Musician Biographies » Elvis Presley » Elvis's Childhood - Understanding The Political Climate, Early Musical Influences: Hillbilly, Gospel, And The Blues, The Birthday Present

Elvis's Childhood - The Birthday Present

guitar play school helped

Elvis got his first guitar as a present for his eleventh birthday. Some accounts say that he wanted a bicycle instead; others say a rifle. Elvis's uncles, Vester and Johnny, helped him learn to play, as did Frank Smith, the new church pastor. Smith later said, “I would show him some runs and different chords … That was all: not enough to say I taught him how to play, but I helped him.”

The pastor also encouraged Elvis to play the guitar during some of the musical parts of the Sunday church service, and he often saw the boy perform on Saturdays during the amateur portion at the Jamboree.

Elvis often took his guitar to school. Sometimes he sang in the classroom, but usually he practiced in the school's basement, which was like a recess area. He was elected to the student council, but many classmates later described Elvis as a loner. Some of the students thought Elvis was a trashy boy who played trashy music. In the eighth grade, a gang of boys took his guitar and clipped the strings. Some of the other students chipped in and bought him a new set, though. In 1948, on his last day of junior high school, Elvis gave a going-away concert. The day after, the Presleys moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis was thirteen years old.

Elvis's Childhood - The Move To Memphis [next] [back] Elvis's Childhood - Early Musical Influences: Hillbilly, Gospel, And The Blues

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