Rain Before Rainbows

You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son

A rusted 1935 Plymouth had carried Elvis Presley and his parents out of Mississippi in search of a better life, and a better life for them meant public housing in Memphis, Tennessee. However, things had not improved for this thirteen-year-old Elvis. He was different from the other kids. Instead of sporting a crew cut like other boys, his dark blonde hair was slicked back and smelled faintly of roses, from the rose oil that he used. He avoided the preferred plaid and jeans and liked to wear bright colors. Even the way he spoke made him different. Sure, almost everyone in Memphis talked with a southern drawl, but his accent was thicker and he had a slight stutter. Combine all of this with a bad case of acne, and it is not surprising he avoided social situations.

One of the few things Elvis enjoyed was music, something that his mother encouraged in him by buying him a guitar. Before he moved, he had no problems playing for his Mississippi classmates and had he crooned out “Leaf on a Tree” for them as a farewell. Maybe it was the C his new music teacher had given him, or his status as an outcast, but most of his Tennessee classmates were unaware that he could sing until he performed for the student talent show his senior year. He managed to save enough money to make his first demo album the summer after graduation. However, instead of submitting it to record labels, he gave the demo to his mother. Then, he managed to land an audition with Eddie Bond, a semi-successful singer at the time. When Elvis was finished, Bond shook his head and told Elvis “you’re never going to make it as a singer.”

guitar

His confidence shaken, Elvis took a job working for Crown Electric Company while taking classes at night to become an electrician. It turned out to be only a temporary setback. A couple of months later, he was back in the studio making another demo record. This time, the owner of the studio, Sam Phillips, heard him as he was performing. Six months went by before Phillips called Elvis and asked him to perform a song, “Without You.” Phillips was impressed by Elvis, although not with his performance of the song. Instead, Phillips had Elvis record two other songs “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” These two singles helped him land a few performances at local clubs. Although he was not earning enough to quit his day job, it was a start. Things started to look up after they managed to land a four-week engagement in Las Vegas, but the tour was cut in half because of poor ticket sales. Frustrated, Elvis hoped for a better reception when he landed a potentially career-launching gig on the Grand Ole Opry. He was fired after only one performance and the manager told him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

His heart must have been broken. Perhaps that’s what led him to release “Heartbreak Hotel” the following year. The song topped the R&B, Pop, and Country music charts and launched Elvis’s career. He has had over 100 Top 40 hits; almost one hundred Gold albums, fifty-five of which went Platinum, twenty-five went Multi-platinum; and more than a twenty-five years after his death, he remains the best-selling solo artist in popular music history.


Presley quote

cloudback cloudhome