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
Elvis on his Harley on January 2, 1956 | Courtesy of

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. It is so sad that Elvis lost a brother and his mother lost a son. And it’s also sweet to think that Elvis always thought of him, enough to feel like he was missing a part if himself. This adds to Elvis’ character, we only know him as someone that is charismatic and a troublemaker to society’s standards. It is understanding that his mother and father felt the need to be protective of him, because they couldn’t loose him too, but that also comes with consequences such as Elvis not being able to find himself, which maybe was why he was a troublemaker when he grew up.

  2. Most people only know Elvis as the King of Rock and Roll, but we don’t really know his background. I had no idea that Elvis had a twin brother and that he became what he did because of him. He used this tragic moment in his life to become a big artist. He is a legend that no one will ever forget.

  3. I was raised in a household that had burning love blaring in every playlist, so it is very enlightening to read more about the man I heard sing from the time I was born. I did not know Elvis had a twin that never got a chance to live his life. Great to hear the king had something better than money to inspire him.

  4. For the first time I know that Elvis was a twin , and the only child of his family.
    Strangely enough, he was shy and not popular in the school, I did not imagine that for someone who got to his great fame.
    I crave to know the rest of his childhood story and the beginning of his fame.
    I read this article because Elvis was my mom’s favorite singer in that time.

  5. Raymond Nash Munoz III

    I was first introduced to Elvis when I was young because my parents loved his music and so I grew to love him too. The beginning of the article made a valid point about people (me) not knowing the background of their favorite artists and I think its a little sad that we have the internet at our finger tips and we hardly use it to get to know the people who bring us joy through music. I think people don’t look too much into their favorite artists because they believe that they all have the same typical musician background, but this article goes on to prove that assumption wrong. I would’ve never guessed that the “King of Rock and Roll” came from such tragic beginnings, but all great things come from tragedies. It is with Elvis’s tragedy that I can closely empathize with him and his family because I recently lost my house in a fire and it was hard to move on but the tragedy really brought my family together. So I understand and have witnessed the power of a tragedy just as Elvis did and now having read his story I can only hope that I can become as successful as he was.

  6. Always knowing that Elvis was the King of Rock and Roll, nobody knew his background and personal story. Learning in this article that Elvis not only had a twin named Jesse but carried the love for his twin brother as he did not make it to live with him. Seeing how passionate Elvis was to carry his brother was reminds me of the love I have for my older sister, although we are apart at times and disagree at all times, the love for a sibling remains strong through it all. Elvis basically lived his life carrying love and strength for his brother and became a successful artist with that motivation.

  7. This was such a great article, throughout my whole life I have always known about Elvis and his music yet I never really paid attention to what his background was like. It amazes me to think that he had a twin who was stillborn, that must have been such a difficult thing to live with knowing how different his life could have been. I am sure that in his case he used his traumatic past to motivate himself to become the successful individual he was.

  8. Kimberly Simmons

    I never knew of Elvis’ past, let alone his childhood. Reading that his twin brother was stillborn just broke my heart – I can’t imagine carrying around that burden for my entire life. I can understand why he was so close to his family now. His passion for music seemed to give him a way out of his own mind; he was truly a legend.

  9. Marlene Lozano

    I had heard of Elvis but never knew his childhood and background. I find it interesting how he took an interest in music at such a young age, starting with his church choir. I also did not know that Elvis had a twin the had pasted at birth. It is sad that Elvis was not able to grow up with his twin and always felt half of him was missing.

  10. I think that because of his traumatic past it led him to have such great passion for something. Tragedies end up in great disaster or into something amazing like Elvis Presley and Oprah Winfrey. I love reading about past lives of famous people because it reminds the world that they weren’t always famous and that some used to live worse lives than we are living, but they did something about it to get themselves out of that situation.

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