Elvis Presley, who is beloved to millions all over the world for his beautiful singing voice, had to overcome a problem with his speech as he was climbing the ladder of success. Not many are aware that The King of Rock and Roll had a stuttering problem.
The new book, Elvis: Behind The Legend: Startling Truths About The King of Rock and Roll’s Life, Loves, Films and Music, released on August 11, presents evidence of Presley’s stammering issue as well as other stunning discoveries about the man behind the image.
King George VI, as depicted in the Oscar-winning movie, The King’s Speech, wasn’t the only King to have a speech impediment. From Elvis Presley’s childhood through his early adult years, it seems that Elvis would stutter when he got overly excited about something.
Elvis’ childhood girlfriend, Mary Magdalene Morgan, recalled in a 2007 interview that Elvis would stutter in elementary school. “He always seemed nervous. He could never completely sit still,” she said. “He stuttered but not to the point you couldn’t understand him. It was like, ‘Ah…ah…ah.’”
Singing can be a form of speech therapy for people with stammering issues. Elvis started singing at an early age with his first public performance at the age of 10. Some suggest that Elvis was encouraged to sing because of his stuttering problem. Whether it was intentional or not, the fact that Elvis started singing as a child most likely helped him gain confidence with his speech and help him control his speech impediment.
However, evidence of Presley’s stammering problem as an adult can be heard on recordings from The Louisiana Hayride when Presley was launching his career. Elvis blatantly stutters when he talks to the audience in-between songs. When Elvis starts stammering, he purposely stops himself and pauses and then continues with what he is saying, slightly changing the words, in order to avoid more stuttering.
For example, on August 20, 1955, when Presley is performing live, he introduces the song “Maybellene”: “We got a song right now friends, that we’d like to do for you. We ain’t been doing it but-but-but-but one-one, yeah… We hadn’t done it but once on The Louisiana Hayride. We only learned it a couple of days ago…”
In an interview in August 1956, Elvis admitted that he stuttered: “Whenever I get excited, I stutter a little bit. I have a hard time saying ‘when’ or ‘where’ or any words that start with ‘w’ or ‘i.’”
While there are other examples of Elvis’ stuttering problem on live recordings and on film, for the most part, by the time Elvis had reached national and worldwide fame, he seemed to have successfully learned to control his speech. No stuttering is evident when he appears on The Ed Sullivan Show three times from late 1956 to early 1957. When introducing his songs, Elvis talks slowly, hesitates often and inserts long pauses, which may be part of his technique to avoid stammering.
While Elvis chose to deal with his stuttering issue on his own, he didn’t let this stand in the way of his dream to become a successful entertainer. People struggling with stammering issues can find inspiration in knowing that they share something deeply personal with one of the most successful singers of all time.