Practically any Elvis fan worth their salt knows the details of the King’s background and how he shot to fame. For those who don’t, however, the future star was born to a poor family in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935. And less than an hour before Elvis came into the world, his twin brother, Jesse, had emerged stillborn. It’s since been claimed that this early loss may have affected Elvis as he grew into adulthood, making him ripe for manipulation.
And even as a child, Elvis loved music, although he was hesitant to show off his own skills in the arena. In Peter Guralnick’s 1994 biography, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, the star is quoted as having said, “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.” Nevertheless, he continued to practice, gradually evolving his talents.
Then Elvis finally broke through in the mid-1950s – helped, perhaps, by a sound that drew its influences from black music. Elvis’ voice, too, led some who heard him on the radio to believe that he wasn’t white. And, of course, his on-stage moves – including those seen in his now-famous inaugural performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 – made him stand out from his peers.