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Robert Altman Week

Tuesday
Nov012011

« In Which We Start Dating Elvis Presley »

This is the first in a two-part series.

An Elvis Timeline

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

Thanks to Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen's supremely detailed 1999 book, Elvis, Day by Day, the trivial details of Elvis Presley's life are open and accessible to any inquiring fan. Guralnick and Jorgensen used letters, receipts and financial records to tell Elvis' story. Things were gangbusters for a while there.

January 9th, 1935

Elvis' stillborn twin brother Jesse is buried near Tupelo, MS.

June 1st, 1938

Elvis' father and uncle arrive at Mississippi State Penitentiary to serve a three year prison term for forging a check.

September 1st, 1941

Elvis enters the first grade.

March 10th, 1943

Vernon Presley quits his gig at the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company in Tupelo.

October 3rd, 1945

Elvis places fifth in a children's talent competition at the Mississippi-Alabama state fair, singing "Old Shep," a song about a poisoned dog. He receives $5.

at Graceland in 1957

September 3rd, 1948

Bullies cut the strings of Elvis' first guitar. His fellow eighth graders raise enough money to buy him new strings. In a few months, Elvis' family moves to Memphis.

September 20th, 1949

The Presley family moves into the Memphis Housing Authority projects. Their two bedroom apartment is $35 per month.

September 20th, 1950

Elvis' grades continue to drop, although he receives an A in English. The following summer he gets his first job, operating a drill press at a company that produces rocket shells.

February 1st, 1952

Elvis' mother Gladys gives up her job as a nurse's aide because the family is making too much money to qualify for public housing. She later went back to her job when Elvis became so tired he fell asleep during class.

February 26th, 1954

Elvis starts dating 14-year-old Dixie Locke. They mostly go to double features at the drive-in.

October 2nd, 1954

After recording a few tracks, Elvis makes his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry and quits his job at Crown Electric.

January 3rd, 1955

Elvis buys a car to transport himself and his band from gig to gig. It is a used 1951 Cosmopolitan Lincoln with a rack on top for the bass.

March 23rd, 1955

Elvis flies on an airplane for the first time for a New York audition in front of talent scouts. They laugh in his face.

February 22nd, 1956

After touring constantly over the past year and a half and recording his first professional singles, Elvis collapses from exhaustion outside a show in Jacksonville. He is twenty-one years old.

March 7th, 1956

Elvis reads the script for what would have been his first acting role, The Rainmaker. His untrustworthy agent Colonel Tom Parker tells him not to show to it anyone except his parents.

June 5th, 1956

After a performance on The Milton Berle Show, the Times claims that "Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability." Another reporter writes of "a display of primitive physical movement difficult to describe in terms suitable to a family newspaper."

June 20th, 1956

Elvis violates Memphis' segregation laws by appearing at a "colored night" at the Fairgrounds with his girlfriend June Juanico, formerly an admiring fan.

July 21st, 1956

Elvis trades in his Cadillac for a pink 1956 Lincoln Premiere.

August 16th, 1956

Elvis flies to Los Angeles for principal photography on Love Me Tender. He goes away with Natalie Wood for a weekend. She was also dating Robert Vaughn, and later said of Elvis, "He felt he had been given this gift, this talent, by God. He didn't take it for granted. He thought it was something that he had to protect. He had to be nice to people, otherwise, God would take it all away."

at his girlfriend's house in Biloxi

February 25th, 1957

In a Memphis newspaper Louis Armstrong tells a reporter, "I'm definitely gonna do a record with him. You'd be surprised at what we could do together. You ask me if I think he's good? How many Cadillacs was it he bought? That boy's no fool."

March 10th, 1957

Elvis' former girlfriend and sometimes companion June Juanico informs him she's engaged to another man.

April 6th, 1957

Villanova students throw eggs at Elvis' face, striking only his guitar. For next two months, Elvis stays at the Beverly Wilshire so he can record new tracks at MGM studios before filming Jailhouse Rock.

Elvis at the gates of Graceland soon after they were installed, April 1957

July 5th, 1957

Elvis' Jailhouse Rock co-star Judy Tyler dies in a car accident in Wyoming.

July 13th, 1957

After one of his handlers introduces him to 19-year-old Anita Wood, a beauty contest winner he saw on Memphis TV, the girl has dinner at Graceland with Elvis and his parents. He tries to get her in bed that night but she declines.

September 20th, 1957

Elvis and his band part ways after they complain to the press about their compensation. He fires his new guitarist early in 1958 after the man's friend is caught fondling a poster of Jayne Mansfield.

October 7th, 1957

Elvis attends a wrestling show and goes home with a female wrestler named Penny Banner afterwards.

Elvis and Judy Tyler on the set of Jailhouse Rock

March 21st, 1958

Elvis buys a 1956 Ford for Anita Wood.

March 24st, 1958

Elvis enters the army in Memphis and is bused over to Arkansas. Later in the week, a riot breaks out when he is spotted at a truck stop in Texas.

June 4th, 1958

During his furlough in Memphis, Elvis records material for his planned absence and continually rents out the Fairgrounds and a local skating rink for parties.

August 9th, 1958

Elvis finishes up his course in Advanced Tank Training.

August 14th, 1958

The failing liver of Elvis' mother takes her life. In six weeks Elvis arrives in Germany for his deployment.

in Germany

December 21st, 1958

Elvis brings a live-in secretary to Germany to handle his fan mail. He drives a leased white BMW 507 along with a black Mercedes sedan.

March 5th, 1959

Elvis starts dating a German actress and visits the Moulin Rouge in Munich.

April 13th, 1959

Elvis' gig in the camp is driving visitors around to celebrate the 3rd Armored Division's 18th anniversary. His army salary is $122.30 a month.

September 13th, 1959

Elvis starts dating a 14-year-old named Priscilla Beaulieu. Her father serves in the United States Navy. Her mother's infatuation with Elvis predates her own. Her parents encourage the couple. She sneaks cigarettes behind his back.

Priscilla at Elvis' departure from Germany

March 5th, 1960

Elvis is released from the army at 9:15 a.m in New Jersey. Three days later in Memphis, he meets up with Anita Wood for the first time since he left the country. When she asks him about Priscilla, he tells Anita, "She's just a friend."

April 8th, 1960

Anita Wood dyes her hair black to match Elvis'.

July 21st, 1960

At a bullshit ceremony, Elvis receives his first-degree black belt in karate.

September 3rd, 1960

Elvis pays cash for a black Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II.

October 25th, 1960

Elvis' purchase of a monkey at Katz Drug Store for $123.55 completes a collection of dogs, parrots, chicken, pigs, and mynah birds.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

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