Elvis the man

The Early Years
The man who would be King was born Elvis Aron Presley on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. His twin brother, Jesse Garon, had arrived stillborn minutes before. Jesse Garon was placed in a shoebox wrapped with red ribbon and buried in an unmarked grave. (This unofficial interment would later lead to wild, unfounded rumors that Jesse Garon had been kept alive in order to serve as body double for an "Elvis Resurrection" should calamity befall Elvis. As it was, Elvis remained haunted by the memory of his twin through out his life. The Presley family was mired in poverty when Elvis was born. His father, Vernon, was an itenerant farm hand who was sent to prison for check forging when Elvis was only three years old. (Following his release from prison, Vernon would be subsequently exiled from Tupelo for making moonshine, prompting the family's move to Memphis) It is generally accepted that Elvis resented his father as a child, a feeling he attempted to overcome in later years. Elvis mother was another matter. Gladys Presley was obsessively devoted to her son. Protective to a fault, Gladys was loathe to bathe the infant Elvis, for fear he would somehow drown. She walked Elvis to school every day of his life, in later years following across the street or behind a screen of bushes in order to save him embarassment. Elvis remained extremely close to his mother throughout her life, bringing both her and Vernon to live at his Memphis estate, Graceland, in 1957. She lived with him until her death in 1958.

Sun Sessions to Superstardom
In 1946, for his 11th birthday, Elvis recieved his first guitar. He had already shown a a talent for singing; the guitar was just a natural extension of his musical abilities. In 1948, the Presley family moved to Memphis. Elvis soon began working to help support his family's meager income. He worked mostly as a laborer, including a stint in the summer of 1951 at the Precision Tool Co. that was cut short when his employers discovered he was not yet 18. (See photo) Shortly after his high school graduation, Elvis toyed with the idea of making what was then called a "vanity record." (In essence, people would pay a modest sum to have a studio record a single pressing of their singing.) He talked his boss into an advance on his paycheck and on July 18, 1953, he walked into the Sun Records studios to record his first record. For the princely sum of $3.98, Elvis recorded two songs, "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin." He also asked Sun Records secretary Marion Keisker if she knew of anyone who needed a singer, prompting the now (somewhat) famous exchange: MK: What kind of singer are you?
EP: I sing all kinds
MK:Who do you sound like?
EP: I don't sound like nobody.

Keisker was to be instrumental in Elvis' signing with Sun Records. After Elvis' vanity session, she continually told Sun owner Sam Phillips that he was missing out on the best singer in Memphis. Finally in late June of 1954, Phillips called Elvis and asked him to come down and record some songs. On July 5, 1954, Elvis, along with musicians Scotty Moore and Bill Black, recorded "That's Alright Mama." Five days later local DJ Dewey Phillips (no relation to Sam)played it during his show. The response was immediate and tremedous. The station was flooded with so many requests that Phillips ended up playing the record virtually non-stop. Elvis' ascencion to the throne was about to take flight. By 1956 Elvis had signed a deal with RCA Records. During the first half of 1956, Elvis' record sales (including "Hound Dog," "Love Me Tender," "Don't Be Cruel" and "Heartbreak Hotel") made up half of RCA's total revenue. He also filmed his first motion picture, also titled "Love Me Tender," in the summer of 1956.

Graceland to the Grave
In 1957, Elvis purchased Graceland, an estate on the outskirts of Memphis, for $100,000. This was the Elvis' castle, from which he would reign as the King of rock 'n' roll -- but there were to be bumps along the way. Elvis had brought his parents to live with him at Graceland, but his beloved Gladys was in failing health. In addition, the draft was calling Elvis' name. Elvis was drafted into the Army in early 1957. He was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. His parents moved to nearby Killeen in order to be close to him. As the year wore on, Gladys' health continued to worsen. She finally returned to Memphis to be near her doctor. Early in the morning of August 14, Gladys Presley died. Elvis was shattered. Many say he never fully recovered from his mother's death. Distraught for weeks, he nontheless finished his Army training at Fort Hood and was soon shipped to Germany, where he would remain for two years. It was while stationed in Germany that Elvis was to meet his future wife. Priscilla Beaulieu was the 14-year old daughter of a U.S. Army colonel. Despite the difference in their ages, the two developed a close romantic relationship. Upon Elvis' return to the United States, Priscilla would come to live with him at Graceland. They would finally be married in 1967. Elvis' prodigious recording and film careers had earned him millions of dollars, and he had grown accustomed to a lavish lifestyle. He bought dozens of automobiles, many of which he gave away to near-strangers. He owned two private planes which he kept to ferry him about the country at his whim. He was known for giving lavish gifts, such as $40,000 diamond rings and equally valuable Rolexes. And of course, in the later years, Elvis spent much of his personal wealth on drugs. Long-rumored to have played at least a contributory role in his untimely death, it is now widely accepted that they may have been the primary cause. Elvis had a voracious appetite for his many vices, and drugs were no different. In the last 31 months of his life, Elvis' personal physician, Dr. George Nichopolous, prescribed over 19,000 doses of drugs for him. On August 16, 1977, Elvis was found dead in the upstairs bathroom of his Graceland home. The official cause of death was listed as "cardiac arrythmia."