Birthplace of the King
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Most of Elvis's fans have made the pilgrimage to Graceland. His
most devote followers recognize the importance of that earlier shrine,
his birthplace in Tupelo Mississippi. After all without the birthplace
there would have been no Graceland.
|Elvis's birthplace in Tupelo
Graceland, where he died
Tupelo was the
place that shaped the young Elvis and helped make him into the idol he would
become. On first glance, Tupelo is just another Mississippi farming
community. That is the very thing that made Elvis the person he was until
his death, a polite, Southern boy who respected his mother and father and
had a firm belief in God. A comment by a good friend of his mother and a
cousin by marriage, Anne Presley, sums it up. "Elvis never forgot his
|The front room/bedroom where Elvis was born
That "raisin'" began in a
small sharecropper cabin his father Vernon, with the help of his
father and brother, built in 1934. It had no electricity or
indoor plumbing. On Jan 8 1935, Elvis was born in the front
room. He was one of twins but his brother, named Jesse Garon,
was stillborn and buried in the local cemetery. The house was
small and built on the land owned by the farmer Vernon worked
for as a sharecropper, Mr. Orville Bean.
Today, the house, along with the
Elvis Presley Museum, the church Elvis first attended, a meditation
chapel, garden and other tributes to the King of Rock and Roll,
comprise the Elvis Birthplace Site.
|The meditation chapel
As you step
inside the tiny home, the feeling of actually being where Elvis was is
overwhelming. The home is original and on its original site. The furniture,
while not original, is similar and positioned as it was according to
Vernon's recollections. The feeling is more of a shrine than a museum.
This was the depths of the
depression era and times were tough beyond any we now imagine. Vernon
made a poor judgment when he felt cheated by Mr. Bean over a hog he
sold him. Vernon forged Bean's $4 check to either $14 or $40. As a
result he was sent to prison and Gladys lost the home to Mr. Bean.
|The church Elvis attended as a child
At a very young
age, Elvis was introduced to a place that would forever impact his musical
style, the modest Assembly of God Church. The church has been moved to the
Birthplace Site and restored. Inside, you are surrounded by the worshipers,
preacher and watch as singers including young Elvis put their heart and soul
into the simple gospel music. Gospel music remained an important part of
Elvis' life long after he left the environs of this simple country church.
He won his first Grammy for How Great Thou Art , a song he sang and
heard many times in this little white building.
In light of Elvis's deeply
spiritual nature, there is a gracious chapel on the ground where
visitors can go to meditate, pray or just remember the singer who left
this earth way too soon.
The museum and gift shop have
recently been renovate. The displays inside offer a deeper look into
Elvis' life particularly here in Tupelo. Much of the material in the
museum was donated by Janelle McComb, a family friend, those original
artifacts are included in "Remembrances of Things Past." Out front,
you will find a 1939 green Plymouth. It's not original but is the same
make and model used when Vernon gathered his little family and few
belongings and left to find a better life for them all in Memphis.
|The stature of Young Elvis
The Garden with a fountain
and Walk of Life consisting of 42 granite blocks each
representing year of Elvis' life and the most significant
happening that year. There is also a Story Wall with quotes
regarding Elvis from his boyhood friends of Elvis. There is one
other item. The stature that is the most photographed stature
in Mississippi. It is of Elvis at thirteen. Done by Michiel Van
der Sommen, it depicts the young Elvis carrying his guitar and
headed for one of his favorite spots, an overlook where he
often went to play and contemplate.
That guitar, a simple instrument,
that helped shape his life as much as the home and church has a story
of its own. When Elvis was 10 Gladys took him to the Tupelo Hardware
store to buy him a present. Today, the Tupelo Hardware Store stands
much as it was in 1945.
|Howard Hite displaying a photo of a few of the thousands of
foreigh visitors who come to visit the sites of Elvis' childhood
Howard Hite was at the store when
we arrived and told the story. Gladys came in with Elvis planning to
buy him a bicycle. Elvis marched right past the bicycles and stopped
at the counter. Hanging right above it was a 22 rifle. He said that
was what he wanted but Gladys was having none of that. A longtime
employee of the store and a good friend of the Presleys, Forrest Bobo,
was behind the counter and saw Elvis beginning to pout. He picked up a
guitar and handed it to him, Then Elvis took the guitar and began
toying with it. Within a few minutes he decided this was what he
wanted for his present. Gladys bought it gladly and his career was
is still a hardware store selling all the usual tools and equipment, about
2,000 people from around the world, from ordinary to famous, stop in to see
this milestone on Elvis' journey to stardom. Howard told us of some of the
big names who have been there. Prince Albert of Monaco bought a guitar from
Howard. Aerosmith's lead guitarist, Joe Perry walked in the front door and
announced "I want to buy a guitar where the King of Rock and Roll bought his
Howard informed him, "You can sure
That first guitar
led to a first official appearance. On October 3, 1945, ten year old Elvis
entered the children's talent show at the Mississippi - Alabama Fair. He
sang Old Shep and won second prize, $5 and free admission to all
the rides. Just one more milestone in his rocky ride to the top.
But the boy who was to become the
greatest musical influence of the twentieth�century was still just a
ordinary boy and leading an ordinary life. You can trace some of that
life here at his school and Johnny's Drive�In. It is still operating
as a drive�in. You can order what you like but Elvis's favorite order
was a doughburger and RC Cola. In case you never heard of a
doughburger, it's a hamburger made the old-fashioned way with ground
beef, flour, egg, onions, bell peppers and seasonings to make the meat
stretch a lot farther.
One last stop while you are
remembering Elvis, the Tupelo Automobile museum have a great
collection of Elvis movie posters as well as a Lincoln previously
owned by Elvis Presley. In Tupelo, Elvis's family never could afford a
fancy car but when Elvis first made it big, he bought his mother a
brand new pink Cadillac, a small thank you for the years she worked
hard to nurture her son in Tupelo and the gift of that guitar.
Elvis never forgot his hometown
either, Just as his star was rising in 1956 and again 1957, he
returned to play the local fairgrounds. That is still there, too, and
you can retrace his steps one last time before you turn your attention
to Memphis and a completely different kind of lifestyle.
His fifth grade teacher, Mrs
Oleta Grimes, summed up the boy Elvis and the man he would become.
"There I something nice about everybody. There is everything nice