This story is from the New Musical Express dated Friday 23 August 1958
Mrs. Gladys Presley passed away last week. As a tribute to her, Keith Goodwin discovers ...
WHAT MOM MEANT TO ELVIS
The influences in an entertainer'
s career are usually many and varied, but in most success stories you'll find the constant advice, guidance and encouragement offered by a star's parents!
These are the people who help to shape the young life; who teach the potential artist to make the most of his talents; and who lend a helping hand when decisions have to be made.
They are the people, too, who share the heartbreaks, setbacks, and occasional joys that a new performer faces during his early career. In such times, their burden is a heavy one, for on their shoulders can rest much of the success or failure of a latent talent.
Few artists attempt to hide the depth of gratitude which they feel for their parents, and it's perhaps significant that the bond between artist and parents usually grows stronger as a performer conquers new pinnacles of achievement.
Elvis Presley has never disguised his devotion for his parents. He has never been reticent about voicing his sincere appreciation for all they have done to make his way to stardom easier.
It's therefore relatively simple to understand and share the sorrow Elvis is bearing since the untimely death last week of the person closest to him - his mother, Mrs. Gladys Presley.
A sensitive, highly strung youngster, Elvis had always looked to his mother for guidance. "Mom is," he once said, "my best girl friend."
It was Elvis's father, Vernon, who first bought him a guitar, but it was Gladys Presley who encouraged her teenage son to persevere with the instrument.
Elvis's mother, too, was indirectly responsible for his first faltering steps in showbusiness. He hadn't been singing or playing guitar very long, but the advent of Mother's Day prompted ambitious Elvis to surprise his Mom by privately recording her favourite song "My Happiness."
He chose to make the record at the Sun Recording studios in Nashville. It was at the same studios that he waxed his first commercial records a few weeks later!
Elvis's ties with his family were extremely close. After a visit to their Memphis home, screen star Natalie Wood - then keeping company with Elvis - commented that she had never seen such a close-knit family. She also observed: "His (Elvis's) mother fusses over him all the time."
What was the reason behind this firm bond? The simple fact is that Elvis was one of twins, but his baby brother was born dead.
It's therefore natural to suppose that in an attempt to obliterate her shocking disappointment, Mrs. Presley lavished more love and affection on her only son than she might have done had it not been for this tragic happening.
During his early childhood, Elvis grew to be largely dependent on his parents.
Vernon Presley has recounted the story of how Elvis excessively worried over the possibility of his father being hurt when he (Vernon) tried a high dive while the family were on a swimming expedition.
But Elvis wasn't a spoiled child and he encountered his fair share of childhood scrapes without escaping the consequences. And it might seem a trifle strange that Vernon Presley never spanked his young son - it was always Gladys who took care of the punishment!
Columnist Sidney Fields, of the "New York Mirror," met Presley's parents and described them thus: "Simple, neighbourly and unaffected by the fame and fortune of their son, or the furore he has created."
Fields also observed:
"But they worry about the frenzy of their only child in his new life, his health, his driving, the mobs that besiege him, his future and the violent criticism hurled at him."
Elvis quickly realised all this and did everything in his power to quieten his parents' fears. While filming in Hollywood or on tour, he dutifully telephoned his mother everyday to set her mind at ease, but his greatest joys were his periodic visits home.
It's been said many time that Elvis enjoys working. He does. But it's not the same sort of pleasure that he got from the simple family meetings held in the spacious surroundings of the luxurious 40,000-dollar home Elvis bought for his parents in Memphis.
He liked nothing better than to sit quietly at home, playing the organ and singing spirituals with his folks, both of whom, he contends, were fine singers. Sometimes he would escort his current "date" home to meet his parents, and would eulogise about the eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast cooked by his mother that he earnestly claimed was his favourite food.
A non-smoker and non-drinker, Elvis is deeply religious and he accompanied his family to church whenever possible. Gladys Presley once said that unlike some children, Elvis never needed any prodding to go to church.
When critics launched an all-out attack on Presley, asserting that his gyrations were "sinful," Gladys and Vernon were quick to defend their son. Elvis maintained that his wiggling was "natural," resulting from a "rhythmic impulse" born into him, and his parents rapidly silenced the critics as they stood by his side.
Though Elvis has fans scattered all over the world, his most important aim in life was to please his parents. "More than anything else, I want the folks back home to think right of me," he once told a reporter. Whatever anybody thinks, Gladys Presley knew that Elvis had achieved his goal.
The Presley's never pandered to their son - in fact, his childhood was governed by strict, unbreakable rules. Gladys taught him to play peacefully with other children; while Vernon was adamant that he would have to defend himself if he was picked upon.
His good upbringing is reflected in the "Yes,sir," "Yes, ma'm," "Thank you," and other marks of respect and normal etiquette that punctuate his conversation.
Gladys Presley was always afraid that her son would get hurt - a fear that remained with her until the day she died.
During his youth, she wouldn't let him have a bicycle lest he should fall off, and later urged him to stop playing football in high school. When Elvis became a star, she feared the fans who mobbed him and the fast cars that he drove. Yet deep down, she knew that Elvis could always take adequate care of himself.
Typical of Presley's sincere concern for his parents was his persistent refusal to let his mother travel more than 100 miles to see one of his performances. He realised his mother's inability to travel long distances, and flatly refused to allow her to inconvenience herself.
Whichever way you care to look at it, Elvis owes a lot to his parents, and he knows it.
It's to his credit that even at the peak of his sensational career, he was always the first to point to Gladys and Vernon Presley and say, "Without them it could never have happened."
There's no telling what effect Gladys Presley's sorrowful death will have on Elvis future career. He has always been a shy and somewhat lonely person, and this won't help the situation any.
But today he is not alone, for in this grief there is some little comfort in the knowledge that his mourning is shared by millions all over the world.