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|HOW ELVIS DIED ALMOST BROKE,
THEN BECAME ONE OF THE RICHEST DEAD CELEBRITIES
July 12, 2016 - Celebrity Net Worth / Elvis Express Radio
|With the recent passing of Scotty Moore – Elvis Presley's first manager and the guitarist on many of Presley's biggest hits – Elvis Presley is once again a household name. An
immensely popular musician and actor, Elvis Presley redefined rock and roll in the late 50s and 60s. He was a larger-than-life celebrity and his compound in Memphis, Tennessee,
known as "Graceland," was a physical representation of his super-stardom. His fan base was rabid, loyal, and rumors still swirl that his death, at age 42, was just a hoax. Though
his performances and tracks set multiple music-related records, won numerous high profile music honors, and prompted Catholic nuns to write the FBI about how dangerous he
was to America's youth, he passed away with a surprisingly small fortune. How did the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music lose his massive fortune? The
reasons are wide ranging, and serve as an interesting cautionary tale for all current day celebrities.
Elvis Aron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. Presley grew up quite poor, and his family often relied on the kindness of neighbors with regards to food
and other necessities. He was given a guitar for his 11th birthday, but didn't become particularly interested in playing and singing until his early teens. Largely ostracized for his
poor appearance, manners, and the fact that he lived in a primarily African-American neighborhood, he would bring his guitar to school in order to entertain himself during
lunchtime. After his family moved to Memphis, he began to play music with a group of fellow teenagers at his school, while also hanging around Beale Street, Memphis' famed blues
area. By his senior year of high school, he had adopted the clothing and hairstyles popularized by many of the blues musicians down on Beale Street. Most of his classmates had
no idea that he was an aspiring musician.
Ironically, the only class he received poor grades in was music. When he performed at a local talent show, he blew everyone away. Overnight, he went from the hillbilly kid with the
funny clothes, to the kid everyone wanted to know. Presley decided to screw his courage to the sticking place, and went to Sun Records to record a couple of tracks professionally.
He said they were for his mother, but Sun Records executives were known for scoping out new talent from musicians who paid for studio time. Sam Phillips, the head of Sun
Records, called him back to the studio to record. He had a plan for the young man. Phillips was looking for a crossover star who sounded black, but was actually white. After
Phillips struggled to find the right song for the young performer, Presley actually hit on the right track himself, a cover of Arthur Crudup's blues track, "That's All Right." It was an
instant hit, with audiences clamoring to find out who sang it. In order to prove that he was white, Phillips had Presley deliberately mention which high school he attended in various
radio interviews. As schools were segregated, it was abundantly clear what his race was from his mention of his school's name. Phillips had his crossover star and Presley had a
Over the course of the next six years, Presley went from regional star to breakout sensation. He went from performing at local pubs, to multiple appearances on national television.
His debut album climbed to #1 on the Billboard charts, becoming the first rock and roll album to hold that position. It stayed there for 10 weeks. He began touring constantly, a
practice he continued almost up until his death. He nearly started a riot in Wisconsin and the local Catholic diocese reported him to the FBI as a threat to national security. His
performance of "Hound Dog" on The Milton Berle Show polarized audiences. Critics hated it, with most saying that he couldn't sing and that his vulgar pelvic thrusts didn't deserve
to be on national television. Audiences, however, ate it up.
Due to public demand, he began performing on other national television shows. Ed Sullivan made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with Presley. However, as Presley's fame
increased, and viewership of his on-air performances kept setting records, Sullivan relented. On September 9, 1956, Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. He was paid
$50,000 to appear three times. Nearly 83% of people who owned televisions in the United States tuned in for the show. No program had ever drawn viewership like that. As he
began touring more widely, his concerts regularly became riots. The National Guard was brought in at each stop to keep the crowd from destroying everything. He second album
went straight to #1 and his album sales accounted for 50% of his record label's singles sales for the year.
He then began appearing in films, some of which were retooled to allow him to sing. In 1958, he was drafted, and he spent the next two years in the military. RCA, his record label,
continued to release previously recorded tracks while he was gone, and by the time he was honorably discharged, he was an even bigger star. He had also begun using
amphetamines. This would later come back to haunt him. Throughout the early 60s almost all of his work was tied to films. He appeared in picture after picture, often providing the
soundtrack, as well. Unfortunately, the canned sound of his work left audiences cold, and despite winning a Grammy for Best Sacred Performance for one of his gospel tracks, his
star began to dwindle noticeably.
In 1968, after two albums tanked, he staged a major comeback. His live televised performance from a studio in Burbank, California is still considered one of the best live
performances recorded ever. The success of the special led to a new era of recording, and for the next five years, Presley toured incessantly, released hit single after hit single,
and commanded as much as $1 million a performance. By 1973, however, it was clear all of the touring, and his hard-partying lifestyle, were taking their toll. He became
increasingly erratic at performances, often barely able to get through songs or to even start singing at all. He was taking immense amounts of drugs and was found unconscious
multiple times by family members and bandmates. He passed away in 1977 due to a heart attack that was likely caused by his rampant drug use.
Elvis' Net Worth When He Died
Over the course of his career, he sold 600 million units worldwide. He commanded as much as $1 million per performance. 21 of his albums reached #1 and 35 of his singles
reached #1. He was RCA's cash cow for almost two decades. When he passed away, he had only $5 million. While $5 million is certainly not broke by any stretch of the
imagination, it is far, far, far less than he reportedly earned. So where did all the money go?
In Presley's case, it went to four places – real estate, drugs, hangers on, and his divorce. His home, Graceland, a 23-room mansion in Memphis, was purchased for $102,500 in
1957. Over the course of the next few years, Presley would buy $500,000 worth of surrounding land and household goods for himself. By the late 60s, he'd developed a major
drug habit. In 1977, one of his two primary doctors, prescribed 10,000 doses of amphetamines, sedatives, and narcotics within a seven-month period. It's unknown just how much
he was spending on drugs, but those close to him noted that he was drugged to the point of barely functioning most of the time. However, his biggest expenditures were on family
members and the group known as the "Memphis Mafia." After his mother passed away, Presley's father remarried. Presley and his new stepmother did not get along, so he moved
his father, his stepmother, and her children into a home near Graceland. His father updated the home with things like a swimming pool in the bedroom. Other family members
floated in and out of Presley's life looking for a handout. Distant cousins would reportedly show up on his doorstep looking for a piece of the action.
When Presley traveled, his entourage, the group of family members and friends from high school known as the "Memphis Mafia," always traveled with him. They partied wherever
they went, rented women by the hour, and always rode in style. Presley footed the bill for everything. Disturbed by public attention and increasingly paranoid about death threats
from morality groups, Presley would do things like rent out the entire amusement park, Libertyland, so that he could ride his favorite roller coaster. He liked to invite massive games
to play with his group of friends, the more dangerous the better. One game, called "Whip," involved firecrackers and Air Force jump suits. The "Memphis Mafia" would regularly
purchase $15,000 in firecrackers in order for everyone to play. His hotel rooms in each city were remodeled to look like the inside of Graceland so he wouldn't feel homesick or
disturbed while on the road. He spent lavishly on things for himself, as well, including three pink Cadillacs.
His divorce from his first wife, Priscilla Presley, cost him dearly, both financially and emotionally. Priscilla Presley was originally going to take a token amount in the divorce, but her
lawyers persuaded her to increase her requests. The divorce settlement included $725,000 outright, spousal support, child support, 5% of Elvis' publishing companies, and 50% of
the money from the sale of their second home in Beverly Hills.
As Presley became more and more ill and unable to care for himself, other people began dispersing his funds on his behalf, or simply taking things when they wanted them. The
final year of his life, he spent with a woman named Ginger Alden. After his death, she contacted the National Enquirer to give them the scoop, asking for over $100,000 for her
story. His cousin, Billy Mann, was paid $18,000 to secretly photograph his body in the casket at his funeral. The National Enquirer used the photo on the cover. It became the best-
selling issue of the National Enquirer ever.
While Presley was not so smart with how he used his money while living, he did one smart thing in his will. He left what remained of his fortune to his father, grandmother, and his
then 9-year-old daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. His father and grandmother subsequently passed away, which left Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie's mother and his ex-wife, in charge of
the estate. The two had remained friends after the divorce and Presley had been supportive of his ex-wife's goals. A savvy woman who had built a successful clothing and design
business post-divorce, Priscilla Presley parlayed Elvis' stardom into a lucrative business franchise of its own. Upkeep of Graceland, and taxes on the land, had reduced the original
$5 million left in Elvis' will to just over $1 million. After looking at various business models, she opened Graceland as a tourist attraction and museum.
By the end of the first month of Graceland's new role as a tourist destination, she'd made back her initial investment. She launched Elvis Presley Enterprises, and passed it on to
Lisa Marie when she reached age 25 in 1993. During Priscilla Presley's years as chairwoman of Elvis Presley Enterprises, she increased the value of Presley's estate from $1
million to over $100 million. In 2006, Graceland became a National Historic Landmark, and is now the second most-visited house in the United States (behind the White House).
Presley's music formed the soundtrack for a Cirque du Soleil show called, "Viva Vegas," which was in residence in Las Vegas, a city where he was famously nearly boo'd off the
stage early in his career. New albums of unreleased material, as well as reworkings of Presley classics still climb the charts whenever they are released. Elvis Presley is now the
second most lucrative deceased artist in the world. One can only hope that the man who grew up begging for food from his neighbors is somewhere feeling proud of the fact that
he managed to form the foundation of a very successful empire.
WHAT ONE READER HAD TO SAY
Celebrity Net Worth invited readers to add to this article, and here is what one reader had to say.
Jack A. Dennis · Works at Fair Oaks Ranch Golf & Country Club
There is much wrong with this articles including:
1. "Elvis Presley is once again a household name" One again? It has continued to be a household name since 1956 and remains one almost 40 years after his death.
2. "Over the course of the next six years, Presley went from regional star to breakout sensation." It only took two years from the time he recorded his first record release at SUN
records. This year we are celebrating the 60th year anniversary of his breakout phenominal year...1956.
3. "He began touring constantly, a practice he continued almost up until his death." He had been touring repeatedly for two years before he he caught national attention and he did
not "practice" it, or toured from 1958 through 1968.
4. "Sullivan relented. On September 9, 1965, Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show." You're a decade off. He did not appear on the Sullivan show at any time in the 1960s.
5. "The National Guard was brought in at each stop to keep the crowd from destroying everything." Local police and sheriff departments handled security. The National Guard only
appeared at two concerts in his entire career.
6. "When he passed away, he had only $5 million. While $5 million is certainly not broke by any stretch of the imagination, it is far, far, far less than he reportedly earned."
$5 million in 1977 is worth over $20.3 million today. The $5 million did not account for his various properities, record and movie income worth. But according to a 300-page report
for Shelby County's probate court in 1979, Presley's net worth on the date of his death in August 1977 was almost $10 million (over $40 million in 2016 terms). On Dec. 10, 1980
attorney Blanchard E. Tual charged Presley's manager, Col. Tom Parker, unconscionably drained off more than half of the King's earnings during his lifetime. The report showed
that that since Elvis' death Parker has "violated his duty both to Elvis and to the estate" by charging commissions that were "excessive, imprudent...and beyond all reasonable
bounds of industry standards."
7. "He commanded as much as $1 million per performance." That is not true. He was never paid $1 million for a concert, although he was paid $1 million to appear in a movie. With
ticket prices between $5-12.50 (very high for the mid-1970s), even his largest audiences would bring in, at a maximum, $500,000 GROSS. Presley's average concert gross in the
mid-'70s was $130,000 a night. His recording sessions that produced a new album would mean at least $250,000 in royalties.
Elvis was only paid $1 million one time for a movie: 1965's Harum Scarum. A quarter of that was to be paid to Elvis at $1,000 a week over five years. For the next two movies, Elvis
was to receive $750,000 each. In addition, the contract gave Presley 40% of the profits from all three films. Made under this pact were Harum Scarum (1965), Spinout (1966), and
Double Trouble (1967).
One myth is that he was paid $1 million for the Aloha in Hawaii Jan. 14, 1973 concert that was the first ever satellite broadcasted performance across the globe in history. Audience
tickets for the January 14 concert and its January 12 pre-broadcast rehearsal show carried no price. Each audience member was asked to pay whatever he or she could afford.
The performance and concert merchandise sales raised $75,000 for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund in Hawaii...and that was TWO shows. The album was certified gold on February 13,
1973, platinum and 2x platinum on May 20, 1988, 3x platinum on July 15, 1999, and 5x platinum on August 1, 2002, by the RIAA.On April 15, 2016 the BPI certified the album Silver
for sales of 60,000 units.
NOTICE: READ WHAT MARTY LACKER HAD TO SAY ABOUT THIS ARTICLE