Elvis Presley grew up in a small family that consisted of himself, mother Gladys, and father Vernon. He also had an older twin brother, Jesse, who tragically died the day he was born. But Elvis would later become an older brother himself when tragedy again broke apart his family and introduced a new one. This new brother was David and he would come to regard Elvis in the highest esteem.
Gladys Love née Smith was considered the head of the household due to her strong personality and command over the family. After the trio’s first loss, she and Elvis became close, but sadly she too died in 1958. In 1960, Vernon Elvis married Dee Stanley, already the mother of three children: Billy, David and Ricky. There was a 20-year difference between David and Elvis, who had just come home from military service in time to meet his new little brother at Graceland.
Elvis instantly became a brother to David
When Elvis returned from military service after being drafted in ‘58, his family had expanded by four new members. He came to Graceland and there first laid eyes on his new younger brother. “He looked over at me and he picked me up and he gave me a hug and he welcomed me into his family,” said David of the first meeting. “And he took me in and he shared his life with me.”
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According to Elvis’ other new brother, Billy, he shared this sentiment with all three of his half-siblings. “Everybody parted like the sea and there was Elvis,” Billy recalled. “He walked over and said, ‘Daddy, I always wanted a brother and now I have three.’ He picked all three of us up.”
Christmas in July with Santa Presley
The idea of having siblings and raising babies – and staying a kid himself – stuck with Elvis for much of his life, in part due to his closeness with Gladys who encouraged childlike wonder. So, when he met his brothers, Elvis cut no corners. As Billy further detailed of the next day, “We went out in the backyard, there was three of every toy you could think of. That’s how he welcomed us… He was like Santa Claus in July.”
Because of how close Elvis was to Gladys, he had reservations about letting this new woman into his life, but held no reservations when it came to loving his brothers. “He was very generous to me,” David said. At the age of five, he did not know or understand the weight of Elvis’ fame, “But I did understand one thing, I came from a boarding home and moved into Graceland. And I thought, ‘this is going to be a great ride.’ And it really was. It was a great ride.” Though David did not understand the things that made his new brother famous, he did “a lot of attention being driven to school in a pink Cadillac every day.” He added, “I mean, when Elvis is your big brother… he was more like a father figure.” Part of that was the 20-year age difference, and part of it was the initiative Elvis himself took. David explained, “He taught me everything. He taught me music. He taught me how to be cool. If there’s any cool there, it came from Elvis. He taught me about girls. He taught me about spiritual matters.”
In short, David summarized, “He was a phenomenal big brother. He loved us, he looked after us.”