The King reigned in the Orpheum this winter.
“Elvis Lives,” a multimedia event featuring four Elvis impersonators, wowed fans on Jan. 11 at Omaha’s Orpheum theater. And on Feb. 18, “Million Dollar Quartet,” a musical featuring actors playing Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, begins an eight-performance Orpheum run.
Elvis Aaron Presley was born Jan. 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, to Vernon Elvis Presley and wife Gladys Love Smith. People have speculated on the origins of his name ever since Presley became famous.
Though Presley was obviously named after his father, some think his grandparents made up Vernon’s middle name. Others claim Elvis is from Alvis, “all wise” in Old Norse. In Nordic myths, the dwarf Alvis marries Thor’s daughter. A displeased Thor turns Alvis to stone.
Elvis is a rare English surname derived from Helwise, a woman’s name brought to England by Norman conquerors in 1066.
It’s from Germanic roots meaning “healthy” and “wide.”
In 1615, Sir Gervase Helwys, Lieutenant of the Tower of London, was executed for failing to prevent the poisoning of Tower prisoner Sir Thomas Overbury. Pamphlets about his trial spelled Helwys 12 ways, including Elvis and Elwes.
The first census of England in 1841 found 81 people with the last name Elvis. In America, an Elvis appears as early as 1784, when a deed in Horry County, S.C., mentions landowner John Elvis. Elvises are still there today.
Elvis Grisham is the first known American with Elvis as a first name, showing up in Granville County, N.C., in 1830. In the first census listing all residents by name, in 1850, there were 98 Elvises — three near Tupelo, Presley’s birthplace.
In 1886, Elvis ranked 979th on Social Security’s annual baby name list. Around 1900, names like Ellis, Elvin, Elwood and Elmore became fashionable. Parents adopted Elvis, too. Elvis’ peak year before Presley was 1919, when 106 were born, ranking it 584th.
By the time Presley was born, El- names were out of style. In 1955, just 67 newborns were named Elvis.
Then in January 1956, “Heartbreak Hotel” exploded to No. 1 on the Billboard charts and Elvis Presley became a star. There were 420 Elvises born in 1956 and 597 in 1957, ranking it 312th for the year.
Elvis hasn’t come close to that since. In 1958 (when movie critic Elvis Mitchell was born), 373 little Elvises arrived, ranking it 405th. Elvis just didn’t sound like fashionable boomer names.
More importantly, Elvis, like Cher and Madonna, is an unusual name with a bearer so famous everyone thinks of him when they hear it.
By 1959, parents knew if they named a son Elvis, they’d be seen as Presley fanatics.
It takes bravery to bestow a one-celebrity name.
A few parents were brave enough. Football quarterback Elvis Grbac was born in 1970. Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko, 1994 and 1998 Olympic silver medalist, was born to admitted Presley fans in 1972.
In 1977 British singer Declan Patrick McManus adopted Elvis Costello as his stage name, releasing his first album in May. Then, on Aug. 16, Elvis Presley died, prompting a huge outpouring of grief. In 1978, 364 Elvises were born, ranking it 405th, the highest in 20 years.
Elvis’s last bounce back was in 1999, when it jumped 52 percent, to 555th. That was just after Elvis Grbac was People magazine’s 1998 “Sexiest Athlete of the Year.”
In 2012, only 183 babies were named Elvis, and the name fell out of the top thousand.
Still, it will be a long time before the world forgets how Elvis the King got us “All Shook Up.”