“Viva Las Vegas” is a 1963 song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and recorded that same year by Elvis Presley for his Viva Las Vegas film vehicle, which along with the song was set for general release the year after. Although Presley never sang the song live, it has since become widely known and often performed by others. The RIAA, on their part, credits the song as having sold 500,000 copies in the United States alone, as per their Gold Award certification, issued on March 27, 1992.
Released as the b-side of the “What’d I Say” single from the same film, “Viva Las Vegas” charted separately from its A-side, a modest hit reaching #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart. The Elvis version of “What’d I Say” peaked at #21, the two sides having equivalent appeal in the marketplace. “Viva Las Vegas” reached #12 on the UK Singles Chart, improving to #15 after a reissue in 2007.
In the years since its first release, the song has become one of Presley’s most recognized numbers. In the 1990s and 2000s, the song appeared in countless movies and TV sitcoms, either as a reference to the city of Las Vegas, or simply as an expression of joy or bewilderment in related comedic situations.
In 2002, the city of Las Vegas requested Elvis Presley Enterprises, the company that handles a portion of Elvis’s legacy and all Elvis-related music rights, to allow it to be the official song of the city. Negotiations stalled over the price requested by EPE, notwithstanding that EPE had not controlled the copyright to the song since 1993, at which time it became the property of the families of the songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. Since EPE no longer owns the copyright to the song, it essentially means that EPE does not have the authority or right to negotiate the use of the song “Viva Las Vegas” within the United States, its territories and possessions, although EPE may be able to negotiate the use of the actual Elvis recording of the song.
The song is featured in Looney Tunes: Back in Action where Bugs Bunny sings the song.
Punk band Dead Kennedys recorded a version of “Viva Las Vegas” on their debut album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980). The song had been a part of their live set almost since the band’s inception. Their version strips the musical arrangement down to guitar, bass and drums, and uses a slightly faster tempo, yet maintains the song’s melodic structure. It also features satirical lyric changes by lead singer Jello Biafra in the second and third verses, referencing a gambler using speed and cocaine in order not to “sleep a minute away”. This version can also be found in Terry Gilliam’s film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).
Nina Hagen recorded a version of “Viva Las Vegas” on her album Nina Hagen (1989).
ZZ Top recorded a version of “Viva Las Vegas” as one of two new tracks on their Greatest Hits album (1992).
The Killers, who are from Las Vegas, often perform the song live, such as in the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Festival.
Film co-star Ann-Margret recut a version of the song for the live action movie The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000) under the pseudonym of her animated alter-ego Ann-Margrock and with the song’s title changed to, of course, “Viva Rock Vegas”.
Polish street punk, Oi! band The Analogs covered the song in Polish, without changing its name.
The bluegrass act The Grascals did a version of the song on their debut album (2005).
Those Darn Accordions recorded an all-accordion instrumental version on their album Vongole Fisarmonica (1992).
Chilean punk band Fiskales Ad-Hok covered the song in Spanish, changing its name to “Viva Santiago”.
The song is featured in the film The Big Lebowski (1998). Shawn Colvin performs it as a folk ballad during the closing credits. A rock version in the film is credited to a band called Big Johnson, and is styled after the ZZ Top version. The Colvin version was recorded originally for the Rhino/Forward release, Til the Night is Gone: A Tribute to Songwriter Doc Pomus (1995).
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas is a reference to the song.
The Scooby-Doo movie Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico (2003) featured a variation of the song entitled “Viva Mexico”, done in a Latin beat.
The song is a part of Bruce Springsteen’s live act, and was included in The Last Temptation of Elvis, a commemorative album of renditions by singers, and rock groups, of songs made famous by Presley. Springsteen’s studio version of “Viva Las Vegas” was also included in the soundtrack of the film Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), and in his compilation The Essential Bruce Springsteen (2003).
The Thrills performed “Viva Las Vegas” with James Burton at Elvis’ induction to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. The song was recorded live and later released as a B-side to The Irish Keep Gate-crashing.
There are also cover versions of the song by Wayne Newton, The Residents, The Misfits, Billy Swan, Dolly Parton and The Grascals, Dread Zeppelin, Engelbert Humperdinck, Lee Rocker, Phil Cody, The Gipsy Vagabonds, The Stray Cats, Cornell Hurd, King Junior, The Blues Brothers, The Royal Crown Revue, Mort Shuman himself, The Southern Boys, and many, many others.
The Dread Zeppelin version of “Viva Las Vegas” was used as the theme to the Travel Channel reality series American Casino.
Radio station WGIR-FM in Manchester, New Hampshire, did a parody version, “Viva Manch Vegas” (referring to the sarcastic nickname of the city) on its “Morning Buzz Show”.
At UNLV athletic events, UNLV’s band often plays a version of “Viva Las Vegas” in the same way most college bands play schools’ fight songs.
The song was recorded for a Viagra commercial with lyrics changed to “Viva Viagra”.
The song served as the theme tune for NBC’s short-lived animation series Father of the Pride.
The Mexican band Plastilina Mosh released “Viva Las Vegas” in their Tasty album.
Dwayne Johnson sang a portion of the song during his WWE stint with the chorus changed to “Viva Rock Vegas”.
Johnny Ramone had recorded an instrumental version of this song.
Vince Neil covered the song on his solo release Tattoos & Tequila (2010).
Dark-synth band Lost Children (Formerly Depressed Children) performed a version of this song on their debut CD Our Fallen Cities.
Spanish band La Frontera has recorded and performs a version of the song.
Holly Cole, from the album Night (2012).
Amanda Lear covered the song on her tribute album My Happiness (2014).
Czech country singer Michal Tučný covered ZZ Top style version on his album Jižanský rok (1994).
Cover band Shake a Hamster Band did a parody cover for the 2003 KVSC Trivia Marathon, titled “Viva Las Trivia”.
Johnny Punish did a rock version of the song in August 2016 for his record “Rejuva Nation” supported by a music video on YouTube.com