after his tragic death, Elvis Presley, who has sold a billion records and transformed pop culture, is still the undisputed King of Rock 'n' Roll.


Early Life

Elvis Aaron Presley is born to Vernon and Gladys Presley in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, the second of identical twins. His brother was stillborn. Elvis' middle name was also sometimes spelled as Aron.


His First Guitar

Gladys buys Elvis his first guitar from the Tupelo Hardware store. It’s a $7.90 birthday present. Years later Elvis would say, “I wanted a bicycle.”


His First Performance

After moving to Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis graduates from Humes High school. He performs at a school talent contest and makes a demo acetate disc of My Happiness and That's When Your Heartaches Begin.


Sun Studio

Elvis makes a demo acetate at Sam Phillips' Sun studio.


Elvis Signs to RCA

Elvis signs a management contract with Hank Snow Attractions, owned equally by Snow and Colonel Tom Parker, who negotiates the sale of Elvis' Sun contract to RCA.


Heartbreak Hotel

Elvis' first RCA single, Heartbreak Hotel, is released, becoming the first Elvis single to sell over 1 million copies, followed by his first album, Elvis Presley, which goes to No. 1 on Billboard's pop album chart.


The Ed Sullivan Show

Elvis makes the first of three appearances on television's Ed Sullivan Show, attracting the highest ratings ever for any television variety show. His first movie, Love Me Tender, opens in November.

Video Credit: The Ed Sullivan Show
March 1957

Home Sweet Home

Elvis buys Graceland Mansion.

March 1958


Elvis is drafted into the U.S. Army and posted to Germany.


G.I. Blues

Elvis is discharged from the army in March. He begins filming and recording for his first post-Army movie, his fifth film, GI Blues, for Paramount. During filming on the Paramount lot, Elvis played host to the King of Nepal.

May 1967

Wedding Bells

Elvis marries Priscilla Beaulieu in a private ceremony in Las Vegas.

February 1968

Lisa Marie is Born

Elvis and Prisilla's daughter, Lisa Marie, is born on February 1, 1968.


The '68 Comeback Special

His recording career waning, Elvis appears on an NBC television special that becomes widely known as The '68 Comeback Special.


Live in Las Vegas

Elvis returns to live performances at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, setting attendance records and spinning off his first live album.


An Iconic Look

Elvis, That's the Way It Is, a documentary of Elvis on tour and his 32nd film, opens. He begins wearing the famous jumpsuit and cape outfits on stage.


Moving On

Elvis and Priscilla separate and she moves out. They divorce in 1973.


Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii

Elvis makes television and entertainment history with his Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii - Via Satellite. It is seen in about 40 countries by 1 billion to 1.5 billion people. The concert album hits No. 1 on the Billboard pop album chart - his last No. 1 album on that chart.

Video Credit: PBS

Elvis Dies

Elvis is hospitalized in Memphis in 1973 and again in 1975 and 1977. He battles health problems, including an increasing dependency upon prescription drugs. He is found dead on the floor of his bathroom in Graceland by fiancée Ginger Alden on August 16, 1977.

The Impersonators

Bruno Mars, Nicolas Cage and Johnny Cash are just some of the celebrities who have taken on the King's famous knee tremble over the years. In 2007 Shawn Klush was named the international champion of BBC1's World's Greatest Elvis competition and in August of that year, Klush was chosen by Graceland as the winner of Elvis Presley Enterprises’ first ever Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest.

Video Credit: Ambassador Entertainment, Edited by: Ben Fiore.
I really believe in Elvis and I think that he is a person that never dies...

Listen to Irish Elvis fans talk about their hero 10 years after his death, courtesy of RTÉ Archives.