Elvis’s birthplace – Tupelo, Mississippi

Robert January 8, 2011 0

76 years ago – January 8th, 1935, Elvis Presley was born in a two room house in the town of Tupelo, Mississippi. Last Christmas I got to visit the birthplace.

In 1934, Vernon Presley (Elvis’s father), with his father and brother, built the home, for his new family. Vernon often had to travel to find work, so Elvis and his mother were home alone in 1936 when an F5 tornado hit Tupelo. The massive tornado killed over 200 people in the small town. Fortunately for the world of music, this little white house was spared.

The house had other inhabitants, after the Presleys, so the furnishings are not original – but they do approximate what the Presley’s had in the home, and are placed according to Vernon’s recollections. The home had no running water. An outhouse and well were outside. At the time the Presleys lived there, there were four other houses, in a row, with this one.

The Presley family had to move out of the house when Elvis was two and a half, due to inability to make their payments. They moved around Tupelo until 1948, when Vernon drove the family, in the pictured 1939 Plymouth, to Memphis.

It was in Tupelo that Elvis got his first guitar and learned to sing at the local Assembly of God Church. That church was originally a few blocks from the Presley home, but the custodians of the birthplace have had that church moved to the birthplace site. It has been restored and is now part of the tour. It’s a small one room church, but is a very interesting part of the tour. Every 30 minutes a show happens in the church. Three projection screens descend, covering the forward and side walls. Projectors display a reenactment of a typical service from the church. Actors play the musical preacher that Elvis emulated and the Presley family, including a young Elvis that sings with the choir.

There is also a good museum on the site, with several of Elvis’s possessions and a history of the site. Adjacent to the museum is a chapel that was built as a tribute to Elvis, in 1979, two years after his death.

Unfortunately our schedule did not permit us to do the driving tour that takes visitors to other significant Elvis sights in Tupelo, including the hardware store where Elvis got his first guitar and the schools he attended.

The whole site is well preserved and landscaped and the staff are friendly. It’s about an hour and a half from Memphis and is well worth the drive. Adult admission was $12.

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