Ramblings of a Lifelong Elvis Fan – Part 78 – Elvis’ Failures and Rejections

[INTRO: I am a die hard, card carrying Elvis fan and have been for as long as I can remember. There is so much about Elvis to love; his incredible singing voice, his generous spirit, his looks (the most gorgeous man ever), his movies (yes, his movies. They make me happy, so critics can just shush), his service in the army, his magical presence on stage, his transcendent charisma, and…I could go on and on. As a matter of fact, on my 50th post, I believe it was, I DID go on and on. I listed 50 things I love about Elvis. It wasn’t difficult. I am an author and I mention Elvis in almost every story I write. I named my son Presley. I was fortunate to see Elvis in concert three times. I have been to Graceland five times… See? I love Elvis. I have been blogging weekly for more than a year, but going forward, I will blog every 1st and 3rd Friday of the month. My life is insanely busy and I found myself missing weeks from time to time. This way, I’m more likely to be consistent. Hopefully, even if you are not an Elvis fan, you appreciate something about him and will find my posts interesting. Feel free to comment. Thank you so much for stopping by!]

Even non-Elvis fans must acknowledge the extraordinary, unprecedented magnitude of Elvis’ success. However, in the early days, all was not praise and glory. While Elvis was only 21 when he broke out into stardom, he had some setbacks before that time. Here are a handful:

October 3, 1945 – Elvis was encouraged by his music teacher in Tupelo to compete in a youth talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. He was ten at the time. He stood on a chair to reach the microphone and sang “Old Shep.” He came in Fifth and received $5 in tickets for fair rides.


His eight grade music teacher in Memphis was not so encouraging. She gave him a “C” and told him he “had no aptitude for singing.”

In 1954, Elvis auditioned for a gospel quartet called the Songfellows. They rejected him. A little while later, Elvis was asked to replace Cecil Blackwood in the Songfellows because Cecil was leaving to join The Blackwood Brothers after two of its members died in a plane crash. Elvis had just signed with Sun Records, and he was torn about the decision, but stayed with Sun. Can you imagine how different things might have turned out if he’d taken them up on their offer?

Oct. 2, 1954 – Elvis performed on the Grand Ole Opry, and the show did not go over well. Opry talent manager Jim Denny said to him, “You ain’t going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.” (Technically, I suppose this was a compliment. He told Elvis he ‘aint’ going NOWHERE’ which means he was going SOMEWHERE ;)) Elvis swore never to return and, two weeks later, he appeared on the Opry’s biggest competitor, the Louisiana Hayride, and signed on for 52 weekly shows.

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In January, 1956 Elvis appeared on “Stage Show,” the Dorsey Brothers’ television show that was produced by Jackie Gleason. Jackie did not like Elvis at all, he said so, in those words. He also said: “He can’t last. I tell you flatly, he can’t last.” Apparently, Gleason changed his mind in later years.  This is Jackie visiting with Elvis on the set of Girls, Girls, Girls.


April 23 – May 6, 1956 – Elvis was booked for a two-week run at the Frontier in Vegas. Unlike his later supreme reign, his act was not a hit in Vegas in the early days. As one reviewer put it: “Elvis Presley, arriving here on the wave of tremendous publicity, fails to hit the promised mark in a desert isle surfeited with rock and rollers who play in shifts atop every cocktail lounge on the Strip. The brash, loud braying of his rhythm and blues catalogue (and mind you, they are big hits everywhere it seems), which albeit rocketed him to the bigtime, is overbearing to a captive audience. In a lounge, one can up and go—fast. But in a dining room the table-sitter must stay, look, and listen the thing out. Which is perhaps why Presley received applause on his opening show edged with polite inference only. For the teenagers, the long, tall Memphis lad is a whiz; for the average Vegas spender or show-goer, a bore. His musical sound with a combo of three is uncouth, matching to a great extent the lyric content of his nonsensical songs.”

And, according to a Billboard article: “Presley—pulling down $12,500 for the New Frontier date—was switched from closing the show to opening it, after the first night audience—a highly sophisticated group in contrast to his teen-age following—indicated a preference for Freddie Martin and comedian Shecky Greene.”


Elvis’ determination is impressive, especially considering how shy he was. You wouldn’t think he’d have the confidence to keep at it. But aren’t we glad he did? I guess the lesson here is, never give up. I’m not saying you–or anyone–will be another Elvis Presley, but hey, as Michael Jordan said: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Thank you for stopping by…Happy Friday! 

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EOLS Charity

Elvis was known for his giving heart and charitable work during his lifetime. Lisa Marie and Elvis Presley Enterprises have continued that tradition with their involvement in various charities. In 1984, The Elvis Charitable Foundation was formed. The EPCF created a scholarship fund for students majoring in the arts. The charity also contributes to one of Elvis’ favorite charities, Goodwill Homes, a Memphis facility that provides counseling and services for abused children and their families. The EPCF also assists numerous other charities, especially focusing on arts, education and children’s programs.

Learn more here, including how to donate:


END OF LONELY STREET – Now Only 99 Cents!

On Elvis’ 80th birthday, I released a Vintage Romance short story set in 1957, and of course, my heroine is an Elvis fan. 🙂 As a tribute to Elvis’ generosity, and in order to assist with this worthy cause, 10% of my proceeds for End of Lonely Street will go to the EPCF.


All Toby Lawson wants is to go to college to become a teacher and to be free of her alcoholic mother and some painful memories. But when her mother nearly burns the house down, Toby must put her dreams on hold and return home to care for her. The only time she isn’t lonely and miserable is when she’s listening to her heartthrob, Elvis Presley. His music takes her away and helps her escape from everything wrong in her life.

Noah Rivers has always loved Toby, but no matter what he says, she can‘t get past the fact that her drunken mother once kissed him. He soon realizes the true problem lies in Toby’s belief she’s not good enough for him and in her fear she will be just like her mother.

What will it take to prove to her that she deserves to be happy, and that he would give anything to be the man to make her dreams come true?

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Filed under Elvis Presley, Entertainment

16 responses to “Ramblings of a Lifelong Elvis Fan – Part 78 – Elvis’ Failures and Rejections

  1. Love this. If Elvis was rejected, how can we writers complain when we are?


  2. It’s amazing how much you know about Elvis.

    I don’t think I’ve been anyone’s fan that indepth…well maybe Nora Roberts but I don’t know as much about her as you do him.

    Good luck and God’s blessings


    • I am definitely an in-depth fan. 🙂 I don’t just know all of this in detail. Normally, I use a tidbit that I know a little about and research further. I probably do know more than is normal, though. 🙂 Thank you!


  3. It would be interesting to know if any of those who said “nay” ever did a public retraction (other than Jackie Gleason hanging out with Elvis on the set of “Girls, Girls, Girls”) which I guess is a form of retraction of his “He can’t last” comment? I’d love to know what his eighth grade music teacher must have thought when Elvis made it BIG!!!


    • Ha, yes. I’ve often wondered those same things. I do know that Ed Sullivan, how criticized him and swore he’d never have him on his show, publicly stated that he was wrong, and Elvis was a kind, polite young man, or something along those lines. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!


  4. I guess the moral of Elvis’s story can be compared to anyone–whether he/she is a singer, a writer, a painter or artist of some sort–don’t give up your dreams. Avoid the naysayers around you. Great post, Alicia.


  5. Great article. I always tell my kids Dream BIG, you never know where it will take you. Elvis was proof of that. In the end, though, I wonder if he would have changed anything.


    • I sometimes wonder that as well. I think he would have changed a few things about the people he had around him and some of the choices he made. Career wise, he probably would have insisted on being allowed to make more serious movies.


  6. Col

    Fascinating info. My late mother was an Elvis fan too.


  7. coryellsusan

    Like most folks, I suppose, I had no idea Elvis had failed in his early career. Was he anathema, like rap singers are to oldsters in today’ music world? Hard to figure how one so successfully ultimately faced so much criticism early on. Nice post, as usual.


  8. Wonderful post, as usual! And so encouraging to know that someone deemed to be a failure made it so big. Gives the rest of us hope! Thank you for sharing, and happy Mother’s Day!


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