The Life of Elvis Presley

In this lesson, you'll learn about the life of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock. How did he rise to fame? Who was involved? Learn more.

American English Podcast

American English Podcast

By Shana Thompson

To ONLY listen to the Life of Elvis Presley, start listening at minute 9:30.

Elvis Presley is the perfect rags to riches story.

He was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8th, 1935, and he grew up in poverty.

In fact, the Presleys were so poor that his mother couldn’t afford a prenatal doctor or doctor during her pregnancy and the birth of Elvis. So she gave birth at home. And to our surprise, she was pregnant with twins. Jesse Garon, Elvis’s twin brother, was stillborn about 30 minutes before he came into the world. Elvis always wondered what his brother would have been like if he had survived.

In the mid 1930s, the United States was going through the Great Depression. It was a rough time period for all Americans. The unemployment rate was high. People were hungry and relied heavily on food stamps and on free meals from soup kitchens to get by. The Presleys weren’t much different. Elvis’s father, Vernon, took jobs here and there, but without having completed high school, he found it difficult to secure an income long term.

Once in desperation, Vernon, "forged a check to put food on the table," and ended up going to jail for six months. Elvis was just a toddler, three years old at the time, and he and his mom regularly paid him visits there.

The Presley house did not have running water or electricity. They lived in what was called a shotgun house, which was a popular, cheap form of housing in the south back then. Shotgun houses were no bigger than 12 feet wide and were long and rectangular. In order for the Presleys to go to the bathroom, they’d have to pop a squat in an outhouse in their backyard, which didn’t really offer much more than just a hole in the ground.

With Vernon back home, after his jail sentence, the Presleys regularly started attending church. Elvis joined the choir and enjoyed singing so much that his mother gave him a guitar on his 11th birthday. That was to master the art of singing and playing together.

Seeing Elvis’s keen interest, the pastor of the church offered Elvis guidance while learning guitar, but it was outside of the church that Elvis’s passion really started to take form. He took it upon himself to study finger movements of talented guitarists of the time and whenever he could, he would find a radio to tune into. He’d listen to famous country artists from Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville, Tennessee was, and is still, known as the country music capital of the United States.

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Shana - ESL Teacher

Hi Everyone! I am an ESL teacher from California and the host of the American English Podcast. Learn more about me and my teaching experience here.

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