We love looking back at how some of our favorite people grew up. Today we feature the story of how Elvis grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis was born on January 8, 1935 to Gladys Love and Vernon Elvis Presley in a tiny, two-room house built in preparation for the child's birth. Sadly, Elvis had a twin who was delivered stillborn, and this became a point of great pain for the family, but made Elvis the Golden Child.
Photo of Gladys and Vernon in 1938.
The years following Elvis' birth were hard for the family as Vernon jumped from one job to the next and was briefly jailed for writing a bad check in Tupelo. Gladys and Elvis moved in with relatives after this as they lost the family home.
A Young Boy in Tupelo
A young Elvis with his wagon.
Elvis entered first grade at East Tupelo Consolidated in September, 1941, and though the teachers considered him "average", they encouraged his musical abilities that they discovered when he sang the song "Old Shep" during morning prayers at the school.
School photo of Elvis around 1944.
As his singing abilities blossomed, teachers encouraged him to enter a talent show at the Mississippi-Alabama state fair. So on October 3, 1945, he stood on a chair to reach the microphone and sang "Old Shep" once again and placed fifth in the competition. The photo above shows him holding his reward.
After the contents, he received a guitar for his birthday, though he had hoped for something else. He recalled: "I took the guitar, and I watched people, and I learned to play a little bit. But I would never sing in public. I was very shy about it."
Elvis Develops Some Style and His Music
As Elvis moved in to middle school in 1946, he was regarded as somewhat of a loner. Though he brought in his guitar to school and would sing at lunchtime, people recall that he was often thought of as a "trashy" kid who played hillbilly music. Despite this, he found some local mentors and at the age of 12 years old was occasionally playing music live on the local radio station.
In the following years, a young Elvis started to develop a bit of 'flair', as seen in this photo from 1947, which must have been his eighth grade photo. At the end of the school year, the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee.
Here is Elvis standing outside the school in 1949. You can see he's found a bit of a swagger! Around this time, he was continuing his music lessons and started taking odd jobs around town, one being an usher at the local theater.
Perhaps nothing is more telling than this photo from around 1950 - a photo-booth shot that shows Elvis with some slicked-back hair and that trademark curl that he'd sport in his upcoming music career.
Finishing Out High School and Setting His Sights on Music
Elvis had a strange set of years in high school. He was a reluctant student and participated in a few activities around the school, but still focused most of his time on music, though at this time he didn't see it as a potential career.
Despite his growing music talent and developing style, Elvis was an active member in his high school's ROTC program. However, even in his uniform, you can see he got across a little bit of flair with that upturned lip! In the following year, he began to stand out more from his classmates as he grew out his sideburns and began to spend more time down on Beale Street, taking in all different forms of music, including jazz.
Here we see Elvis in 1953 sitting in the back of his class. He was about to go from a fairly average life to the start of an extraordinary career.
In August, 1953, shortly after graduation, Elvis walked in to Sun Records to pay for studio time to record two tracks. Though his early music didn't catch on, by the end of 1954, he and the others at Sun Records found a new type of sound in pairing with two other local musicians. By 1955, they thought they "had something" and this would result in the live appearances that would then launch Elvis in to stardom.
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