Elvis Presley's Gospel Dream
As a young child, the singer's love for music brought him to the front of his church choir, imagining a time he'd be on stage.
BY: Joe Moscheo
As many people know, Elvis Aaron Presley was born to
But it was with his mother that Elvis developed the deepest and most lasting of bonds. She kept constant watch over her son, walking him to and from school each day, even into his teenage years. He would never forget her devotion and her constancy. In many important ways, Gladys Presley's presence would make itself known throughout Elvis' life, often at moments when he was searching for guidance.
The Presleys were known to their
The Presleys attended the First Assembly of God Church in
Picture this scene: Elvis Presley, probably no more than eight or ten years old, sits in the pews of the Assembly of God Church on a hot summer night in
A former neighbor, Janelle McComb, relates her memory of this squirmy kid: "We'd see him around town, see him at gospel singings, but...remember, back in those days, [we] weren't talking about the Elvis Presley that you see now....That was Gladys and
Most likely, the group got into town that morning, on their way to or from an all-night singing in
Finally, when Elvis thinks he can't wait another second, the preacher steps up on the podium. He welcomes everyone and, with the accompanist's help, leads the crowd in a few songs to get things started. Elvis sings out in his clear, child's voice, along with his mother and dad and everyone else. And then it's time for the main event.
"I'd like y'all to welcome these boys," the preacher says, nodding toward the five men sitting in the front pew, smiling and looking perfectly relaxed in their matching suits and ties. "They're going to do some of your favorite songs, and so I'm fixing to turn 'em loose on you now. Boys, get on up here."
The quartet takes the stage. Elvis drinks in the sight of them. Their hair is perfectly combed and the white handkerchiefs in the breast pockets of their coats look as clean and crisp as a brand new dollar bill. The piano player sits down and launches into a lively intro, his left hand loping up and down in octaves and his right hand banging out the chords. Elvis quickly recognizes the tune: "Jesus, Hold My Hand." The four singers are animated, smiling and gesturing to the crowd. Elvis feels as if they're singing every word just for him.
After they've sung for about a half hour or so, the quartet takes a break and the preacher comes back. "Now, folks, these boys agreed to come here and sing for whatever we'd give them, so right now we want to let them take a break while we take up a love offering. Gas is expensive, folks-up to fifteen cents a gallon, the other day-so let's all do our part and help these boys out so they can keep on spreading the Gospel in song."
To young Elvis, these performers were heroes—his idols. In his young imagination, he could see himself standing onstage in a crisp, tailored suit, singing the songs he knew so well, entertaining people and living the life of a professional gospel singer. It was the first dream of his life, and one he never fully left.