Viva Las Elvis: Elvis Presley’s Hollywood excursion in racing

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Elvis Presley is a name that is still well known in most households. Catching his rising star in 1956 by cutting the record: “Heartbreak Hotel” at the age of 21. The musical recipe was rhythm & blues, rockabilly, and of course, rock and roll. A superstar, the Mississippi native was featured in movies to boost their popularity in the 1960’s. With copious amounts of camp, these films were often short, filled with The King’s latest musical numbers and starring countless leading ladies that would later fade into obscurity. It was the era of Elvis. One film after another was pumped through the pipeline. Elvis was put in a variety of "manly" roles such as a soldier, sailor and cowboy. Even though most of his movies were written off as cinematic duds, a few movies, and their title songs were sensational hits like “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) and “Blue Hawaii” (1961).

There were three movies Elvis starred in as a racecar driver. At the very least all are worth the two hour time investmentto be transported to a colorful Elvis world that swirls with crazy party scenes. The first and most popular of the Elvis’ three racing excursions is “Viva Las Vegas” (1964). In this fun fantasy Elvis’ character is named Lucky Jackson and must find the money needed to buy a race engine for his Elva Mk VI. Starring opposite Elvis is the dazzling Ann-Margret as Rusty Martin. They of course have a wild and fast romance together while parading around the Las Vegas strip.

Elvis’ second race-themed movie came two years later and was titled “Spinout.” It was mostly Elvis chasing girls but if one looks closely there is a racecar in there. In fact Elvis’ character, Mike McCoy, drives a Cobra 427. This flick wasn’t as popular as his first race movie but gained more attention than his third and last time to the racetrack, "Speedway."

One of Elvis’ last movies before he dropped the Hollywood act was “Speedway” in 1968. Rumor was that Elvis liked playing the masculine-playboy- racecar-driver as opposed to his other masculine-playboy roles. In the film he donned a race suit and was asked to fake pilot a NASCAR opposite Nancy Sinatra. A lot went into making the film, including cameos by NASCAR stars of the time including Richard Petty, Cale Yarbrough, Tiny Lund and more. “Speedway” wasn’t a complete dud but is often forgotten in Elvis’ long career. Of course, Weat the World of Speed cannot overlook a pop-culture, musical racing crossover. In honor of the King of Rock 'n' Roll we have a few soundtrack records and 8-tracks from these films to acknowledge his quick excursion into motorsports and keep the party going.