OUR OPINION: The King’s weekend offers full program for Elvis fans

By NEMS Daily Journal

This weekend’s 15th anniversary Tupelo Elvis Festival continues the still-strong international fan phenomenon linked to Elvis Presley, the city’s native son known universally as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Performances started Thursday night and will continue through mid-day Sunday, featuring tribute artists and contemporary musical artists, offering audience appeal across the age spectrum.
Presley, born in what was then the city of East Tupelo, began discovering his musical talent in Tupelo before moving as an adolescent with his parents to Memphis. While heavily identified with his Graceland Mansion residence in Memphis, Tupelo remained the home town, where friends, cousins and other relatives abounded and some still reside.
The Tupelo Elvis Festival grew out of the creative ideas in the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, which remains its sponsor and organizer.
The range of music reflects Presley’s own preferences, including Southern gospel music, popular as religious expression and as entertainment, with distinct strains rising from black and white cultural streams.
Historian Charles Reagan Wilson has written of Presley and some of his famous peers, “In December 1956 Elvis Presley dropped in at Sun Studios in Memphis, just as a Carl Perkins recording session was ending. Presley was now a national star, having transcended earlier that year his previous status as a regional rockabilly performer. That special day became known as the Million Dollar Session because of the supposed ‘million dollars’ worth of talent that included Presley, Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and, briefly, Johnny Cash. An open microphone recorded a lively jam session. For the student of southern religious music, it was an especially revealing moment. In addition to improvising with country, blues, and early rock songs, the group sang from the common body of southern religious songs, some of them gospel tunes that dated from nineteenth-century revivals, others African American spirituals, others popular gospel-quartet numbers. All of these young performers who had grown up in the countryside near Memphis knew the songs, and when one started singing, the others easily fell into supporting lines. This year’s festival features a Sunday morning brunch and gospel concert. A Tribute Artist contest will select a competitor for the international Elvis tribute contest held in August in Memphis.
Events are scheduled this morning, tonight and at various times Saturday, plus the Sunday gospel singing.
Visit tupeloelvisfestival.com or call (662) 841-6598 for ticket and event information.