The early years - Elvis Aron Presley

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The early years


The early years

  • JANUARY 8, 1935 - 4:35 AM

In Tupelo, Mississippi, Gladys Presley gives birth to identical twin sons. The first, Jesse Garon, is stillborn. The second, Elvis Aaron, is born alive and healthy.

  • 1935 - 1948

Elvis grows up within a poor family, which moves frequently around the Tupelo area.

  • 1945

At ten years old, Elvis sings “Old Shep” in a youth talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, held in Tupelo. The talent show is broadcast over WELO Radio. Click on any photo to see an enlarged view.

  • 1946

Elvis’s parents, unable to buy a bicycle that Elvis wants, talk him into accepting a guitar instead: purchased for $12.95 at the Tupelo Hardware Company.

  • LATE 1948

Elvis plays his guitar and sings “Leaf on a Tree” for his Milam Junior High class in Tupelo. Elvis and his parents move to Memphis, Tennessee.

  • 1948-1953

Elvis and his parents live in public housing or low rent homes in the poor neighborhoods of north Memphis. While attending The Christine School and Humes High School, Elvis works at various jobs to help support himself and his parents. He spends much time on Beale Street and frequents the all-night white, and black, gospel sings that are held downtown.

  • JUNE 3, 1953

Elvis graduates from Humes High School.

  • 1953

After graduation, Elvis works at Parker Machinists Shop. That summer, at The Memphis Recording Service-home of the Sun label-he makes a demo acetate of “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” for a cost of about $4.00 and gives it to his mother as belated birthday present. Later, he works at Precision Tool Company, then changes jobs again, going to work for Crown Electric Company where he drives a delivery truck. He attends night school to be an electrician.

  • JANUARY, 1954

Elvis makes another demo acetate at Memphis Recording Service: the songs are “Casual Love Affair” and “I’ll Never Stand in Your Way”. Sam Phillips, the owner, takes an interest in Elvis.

  • SUMMER 1954

Sam Phillips calls Elvis into the studio to sing “Without You” but feels the boy doesn’t do a very good job. But Phillips is impressed enough to team Elvis with local musicians Scotty Moore (guitar) and Bill Black (bass) to see if they, together, could come up with something worthwhile. In frustration, during a July 5 recording session, Elvis and the group perform a speeded up version of “That’s All Right”. This song, and the flipside “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” would be the first of five singles Elvis would release on the Sun label. Elvis, Scotty, and Bill start performing together, with Scotty acting as the group’s manager. Elvis continues to work at Crown Electric as the group starts to play small clubs. Elvis makes an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry and is told by one of the officials that he should stick to truck driving.

  • LATE 1954 - 1955

Elvis, Scotty, and Bill continue to record and to travel. They appear for the first time on the “Louisiana Hayride”, a live Saturday night country music radio which is the Grand Ole Opry’s chief competitor. This leads to regular appearances on the “Hayride” and, in November, Elvis signs a one-year contract for fifty-two Saturday night appearances. During this period, he meets “Colonel” Tom Parker, a promoter and manager connected with various acts. Elvis signs a contract with Bob Neal, who becomes his manager.

  • 1955

Elvis, Scotty, and Bill continue touring on their own and in packaged tours of artists from the “Hayride” with Colonel Parker involved.Drummer D.J. Fontana joins Elvis’s band. In the spring, Elvis fails to be accepted on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts”, a network television show. Nevertheless, Elvis gains in popularity and begins to receive national attention, leading Parker to become more directly involved in Elvis’s career.

  • AUGUST 15, 1955

Elvis signs a management contract with Hank Snow Attractions, which is owned equally by Snow and Colonel Parker - who will be Elvis’s manager from this time on and Hank Snow ceases to be involved.

  • NOVEMBER 20, 1955

Parker negotiates the sale of Elvis’s Sun contract to RCA (including Elvis’s five Sun singles and his unreleased Sun material) for $40,000, with a $5,000 bonus for Elvis. RCA soon re-releases the five Sun singles on the RCA label. At the same time Elvis signs a contract with Hill and Range Publishing Company, which creates Elvis Presley Music, Inc. As of late 1955, Elvis is without doubt the hottest new star in the music business.

  • JANUARY 10, 1956

Elvis has his first recording session for RCA in their Nashville studio. Among the songs is “Heartbreak Hotel”. During these sessions, the Jordanaires join with Elvis soon begin touring with him.

  • JANUARY 27, 1956

“Heartbreak Hotel” is released by RCA and sells over 100,000 copies a week for the first three weeks, climbs to number one on Billboard’s pop singles chart for eight weeks, number one on the country chart, and number five on the R&B chart. It becomes Elvis’s first gold record.

  • JANUARY 28, 1956

Elvis appears on Jackie Gleason’s “Stage Show”, starring Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey on CBS. This is Elvis’s first network television appearance. He appears on six weekly “Stage Shows” in a row while continuing the “Louisiana Hayride” appearances.

  • FEBRUARY, 1956

While “Heartbreak Hotel” is still climbing the charts, RCA releases “Mystery Train” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” - the last recording on the Sun label. This release immediately hits number one on Billboard’s country singles chart.

  • MARCH 13, 1956

RCA releases Elvis’ first album which quickly turned gold.

  • APRIL 1, 1956

Elvis screen tests at Paramount Studios for a role in “The Rainmaker.” He was not cast in the film.

  • APRIL 3, 1956

Elvis appears on “The Milton Berle Show”.

  • APRIL 6, 1956

Hal B. Wallis and Paramount Pictures sign Elvis for a seven-year contract.

  • APRIL 23 - MAY 9, 1956

Elvis receives a tepid response from audiences at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas during a two-week engagement. But his numerous public performances and record sales establish him as a sensation.

  • JUNE 5, 1956

Elvis appears again on “The Milton Berle Show” and performs “Hound Dog.” His onstage movements are condemned by certain factions of the conservative establishment.

  • JULY 1, 1956

Elvis appears on “The Steve Allen Show” on NBC and performs a more conservative version of “Hound Dog” - dressed in white tie and black tux with tails. The popularity of Elvis forces Ed Sullivan to change his mind about refusing airtime for the singer, and signs him to a three-appearance deal.

  • AUGUST 1956

Paramount loans Elvis to Twentieth Century Fox to play a featured role in a western called “The Reno Brothers.” It is retitled “Love Me Tender” after the song Elvis performs for the soundtrack’s single.

  • SEPTEMBER 9, 1956

Elvis makes the first of his three appearances on Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town Show” and attracts the highest ratings ever for a variety show.

  • SEPTEMBER 26, 1956

“Elvis Presley Day” is proclaimed in Tupelo, Mississippi. Elvis’s parents join him as he returns to the town of his birth as a big star. He performs two shows that day at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show- the same fair at which he had performed at age 10. Elvis souvenir merchandising begins to hit the store shelves. By the end of the year, this merchandise will reach $22 million in sales.

  • OCTOBER 28, 1956

Elvis makes his second of three appearances on the Sullivan show.

  • NOVEMBER 16, 1956

“Love Me Tender” opens on this date and becomes a hit.

  • JANUARY 6, 1957

Elvis makes his third and final appearance on Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town Show.” Although uncensored for his two previous performances, during this show Elvis is seen by the viewing audience only from the waist up.

  • JANUARY, 1957

Elvis begins production of his second movie, “Loving You”.

  • MARCH 1957

Elvis buys Graceland Mansion for himself, his parents, and his paternal grandmother to live in.

  • APRIL 2-3 , 1957

For the first time, Elvis performs outside the United States: in Toronto and Ottawa.

  • MAY, 1957

Elvis is loaned to MGM to make his third film: “Jailhouse Rock.”

  • JULY 9, 1957

Elvis’s second motion picture, “Loving You” opens and reaches the top ten at the box office. The soundtrack single featuring the title song and “Teddy Bear” is released.

  • AUGUST 31, 1957

Elvis performs in Vancouver - the last time he would perform in concert outside the United States.

  • SEPTEMBER 27, 1957

Elvis returns to Tupelo to perform at a benefit for the proposed Elvis Presley Youth Recreation Center -he would donate regularly to the center for the rest of his life.

  • OCTOBER 17, 1957

Elvis’s third motion picture “Jailhouse Rock” premieres in Memphis and opens nationally the following month.

  • NOVEMBER 10, 11 1957

For the first time, Elvis visits and performs shows in Hawaii.

  • DECEMBER, 1957

Elvis receives his draft notice.


Elvis films and records the soundtrack album for his fourth motion picture “King Creole”.

  • MARCH 15, 1958

In Memphis, Elvis performs his last stage performances until after his army release in 1960. His tour of duty takes him out of the spotlight for nearly two years - and many music critics consider Elvis’ induction to be the end of his career.

  • MARCH 24, 1958

Elvis Presley is inducted into the U.S. Army at the Memphis Draft Board.

  • MARCH 25, 1958

Elvis gets his G.I. haircut at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.

  • MARCH 29, 1958

Private Presley arrives at Fort Hood, Texas for six month’s basic training. His parents move to a temporary home near the base.

  • JUNE 10, 1958

After basic training, Elvis has a recording session while on leave.

  • JULY, 1958

“King Creole”, Elvis’s fourth motion picture opens nationally. It is regarded generally as his best serious film.

  • AUGUST, 1958

Gladys Presley becomes ill and is hospitalized with acute hepatitis. Elvis is granted emergency leave and arrives in Memphis on the afternoon of August 12th. She dies in the early hours of August 14 . She was only 46. She is laid to rest at Forest Hill Cemetery, a few miles down the road from Graceland.

  • AUGUST 25, 1958

Elvis reports back to Fort Hood.


Elvis sails aboard the USS Randall to West Germany, arriving on October 1. He will be stationed in Friedberg for 18 months, maintaining an off-base residence in Bad Nauheim.

  • JANUARY 8, 1959

For his 24th birthday, Elvis is interviewed on the telephone by Dick Clark on his “American Bandstand” show on ABC-TV.

  • JUNE, 1959

On a two-week leave, Elvis visits Munich and Paris. Despite what the critics say, Elvis’ career is kept alive by the careful promotions and record releases of Colonel Parker.

  • NOVEMBER 1959

Captain Joseph Beaulieu is transferred from Texas to Weisbaden Air Force Base near Friedberg, accompanied by his wife and children, including his fourteen-and-a-half- year-old stepdaughter, Priscilla Ann. Through a mutual friend, Priscilla is invited to a party at Elvis’s home.

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