Elvis Presley is in the spotlight this week thanks to Baz Luhrmann’s new biopic starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks — opening in theaters this weekend. If you’re all shook up for the film or just want to learn more about the music legend’s local ties, travel back in time as we look at the King of Rock and Roll’s connections to Music City.
📻 The King’s Opry debut
On Oct. 2, 1954, a 19-year-old Elvis stepped onto the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first (and only) time, where he performed a high-energy, rockabilly rendition of Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” As legend has it, the performance was not well received and he was allegedly never invited back. Still, Presley would later return to the Ryman to mingle with friends like Johnny Cash + his contributions to the genre led to his Country Music Hall of Fame induction in 1998.
🏛️ Elvis with the Tennessee General Assembly
Nearly seven years later, Presley paid a visit to a much different venue in Nashville — the Tennessee State Capitol. On March 8, 1961, he appeared before a full room of state lawmakers to accept the title of “honorary colonel,” one of the state’s highest honors, according to The Tennessean’s archives. The resolution also praised his 75 million record sales and Army service.
“I thought it was exciting when I got my first gold record, and it was exciting... but this is one of the nicest things that’s ever happened to me,” Presley said during the session. After banging the gavel + signing autographs, he joined Gov. Buford Ellington to tour the governor’s mansion before traveling back to Memphis in his black Rolls-Royce.
🎙️ Marathon sessions at RCA Studio B
Elvis called Graceland home, but he was a familiar face at Nashville’s Studio B when it was time to record new music. Between 1958-1971, the singer reportedly recorded over 200 songs in the studio — including a “marathon session” of 30-plus songs in five days in the summer of 1970. In 2020 and 2021, RCA/Legacy Recordings released two compilation albums: “From Elvis in Nashville” + “Elvis in Nashville.”
🎶 Presley’s Murfreesboro concerts
If you wanted to see the King live in his later years — at least in the Nashville region — your best chance was a 35-minute drive down to Murfreesboro. He performed five sold-out shows on MTSU’s campus, twice in 1974 and three times in spring of 1975. Fans could score tickets for as little as $5 at the time (or $27 in today’s dollars) to hear classics like “All Shook Up,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”