By NEMS Daily Journal
Tupelo rolls out many red carpets Thursday and in the days following in celebration of our city’s and Mississippi’s preeminent entertainment legend, Elvis Presley, who was born in the city then known as East Tupelo. He lived there and in Tupelo until he was 13, old enough to have bought his first guitar at Tupelo Hardware and to have begun the journey that would make him the international King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The Elvis Presley Birthplace in east Tupelo on Elvis Presley Drive opens its $4.3 million expansion Thursday at 10:45 a.m. with music and other events following, with a second birthplace performance and ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday.
Some Presley fans will say “finally” on Thursday, when, starting at 6 p.m., a Down on Main Concert will culminate with the unveiling of a more-than-life-size sculpture of the adult Rock ‘n’ Roll star at Fairpark, where Presley’s homecoming concert in 1956 attracted a screaming, surging crowd of thousands to hear his sensual voice and see his sexually provocative stage performance.
Presley already lived in Memphis, and his star was rising with No. 1 radio hits and a movie career to follow. But he came home to a city of friends, many relatives and ardent fans.
The detractors mostly stayed away or criticized without having witnessed any of his performances in person.
The Down on Main event is part of the emphasis organized by the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association in cooperation with the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Tupelo already was a relatively well-known small Southern city, but Presley’s meteoric rise reshaped the city’s international identity. Presley was indisputably the first musical “megastar” of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era and his premature death gave his celebrity almost cult-like international status.
The website “Elvis Presley” reports his extraordinary accumulation of hits:
“Elvis has had no less than 149 songs to appear on Billboard’s Hot 100 Pop Chart in America. Of these, 114 were in the top forty, 40 were in the top ten, and 18 went to number one. His number one singles spent a total of 80 weeks at number one. He has also had over 90 charted albums with ten of them reaching number one. These figures are only for the pop charts and only in America. He was also a leading artist in the American country, R&B, and gospel fields, and his chart success in other countries was substantial.”
This week’s events more accurately reflect who Presley became than anything else Tupelo has done to honor him.