Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tupelo, Mississippi, Birthplace of Elvis

The birthplace of Elvis was just off the highway in Tupelo so we decided to stop. It was well worth the effort! The tiny house stands along the street with a museum at the back. The Church Elvis attended has been moved to the property as well. It is a tiny, two room “shotgun” house with the single bedroom at the front and the kitchen at the back.

Elvis’ dad, Vernon, built the house himself with $180 he borrowed from his boss at the time. Elvis and his twin, who was stillborn, were born in the bedroom of this house. When Elvis was two, going on three, Vernon made a copy of a $4.00 pay cheque from this same boss and tried to cash it. He was caught, charged and Vernon went to jail, serving eight months of a four year sentence. With little or no income, Elvis’ mother was unable to make payments on the $180 loan and the family was evicted and forced to live with relatives.

After he became famous, Elvis came to do a concert in Tupelo and drove past his old house which was for sale at the time for $13,000. He went to the mayor and asked him that if he donated the proceeds of the concert to the city, would the city purchase the property and vacant area behind it to make a playground for the kids of the area. The mayor agreed and the house was saved.

The family stayed in Tupelo for several years, living in various houses. One of the houses was right on the edge of the “Shake Rag” district populated by Blacks. Elvis was fascinated with the music that came from his neighbors at night and the singing in their Church.

When he was ten his mother took him to the local hardware store to buy him a birthday gift. He wanted a .22 rifle which the store owner and his mother talked him out of. He then picked a bicycle which his perhaps over-protective mother also refused to buy. The shop owner then brought out a guitar as an alternative which his mother agreed to but Elvis did not want. Realizing it was going to be the guitar or nothing, he finally agreed to accept the $7.50 guitar. The preacher in his Church taught him a few cords and he began practicing and taking the guitar to school with him every day to play for his friends. His teacher was so impressed that she entered him in a radio talent show where he came in fifth, winning $5.

It is hard to believe that he has been dead for 34 years and that if he were still alive, would be 76!


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