When It Was Cool Family Visits the Birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo, MS

By Karl Stern (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool, karl@dragonkingkarl.com)

It was a cold and grey Tupelo mornin' (see what I did there?) when the When It Was Cool family visited the birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo, MS.

If you don't know who Elvis is then I doubt you know what Coca-Cola is either because there are some names and brands that surpass popular culture into mythos.  Elvis is one of those things.  I doubt there are many places on Earth where Coca-Cola, Muhammad Ali, and Elvis are not known.

Look out now...

Look out now...

Most people are also probably aware that Elvis Presley is most associated with Memphis, Tennessee where his home, Graceland, is a major tourist attraction.  However, about 100 miles down the road is the much humbler home where Elvis was born, standing in an otherwise unremarkable neighborhood in east Tupelo, MS.

This is basically in the When It Was Cool family's backyard.  We had driven by the "See Elvis Birthplace" billboard hundreds of times on the side of I-22.  In fact, I-22 is a pretty recent invention, only getting Interstate status recently, growing up it was simply U.S. Highway 78.  Only a couple miles off the main highway is where Elvis birthplace is located.

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in a small, economically depressed community in east Tupelo, Mississippi just a couple of blocks south of the predominately African-American community of Shake Rag.  It was in the Assembly of God Pentecostal churches of this area that Elvis first developed a love of music and began signing.

The original Assembly of God church where Elvis attended was moved several years ago to the birthplace property about a block away from it's original location.  Today, you can go inside the restored building and see a short film about the congregation.

Memphis, Tennessee and northern Mississippi were fundamental in the development and popularity of the blues music.  Just south of Memphis is the Crossroads of Clarksdale, Mississippi where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil for fame and fortune.  Across the state in the Shake Rag community of Tupelo, Elvis Presley found his musical calling in a Pentecostal church.

The bedroom where Elvis was born.  The house is a tiny two room house built by Elvis' father.  The house still sits in the original location.  In the 1970's Elvis Presley held a concert in Tupelo, MS.  Before the show, he rode around with some of his entourage to his old neighborhood and was surprised to see his old home place still standing and for sale.  Elvis donated the entire proceeds of the concert to the city of Tupelo with the stipulation that the city purchase the property and maintain it.  Today it is a museum and park.

Original photo of Elvis with his mother and father hangs above the fireplace in the bedroom.

The house itself (but not the furnishings) is all original except for the wall paper which was added by a later owner of the house.  As a child, Elvis and his family sold all the original furniture and moved to Memphis, TN so his father could find work and the family moved into government housing.

The front porch and front door to the two room house.

The house is made up simply of a porch, a bedroom, and a kitchen with a small pantry.

While the When It Was Cool family was exploring the property we found someone else also exploring, appropriately enough... a hound dog.

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