Elvis researcher Ernst Jorgensen wants to document all of the King of Rock 'n' Roll's shows from late 1954 through 1955, before he hit the world stage.
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Some of the stories Jorgensen uncovers will be told in future editions of the Daily Journal.
BY M. SCOTT MORRIS
You may not believe this, but there are Elvis Presley stories that haven't been told.
“With a project like this, we're trying to document history,” Ernst Jorgensen said during a phone call from Denmark. “We can't do it without help.”
Jorgensen has been hunting all things Elvis since the early 1990s, when he began repackaging the King of Rock 'n' Roll's music. He was behind “Elvis: 30 No. 1 Hits,” the follow-up, “Second to None” and many others.
Now, he needs your help (see fact box with this story). He's trying to document all the shows Elvis performed during the latter part of 1954 and throughout 1955, when the boy who would be King honed his skills at clubs, armories and high school gymnasiums across the Southeast.
“From West Texas towns we have six, eight or 10 pictures from this town and 20 from another. I've seen only one photo ever from Northeast Mississippi of Elvis' young days before he was famous,” Jorgensen said. “I've seen family photos, but I'm talking about when Elvis played at schools and football fields and all that.
“The only photo I've seen was, I think it was from Bruce, where he's backstage with two young ladies,” he continued. “No photos from Corinth. No photos from Booneville. No photos in Houston or Houlka or Tupelo, all these places he played. That cannot be right.”
So, he's asking for your memories, and he doesn't care if they're good or bad.
“There are people who went to the shows and thought Elvis was awful,” he said. “We want those people to step forward as well.”
He already has a list of shows that he knew took place during Elvis' early days. On Jan. 17, 1955, Elvis was in Booneville, and the next day, he played at the Alcorn County Courthouse.
There are dates for Ripley (Feb. 1), Randolph (March 1), Tocopola (March 29), Corinth again (April 7), Bruce (June 14), Belden (June 15), Tupelo (Aug. 1), Houston (maybe Oct. 25) and Amory (maybe Dec. 12).
“We know a lot of people went to these shows, and maybe some of them took small cameras,” he said. “We're hoping these stories will come out.”
The search has been easier in other states because Texas and Arkansas shows were advertised in newspapers, but many of the Northeast Mississippi events were advertised over the radio.
He's not expecting posters, though the ones that exist could be worth as much as $20,000. He's not expecting recordings, though he found one in Meridian and there's no telling how much it's worth.
Jorgensen has been an Elvis fan since he first heard “Little Sister” on the radio in 1961. He's now an Elvis researcher and producer for Sony/BMG, which owns the RCA catalog, including Elvis' songs.
This hunt, Jorgensen said, is about documenting the musial beginnings of a worldwide phenomenon. Love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion about the biggest pop icon of the 20th century.
“To a lot of people, Elvis was only a guy who happened to be at the right place at the right time and got lucky overnight. This project is going to demonstrate exactly the opposite,” he said. “If you look at Elvis' calendar for the year '55, and the last few months of '54, he was playing every single day one or two shows, sometimes with 12-hour driving time between one show and the next one.
“Elvis didn't just get lucky,” Jorgensen continued. “He spent every day refining his music, refining his stage presence.”
Jorgensen knows about Elvis ripping his britches crawling through a school window for a show at Belden, but he has no pictures or ticket stubs from that day in 1955.
He also knows there are plenty of concerts that are not included on his list. In one case, a woman's diary entry provided a crucial date that helped expand his knowledge.
When people call or e-mail, he tries to get in touch with them as soon as possible, though there is a time difference between Northeast Mississippi and Denmark.
“We will get back to people, so they should be patient,” he said. “In certain places, there are great storytellers and they'll have memories that nobody ever thought of. This is a lot of fun.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at 678-1589 or email@example.com