Giving in Elvis Presley’s Name

Elvis Presley’s influence is worldwide and never-ending. If you need proof, just look at the hundreds of Elvis fan clubs across the globe. These groups, made up of fans of every age, celebrate the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and honor his memory with charitable donations. Each year, fan clubs hold special events, raise money and donate to thousands of organizations – both in their own hometowns and in Memphis – and donate the money in Elvis’ name. They’re simply following the excellent example set by Elvis himself. In celebration of Make a Difference Day on Saturday, October 24, here are just a few of the fan clubs who are doing great charitable work.   Tupelo Elvis Fan Club   The fan club in Elvis’ hometown seems to work endlessly at raising money for good causes. The group spearheaded the effort to get an Elvis Presley specialty license plate in Mississippi, and the money raised from that – as well as many other efforts – help fund their donations. The Tupelo Elvis Fan Club donates $10,000 in yearly scholarships for Mississippi high school seniors, and they also donate $10,000 a year to the North Mississippi Regional Rehab Center. The group has pledged to give $13,000 a year for 10 years to the Tupelo Aquatic Center, a new facility that is located near the Elvis Presley Birthplace. And speaking of the birthplace, the fan club gives $5,000 a year to the Elvis Presley Birthplace Foundation to fund a child enrichment program. The group also donates to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, a hospital Elvis always supported. Overall, this one club donates $40,000 annually to charitable organizations.   Taking Care of Presley Memorial Fan Club   Fans may know this group by its annual event, the Elvis FANtasy Festival. The 23rd annual festival recently took place in Portage, Indiana. The group recent partnered with an Elvis festival organizer, but for 20 years, it was run entirely as a volunteer project of the fan club. The group donates to the Porter County Special Olympics. While totals are not in from this year’s event, last year’s raised $14,640.   We Remember Elvis Fan Club   This Pittsburg, Pennsylvania-based fan club focuses its efforts on helping folks get healthy. The group, which started in 1982, started by donating money to a children’s hospital in Pittsburg. Now, the group donates to food banks, the West Penn Burn...
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Elvis Presley’s Memphis Stages

Memphis, Tennessee, wasn’t just Elvis’ home; it was also his stage. From small clubs to large coliseums, Elvis performed in many different Bluff City venues throughout his career. A few weeks ago on the Graceland Blog, we looked at the Presley family’s Memphis homes and apartments. This week, let’s look at a few of the Memphis venues where Elvis wowed his fans. Elvis’ career started small, with gigs at the Bel-Air Club and the Bon Air Club. But his first official billed performance was on July 30, 1954, at the Overton Park Shell – now known as the Levitt Shell. Elvis – billed as Ellis Presley – opened for Slim Whitman, and he was so nervous his legs began to shake. It worked in his favor, and he left that show with a host of new fans. That gig got Elvis and his band a solid booking at The Eagle’s Nest, a country-western club that was just outside the Memphis city limits. The guys played weekend shows for the next three months of 1954.   The Eagle’s Nest was steady work, but Elvis wanted more. His career blossomed: He performed at the Grand Ole Opry, which didn’t go well, so he signed with the Louisiana Hayride. Many of Elvis’ early shows were in high school and junior high auditoriums. In early February 1955, he performed at Messick High School and Messick Junior High School in Memphis. These were no ordinary shows; he actually performed there to help promoter Bob Neal’s son, Sonny, in his campaign for the student council. Elvis’ next venue was one he knows well: Ellis Auditorium. His Humes High School graduation ceremony was held in that same venue, and just a few years later, he returned as a young rock star at the start of his career. He shared the stage with the likes of Faron Young, and in between shows, promoter Bob Neal arrangeed a meeting between Sun Records president Sam Phillips, Col. Tom Parker and Tom Diskin across the street from the auditorium. They were all, of course, interested in Elvis. On August 5, 1955, Elvis returned for a show at the Shell. Fans enjoyed his previous Shell show, but they really loved him at this concert. The concert was Bob Neal’s eighth annual Country Music Jamboree, and Elvis shared the stage with Johnny Cash, Webb Pierce and Sonny James. The show drew more than 4,000 fans.   Overton Park Shell Radio Ad By this point, Elvis’ career is on fire....
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Where’s Elvis Presley: Tupelo or Memphis?

In January 2014, Vanity Fair magazine published an article showing a photo of Elvis Presley presumably taken in downtown Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1947. The article traces the origin of the photo to a woman who was walking into a drugstore to drop off some film that had one exposure left on the roll. According to the story, she noticed a young Elvis on his bike and asked him to pose, snapping her last frame of him. The woman later gave the photo to Presley family friend Janelle McComb of Tupelo, who passed along the photo and the story of how she obtained it to Elvis fan and memorabilia collector Wade Jones shortly before her death. The story behind the photo may have been correct, but the city was wrong. Tupelo lies in Lee County, which was a dry county in the 1940’s, meaning it was illegal to sell alcohol, yet the background of the photo shows a liquor store. Mississippi didn’t repeal Prohibition until 1966. The bike in the photo is also familiar. Elvis received a Firestone Pilot Classic bicycle, most likely for his 13th birthday. In 1993, a photo was found in Gladys’ closet at Graceland of Elvis on a new bike with “age 13” written on the back. The bike is the same one in the Vanity Fair photo, except for the fenders, which were removed in the later photo. The Presleys moved to Memphis in November 1948 and lived at 370 Washington before moving just around the corner to a large rooming house at 572 Poplar Avenue in June 1949. They briefly lived there until September, when they moved to Lauderdale Courts. Elvis’ grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley, continued living at the Poplar address, according to the 1950 Memphis City Directory. City directories list homes and businesses by street throughout the city.   The 1950 directory also shows the S&S Drug Store, Lando Marossi restaurant and Milo’s liquor store that appear in the Vanity Fair photo. John Sampietro, whose father operated the S&S Drug Store at the corner of Poplar and High Street, remembered his father talking about how a young Elvis would come into the store to play pinball. Milo Solomito operated the liquor store just across the street from the drug store and his son, Milo Jr., identified the store in the photo as the one his father ran for many years. To the right of the liquor...
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Elvis Presley’s Home Sweet Homes

A man’s home is his castle – and so Graceland is definitely the king’s castle. But for about the first half of his life, Elvis and his family had many other home sweet homes. The family moved often in both Tupelo and Memphis, and lived in many different houses and apartment complexes. Before Elvis ever crossed the gates of Graceland, he called many other places in Memphis “home.” Let’s take a look at where the Presley family lived in Memphis before their move to their beloved Graceland. In November 1948, Elvis and his parents, Gladys and Vernon, packed up their 1937 Plymouth and drove about two hours northwest from Tupelo, Mississippi, to Memphis, Tennessee. Vernon and Gladys hoped for better job prospects in the bigger city, but work was often scarce or low-wage. And it wasn’t just the three of them; other family members, such as Elvis’ paternal grandmother, Minnie Mae, moved with the family, too. The family’s first address in Memphis was 370 Washington and they paid $11/week in rent. The Presleys stayed there for less than a year, and then moved to 572 Poplar, where they stayed just a few months. Elvis entered Humes High School while living on Poplar, and he earned mostly B’s and C’s in school. In September 1949, the family moved to 185 Winchester Street, which is the address of the Lauderdale Courts apartments. The family shared a two-bedroom, first-floor apartment for $35 a month. Elvis and Buzzy Forbess and Farley Guy hang out at Lauderdale Courts in 1954. Elvis’ career was growing by the time this picture was taken. The family stayed at Lauderdale Courts from September 1949 to January 1953, which was the longest time they lived at a single residence that wasn’t Graceland. Elvis had many friends who lived in and around Lauderdale Courts. Some of those friends remember playing music with Elvis in and around the complex. Even after Elvis found fame, he still went back to Lauderdale Courts to see his friends who lived there. The family packed up again and moved to 698 Saffarans, which was across the street from Humes High School, followed just a couple of months later with a move to 462 Alabama in April 1953. Elvis graduated from Humes High School while they lived on Alabama. Next, the family moved to 2414 Lamar Avenue in 1954, followed by 1414 Getwell in late 1955. There isn’t a lot of detail in Elvis biographies about these moves, because it’s during...
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