By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
The owners of the Historical Blue Moon want to be careful when explaining the nature of their establishment.
“It’s a museum, but it’s not a museum,” said Keith Boswell, 52, who runs the place with his wife, Chris. “It’s a museum, but we do so many different things.”
For instance, it turns into a barbecue joint on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s sometimes a concert venue with blues, bluegrass and Southern rock musicians set up at the corner stage on different days.
“We’ve had weddings here,” Boswell said.
“Sure have,” Chris Boswell, 52, said.
“We do private parties and receptions,” he said.
And it’s also a museum dedicated to Vernon and Gladys Presley’s boy. If you’re not a fan of the Presleys’ son, the Historical Blue Moon probably isn’t for you. The building in downtown Verona feels like a folk art shrine to the King of Rock ’n’ Roll. There are little bits of Elvis everywhere.
“We built a replica of the front porch of the Birthplace,” Chris Boswell said.
“People sit on the swing and get their pictures taken,” Boswell added.
In one corner, there’s an “I love Elvis” pendant next to a framed celebration of Mississippi Slim, a Tupelo musician who influenced young Presley.
There are little statues, along with authentic posters and silk banners advertising long-ago Elvis shows.
In the front room across the stage, there’s a 9-foot by 5-foot wood and vinyl creation with dozens of Elvis records affixed to wooden pegs.
“You wouldn’t believe how often that gets photographed,” said Boswell, who built the showpiece.
In the next room, an Elvis bust sits at the head of a table “That has been kissed. He’s been hugged,” Chris Boswell said. “He’s had his hair played with.”
Once, a state trooper was visiting, turned the corner and caught unexpected sight of the bust.
“He just about pulled his gun,” Chris Boswell said.
Boswell accumulated most of the memorabilia over the years. He’s a lifelong Elvis fan, and became a tribute artist in the 1980s.
“I saw a tribute artist on TV and he was making a mockery of Elvis,” Boswell said. “I thought, if I did Elvis, I’d try to give it a little justice, a little respect.”
He’s traveled the country to perform, and he’s met wide-ranging luminaries, including D.J. Fontana and George Foreman. He built much of his collection during his travels.
“I’ve never displayed it before,” he said. “A lot of collectors, they’re hoarders. They buy stuff and then keep it to themselves.”
“He said it feels really odd to have his personal stuff up, but people enjoy it,” Chris Boswell said. “This isn’t all of it,” Boswell said.
The pair moved to Verona about two years ago from St. Joseph, Mo., for a job opportunity that didn’t materialize as planned. They had vacationed in Tupelo over the years, and decided to stay in the area.
“We looked at the cost of living and it was really good compared to everything that was going on in the rest of the country,” Chris Boswell said.
Julian Riley owns the building. The pair were helping him update it. One thing led to another, and the Boswells opened up their museum and more this year on Elvis’ birthday. (That’s Jan. 8, in case you’re not up on your Elvisology.) It’s open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday for tours. Dinner is available at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
“I make all my own sauces and rubs,” said Boswell.
The Front Porch Rocking Chair Bluegrass Band alternates every Friday with the Mojo Blues Band. It’s bluegrass this Friday, followed by Southern rock on Saturday.
“We wanted to give older folks something they could enjoy,” Boswell said. Museum tours are $5, and they include a visit to the old Verona Town Hall, where Vernon and Gladys Presley tied the knot in 1933.
“We’ve got documents that prove this is where they married,” Boswell said.
No one’s asked to get married there, but it’s an option. You should know the town hall will retain a certain shabbiness in order to appease watchdogs of historical accuracy.
“We’re not supposed to do any updates in here,” Boswell said, pointing to peeling paint.
The Boswells plan to focus their work on the building next door that serves as museum, restaurant, concert venue and more.
“We didn’t want to limit ourselves to just one thing,” Boswell said. “It’s a mixture of several different things.” “It all kind of goes together, though,” Chris Boswell added.