In competing versions of the story, what Elvis Presley really wanted for his birthday was a rifle or a bicycle—both fairly typical choices for a boy his age growing up on the outskirts of Tupelo, Mississippi. Instead, Elvis’s highly protective mother, Gladys—”She never let me out of her sight,” Elvis would later say—took him to the Tupelo Hardware Store and bought a gift that would change the course of history: a $6.95 guitar. It was January 8, 1946, and Elvis Aaron Presley was 11 years old.
The historical significance of putting a guitar into the hands of a young man who would later help define rock and roll is obvious. For Elvis himself, however, getting that guitar was just one more step in a thorough yet totally unplanned program of childhood musical development that prepared him perfectly to ignite a revolution 10 years later.
Music surrounded the young Elvis Presley—music…
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