TUPELO – All roads lead to Elvis.
A timeline of world events, portrayals of Mississippi’s early settlement and even native artworks from far-flung lands are among the many displays that Bill Kinard (KINE-erd) and his compadres use to honor the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll at Tupelo’s Elvis Presley Heights Museum.
“We start with a timeline. We go back in history,” said Joyce Logan, one of the museum’s directors. “All this is in Elvis’ memory.”
Kinard and his wife, Linda, along with Charlene Presley and Logan, operate the museum. “Hopefully we’re drawing tourism to Tupelo, because each new thing that’s added just complements the birthplace,” Bill Kinard said. “We’re not in competition; we’re complementing and bringing something new to add to the attraction.”
Having opened only in October, Elvis Presley Heights Museum is a work in progress. Its storefront setting on the corner of East Main Street and Highway 6 East includes studios devoted to such varied themes as Hollywood, the Civil War, and international arts and crafts. There’s even an area focused on such eclectic antiques as a corn sheller, a homemade whiskey still and a door identified as having come from the homestead of Elvis’ great-aunt.
Its Elvis memorabilia includes both permanent displays and items on loan from other Presley enthusiasts. Among notable artifacts are a microphone from Elvis’ performance at the Tupelo Fairgrounds, a lock of his hair authenticated by his barber, the gold record of “Heartbreak Hotel” and several garments that he wore on stage.
“We just watched the concert, ‘He Touched Me,’ and this looks like one of the jumpsuits he was wearing,” Kinard said, unfolding a bejeweled jumpsuit that normally stays locked away.
The museum features countless photos of Tupelo’s favorite son, including rarely seen snapshots from his Tupelo youth. One of the most haunting items is a poster promoting an Elvis Presley concert scheduled for Hartford, Ct., on Aug. 21, 1977 – five days after he died at his Memphis home.
There are also salutes to people he sang or acted with – or even whose work he just happened to like. While most of its tributes to other entertainers consist of photos, prints and posters, there are unexpected treasures as well.
“This was Bing Crosby’s,” Kinard said, holding up a classic fly-fishing creel. “We have a box of his pipes, his trumpet and one of his family albums.”
Der Bingle? In Tupelo? What gives?
“This came from the museum in Washington where the bus and cars were secured,” Kinard explained. “They just put boxes and boxes on the bus and said, ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’”
Wait a second: What bus and cars?
Northwest to Southeast
Oh, yes – a bit of detail might be helpful. Hang on; it’s kind of complicated.
Several years ago the Kinards were at Sun Studios B in Nashville when they met a woman whose brother-in-law ran a sports museum in Oregon that also included a strong Elvis interest.
“She overheard us talking … about the ‘Fans Forever’ wall and the new cemetery we were opening up, Elvis Presley Heights Memorial Gardens Cemetery,” Kinard said. “When she heard that, she said, ‘My new brother-in-law has Elvis’ last tour bus.’ We exchanged phone numbers.”
The museum owner, Bruce Buseman, had not only the tour, bus but Elvis’ 1957 pink-and-black Cadillac and several movie cars, in varied stages of restoration. He enlisted Bill Kinard’s help in trying to get the Tupelo Auto Museum to purchase them. The effort failed, but Buseman ended up asking both Kinards to serve on the board of his nonprofit Professional Sports Hall of Fame.
When Buseman died in 2004, the Kinards proved to be the only surviving directors and, after a lengthy court struggle, acquired the vehicles for Elvis Presley Heights Museum. It was this past autumn when they took possession from the museum in Washington state that had secured them while they were in legal limbo.
The bus had been owned by Elvis and then his friend J.D. Sumner before being leased to Loretta Lynn, The Oak Ridge Boys and other country artists, Kinard said.
He identifies a baby blue Pacer as the one from “Wayne’s World,” a police cruiser as one of two such vehicles that survived the making of “The Blues Brothers” and a dune buggy from the set of the 1982 sci-fi movie “Megaforce.”
Not eclectic enough yet? Then back to Elvis.
“On (Jan.) 5th, 6th and 7th, we’ve got something special for Elvis Week,” Kinard said. “We have a gentleman from England who’s going to be here playing Elvis music on bagpipes.”
“It’s all about Elvis, but yet you’re seeing all kinds of stuff,” Logan said. “We put in here what we thought Elvis would like.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal