Childhood of the King of Rock n’ Roll: Elvis Presley, Part I

Elvis Presley in 1954 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Everyone has a favorite musician, and they could probably name their favorite songs, the places and dates of when they saw them, but if asked, would they be able to talk about their favorite artist before they were famous? Could they discuss their favorite musician’s childhood, such as where they were from, when they first became interested in music, and if they were even good in the beginning?

Elvis on his Harley on January 2, 1956. By classicmotorcyclebuild.com
Elvis on his Harley on January 2, 1956 | Courtesy of classicmotorcyclebuild.com

Before he would be known as the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley led a simple life. His mother, Gladys Presley, was carrying twins, Jesse Garon and Elvis Aron; both were delivered on January 8, 1935; Jesse Garon would be pronounced as a stillborn.1 Although Elvis did not have a chance to actually meet his brother, he would grow up visiting his brother’s grave; he would always refer to Jesse as his twin.2 Gladys believed that even though Jesse Garon did not survive, Elvis would always carry his brother with him. Gladys believed that Elvis carried the strength of both babies, but without Jesse Garon, Elvis always felt he was missing half of himself.3 People that lived around them noticed that Elvis seemed unusually close to his mother.4 Gladys, only having one child, hovered over Elvis as he was growing up; because of that, Elvis would always be by his mother’s side.

It was very hard for the family to lose Jesse Garon at birth, but they made the best of it, and loved Elvis fiercely. Elvis’s father, Vernon, and his mother loved him very much and wanted to protect him from everything, but showed restraint in allowing him be his own person. After losing Jesse, the family was heartbroken, but leaned on one another for strength. They knew that family would always be there for them if they needed help and the Presleys kept their little family of three close. With the tragedy of knowing that someone was missing in their family, Elvis made sure that he was there for the both of them, always promising that he would do whatever he could for his parents.

Elvis started going to school, and although he was not the brightest student, he did his best in his classes and followed the rules. He was always on his best behavior when at school, and was polite to those around him. Elvis was shy and tried to get along with his classmates, trying out for football and ROTC, getting out of his shell.5 Elvis was not good with attention on him in his early life; he was a loner. He was always alone, and found himself more at ease being around teachers than his fellow classmates.6

Elvis Presley on stage on January, 28, 1956. | Credit to CBS
Elvis Presley on stage on January, 28, 1956. | Credit to CBS

Elvis started showing interest in music at a young age, but only truly did something with music when he was older. When he was two, Elvis attended a church sermon with his mother and upon hearing the choir sing Shake Rag, a rhythm-and-blues song; he ran from her lap to join the choir.7

His love for music was instinctual; he drank it in, allowing it to flow through his veins like a drug; he had a channel stuck in his head hooked up to the divine gods of music.8

He was passionate even at a young age and to be this passionate, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. The sounds he would hear around him affected him to make his sound, to find what he did or did not like.

Elvis soaked up all the musical sounds around him, the train whistle, the white country singers, the poplar sound on the radio, the jamboree performers at the courthouse, the gospel music at his church, the flux of sounds in Shake Rag, the gospel at the African American churches and the tent revivals.9

Wherever he went, he always found a sound that intrigued him. The hold music had on him would prove to be the most powerful bond he had ever felt in his life.

Continue to Part II

  1. Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley (Little, Brown & Company, 1994), 13.
  2. Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, 13.
  3. Bobbie Ann Mason, Elvis Presley (A Lipper/ Viking Book, 2003), 11.
  4. Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, 13.
  5. Glen Jeansonne, David Luhrssen, and Dan Sokolovic, Elvis Presley, Reluctant Rebel: His Life and Our Times (Praeger, 2011), 22.
  6. Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, 35.
  7. Mason, Elvis Presley, 16.
  8. Mason, Elvis Presley, 16.
  9. Mason, Elvis Presley, 17.

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This Post Has 68 Comments

  1. Every time I hear about Elvis Presley, I always have viewed him as this larger than life character, however this article has altered my view as it displayed his personal struggles and how he was able to overcome these challenges and how he wasn’t handed success on a silver platter, rather he had to work hard for it. When I see videos of Elvis he always exuded such confidence that I never would’ve guessed that he was once a very shy and timid, something that a lot of people could relate to.

  2. This article is prime example how celebrities are just like us. They have emotions and troubles that they experienced. Sometimes celebrities have it harder than us. Elvis was an amazing performer, his music was listened to and loved by everyone in the world. His story gives us a little insight on his music and how we has as an adult. Very creative article. Well written too!

  3. Elvis has always been one of my dad’s favorite artists so I grew up listening to him quite often. I love his voice and loved him music. I didn’t know that he was suppose to be a twin and how he unfortunately lost his brother. I also didn’t know that he was a shy kid that did ROTC. I knew he was in the military for sometime but never ROTC. It also kind of surprised me that he wasn’t very good in school. You see these celebrities and I guess you just assume that they’re good in school.

  4. I would have honestly never guessed that Elvis wasn’t good with attention on him in his early life, because whenever someone would talk to me about him, he was always in the center of it all. So it comes as a shock to me that he was a loner. It also leaves me speechless learning that at the age of two, his love for music started, but then again, being as good as he was, it shouldn’t really surprise me that much.

  5. Reading this article gave me a much bigger appreciation for Elvis Presley. I’ve always loved the artist, ever since I was in elementary, popping in the VHS for the movie “Lilo and Stich” that was comprised mostly of Elvis songs. Even with my interest in his music, I never knew he had a stillborn twin. I am a twin myself, identical, so I can but can’t imagine what it must have been like to lose that brother. I always say “Having a twin is like being born with a built-in bestfriend”, so I’m glad Elvis and his family got through it and grew a family, in the form of fans of his music.

  6. I always like knowing about an artist’s background to see their inspiration behind their music and their lyrics. I did not know that Elvis had a twin brother that died. I really admired their parents for not letting this tragedy affect the way they treated Elvis negatively, rather they used it to love him even more. I like how Elvis’s story aligns with the meaning or rock n roll: that there’s always going to be bad times, but one can get through it eventually.

  7. This article shows how the famous Elvis Presley came to be famous and how it crumbled down. It gives us some more information about him that not many people bother to know. It shows us a different perspective of him and how he rose to fame. He had a pretty simple life before he got famous, lots of ups and downs but made the most of it and thats what i like about this article. Overall, the article was a very good one to ready, this person did their research on Elvis and tried their best to share us the information.

  8. I personally have a very old soul, I absolutely love the older music and artists (Queen, Biggie smalls, 2pac, Ray Charles) I have always known who Elvis was and praised his music. But although I knew him every well I did not in fact know he had a twin that was lost at birth and I also did not know what really kicked Elvis into his passion for music. Now I know the story and background as to how he came to be the King of Rock & Roll. It shows us that even though he was a star, we all have bad times and rough times but we all get through it and we all find a way to keep going in life.

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