Elvis Timeline 1930's - 1950's


April 25, 1912

Elvis’ mother Gladys Love Smith was born in Pontotoc County, Mississippi.

April 10, 1916

Elvis’ father Vernon Elvis Presley was born in Fulton, Mississippi.

June 17, 1933

Gladys and Vernon were married.

From Tupelo to Memphis... The Younger Years 1935 - 1953

January 8, 1935

Elvis Aron Presley was born at 4:35 am in a two-roomed wooden shack in Old Saltillo Road, East Tupelo, Mississippi. His twin brother Jesse Garon, born 35 minutes before Elvis, was delivered stillborn.

May 25, 1938

Elvis’s father Vernon was sentenced to three years in prison for forgery of a four-dollar check. He was granted an indefinite suspension of the sentence in November 1939. In that period Gladys raised Elvis by herself.

September 1941

Elvis entered the first grade at the East Tupelo Consolidated School.

October 3, 1945

His fifth grade teacher Mrs. Oleta Grimes recommended Elvis to Principal Mr. J.D. Cole, who signed him up for the music contest at the 38th Annual Mississippi – Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in Tupelo. Elvis, aged 10, performed the country classic “Old Shep” and won a fifth prize. This was his first known public performance.

January 8, 1946

Elvis got his first guitar as a birthday gift from his parents. Elvis actually wanted a bicycle, but his parents couldn’t afford one, so Gladys talked him into accepting a guitar instead.

September 1946

Elvis entered the sixth grade at Milam Junior High School in Tupelo.

November 6, 1948

The Presley family packed their belongings in a trunk strapped to the roof of their 1939 Plymouth and moved to Memphis, Tennessee in search of a better life. In Memphis they moved into an apartment on 370 Washington Street, and Elvis was enrolled at Humes High School just a few days later.

September 20, 1949

The Presley family moved to a two bedroom, first floor apartment in the Lauderdale Courts.

Fall 1950

Elvis began to work as an usher at the Loew’s State movie theater on South Main Street in his spare time.

June 3, 1951

Just after Elvis finished 10th grade he began to work at Precision Tools located on 1132 Kansas. He was fired short after, because an inspector found out that he was underage.

September 1951

Elvis began his junior year at Humes High School. Elvis tried out for the football team, but was canned when he refused to trim his hair and sideburns.

April 1952

Elvis was still working part-time at Loew's State Movie Theater, but he got fired for punching out a fellow usher who told the manager that Elvis was getting free candy from the girl working at the concession stand.

June 1952

Vernon bought a 1941 model Lincoln. Elvis had taken the test for his driver’s license sometime during 1951, and he could use this car as his own.

August 1952

Elvis lied about his age to get a job at Upholsteries Specialties Company located on 210 West Georgia Avenue.

December 24, 1952 (Undocumented)

Elvis made his second public appearance by singing “Cold, Cold Icy Finger” and “Old Shep” at the annual school Christmas concert at Humes High School.

January 7, 1953

The Presley family left Lauderdale Courts and moved to 698 Saffarans Street, just across the street from the Humes High School.

March 1953

The Presley family moved to 462 Alabama, nearby their old home in Lauderdale Courts.

April 9, 1953

Elvis sang and played the guitar at the Humes High School Annual Minstrel show. He got an unexpected good response from his fellow students. Elvis recalls; “I wasn’t very popular in school. I wasn’t dating anybody… and then they entered me in this talent show, and I came out and did my (first number) ’Till I Waltz Again With You’, by Teresa Brewer… it was amazing how popular I became after that”.

May 26, 1953 (Undocumented)

Elvis joined an amateur contest singing “I'm Left, You're Right”, “She's Gone and Baby”, and “Let's Play House” at First Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Talent Show in Meridian, Mississippi. He won second prize.

June 3, 1953

Elvis graduated from Humes High School; the first member of his immediate family to ever finish high school.

July 1953

Elvis works for a month at the M. B. Parker Company after graduation.

July 18, 1953

Elvis recorded “My Happiness” and “That's When Your Heartaches Begin” at the Memphis Recording Service (Sun Studios). The demo record cost him 4 USD. Staff member Marion Keisker wrote down his phone number and address to give to Sam Phillips later. We’ve been told that Elvis made the record as a birthday gift for his mum, but it was certainly a way for Elvis to get Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Studios, to notice him.

September 1953

Elvis signed up for a new job at Precision Tools. In less than a month he moved to Crown Electric, first in the stock room, later driving their delivery truck. He decided to become an electrician.

Rise to Fame... The Rock’n’Roll Years 1954 - 1957

January 4, 1954

Elvis recorded “It Wouldn't Be The Same Without You” and “I’ll Never Stand In Your Way” in SUN studios. This was a private recording that Elvis paid for himself. At the time, Sam Phillips at SUN was looking for someone who could deliver a blend of black blues and boogie-woogie music.

July 5, 1954

On this day Elvis recorded his first Rock ‘n’ Roll song in SUN Studio; a fueled-up version of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s All Right, Mama”. Elvis initially wanted to be a crooner, and during the first part of the recording session he only did slow ballads. But then, in between takes, Elvis, Scotty and Bill started fooling around and singing Crudup’s blues tune. Phillips asked them to start over again, this time he recorded the song, and history was made!

July 8, 1954

Radio DJ Dewey Philips played “That’s All Right, Mama” on his radio show for the very first time, and he received loads of requests to play the song again. However, Elvis, too nervous to stay at home, had decided to visit the movie theatre. When his parents received a call from Dewey, they picked up Elvis and told him to go visit Dewey at the radio station. Dewey had a conversation with Elvis, without Elvis knowing it was live on the air.

July 30, 1954

Elvis makes his professional debut at the Overton Park Shell in Memphis. Elvis performed “That’s All Right, Mama” and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”. He was so nervous that his legs started shaking… and the crowd went wild!

October 2, 1954

Elvis performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. However, the audience didn’t approve of his take on traditional country music. The Opry's talent director, Jim Denny, told Elvis that he should reconsider his whole career, and go back to driving a truck.

October 16, 1954

Elvis performed at the Louisiana Hayride for the first time. The hayride show was a very popular country radio show broadcasted live from Shreveport, Louisiana. Elvis later became a regular at these shows, together with artists such as Johnny Cash, June Carter, Hank Williams and Jim Reeves.

May 13, 1955

Throughout the year of 1955 Elvis was touring extensively. During his show in Jacksonville, Florida, Elvis told the crowd from stage; “Girls I’ll see you backstage!” This resulted in a riot, when hundreds of girls chased Elvis off stage.

August 15, 1955

Colonel Tom Parker became Elvis' exclusive manager. The controversial Parker remained as Elvis’ manager for the rest of his career.

August 1955

Elvis’ last single on the SUN label, “Mystery Train was released as a B-side to “I Forgot to Remember to Forget. His version of “Mystery Train” would be ranked #77 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list in 2003.

November 21, 1955

Elvis and his parents signed the now famous RCA contract. The price for buying the contract from the SUN label was an unprecedented 40,000 USD, with a 5,000 USD bonus for Elvis.

January 10, 1956

On this day Elvis recorded “Heartbreak Hotel” in the RCA Studio’s in Nashville, Tennessee. It was released as a single on January 27th, and three months later on April 21st, it turned out to be Elvis’ first #1 on the Billboard singles chart. Ultimately it became his first Gold Record by selling over 1,000,000 copies.

January 28, 1956

Elvis performed on national television for the first time on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show. Between January 28th and March 24th of 1956 Elvis would make a total of six appearances on the CBS Stage Show, starring Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.

March 23, 1956

Elvis’ first album Elvis Presley was released. The album sold initially more than 1,000,000 copies, and it became his first Gold Album. The famous front cover has gained an iconic status in the history of Rock ’n’ Roll.

March 26, 1956

Elvis did a screen test for Paramount Pictures. The producers enjoyed what they saw, and they offered Elvis a seven-year movie contract with Hal Wallis and Paramount Pictures.

June 5, 1956

Elvis made his second appearance on the Milton Berle TV Show in Los Angeles. During this show Elvis had his infamous performance of “Hound Dog”. In the aftermath of the show, news media and parents organizations expressed harsh disapproval of Elvis’ impact on the nation’s youth.

July 1, 1956

Elvis performed at the Steve Allen Show at the Hudson Theater in New York City. Elvis, wearing a tuxedo, was singing his song “Hound Dog” to a real Bassett hound.

August 8, 1956

On this day the duo “Don’t Be Cruel” / “Hound Dog” entered the top spot on the Billboard singles chart. This single, that is the only one in the history where both sides ended up at #1 on the same chart, spent formidably 11 weeks on the top position (the top spot was shared between the sides).

September 9, 1956

Elvis appeared at the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. This show was at the time the most popular TV-show in the US. Elvis’ success on the Milton Berle and Steve Allen shows prompted the previously reluctant Ed Sullivan to sign Elvis for his own TV-shows. The show was viewed by 82.6 percent of the television audience; the largest single audience in television history!

September 26, 1956

Elvis performed live twice in front of huge crowds at the Mississippi Alabama Fair And Dairy Show in his birth town Tupelo. During these shows, that was announced as “Tupelo Welcomes Elvis Presley Home”, the mayor James Ballard proclaims the “Elvis Presley Day” in Tupelo, and presented Elvis with the Key to the City.

October 28, 1956

Elvis performed four songs on his second appearance at the Ed Sullivan Show in New York City.

November 15, 1956

Elvis’ first movie, Love Me Tender, premiered. The title song was a #1 hit, and it has become one of his signature songs.

December 4, 1956

This day Elvis visited the SUN recording studio in Memphis to meet up with Sam Phillips. He landed in the middle of a recording session with Carl Perkins. Elvis stayed to jam with Perkins, as well with Jerry Lee Lewis, who was the piano player on the session. Johnny Cash was also present during parts of this session. Sam Philips taped the whole thing and these recordings have later become known as the Million Dollar Quartet session.

January 6, 1957

Elvis performed live at the Ed Sullivan Show in New York for the 3rd and final time. Ed Sullivan, a former critic of Elvis, closed the show by saying "This is a real decent, fine boy. We've never had a pleasanter experience on our show with a big name than we've had with you”.

March 25, 1957

Elvis buys the Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee for 102,500 USD. This would become Elvis’ home until the day he died.

July 30, 1957

Elvis' second motion picture Loving You opened nationwide in the US. The movie quickly reaches the top ten at the box office. The #1 smash hit “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”, is taken from this movie.

October 15, 1957

Elvis’ fourth album Elvis’ Christmas Album was released. This is still the bestselling Christmas album of all time.

November 8, 1957

On this day the iconic Elvis movie Jailhouse Rock premiered in the US. The jailhouse dance scene ranks among the most famous moments in his career.

Serving His Country... The Army Years 1958 - 1959

March 24, 1958

Elvis was inducted into the U.S. Army at the Memphis Draft Board. Elvis then leaves for the army base in Fort Hood, Texas for his six months of basic training program.

July 2, 1958

The movie King Creole premiered in the US. This movie, filmed in New Orleans, ranks as his creative highlight as an actor.

August 14, 1958

Elvis’ mother Gladys Presley passed away. The cause of death was acute hepatitis. Though Elvis was serving in the army at the time, he managed to get back home to meet her the day before she died. It is well known that Elvis loved his mother very much.

September 22, 1958

Elvis leaves for Germany on the USS Randall to serve abroad in Germany for 18 months. A number of fans and press were present at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in New York to cheer him goodbye. The USS Randall arrived at the German port of Bremerhaven 9 days later on October 1st. More than 1500 fans and a huge press corps greeted Elvis welcome to Europe.

January/ February, 1959

Elvis rented a house in Goethestrasse 14 in Bad Nauheim, a little town not far from the military base. He moved in together with his father, grandmother and some friends. This would be Elvis’ home until he returned to the US in March 1960.

August 10, 1959

The Elvis single “A Big Hunk O’Love” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. This was his 12th number one hit, and his last of the 50’s. Elvis was still serving in Germany.

September 13, 1959

Priscilla Beaulieu, 14 years old at the time, visited Elvis' home in Goethestrasse for the very first time. Not a living soul present missed the immediate attraction between the two of them. Elvis later stated: “She is like the woman I've been looking for all my life”.

Sources; “Elvis: Day By Day” – Peter Guralnick, Ernst Jørgensen / “Last Train To Memphis” – Peter Guralnick / “Careless Love” – Peter Guralnick / “Elvis Files Volume 1-6” – Erik Lorentzen / “A Boy From Tupelo” – Ernst Jørgensen / “The Complete Chart History Of Elvis Presley” – Joseph A. Tunzi / Wikipedia / www.keithflynn.com / www.elvis.com.au / www.officialcharts.com / www.imdb.com