On Day 5 of our Making Memories Family Road Trip we were supposed to reach Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee but fatigue and bad weather forced us to instead improvise a trip toElvis’ Birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi, just two hours away from Graceland.
If you’re an Elvis aficionado, or even if you just love all things Americana, visiting Tupelo is a worthwhile pit stop because this small town gives you a historical and environmental context to who Elvis was and who he would become that you can’t get anywhere else.
In contrast to the palatial Graceland mansion where Elvis thrived and died, Tupelo is also the home to the shotgun house where the future King of Rock n Roll was born in poverty and where he developed his talents into legendary form.
The plain white shotgun (two room) home itself is not very interesting. It’ll only takes three minutes to see both rooms and nothing inside the house is original except the roof, walls and the floor. The biggest value of paying the admission to go inside is simply to be able to imagine how Elvis went from burlap to cashmere. The temperature was 105F when we visited so I can’t imagine what life for the baby Elvis was like in there without an air conditioner. He lived in that house until he was three.
Far more interesting than the Presley home is a visit to the adjacent wooden gospel church that Elvis regularly attended and that several years ago was restored and relocated to its present location at a cost of $600,000.
The Presleys were devout Christians who founded the Assemblies of God church and who raised Elvis in the gospel from the time he was born. Elvis’ regularly attended, prayed and played at this church until he grew up and it is said that he got a lot of musical influence from singing at the church.
Even though there is an additional cost to go inside the church it is worth it because the fee includes a unique, multimedia presentation of an old time worship service. The multimedia presentation lasts about 20 minutes and truly transports you to what a young Elvis saw and heard in one of the countless services he participated in.
As I sat in the audience for this presentation I couldn’t help but think of two things. One was the irony that the King of Rock n Roll, the man who has influenced legions of talented musicians, himself only won Grammy Awards (three) for his gospel and not for his rock music. My second thought was whether this church was actually the same one he was thinking about when he sang one of my favorite songs of his “Crying in the Chapel.”
DISCLOSURE: Disney Destinations and Buick are proud sponsors of the PapiBlogger Making Memories Family Road Trip. This year’s PapiMobile is a 2011 Buick Enclave.