No, it's very misleading, Chris. In another interview, Saotome talks about the years between 1954 and 1961: "When I realized that I wanted to be an uchi deshi, I talked to Doshu [Kisshomaru Ueshiba]. At the time, he was not an uchi deshi; he was working in a company outside the dojo. The only uchi deshi was Tamura Sensei, who had begun his study of Aikido about three months before me. I wanted to be uchi deshi, but I understood that Doshu couldn't afford it --- that he didn't have the income to take care of me. I went to Kyoto and, for about three years, I taught Aikido and other things at a school for the handicapped. When I came back to Hombu Dojo, I had to wait about two more years."
Tamura started at hombu in 1953, IIRC. Kuwamori was a Judo teacher - Saotome's high school Judo coach. After seeing Ueshiba he decided to make Kuwamori dojo as a branch dojo of the Aikikai (the first one) - the Aikikai sent Seigo Yamaguchi to be the instructor, and Kuwamori talked Saotome into doing Aikido. I think that Saotome got up to Ni-Dan under Yamaguchi before he entered hombu as an uchi-deshi (that might be wrong, but that number sticks in my head).