Elvis Presley, the Student

Get your No. 2 pencils out – it’s back to school season.

The stores are full of supplies and school bells are ringing, and surely, Elvis fans everywhere are wondering: what was Elvis like as a student?

Elvis is often described, especially in high school, as a “fair” student, earning a lot of B’s and a few C’s. He graduated high school in 1953, not long before his incredible career took off.

But of course, Elvis’ school years began in Tupelo, Mississippi, where he was born. He began first grade in the fall of 1941 at East Tupelo Consolidated School on Lake Street.

Elvis continued his elementary school years in Tupelo, mostly uneventful, until the fifth grade. October 3, 1945, was Children’s Day at the Mississippi-Alabama State Fair, and all of the schools were let out for the day. Elvis’ fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Oleta Grimes, entered Elvis into the fair’s talent show after hearing him sing in the morning prayer program at school. He sang “Old Shep” with no accompaniment. He won fifth place, and the prize was a few dollars worth of ride tickets. Elvis would later recall that his mother, Gladys, gave him a spanking that day too, probably for riding the more dangerous rides and giving her a scare.

Notice the excellent marks in courtesy and.

Notice the excellent marks in courtesy and reliability.

Elvis entered sixth grade at Milam Junior High School, which is still there, in Tupelo, in September 1946. His classmates remembered Elvis as a shy boy who didn’t fit in very well, but that he loved music. He often sang gospel favorites and songs he learned from listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio.

Can you imagine a young Elvis singing to his classmates during recess?

Can you imagine a young Elvis singing to his classmates during recess?

Gladys bought Elvis his first guitar in 1946, and by the time Elvis entered the seventh grade at Milam, he was bringing that guitar to school with him most every day. He’d play during recess and lunch time for his classmates. His classmates were mostly indifferent to his performances – and a few were even hostile. During Elvis’ eighth grade year at Milam, a group of bullies cut his guitar strings. Elvis’ classmates knew how much Elvis loved his guitar, and some of them took up a collection to buy him another set of strings.

A few months later, the Presley family moved to Memphis, where Elvis was enrolled in the eighth grade at Humes High School. Vernon later recalled that Elvis looked very nervous as he walked his son to the new school on his first day. That year, Elvis was present 165 days, absent 15 and was never tardy. His grades were: A in language, B in physical education, spelling and history, and C in arithmetic, music and science.

In Elvis’ ninth grade year at Humes, starting in September 1949, Elvis received mostly B’s and a few C’s. In the tenth grade, in September 1950, Elvis enrolled in the ROTC, in which he received a grade of C for the first term and B for the second. Elvis received B’s and C’s that year, except for an A in English and an F in typing.

Once in Memphis, Elvis joined the ROTC - the Reserved Officers Training Corps.

Once in Memphis, Elvis joined the ROTC – the Reserved Officers Training Corps.

Can you spot Elvis in this photo? He's standing in the second row from the top and toward the middle.

Can you spot Elvis in this photo? He’s standing in the second row from the top and toward the middle.

The young star began to blossom in his junior year, which started in September 1951. His self confidence grew, and he began to take great care in his looks. He began to dress more flamboyantly and he was obsessed with making sure his hair looked perfect – with the help of Rose Oil hair tonic and Vaseline. This year, Elvis’ report card was filled with C’s, and he was tardy three times.

English was one of Elvis' best subjects, as seen from this Humes High School report card.

English was one of Elvis’ best subjects, as seen from this Humes High School report card.

Elvis’ senior year at Humes began in September 1952. As mentioned last week, Elvis had, by this time, started working at MARL Metal Products furniture manufacturers from 3:00 – 11:00 p.m., and he was so tired from the job that he would fall asleep in class. Gladys made him quit the job so he could focus on his senior year studies. Elvis appeared in another school talent show that spring, singing “Til I Waltz Again With You.” He wasn’t popular before his performance, but he was after.

Elvis graduated from Humes High School on June 3, 1953. Later that summer, Elvis waltzed into Memphis Recording Service to record his first acetate, containing “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.” And the rest, of course, is history.

Elvis and his classmates graduated from high school at an 8 p.m. ceremony on June 3.

Elvis and his classmates graduated from high school at an 8 p.m. ceremony on June 3.

Looking for Elvis? He's in the second row from the bottom, in the middle.

Looking for Elvis? He’s in the second row from the bottom, in the middle.

While Elvis may have been considered a “fair” student in school, he excelled in his English classes and loved to read. He kept a library of his favorite books at Graceland and often took a trunk of books with him when he toured. Learn more about Elvis’ book collection on this episode of the Gates of Graceland.

If you want to learn more about Elvis’ childhood, visit Graceland! Elvis’ mother Gladys kept quite a lot, so artifacts on display include report cards, school photos, a box of Elvis’ colors and more. Get a little closer to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll today!


40 Comments

  1. Elvis Presley was a class act!

  2. Wow!! Elvis LIVES ON…He WILL ALWAYS be remembered as such a gentle and genuine person…so many of us STILL look up to today. There will never be another Elvis!!

  3. Randy Roeder

    Yes I would

  4. Valerie B.

    That was really fascinating. Thanks for doing all the research.

  5. Dorothy Jungmeyer

    This is interesting. I can’t believe they kept so much of his childhood artifacts, like his grade cards. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Baverley Loth

    I REALLY ENJOYED READING ABOUT ELVIS AND HIS SCHOOL YEARS. I HAVE LOVED ELVIS SINCE I WAS A YOUNG GIRL AND CONTINUE TO ENJOY EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM. I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE HIS GIRLFRIEND WHEN I WAS A TEENAGER. SILLY I KNOW BUT TRUE. RIP DEAR ELVIS I AM HOPING TO COME BACK TO SEE GRACELAND AGAIN SINCE ALL THE CHANGES.

  7. Enjoyed reading this thanks!

  8. Gwenn Herring

    Greatest Singer Ever. A very smooth voice, not like the “yellers” of today. The best movie he made was Follow That Dream.

  9. Edna Markel

    I was at Graceland once & loved it. Would really like to go there again. Elvis was the BEST!!

  10. Robert Gibson Corder

    According to the report card shown, Elvis received an F in English during the 1st reporting period and and F on the final exam, so how could he have been considered an “excellent” student of English ?? I am a big Elvis fan, nevertheless! :)
    Robert Gibson Corder, Ph.D.
    Midlothian, VA

  11. Janis Ricci

    There was a man who grew up so poor and when success and money came in he never wanted to have anyone feel poor again. There is a fine line between giving and really giving.

    He just did not know how to handle success. He was given a gift and he just was not ready for it. His Mother in my feeling made Elvis a very confused person. I know you love your Mother, but Gladys took it to far.Without her he did not know what to do. He was always a little boy that just could not cope.

  12. Elvis was like you and me only very specially gifted by God with (as we all know) with a talent that no other musician had. He stands alone in the music world.

  13. Sandra L Tagart

    I liked reading about his youth. It gives more insight into how he developed through the years. I understand his shyness. I think he basically is like me in the fact, that I like to read and be in my thoughts. I do think fame was hard on him. I feel he would have liked to have been more accepted and allowed to be his true self, not what everyone wanted him to be.

  14. Dottie Lourenco

    Brought tears to my eyes.
    thank you
    Dottie

  15. PHJM schrama

    super !!

  16. Larry Hanson

    Was very interesting reading about elvis’s younger student years. I am a First Nation Elvis Fan from Canada and played and still sing his songs whereever I can and listen now to Elvis on You Tube….Long Live Elvis.

  17. Larry Hanson

    Very great reading and hope to visit once again to Graceland if I can ever save money as I am now on Canada Pension….Long Live Elvis

  18. Charlotte Flanagan

    Thank you!

  19. William Martin

    I remember the company that made the hair oil Elvis used on his hair plus they had an ad on TV for “Wild Root Cream Oil”.The slogan used in the ad said; “Use Wild Root Cream Oil Charlie, you know its right for you”. You continue to exhibit accurate, detailed, truthful information about my man Elvis. Thanks

  20. I can’t get enough about Elvis. We’re heading down to Memphis October 1st and going through Graceland again.

  21. Linda Pringle

    I was at graceland this year

  22. john hughes

    I wonder what is music teacher thought after he was given a ‘C’ in music, it made me laugh.

  23. Maree Ann Peterson

    He was a very Smart Man Good on You Elvis, I was good at English too!

  24. I’ve always had Elvis in my life. My mom is from Memphis. We always drove by his house when we visited my grandparents.
    Elvis’s car ran out of gas in front of the bank where my mom was working, years ago. A crowd was forming around Elvis. My mom said she tore a piece of paper and handed it to Elvis, so he could sign it and she could run off copies for people wanting his autograph. She gave me the signed piece of paper for my 50th birthday. I’ve got it very well hidden, in plain sight. :) It’s one of my most treasured things I have.

  25. Bridget adams

    It’s so great to follow his life thru school and learn some intimate facts about the king!

  26. Marlene McGuire

    I just love Elvis, so glad to see that you are putting out there the history of Elvis when growing up. How he got started with his music is awesome. I just wished he would of been able to live longer to see what other music he could of sang. Just loved all of his music, have collected so many of his cd’s and his movies.
    Thanks for putting these important things out to all his fans.

    • Rose C Taylor

      Thanks for not keeping most of these important moments of history for Elvis and his family.

  27. Marlene McGuire

    Thanks for putting out so much of his life to all his fans. I never got to see him in concert but just loved his music very much

  28. Ralph DeMasi

    My Aunt Josephine had taken me to see “Jail House Rock” when I was eight years old.I remember after buying my first electric guitar from a friend in high school for $10 and I saw myself in the mirror saying Elvis! Well I took guitar lessons
    Today I sing Elvis songs close to how Elvis sounded.My family and friends are amazed

  29. Cheryl Huggers

    very interesting reading.

  30. Cheryl Huggers

    great learning more about Elvis

  31. Karen Meyer

    Thank you for this insight into Elvis’s school days. I loved it!

  32. Mary Alice Pena-Lopez

    My husband and I just got back recently from visiting Memphis for Elvis week , 40th Anniversary since we lost our beloved Angel Elvis……….we feel so blessed that we were born in time to know about Elvis and to love his
    music. We travel from San Antonio, Texas to Memphis to be near Elvis every year, and see our many Elvis friends!

  33. Seeta Amichand

    Since a child I was always impressed with Elvis, he was handsome & charming and of course his songs made a difference in my life. I used to buy bubble gum just to get a picture of him inside the wrapper. His Christmas songs always brought joy to me, my daughter is crazy about him hope someday we can visit Graceland.

  34. Dianr Leonard

    I lové all thé story of Elvis and i play id music on my piano

  35. Dianr Leonard

    Elvis whas a normal soudent but a wanderfull man and the best singer off the world..

  36. alunda nungesser

    He was a great person inside and out. H was a careing person who would help people in need. He has helped me all my life and still is helping me through his music.
    Love this man and will love him till the day I die.

  37. stephen stathis

    Elvis hung his high school diploma up: back then it was an accomplishment: he even thought of going to college back in 1961: at UCLA while filming out there as interviewed by James Gregory in Photoplay magazine.

  38. Liz Calley

    I host an Elvis Birthday Party every year with ladies only as guests. I purchase Elvis merchandise for my Trivia Quiz to the ladies!
    It is great fun.
    I always want to know more and as much information as I can about Elvis’s life!!!!

  39. thank you i really enjoyed reading about Elvis’s school years….Hmmm sad to hear that there were bully’s even back then when life was much simpler though difficult because of the Depression

Leave a Reply to Maree Ann Peterson Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *