Presley plays “Vince Everett,” an ex-convict working in the music industry, and a character analogous to Presley’s then public image. After going to jail for a bar fight he did not start, Everett meets Hunk Houghton in prison, and the two men form a bond. Houghton, a washed-up country singer, teaches Everett to play an old guitar, and to sing a few songs.
Upon his release, Everett lands work at night clubs, but not singing. He meets Peggy Van Alden, a record company talent scout, who allows Everett to record a song. They bring his go to an executive at a small record label, who then records the exact arrangement with one of his established stars. Everett and Van Alden then start their own label to bring Everett’s records to the public, and fame, riches, and a film career ensue.
Everett’s prison buddy Houghton shows up, and instead of getting in on the action as anticipated, has to settle for being Everett’s gofer. Throughout the film, Everett is the epitome of the spoiled star, surly, uncommunicative, bellicose, and treating all around him with either cruelty or diffidence, especially Van Alden and Houghton. A final fight at the end of the movie with Houghton, meant to give Everett his comeuppance, damages his vocal cords, bringing into question his ability to ever sing again. He learns his lesson in humility, and expresses his true feelings for Van Alden and Houghton.
Elvis Presley’s co-star Judy Tyler was killed in a car wreck on July 4, 1957, three days after filming of Jailhouse Rock ended. Presley refused to watch the movie because of this. Composer Mike Stoller appears in the movie as the band pianist.