Young Elvis – Who Was He?
Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8th, 1935. His parents were Vernon Elvis and Gladys Love Elvis.
Elvis had a twin brother who was born 35 minutes before him. His name was Jesse Garon Presley.
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At the age of 13, Elvis migrated with his family to Memphis, Tennessee. Being a devout member of the Assembly of God church, Presley found musical inspiration in the hymns he sang along with his parents and the congregation. These early days played a major role in how his character developed as a person and as a musical idol.
Elvis’ dad Vernon was more or less a slacker and moved from one odd job to another. Because of his inconsistency, the family had to rely on financial help from relatives and friends and also government assistance. In 1938, the family lost their home to foreclosure and Vernon was jailed for check forgery (9 month sentence). Not exactly the best role model, right?
Young Elvis Gets Discovered
At age 10, Elvis impressed his teacher with a rendition of an old country song called “Ol’ Shep” during their morning prayer session. A few months later, Presley was given his first guitar and got a few lessons from his uncle and the church’s pastor. In later years, Elvis recalled that at this age he was very shy and did not want to sing or play his guitar in front of others. Boy, did that change over time!
At age 11, Elvis would bring his guitar to school and sing during lunchtime. Other kids teased him and called him a “Trashy Hillbilly”. One of his teachers in 6th grade told Presley he had no talent and suggested he give up trying to be a singer. Of course, we all know that didn’t stop young Presley!
By the time Elvis reached High School, he was practicing his guitar and singing regularly, which got him noticed. He was also becoming popular because of his unique, slicked-back hairstyle and his fashionable clothing.
Shortly thereafter, Presley appeared in a local talent show and wowed the crowd with his unrestrained talent and good looks! He was on his way to stardom!
Elvis took the gospel style of singing he loved so much and mixed it with the heavy beat of rhythm and blues. It was this marriage of genres that Presley developed his unmistakable and powerful sound.
In the summer of 1953, Elvis paid for a few minutes of recording time at the famous Sun Records in Memphis, TN. He initially claimed that he just wanted to hear what he sounded like on a record but everyone knew that Presley did that recording in hopes of being “Discovered”. Despite a series of rejections thereafter, Elvis kept on improving and eventually met Sam Phillips, the top executive at Sun Records. It has been told that Phillips was looking for a white boy who sounded like the black R&B artists of the day. He found the perfect guy!
After setting Elvis up with an evening recording session, Phillips found the night relatively unproductive until Elvis launched into his signature song “That’s Alright” which exploded the room like a supernova! The legend of Presley’s recording career had begun!
More Cool Facts About Elvis
- During his early television appearances, film crews were told to shoot Elvis only from the waist up. It was thought that network censors would find his hip gyrations offensive
- At age 22, young Presley bought the 18-room Graceland property for $102,500. An incredibly high amount for the 1950s!
- In the first half of 1957, Presley released 3 singles, “Too Much”, “All Shook Up”, and “Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear”. All three went to #1 on the American music charts
- Presley used black hair polish to accentuate his hairstyle
- During Elvis’s rise, Frank Sinatra declared The Kings’ music “brutal, ugly, degenerate and vicious”. Ironically, Sinatra would record several of Presley’s songs over the remainder of his career
- Presley did not write any of his songs. They were all written by other songwriters
- Elvis was a Black Belt in Karate, a form of Martial Arts he learned in the US Army
- During his military service in Germany, Presley met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu. They would court for 7 years and eventually marry
- Presley’s first album spent 10 weeks in the #1 spot
- He starred in a total of 30 movies. Amazing!
- During their marriage, Elvis insisted that Priscilla look her best in public at all times. It was important to him to uphold the appearance of a “Perfect Marriage”
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