Elvis Presley Takes Care of Business

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Welcome to the official blog of Elvis Presley’s Graceland! You can take Elvis-inspired quizzes, get first-looks on events here at Graceland and how-to guides on everything you need to know about Elvis and his home. Like Elvis, we come with a little southern charm

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.

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.

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’.

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 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.

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.

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.

Posted by Elvis Presley's Graceland at 11:27 AM
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