Young Elvis

The young king grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, an east Mississippi town with sweltering summers, rolling clay hills, dirt roads and sweet Southern charm.

Elvis lived with his family in Tupelo until he was 13; after that, it was off to the big city of Memphis. Still, Elvis never forgot Tupelo, and his childhood friends and playmates have never forgotten him and the happy times they shared.

A few of Elvis’ childhood friends often spend time at the Elvis Presley Birthplace, greeting fans from all over the world and sharing personal stories of Elvis’ young days.

“As they would say in Tupelo, he was just a little snotty-nosed boy when I was born,” Elvis’ lifelong friend Guy Harris told the North Mississippi Daily Journal in 2010. Guy was a few years younger than Elvis, but that didn’t stop the two boys from becoming good friends – such good friends that, when Elvis introduced Guy to Priscilla, he said Guy “was my best friend growing up.”

Elvis was a shy boy, but he made plenty of lifelong friends in Tupelo.

Elvis was a shy boy, but he made plenty of lifelong friends in Tupelo.

“I sat right behind him in class in the sixth grade at Milam, and we run around together. I rode him around on my bicycle all over town,” his friend James Ausborn said in an interview with the Daily Journal. “We’d go fishing together down on the creek, on Mud Creek, and he would start singing. I’d get on to him singing. I’d tell him, ‘We ain’t gonna catch no fish, you keep singing.”

Guy remembers swimming with Elvis at the swimming hole, and fibbing to Gladys about where they’d been. Gladys was protective of her only son, Guy said, so she didn’t like him playing too far from home where she couldn’t keep an eye on him.

Elvis spent plenty of hours riding his bicycle around Tupelo.

Elvis spent plenty of hours riding his bicycle around Tupelo.

Sam Bell remembers fun, carefree days playing with a young Elvis in Tupelo. At a Fan Club event during the 2015 Birthday Celebration, Sam recalled the pair hiding out in a tree house, Elvis’ mother Gladys making them snacks (“She made the best Kool-Aid,” Sam said) and Elvis’ early fascination with music.

Gladys purchased a guitar for Elvis from Tupelo Hardware for his 11th birthday. Tupelo heard Elvis’ first attempts on the instrument, and his first chords at singing in public. He carried his beloved guitar to school and competed in a talent show – taking home the fifth place award.

But Gladys wouldn’t let Elvis take the guitar outside, where it could get damaged or dirty, Sam said. Elvis improvised and used a broom as a pretend guitar, and they’d sing gospel songs while Elvis strummed the “guitar.” “We all thought we could sing,” Sam said, “but we couldn’t.”

Sam is black, and Elvis is white, and while they were children their schools were segregated. But once school let out, the two boys didn’t let racial divides keep them apart. Elvis – or “EP,” as Sam called him – would play ball with Sam and would often sneak over to the black section of the local movie theater so they could watch movies together. “We were inseparable,” Sam said.

Elvis attended Lawhon and Milam schools while in Tupelo.

Elvis attended Lawhon and Milam schools while in Tupelo.

Elvis’ young childhood friends said Tupelo was an inspirational place for him, and his time there carried a lasting impact on him. His generosity and spirituality stayed with him, from the dirt roads of Tupelo to the worldwide stage.

“It’s amazing, really,” Guy said, “to think a guy from this small a town could do something like that.”

Elvis and Guy Harris became friends in Tupelo, and the pair remained lifelong friends.

Elvis and Guy Harris became friends in Tupelo, and the pair remained lifelong friends. Guy went on to become a police officer in Tupelo.

Learn more about visiting Tupelo at tupelo.net. You’ll love touring the beautiful little town where Elvis grew up!


3 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Margaret

    Thank you for sharing that lovely memory.

  3. We visited Graceland and the shotgun home in Tupelo where Elvis grew up on the same trip. It was interesting to see the contrast between the lifestyle of his early years in Tupelo with his adult years in Memphis. Wow! Tupelo is itself a lovely little town. I recommend the trip!

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