Elvis: The Year 1953
By Bob Pakes
1953 was an important year in the life of Elvis Presley. His first big steps towards adulthood were made when he graduated from High School and needed to find a job and a permanent income, Uncle Sam came knocking for the first time, and of course this was the year he recorded his first cuts at Sun Studio.
The documents and pictures that are presented here in this topic, give us a little insight in some of the things that went on in the life of young Elvis Presley in ’53.
Note that not all of these items could be identified as being 100% authentic, and also some dates may be a bit off.
So, any new info will be welcomed!
Humes High Students’ Roster And Telephone Directory
In the telephone directory we can see that Elvis’ firstname is misspelled as Elvin.
When this directory was printed, the Presleys lived at 185 Winchester (Lauderdale Courts).
Elvis and his family would live at two more locations during his senior-year at Humes.
We can see that Elvis is one of a few students without a telephone-number listed next to his address.
January 19, 1953
Selective Service Registration Certificate
Within 30 days of his 18th birthday (according to law in the USA), Elvis registered at Selective Service. His first step towards serving Uncle Sam.
The Presley’s address at this time was 698 Saffarans.
The Herald, the Humes High yearbook
Next to the cover of the yearbook we have the page that mentions Elvis.
And below, on the page of the ‘Officers’, we find George Klein since he was President of the Senior Class.
Here we have two examples of yearbook-pages that were signed by Elvis:
“Best wishes to a swell girl.
“Best of luck to a very pretty girl.
This is an uncropped version of the picture that was used in the Humes yearbook of 1953.
Biology class 12th grade
Elvis is seated in the back of the classroom.
English class 12th grade
Elvis is, once again, seated in the back of the room.
In the front row we see Ed Leek, Elvis’ friend, and the person who would later own the original acetate of My Happiness.
April 9, 1953
Humes High Annual Minstrel
During Humes’ annual Minstrel Show, Elvis performed Till I Waltz Again With You (and probably also Keep Them Cold Icy Fingers Off Of Me).
Apparantly he was the only performer this evening who got called back for an encore.
Notice on the program-sheet, where Elvis is billed as act nr. 16, that his name was (once again!) misspelled. This time they got his surname wrong: Prestly.
Elvis is pictured with classmate Rosemary Baracco at Maywood Beach.
Posing with Regis Wilson Vaughn (14 years old), during Junior-Senior prom, held at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.
“When we entered the Peabody Hotel through a gigantic heart-shaped door and the band was playing, I expected we’d join the other couples dancing, but Elvis told me he didn’t know how to dance. So we sat and talked and drank Cokes all night.”
June 3, 1953
Humes High graduation program
As is pretty common in Memphis, the graduation was held in Ellis Auditorium.
Next to Elvis (who’s name is spelled correctly for a change!) we can see George Klein as one of the GRADUATES.
George’s name is also mentioned twice in the PROGRAM as one of the speakers this evening.
Humes High Graduation Day
It’s not surprising to learn that the shy Elvis is comfortably seated in the very last row.
Only 20 months later, Elvis, Scotty and Bill will rock Ellis Auditorium!
To the right we have an alternate shot of Elvis in which his head is moved a bit more backwards.
The photos must have been taken only moments apart since the differences are hardly noticeable.
Below we have two alternates compared to the group-photo above. The differences are more notciceable this time.
In the left one we can now also clearly see George Klein on the front row, to the right.
(please click the images for an enlargement)
July 18, 1953
After he finished High School in early June, Elvis started working the assembly-line for the M. B. Parker company. And a few weeks later history was being made when Elvis walked into a recording studio for the first time and recorded My Happiness and That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.
At the Mid-South Fair in Memphis, with cousin Gene Smith.
Elvis is wearing the same shoes as in the Maywood Beach pictures earlier this year.
This month (September), Elvis went back to work for the Precision Tool company. It is assumed that he would work here for the next 6 months, until he started working for Crown Electric.
Income Tax Return 1953
On March 6, 1954, Elvis filed his very first income tax return.
We can see that, in 1953, he had earned $ 129.74 at M.B. Parker, and $ 768.59 at Precision Tool, totalling a grand year-income of $ 916.33.
His profession was ‘semiskilled’.
The Presley’s address at the time (March ’54) was 462 Alabama. Elvis and his parents would move two more times before they would live at Audubon Drive in April of 1956.
Nice to read about early Elvis.
A great historic record. Very well documented!
Thanks for this topic !
What a fantastic read! Thank you very much! Not seen the photo with Ed Leek at the front before.
This holds so much interest for me reading pre superstardom, fascinating read and supported by great pics, would love to see more, keep it coming fellas much appreciated
It’s very well documented and nicely laid-out, mister Bob. Thumbs up!
It might not be a bad idea, as suggested by Craig, to do a possible
follow-up story? 1954: The Times They Are a Changing…? There’s enough
documentation to be found in our Archives. I’m all for it.
Yes Ger and Craig, there will be follow-ups. Up next is either 1952 or 1954.
At the moment I would go for ’52 since ’54 has already been covered widely (in parts) all over the web. The 40’s and very early 50’s are pretty difficult to chronicalize, and especially putting a date to the few existing pics from the 30’s and 40’s is open to much speculation.
Cool, and the subsequent addresses you refer to would be 2410 Lamar and 1414 Getwell I take it. Coincidentally, when he lived on Alabama Ave he live directly across the street from Bill Black’s parents. Its no stretch to believe their paths didn’t cross at some point and though Bill likely didn’t take notice of Elvis I don’t doubt Elvis likely knew of Bill.
You raise an interesting point James. That would mean that Elvis would probably been familiar with who Bill was before they were brought together at Sun. Has either ever mentioned this in later years, or maybe Bill’s daughter, that you are aware of?
No, no mention by either, or anyone I know of. Elvis reputedly hung with Bill’d brother Johnny and the Burnettes though. I think it was Peter G. who wrote that Scotty had hired them to play a gig once with the Wranglers and they stated a fight so he wouldn’t hire them again. Its quite possible that through them Elvis had heard of Scotty and Bill both before meeting them but no mention. Not surprising, though. Scotty only in recent years was surprised to find out that Elvis had prior dealings with Sam before they went in to record/test. No one had ever mentioned anything about Sam calling him in previously to try out a song. For all intents and purposes they were under the assumption that July 5, ’55 was the first time Elvis dealt with Sam or even met him.
Great to read about the year I was born.
I guess as a researcher it’s pushing the envelope late forties very early 50’s with regards to supporting pics and material any goodies you have will be eagerly anticipated, I guess most stuff from this period is out there, in the future who knows what will turn up I guess that’s the excitement of doing what you guys do.
I’m a filmmaker producing a biographical short film about Elvis’ performance in the 1953 Humes High spring talent show. If you guys appreciated this website as I did, you should check out my film’s progress and Like/Follow us!
Great website here, my friend!
Hello William, thank you for the compliment.
I’ve been following the progress of your film for the past few months. Sounds very promising!
Are you sure the photo on your homepage is from 1953? To my knowledge it was taken somewhere halfway through ’52. But it has proven to be pretty tough to date the early photographs.
I just posted that I have what looks to be the ORIGINAL Polaroid photograph of Elvis with Rosemary Baracco at Maywood Beach. It has handwritten info and date on back. Can you share any knowledge you have about it?
Wonderful archives. Love this section.
Thank you for all this information, it’s fantastic.
Elvis will always be missed. Thank you for the music King, you have no clue the lives you have touched.
What a great find this page was! I was thrilled to see pics of my Mom on here – she’s in several of the photos. She graduated with Elvis in ’53 and lived at Lauderdale too. The pic of English class is one of my faves – she’s the 2nd girl on the right side in the dark sweater with Elvis in the back in a white shirt. “Somewhere” there are photos of later visits when he first bought Graceland & the front gates were installed – a party or so my Mom and Dad went to (BBQ I think). We also had one at one time with a group of friends in a convertible at Lauderdale; another one in the 60’s-ish when we ran into him again. Good memories. Thanks for that.
Glad to learn the above topic brought back sweet memories of long, long ago, Lita!
Dare I ask where you found the link to Echoes? We appreciate you took the time to
I own what looks to be the ORIGINAL Polaroid photograph of Elvis with Rosemary Baracco at Maywood Beach with handwritten descriptive information and date on back. The photograph in my posession looks authentic… any comment about this?
I have enjoyed this so much. I met Elvis before he became famous. He was shy, polite, and funny. This was in 1053 or 1954. It was at the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, Texas. Saw him many times.
I have the 50th edition of the year book. Awesome to look at something Elvis looked at and signed!
Beautiful, that photo of Elvis with his cousin Gene Smith (which reminds me of James Dean as a child). All photos of Elvis and the history of his studies are incredible. This material about Elvis is very good.
Something happend with Elvis ore jess Aaron in the army. Had he survived an airforce accident or something.
Thank you for your giving your time and of giving us the history of Elvis. He was such a great entertainer, so talented, and his voice, is hard to explain but I never tire of hearing him sing. But his giving to others, who were in need, is what brought me to dig into this man’s life. No one will ever know how much Elvis gave and I don’t think he wanted anyone to know. Elvis gave out of his heart. Such another man like this the world will never see again. God bless you for keeping this man’s name alive.