Elvis Presley owed his ancestry to diverse European ethnic strains, primarily British and German; Presley's lineage also included some Native American, i.e., Cherokee descent. His father, Vernon Elvis Presley (April 10, 1916–June 26, 1979), had several low-paying jobs, including sharecropping and working as a truck driver. His mother, Gladys Love Smith (April 25, 1912 – August 14, 1958) worked as a sewing machinist. They met in Tupelo, Mississippi, and eloped to Pontotoc County where they married on June 17, 1933.
Presley was born in a two-room shotgun house, built by his father, in East Tupelo. He was an identical twin—his brother was stillborn and given the name Jesse Garon. Growing up as an only child he "was, everyone agreed, unusually close to his mother." The family lived just above the poverty line and attended an Assembly of God church. Vernon has been described as "a malingerer, always averse to work and responsibility." His wife was "voluble, lively, full of spunk" and had a fondness for drink. In 1938, Vernon was jailed for an eight dollar check forgery. His eight-month incarceration caused Gladys and her son to lose the family home, and they moved in with relatives.
In September 1942, Presley entered first grade at Lawhorn School in Tupelo. He was considered a "well-mannered and quiet child", but sometimes classmates threw "things at him—rotten fruit and stuff—because he was different... he stuttered and he was a mama's boy."
On October 3, 1945, at age ten, he made his first public performance in a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show at the suggestion of his teacher Mrs. J.C. Grimes. Dressed as a cowboy, the young Presley had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone and sang Red Foley's "Old Shep." He came fifth, winning $5 and a free ticket to all the Fair rides.
In 1946, for his eleventh birthday, Presley received his first...