What gave the baby name Elvis a boost in 1956?

Elvis Presley's self-titled debut album (1956)
Elvis Presley’s debut album

According to the U.S. baby name data, the name Elvis — which regularly ranked inside the boys’ top 1,000 during the first half of the 20th century — saw a steep rise in usage in 1956, and reached peak popularity in 1957:

  • 1959: 264 baby boys named Elvis [rank: 480th]
  • 1958: 372 baby boys named Elvis [rank: 405th]
  • 1957: 604 baby boys named Elvis [rank: 312th]
  • 1956: 417 baby boys named Elvis [rank: 362nd]
  • 1955: 65 baby boys named Elvis [rank: 924th]
  • 1954: 47 baby boys named Elvis

Here’s a visual:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Elvis in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Elvis

What was influencing the name Elvis in the mid-1950s?

The King of Rock and Roll, of course. :)

Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1935. He was named after his father, Vernon Elvis Presley.

After graduating from high school (in Nashville, Tennessee) in 1953, he went to work as a truck driver — and also began recording songs at Sun Records.

By 1955, he’d become a regional star in the South. He was playing shows with country acts like Faron Young and The Carter Sisters.

But 1956 was the year Elvis became a national phenomenon.

He released “Heartbreak Hotel” in January. It became the best-selling song in the U.S. for eight weeks straight (from April to June). Among his other 1956 singles were “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Love Me Tender” — each of which took turns in the top-selling spot for a stretch of 16 weeks (from August to December).

Elvis also performed on various TV shows throughout 1956. He appeared on Stage Show six times (from January to March), the Milton Berle Show twice (in April and June), the Steve Allen Show once (in July), and the Ed Sullivan Show twice (in September and October). His September 9th appearance on the nation’s most popular variety show attracted 60 million viewers — over 82% of the television-viewing audience of the day — making it “the most-watched TV broadcast of the 1950s.”

Finally, in November, he was featured in his first movie, Love Me Tender. (His love interest was played by Debra Paget.) In its first week, the movie ranked in #2 at the box office behind James Dean’s final film, Giant.

In 1957, Elvis continued putting out best-selling singles (such as “Too Much,” “All Shook Up” and “Jailhouse Rock”). He appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show a third time (in January) and starred in two more movies: Loving You (released in July) and Jailhouse Rock (released in November).

A handful of the hundreds of baby boys named Elvis during these years were also given the middle name Presley. Some examples…

  • Elvis Presley White (b. May 1956, in Texas)
  • Elvis Presley Imes (b. July 1956, in North Carolina)
  • Elvis Presley Williams (b. October 1956, in Texas)
  • Elvis Presley Arrington (b. November 1956, in North Carolina)
  • Elvis Presley Hart (b. November 1956, in Ohio)
  • Elvis Presley Nettles (b. January 1957, in North Carolina)
  • Elvis Presley Weaver (b. January 1957, in Alabama)
  • Elvis Presley Day (b. June 1957, in North Carolina)
  • Elvis Presley Jamerson (b. August 1957, in Texas)

The original Elvis Presley went on to record hundreds of songs — 149 of which made an appearance on the pop charts — and star in 31 movies over the course of his career.

Sadly, that career was cut short when, in August of 1977, Elvis was found unconscious in his Memphis mansion, Graceland. He’d suffered a heart attack (“brought on largely by drug abuse”) and doctors were unable to revive him.

Elvis’ death at the age of 42 triggered not only a national outpouring of grief, but also a second spike in usage of the baby name Elvis:

  • 1980: 229 baby boys named Elvis [rank: 571st]
  • 1979: 274 baby boys named Elvis [rank: 504th]
  • 1978: 365 baby boys named Elvis [rank: 404th]
  • 1977: 299 baby boys named Elvis [rank: 467th]
  • 1976: 148 baby boys named Elvis [rank: 678th]

What are your thoughts on the name Elvis?

P.S. Mike Stoller, one of the songwriters behind “Hound Dog,” survived the sinking of the Andrea Doria in mid-1956.

Sources: Elvis Presley – Wikipedia, Elvis Presley – Britannica, Elvis – Television Appearances & Specials – Graceland.com, Elvis Presley’s 1956 – Graceland.com, List of Billboard number-one singles of 1956 – Wikipedia, Elvis Presley makes first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” – History.com, FamilySearch.org, Mike Stoller recalls day he survived a wreck and discovered his Elvis hit – Elvis Australia, SSA

3 thoughts on “What gave the baby name Elvis a boost in 1956?

  1. I don’t think I’ve met anyone named Elvis who didn’t have it as part of a stage name or pen name. But I’ve certainly met a number of little girls named Presley in the past few years. (No stones to throw — my niece, who’s turning 15 in a week, is named McCartney.) Elvis is not a bad name, but it’s hard to separate the name from the most famous man who had it. I like the name Jesse (his identical twin, who died the day they were born) better. A name similar to Elvis that I like a lot is Elwyn.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone named Elvis other than a couple of dogs.
    There are several pro athletes named Elvis. Of those in baseball, most are born in South or Central America, so “The Elvis” may not be the reason for their parents choosing it. Currently at least 2 MLB players are named Elvis – position player Elvis Andrus and pitcher Elvis Peguero. He’s currently on the IL, but Peguero may pitch in the playoffs if he’s healthy and if the Brewers stay in it long enough.

    I still remember being in the backseat of the car when the radio announced Elvis Presley had died. We were on the way to the pool and my mom had stopped at the bank for something. The announcement was made just as we were leaving the parking lot — my mom shushed us and pulled back into the parking spot and cried. It was a weird experience as a kid.

    PS – Elwyn is one of my favorite ways that my name gets mangled. Much better than Ellen or Elly

  3. Your story about your mom crying about Elvis made me think of when John Lennon died. My mom didn’t get out of bed the next day — she was too sad. I was 7 and my brother was 4. A very confusing time for everyone. I don’t remember Elvis dying, but I guess I was a little too young (3) to retain the memory at the time.

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