Elvis death: Dad Vernon tribute ‘Everyone rejected him but he refused to change’ | Music | Entertainment


Elvis Week at Graceland has just wrapped up, commemorating the life and legacy of The King of rock and roll (and pretty much popular culture ever since).

The world lost the star on August 16 1977 and he was laid to rest two days later with a private ceremony at Graceland and then burial at Memphis’ Forest Hill Cemetery next to his mother Gladys.

Elvis had become one of the most famous people in the world but his father still remembered and cherished the young man he had raised.

Vernon said: “One thing that was good, he never changed his feelings about people or anything.

“I’m sure he was very happy with his success and all the things that happened to him… but it didn’t make him think he was something that he wasn’t, you know.”

Vernon also described the earliest signs of a future in show business: “He was nine years old. It was a school competition-type thing.

“He won third prize, singing Old Shep. At that time he couldn’t make no type of music (with instruments). He just sung the song, that was it.”

We all know what Elvis grew up to look and sound like and yet Vernon also revealed that, incredibly, nobody wanted him at first when he started applying to local vocal groups.

Vernon had previously described the moment Elvis told his family his dreams: “He called me into his room, I believe it was shortly after he got out of high school, and he said, ‘I want to be an entertainer.'”

Even as a teenager, Elvis stood out from the other youths in Memphis: “Well, in some ways and some of the clothes he wore was different. The way he wore his hair was quite different to what there was back then, you know.

“And he was criticised quite often about it and it really didn’t bother him and he didn’t change it and he went on (keeping it) like it was anyway.”

Unfortunately, he faced rejected early on for his singing, too.

Vernon added: “At the time he was more interested in gospel singing and quartet singing. So he tried two or three different young groups to get in with them and they were either full or didn’t think he could sing good enough, I don’t know what happened.”

The 1977 interview was part of a major TV special that had been put together just months before The King’s death, with footage of recent concerts and filmed interviews with those closest to the star. Of course, nobody could know what was about to happen.

Vernon is shown proudly describing how Elvis slowly built his fanbase locally before national stardom came. Debut single That’s All Right was released on July 19, 1954. Although it did not chart nationally, it was a huge hit locally, selling over 20,000 copies and reaching Number Four on the Memphis charts. Hysteria built fast at local shows.

Unsurprisingly, those same groups who had rejected him suddenly wanted Elvis after all, but he ultimately decided to front his own outfit.

Vernon said: “They learned that you had to have plenty of security to keep the people back. Otherwise, he couldn’t perform, he couldn’t put on a show. They’d rush the stage before he got through.

“One place he told me about… he sung part of one song and had to leave the stage and didn’t go back because they tore the stage all to pieces.”

That, of course, was only the beginning. For another 23 years, Elvis would inspire a devotion that has lasted until today.


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