Gladys Presley, the Mother Elvis Presley Worshiped

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website.

On January 8, 1935, Gladys Love Presley gave birth to a set of twins. The first of the two was born at 4:00 AM and was stillborn. He was given the name Jesse Garon Presley and was buried in a cardboard box in an unmarked grave -the family was too poor to afford a coffin. The second twin arrived at 4:35 AM and was named Elvis Aron Presley.

Gladys suffered hemorrhaging after giving birth to Elvis and his twin, and she spent more than three weeks at the hospital convalescing afterward. Her colleagues at the garment center where she worked raised $30 for baby things that the family couldn't afford.

Gladys is universally described as a protective mother. Gladys would give the other kids a beating if she thought they were messing with her boy Elvis. Elvis would get a taste of this medicine himself is he ever disobeyed her and ran off to play sports -which Gladys emphatically forbade and banned.

It was always Gladys, and not father Vernon, who did the disciplining in the Presley household. She walked Elvis to school from his earliest years well into his teens. When he finally protested and the joint walks ended, Gladys would often shadow her beloved son back home at the end of the school day, making sure he returned home safely.

At school, Elvis was told not to eat with cafeteria silverware and Gladys gave him his own set of silverware to use at lunch. All through Elvis' growing up, Gladys inculcated into him how special he was. In his turn, Elvis promised his mother he would someday be a big success and buy her a big house and a mink coat.

In 1953, the 18-year-old Elvis walked into a Memphis recording studioand recorded a record he intended to give to his mom as a gift. The song he sang, "My Happiness," was probably not intended as a birthday gift, but more likely a Christmas present to his beloved mom.

After Elvis' career as a singer started taking off in 1956, he bought Gladys the world famous pink (and white) Cadillac, although she never learned to drive. Elvis bought her not one, but two mixers, his logic being that she could keep one at each end of the kitchen so she wouldn't have to walk so far.  

In November of 1956, Elvis set up a song publishing company called Gladys Music. Gladys received a stipend from the firm that bore her name.

While touring, Elvis would dutifully call Gladys every night. The two had an extremely close connection. One night, Elvis and his band were driving to a new town when their car caught fire. When Elvis called Gladys that night, she immediately said, "What happened?"

"What do you mean?" Elvis asked.

"I had a dream and I saw fire, a big fire around you," she said hysterically. Elvis could hardly believe the story when she told him.

When a preacher in Florida denounced Elvis as "a new low in spiritual degeneracy," Elvis had to call his mother to calm her down.

Gladys would sometimes travel to see her son perform. At one live show where a large group of girls swarmed her boy, Gladys is said to have waded in and pulled them off. Gladys grew to hate her son's success, as it meant sharing her beloved boy with countless others. She started drinking to quash her growing severe depression. In her final years, Gladys reportedly told friends that she wished her family "could just go back to being poor again."

Elvis continued to buy her gifts, including her own chicken coop filled with chickens and various other animals to make her happy. In 1957, Elvis had Gladys and Vernon make a brief cameo appearance as crowd members in his movie Loving You. That same year, he purchased the mansion Graceland, moving Gladys and Vernon in with him, hoping that Gladys would find happiness there.

In 1958, Elvis was drafted into the Army and served his time in Germany. Gladys' gloom and despondency increased greatly, as did her drinking. She started to put on a lot of weight and started taking diet pills to cope. Gladys was suffering from lassitude, bloating, and severe depression. She was terrified about Elvis being in the military. According to Elvis' girlfriend at the time, "She did not see another happy day from the day they received that [draft] notice."

Elvis wasn't allowed to phone Gladys for his first two weeks in the service, and when he finally did get to call her, the two spent an hour crying together on the phone. Without Elvis, Gladys lost her appetite and generally felt poorly -signs of the hepatitis that would hasten her end.

When she spoke to Elvis on the phone, Gladys downplayed her increasingly bad health and unhappiness, so as not to upset him. Finally, in early August of 1958, Gladys was admitted to the Methodist Hospital in Memphis for a liver condition. Elvis immediately came back from Germany to see her.

Elvis had a premonition on the night she died, when he became agitated and convinced that something was wrong. Gladys Love Presley succumbed to a heart attack on August 14, 1958. Her liver was also highly compromised due to her advanced hepatitis. Elvis entered a prolonged period of intense grief from which he never fully recovered.

"She's all I ever lived for. She was always my best girl," he cried. Witnesses remember him trying to get Gladys to wake up and talk to him.

Elvis made sure Gladys' favorite band, the Blackwood Brothers, played at her funeral. Before she was buried, he gave her a last kiss, and in tears said, "Mother, I would give every dime I have and even dig ditches just to have you back."

Elvis had an inscription put on Gladys Love Presley's grave: "Not mine -But Thy Will Be Done." Her grave was adorned with a cross and stone angels. Elvis sent fresh flowers to her final resting place every week until his own death 19 years later.

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