45 years after his death, Elvis Presley reaches fans from beyond the grave

28 Mar

Elvis Presley still enjoys fame around the globe - particularly in Germany, where he spent time in the US military. Here are some highlights and unusual facts from his storied career.

From small town boy to household name

Born in the town of Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley began his career in Memphis, Tennessee. He is pictured here in 1954 while recording at the famous Sun Studio in Memphis, which also helped launch B.B. King's career. Quickly rising to fame, his first hit, "Heartbreak Hotel," propelled him into stardom in 1956.

A GI in Germany

Presley put his career on hold while serving in the US military in Germany from 1958 to 1960. Stationed in the small town of Friedberg, Presley stayed in a hotel in nearby Bad Nauheim instead of living in the barracks. There, he lived with an entourage: his grandmother, father and two body guards. Today, hotel guests can sleep in the Elvis Room, which was preserved to commemorate the King's stay.

Made in Germany

Although he was prohibited from performing during service, the King still found time to make music. Germany was the birthplace of two chart-toppers: "One Night" and "A Fool Such as I." He also gave global fame to the popular German folk song, "Muss I denn zum Städtele hinaus," or in English, "Wooden Heart."

A look into the past

Elvis's time in Germany is well-documented. In 2011, three collectors, including Andreas Schröer, pictured here, opened the Elvis Museum in Dusseldorf - the largest Elvis collection outside of the US. Over 600 items are display, many from his GI years. Visitors can get an idea of what it must have been like to see him up close and personal.

Happily ever after?

While Elvis was stationed in Germany, he also met Priscilla Beaulieu, the daughter of a US military officer. She was just 14 years old at the time. The couple married years later at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas in 1967, although the King reportedly continued to enjoy the company of other women.

A licence to suit up

Legend has it, Elvis adopted the jumpsuit after he split his pants on stage. Whatever the reason, the garment was an instant hit. B&K, a company in Charlestown, Indiana creates Elvis jumpsuits based on the originals and is the only company licensed to do so by the former designers of Presley's costumes. Fans and impersonators must wait 14-16 weeks for delivery.

Doppelgangers around the globe

Elvis's legacy stretches far and wide. The European Elvis Festivals takes place each year in Bad Nauheim and attracts plenty of die-hard impersonators. The King also has official fan clubs in 38 different countries, as well as plenty of memorabilia. Granada, Spain was the first city to put the King's face on a commemorative stamp in 1978. Germany followed suit in 1988.

A candle for the King

Each year, Elvis fans commemorate his death on August 16, 1977 by lighting candles in front of Graceland. In 2007, the 30th anniversary of his death, a record 75,000 people attended the candlelight vigil at the residence - a tribute fit for the King of rock & roll.


Perhaps the world's most popular performer to impersonate, Presley has inspired countless fan clubs, festivals and even a successful business dedicated to tailoring reproductions of his signature jumpsuits. Inducted into the Rockabilly, Gospel, Country, UK Music, and Rock & Roll Halls of Fame, the King's music hasn't seemed to wane in popularity over the years, with more than 1 billion albums sold worldwide. 

Presley's legacy is also a major business. His former Memphis home, Graceland, receives 500,000 visitors a year, making it the second-most visited historical residence in the US after the White House. It is also part of Elvis Presley Enterprises, which continues to host annual birthday celebrations, certified auctions and fan club events, helping to place Presley repeatedly on Forbes' annual Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list.

The King's legacy also lives on in Germany, in particular, where he carried out mandatory military service from 1958-1960 in the town of Friedberg - and even met his future wife, Priscilla. Click through the gallery above for a look at the life of this seemingly eternal rock & roll superstar on the 40th anniversary of his death. In the gallery below, you can visit the US maker of Elvis' jumpsuit replicas.

Author Sarah Hucal

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