This is the story of resilience, of making something out of nothing, of rising out of the bad times.
Elvis Presley was born
- in the poorest state (Mississippi)
- during the poorest time (the Great Depression),
- on the wrong side of the tracks.
How did he rise from the depths to mega-success?
His Father had Gumption
In 1934, Elvis’ mother was expecting the future King. So her husband built a tiny home for them (above) — with his own hands!
- Time was running out, so he asked for help from his father and brother to build the shack.
- He didn’t have the $180 for building materials so he borrowed it from the farmer for whom he was a sharecropper. Elvis was born in the shack in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Elvis’ father had can-do, will-do attitude!
When Elvis was three, his parents defaulted on the $180 loan. They were evicted. Elvis’ father lost his job. For the next 10 years, they worked odd jobs in Tupelo.
The Kid’s Got Talent!
At age 10, shy, be-speckled Elvis entered the talent contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show at the Tupelo Fairgrounds. He sang “Old Shep” in a WELO Radio broadcast of the show, and won $5 in fair ride tickets.
By age 21, he was famous. He had moved to Memphis but came back to Tupelo to perform at the same fairgrounds where he had won the prize at age 10. Click here to see the 1956 concert. The next year, he gave a concert in Tupelo and donated all proceeds to the city to build a park on the land surrounding the shack.
But It Almost Didn’t Happen
One day in Tupelo, long before Elvis was famous, his mother wanted to buy a present for his 10th birthday. So she and E walked to the hardware store (pictured below). Because Elvis had always been fascinated by music, his mother wanted to buy a guitar for him. But when they walked into the store, Elvis saw a rifle and wanted that instead! After the store clerk allowed him to test it, Elvis decided on the guitar. Click here to read a letter from the very same store clerk.
His Church Pastor taught Elvis to Play the Guitar
Elvis first heard gospel music, which influenced his singing, at the little church he and his parents attended regularly.
Elvis and the Garden Club: Really?
“In 1971, the East Heights Garden Club [in Tupelo] began to improve the birthplace as a club project. Over the years the club purchased furniture and other pieces to duplicate the house’s contents from when the Presleys lived there in the 30s,” according to the Elvis Birthplace Museum.
Faith, Hope and Love
Elvis had all three. Maybe that’s why he was able to catapult his talent out of the ashes.
Visit Tupelo’s Elvis Birthplace Museum to see the shack and the family church. Drive to the nearby hardware store. While Graceland is fun, the EBM is touching and inspirational.