By NEMS Daily Journal
This weekend’s weather promises to be as hot as Elvis Presley’s hip-swiveling performances when he exploded on the pop music scene in 1955 – a sizzling backdrop for the 15th annual Elvis Presley Festival, his hometown’s tribute to the King of Rock ’n’ Roll.
The former fairgrounds where he performed – now the downtown Fairpark district – and the Lyric Theatre, are the main venues for Tupelo’s Elvis tribute.
Elvis tribute artists begin competing today at 9 a.m at the Lyric for the right to represent Tupelo in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute competition in Memphis during Elvis Week in August. Call (662) 841-6598 for ticket information. The other three tribute sessions are sold out.
Competitors have come to Tupelo from as far away as Australia. The top prize is $2,500, plus all expenses for the Elvis Week competition in Memphis.
The outdoor stage in front of Tupelo City Hall in Fairpark hosts 17 well-known contemporary bands tonight and Saturday; tickets will be available at the event. The band lineup includes plenty of popular home-grown talent from Tupelo and the larger region.
Presley twice performed at the former Fairgrounds in outdoor concerts that attracted thousands.
Presley, Tupelo’s most famous native son, moved to Memphis with his parents in adolescence (1948), but Tupelo remained the home town (with family members and lifelong friends still in residence) until his untimely death in 1977.
Elvis’ musical influences were pop and country music, gospel music he heard in church and at the all-night gospel singings he attended, and the black R&B that contributed immeasurably to his unique style and appeal.
Many entertainment historians and some academic historians consider Presley the most famous Southerner because his fame, even 34 years after his death, remains popular and in performance worldwide.
Many conservative Southern preachers – and parents – railed against his style and overt sensuality, but their protests had virtually no impact on the youth generation of the 1950s, which embraced him as the icon of the times.
Presley starred in 33 films and reshaped how Las Vegas measured fame and popularity.
Original Elvis memorabilia is among the most expensive and collectible artifacts of the entertainment industry.
Among his awards and accolades were 14 Grammy nominations (three wins) from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received at age 36.
Without special privileges or protest, he was drafted and served honorably in the U.S. Army during the Cold War, posted in Germany.
Few other communities can celebrate a native as famous and enduringly popular as Elvis Presley.