Elvis Presley Takes Care of Business

Long before he was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, long before he was a millionaire, Elvis Presley was a working stiff like the rest of us.

It’s hard to imagine Elvis – studded jumpsuit Elvis, rock ‘n’ rolling ’68 Special Elvis, movie star Elvis or gold lame Elvis – working a 9 to 5, but a young Elvis had to make a living. This Labor Day weekend, let’s take a peek at how Elvis took care of business long before he came to wear those TCB necklaces.

Elvis took the entrepreneurial route for his first job. In his freshman year of high school, he teamed up with three friends, Buzzy Forbes, Paul Dougher and Farley Guy, to start a lawn business. With a push lawn mower that his father, Vernon, purchased for him, and a few sickles, Elvis and his team mowed yards at the cost of $4.00 per yard.

Elvis’ next job title was movie theater usher. He began working at Loew’s State Theater on Main Street in Memphis in September 1950.

Loew's State Theater is no longer standing in Memphis, but this movie theater was located in downtown Memphis.

Loew’s State Theater is no longer standing in Memphis, but this movie theater was located in downtown Memphis.

The next summer, Elvis worked at Precision Tool. He worked there for three months and he operated a spindle drill press at the plant, which manufactured rocket shells for the military. Elvis earned $27.00 a week. In this same year, 1951, Elvis took his driver’s license test using his uncle Travis Smith’s 1940 Buick.

Before he was the King of Rock 'n' Roll, he was an employee at Precision Tool.

Before he was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, he was an employee at Precision Tool.

Elvis returned to work at Loew’s State Theater as an usher in April 1952. His second stint there only lasted five weeks – he was fired due to a fight with a fellow usher. Rumor has it, the other usher started the argument because he was jealous that a female co-worker had the hots for Elvis. Elvis may have lost that job, but soon after, he got a car. Vernon purchased an old Lincoln, which became Elvis’.

Elvis poses with his Loew's State Theater boss.

Elvis poses with his Loew’s State Theater boss, Arthur Groom.

In August 1952, Elvis applied to work at Upholsterers Specialties Company. He actually fibbed on his application, giving his birthdate as January 8, 1934 – making him one year older and, therefore, old enough to work there. He only worked there a month, earning $109.00.

In September, Elvis began working as an assembler at a furniture manufacturer, MARL Metal Products. His hours were 3:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., which didn’t fit in well with his school schedule. His mother, Gladys, made him quit the job after she learned he was falling asleep in class.

Elvis was ready for a new job in March 1953. He visited the Tennessee State Employment Security Office. On his application, he was asked about his “leisure time activities,” and he responded: “sings, playing ball, working on car, going to movies.” Typical teenager, huh? Maybe, but Elvis was a bit different. In fact, the interviewer described him as “rather flashily dressed ‘playboy’ type.” That’s more like the Elvis we know and love!

Elvis' employment application, as well as notes taken by the interviewer.

Elvis’ employment application, as well as notes taken by the interviewer.

Elvis returned to the office in April to update the application, and he stated he wanted to operate “big lathes.” He went back to the employment office on July 1 and reported he needed to “work off financial obligations and that he owns his own automobile.”  He finally found work, this time at the M.B. Parker Company, where he worked as an assembler. It was just a temp job, so he worked it until the job ran out at the end of the month. He made 90 cents an hour, or $36.00 a week.

In August, he went back to the employment office and asked for a job in which he could “keep clean.” He interviewed at a Kroger grocery store and at a Sears & Roebuck store, but he wasn’t hired at either store.

Elvis went back to work at Precision Tool in September 1953, operating the drill press for $1.55 an hour. He worked there until March 19, 1954. And as we all know, Elvis’ music career began to take off later that year.

This is Elvis' pay stub from Precision Tool.

This is Elvis’ pay stub from Precision Tool.

Elvis filed his first tax return on March 6, 1954, listing himself as a “semi-skilled laborer” and having earned a total of $129.75 at M.B. Parker and $786.59 at Precision Tool for a total of $916.33.

On April 20, 1954, Elvis began working at Crown Electric for $1.00 an hour. He delivered supplies to job sites and hoped to learn how to become an electrician. He stayed at Crown until mid-October 1954, after having recorded his first record at Sun Studio. He was finally a self-employed entertainer.

Elvis drove a truck very much like this one when he worked for Crown Electric.

Elvis drove a truck very much like this one when he worked for Crown Electric.

In 1955, he reported on his income tax return a total of $25,240.15 in earnings. The next year, he reported a total of $282,349.66. And by 1958, Elvis was earning more than a million dollars a year.

And now we invite you to be like Elvis and take care of business! Get to know more about Elvis and his music career with the Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum, the world’s largest Elvis museum, which is now open at our new entertainment and exhibit complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis at Graceland. The museum focuses on all aspects of Elvis’ legendary career, from his Sun Studio days to his movie career to his iconic concerts and specials. Get your tickets and make the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll pilgrimage to Graceland today.


24 Comments

  1. Marsha Morrison

    Elvis Was Persistent And Worked Hard At The Jobs That He Had. He Never Gave Up On Finding Work, Way To Go Elvis It’s Something To Be Proud Of To Make Enough In Those Days So You Could Help Your Family. Shows Just How Much You Loved Them. Gladys Was Very Proud Of You Elvis.

  2. Tami Dyer

    I enjoyed reading about Elvis’ work history before he became popular with his movies and music. I have been a fan for 49 years; and I never get tired of hearing all of the stories about Elvis; a wonderful person and the best musical artist and entertainer of all times. I am a fan for life. Thank you!

  3. Mark Winchester Sr.

    There never was before or since anyone like ELVIS. That says it all.

  4. Elvis was a hard worker. He worked himself up all by himself. Just came back from Graceland at EW and it was a great experience. I would highly recommend seeing, its well worth it!

  5. Gina Kundert

    This is wonderful to read! I am enjoying getting to know the history about Elvis so much. I grew up with Elvis’ presence in our home in some form or another. My mom was simply crazy about him as were so many. I was only 12 years old when he died. My mom shut herself in the bedroom for days and the only time she opened the door was when she wanted us girls to bring her something. She would open the door just a enough to reach her hand out and snap her finger at us to get us to come to the door. I laugh about it now, but I can certainly understand the sadness she had because the world lost a truly honest, loving and talented human being. My mom has passed away but when I come to visit Graceland she is coming with me in a little pewter heart!

  6. Gina Kundert

    This is wonderful to read! I am enjoying getting to know the history about Elvis so much. I grew up with Elvis’ presence in our home in some form or another. My mom was simply crazy about him as were so many. I was only 12 years old when he died. My mom shut herself in the bedroom for days and the only time she opened the door was when she wanted us girls to bring her something. She would open the door just enough to reach her hand out and snap her finger at us to get us to come to the door. I laugh about it now, but I can certainly understand the sadness she had because the world lost a truly honest, loving and talented human being. My mom has passed away but when I come to visit Graceland she is coming with me in a little pewter heart!

  7. this singer . the greatest. this actor. the best.this man of many talents. jux he was a king of them all. he kept trying and never gave up on anything. he was a great person just lost him too soon. but we still have his family. the best.

  8. Joanne Murray

    Great getting to see actual documents from Elvis’ history. Anything Elvis is GREAT! I’ve loved Elvis since I was 6 and am now 52 and nothing has changed with time. I’ve seen Elvis twice in ’76 and ’77 and he was wonderful both times! His fans understand although Elvis stayed with us only a short time no one even if they live to be 100 will ever have the impact or greatness this world has ever experienced! Elvis we still love you and always will. I believe you are finally happy!

  9. $4.00 seems like a lot for a yard mow way back when.

  10. Kathy Louviere

    This article was very interesting and informative. I was aware of all of the places Elvis worked but it was good to learn more detail. Thanks. I have been to Elvis Presley’s Memphis for Elvis Week 2017 and the Candlelight Vigil.

  11. Linda Metzler

    Very interesting article. Some of it was news to me. Since 12 years old I’ve been a fan of Elvis. I’ve also been blessed to have had my picture taken with him a year later. A friend’s father interviewed Elvis for a magazine. Special memories and, of course, the magazine.

  12. russ mulkins

    its hard to picture him as a regular guy.he always seemed so much bigger.i really miss him

  13. Love this story,makes you realize Elvis was pretty much a normal guy.Until his life took a turn and his songs flowed through the airways of every Radio around. LOVE Elvis Always will;-]

  14. Martie Simmons

    I have always been a big fan of Elvis & still am! I love this site & all the info it gives ya. Keep up the great work.

  15. Lori Powers

    I love this article. It tells alot about a time of Elvis’ life we never hear about. I’ve been an Elvis fan since I was born… and learned something new about him today I had never heard. Wonderful!!

  16. Lefty Thompson

    That was interesting to read. Back in Chicago, decades ago, I drove a “CROWN Electric” forklift for years. My cousin who also lives in TN, is named Linda Thompson, and the Pastor at our Wedding, was named ELVIS. My father was born same year as Elvis, who also went to Germany with the Army, and met his wife of 47 years there too.

  17. That is great to know & fnd information on his life as a young person just out of high school.

  18. Theresa Mason

    Elvis was blessed to finally realize his own dreams & become that wonderful entertainer, but it seems his life was not all, BLISS.
    I recently had the pleasure yo visit Graceland & thoroughly enjoyed the, tour experience. Unfortunately, it was the week of the terrible hurricane disaster that hit the Texas & part of gulf coast, so I was praying (a lot) for those survivors.

  19. Gemma Court

    Just got back to the UK after visiting Graceland. I’m a massive Elvis fan and have always wanted to visit. Wasn’t disappointed, Graceland is amazing x

  20. Lynne Wolowiec

    Thank you, for all that info, was at Graceland August 1st, visiting from Australia,
    An amazing trip, and have loved Elvis since I was 14, now 71, ……
    Graceland was everything I imagined and more…….and had been on my Bucketlist forever……..
    Thank you, Graceland & Memphis ❌⭕️

  21. stephen stathis

    Elvis was the real thing. He was blue collar and escaped to realize his talent and dreams. Made himself immortal. Not bad for one life regardless of how it ended. Why so many of us who grew up like him and escaped too—connecting with his humanity.

  22. I have bough my mom different gifts of elvis. again. he was a man that had a talent to sing and dance. and was loved by many people. I love all the stories you all do a great job. some are sad. but very interesting.

  23. Meryl Thomas

    I never tire of reading about Elvis’ life. He was such an amazing person and his legend will always live on. I have been to Graceland twice and plan to go again and again. It is a magical place for sure. My sirius radio is tuned only to the Elvis station and I love it! The stories, memories, and the music are wonderful and enlightening. Thanks for all of it.

  24. Elvis was an only child yet he struggled so he can offer his parents a wonderful life; and he succeeded. At job interviews he would always say “I want to help my parents”; and he supported them truly and lovingly.

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