Mississippi's most famous son

Elvis Presley

There is a long list of Mississippi favorite sons and daughters, but one name stands out larger than others, even larger than life. Elvis Aron Presley, born in a two-room house in Tupelo, is one of the best known names in the world.

If you are of a certain age, you can remember were you were when heard of the death of President Kennedy, and, if you are of the right age, you can remember where you were the day Elvis died.

In the dining room of the Roanoke Holiday Inn, the four young waitresses were gathered in a little group in the far corner. They were crying.

I pushed away from my table and walked to the cashier, check in hand.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

There was a long pause. Softly she said, “Elvis is dead.”

There was a generation between the lady cashier and the four waitresses, but, for Elvis fans, there was no generation gap. There was just Elvis. Now he was gone.

They all had tickets to his first concert in Roanoke for the next weekend.

“Maybe you ladies can get a refund,” I stupidly suggested.

“No,” the cashier said. “I will put the ticket in the frame with his picture.”

Presley was born on Jan. 8, 1935, in what they call a shotgun house that was built for Elvis’ father.

He got his first guitar as a gift when he was 11. He would have preferred a bicycle.

His lessons on the guitar were given by his two uncles and the pastor of the family church. Elvis also learned to play the bass and piano, all by ear. He never learned to read or write music.

His first public performance was at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show on Oct. 3, 1945. He dressed as a cowboy and accompanied himself on guitar, singing “Old Shep.” He placed fifth.

When Elvis was 13, the family relocated in Memphis, and, in time, came Sun Records, Colonel Tom Parker and a career in music that would be difficult to equal.

Elvis died of a heart attack on Aug. 16, 1977, at 42. He is buried at Graceland in Tennessee.

Written using online sources.

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