Elvis at the Prom
Elvis Presley’s first major record label album, self-titled, was released by RCA Records on March 23, 1956, just a few months after his 21st birthday. The King, as he’d soon be known, had a few other tracks recorded by Sun Records beginning in 1953, but by and large, Elvis’ childhood was anything but regal. His Wikipedia entry recaps his early years, noting that he was shy, referring to him as a “loner,” and as the target of bullies who called him a “mama’s boy.” On the side, he practiced guitar under the guide of various mentors, but in large part, kept those studies to himself. It was not until his junior year in high school that others took notice of him, and even then, it was mostly due to his blues-inspired wardrobe and emerging sideburns, and not for his music. In April, 1953, at the age of 18, he performed at a school talent show, and only then did his classmates realize that he was a talented musician.
But by then, the die had been cast. Elvis Presley, who would later become a magnet for women, was anything but during his high school days. And there’s no better evidence of that than the awkward date night that was his senior prom.
Elvis, then 18, asked a 14 year-old blonde named Regis Wilson to be his prom date. She accepted — hardly the fait accompli one would imagine in retrospect — and spent just under $15 (now the equivalent of $120, accounting for inflation) on a pink gown, per mental_floss. That was a lot of money, especially for Wilson and her family, so Elvis’ would-be date had her hair done, free, at a local beauty school.
As Wilson recounted in an interview with the Sun Sentinel, Elvis picked her up in a rented Chevy, using money he earned as an usher at a nearby theater, and brought her a pink corsage. Unlike most of the men at the ball, he wasn’t wearing a tuxedo (as seen above, via the same mental_floss article) but rather a dark suit and a narrow tie. He had his soon-to-be trademark sideburns, and, Wilson notes, that he wasn’t wearing leather tuxedo shoes; she claims (and apparently, isn’t joking) that he donned a pair of blue suede shoes. The two made their way to the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, to dance the night away.
Except they never danced.
Elvis, it seems, did not know how to. Wilson told People that “When we entered the Peabody Hotel through a gigantic heart-shaped door and the band was playing, I expected we’d join the other couples dancing. But Elvis told me he didn’t know how to dance. So we sat and talked and drank Cokes all night.” Apparently, pelvic thrusts and hip swivels were not yet in Elvis’ repertoire (or, perhaps, not yet considered “dancing”).
The date was, by Wilson’s account, PG-rated. It was not their first time out together, but all they did was kiss. She told People that “Elvis gave me long kisses prom night. You could say we made out. But he never tried to go farther. He wasn’t like that” and that things never went any further — “Elvis was the only child of two strict parents.” And soon later, their relationship ended. There was no tearful breakup, though — Wilson left in the dark of night, never saying goodbye to her rock-a-bye beau. Her family, a single-parent household run by her divorced mother, needed to move in order to get by financially. Wilson never told Elvis, and moved without him ever knowing why.
For decades, Wilson kept the story to herself. She did not keep her prom picture and therefore, she figured, no one would believe that she once dated Elvis Presley. But Elvis saved his. His mom shared the picture above with the press, and Wilson’s story gained national attention.
From the Archives: Taking a Bullet for Your Client: The main article is unrelated to this one, but the bonus fact is about sideburns.
Related: Self-described as “The king of rock and/or roll in stylized urban vinyl form,” this is probably the coolest Elvis doll out there.
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