How Old Was Elvis When He Got Famous?

By Tiara

As we mentioned before, Elvis didn’t really become famous until he was in his early twenties. But how old was he when he got famous? There are several ways to figure this out, but for our purposes, we will use “peak years of popularity” as our determining factor. These are typically determined by looking at when people were most likely to have heard of him or read about him, and then figuring out what year that is within a reasonable margin of error.

Peak years can be hard to determine because not everyone has their data organized in the same way. For example, if you listen to mostly mainstream music, it may be harder to identify when someone first started talking about an artist like Elvis. However, if you are more into alternative music or indie music, these things come up much more often so they make it easier to pinpoint when people became aware of him.

There are also different types of peaks used to define when someone gained fame. A total peak includes all of the possible sources where someone learned about the person, such as hearing them on the radio for the first time, reading a magazine article about them, etc., whereas a historical peak only looks at one source. With history, we must make sure we aren’t including any potential sources as part of the total peak because that could skew the numbers.

Recording contract

how old was elvis when he got famous

Starting his career as a singer, Elvis made his recording debut for Sun Records in Memphis at the age of 17. His first song was “That’s All Right (Mama)”, which he wrote himself!

He then went onto record several more songs including versions of other well-known hits such as “Good Bye My Love” and “Baby I Don’t Care”.

Elvis would go on to have an incredible seven number one singles across three studio albums before he released his final album just two years later.

His last single was a cover version of The Beatles’ hit track “Love You To Death”, which didn’t even make it into the top 40.

First movie

how old was elvis when he got famous

As we know, the very first time people saw the world’s most famous face was in A Hard Day's Night. This is the movie where we see President Lyndon Johnson having a conversation with his top advisors while listening to The Beatles' song I Can't Get You Out Of My Head.

Elvis appears briefly at the beginning of the film as one of many extras who play soldiers for director Richard Lester. There are only about ten takes of him performing this short scene, but he totally steals the show!

He sings two lines before being asked to stand aside so that other actors can shoot their scenes. His fellow cast members rave about how good he is and everyone wants to work with him. It seems like he has a knack for picking up new skills quickly and sticking with them.

That talent didn't go unnoticed. After filming finished, Colonel Tom Parker offered him a job working as his personal assistant. He needed someone to look after his personal affairs and deal with all his business commitments, making it easy for Elvis to pursue his dreams of music.

Breakthrough song

how old was elvis when he got famous

Many people know that his first big break into music came with “Heartbreak Hotel,” but what many don’t realize is just how old he was when he recorded it. He actually released his debut album in 1950! He didn’t make his professional singing debut until he was already 24 years old.

He would go onto to record over 30 more songs before hitting it big, including his breakthrough hit, which comes next.

First television appearance

how old was elvis when he got famous

In July 1952, just one year after his first big break in music as an up-and-coming performer at the New York City nightclub The Cocoanut Grove, Elvis made his first guest appearance on TV. You may have seen this performance before but let’s take a look now.

Elvis performed “Hound Dog” for what was then called Cavalcade of Variety, which is described by its producers as being “more like a party with entertainment segments than a show.” It aired once per week on Sunday nights and was sponsored by Kellogg’s.

He wore a black suit, white shirt, dark red tie and leather shoes while performing the song. Since it was a live broadcast, there are no audio or video quality issues such as cuts out, distortions or noise.

Change in appearance

As his career progressed, he made some significant changes to how he looked. His hair changed from short and spiked with gel to longer and more poofy. His eyebrows grew thicker and darker, and he experimented with different hairstyles and colorings.

He sometimes wore glasses or contacts for reading, and plastic surgery gave him new eyelids and nose jobs.

Overall, these changes helped to make him seem more intelligent and mature, which contributed to his success as an artist and person.

“Elvis always wanted to be famous, so he was very aware of what it took to succeed in that field,” says Daniel Schweiger, author of The Rise and Fall of Elvis Presley. “He studied other successful people and copied their styles.

Open your mind

how old was elvis when he got famous

As we mentioned before, Elvis did not have much of a childhood. Starting at an early age he was immersed in music and entertainment. His parents made sure of that!

He began performing songs for family members when he was very young, then later opened up for bigger groups as he got older.

Elvis’s success came at a fast pace so it is hard to say how old he was when he got famous. But we can estimate his “peak years” of fame by looking back at some of his most popular albums and songs and figuring out when they were released.

We also know what kind of career he had so using those numbers as a basis, we can make an estimation.

Commercial success

how old was elvis when he got famous

Before he was famous, you probably knew who Elvis Presley was. Even if you didn’t know his name, you might have known some of his songs like “Heart Break” or “That’s All Right (Mama).”

Elvis made it into mainstream media in the early 1960s when he recorded an album that most people had never heard before. This is called The Elvis Album and it featured mostly cover versions of other artists’ songs with some extra music mixed in.

Some of these covers are really well done, but others just seem too forced to be believable. You can tell that the artist recording them has little knowledge of the original song and no ability to sing beyond maybe one note.

It doesn’t help their case that many of these songs feature lots of off-key singing which makes the overall product even less impressive. It’s not until later albums where Elvis started putting more effort into his own material that we start to see him grow as a singer.

He still sounds very much like himself, but his voice now holds up better under scrutiny.

Health problems

how old was elvis when he got famous

Unfortunately, health was no longer a guaranteed good thing for Elvis. While he never officially announced his pregnancies, there have been many clues about them. Many of his most famous songs mention or refer to children, which implies that he may have had at least one child with Maria Elena.

Elvis also mentioned having “two little ones” in an interview around this time, but he did not specify whether these were biological kids or not. His nephew gave birth just over two years later so it is possible that he already had a son by then!

He often talked about how much money he needed to spend on his house and cars, implying that he didn’t have a lot saved up. This suggests either expensive college tuition or fertility treatments, although neither are confirmed.

Sadly, his overall health began to deteriorate soon after this. According to various sources, including his doctor, he suffered from depression and anxiety well into his 30s. These conditions can be deadly when untreated, so it is important to recognize the symptoms and get help immediately.

Sources:, MedicineNet.