We all know about the meteoric rise to fame. We all know about the mansion called Graceland. We all know how it ended. This is how it began…
Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935 to Vernon and Gladys Presley. Born in a two-room house built by his father, grandfather and uncle, Elvis was one of twin brothers born to the Presleys. His brother, Jessie Garon was stillborn. Elvis grew up in Tupelo surrounded by his extended family including his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Financially, times were hard on Vernon and Gladys, and they had to move out of the house where Elvis was born when he was only a few years old for lack of payment. Vernon and Gladys worked various jobs while in Tupelo and moved several different times during the thirteen years they resided in Mississippi.
While in Tupelo, Elvis attended the Assembly of God Church with his family where he was first exposed to gospel music that influenced his musical style throughout his career. It was in Tupelo that Elvis was exposed to bluesmen in the Shake Rag community where he lived for a time. His family also listened to country music radio programs from which Elvis drew influence. In 1945, Elvis made his first public radio broadcast. At ten years old, Elvis stood on a chair and sang “Old Shep” in a youth talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show at the Tupelo Fairgrounds. WELO Radio broadcast the talent show, and Elvis won the second prize of $5 and free admission to all the fair rides.
In 1946, Elvis and his mother went to Tupelo Hardware where Elvis wanted to purchase a .22 caliber rifle. Gladys persuaded Elvis to look at a guitar, which store employees allowed him to try out. Elvis decided that he wanted the guitar, which his mother purchased for him, and his pastor taught him how to play it. Elvis could often be seen around town with his guitar in hand. In 1948, Elvis played his guitar and sang a farewell tribute to his Milam Junior High class before moving to Memphis where his father hoped to make a better life for his family.
Nine years later, Elvis returned to the fairgrounds and performed a benefit concert for the City of Tupelo. After his triumphant homecoming concert at the fairgrounds in September 1956, Elvis returned on September 27, 1957 and performed a benefit concert to raise money to build a Youth Center and park for Tupelo. The proceeds were used to purchase his birthplace and make a park for the neighborhood children. The Elvis Presley Birthplace Park now consist of the Birthplace, Museum, Chapel, Gift Shop, “Elvis at 13” statue, Fountain of Life, Walk of Life, “Memphis Bound” car feature and Story Wall.