Walking in Memphis

Roy Turner made this video about my trip to Memphis and Tupelo during Elvis Week 2012 for the book launch of The Rebel & The King by Nick Adams. I hope you enjoy it!

The new, expanded version of The Rebel and The King by Nick Adams can be purchased here and you will receive an autographed copy with an additional Elvis and Nick photograph. Get your copy while they last! The Rebel & The King Official Website

The Destiny of Elvis Presley by Elaine Dundy

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From my earliest visits to Tupelo to research the phenomenon of Elvis who lived there for his first thirteen years I was struck by how may pivotal, positive signal post there were in these formative years. For me the most fateful – the event most determining the course of his early life – took place in the Mississippi-Alabama Fair held every September in Tupelo. It was a time of joy and excitement for the children. Better than Christmas, they said, because it lasted for a whole week…

from Elvis and the Mississippi – Alabama Fair By Elaine Dundy April 7, 2005
(THIS ESSAY APPEARS IN THE NEW EXPANDED EDITION OF The Rebel & The King by Nick Adams, includes 33 photos and an introduction by historian Roy Turner. Published by WaterDancer Press, available on Amazon or signed copy by Allyson Adams can be ordered at http://www.TheRebelAndTheKing.com Buy Book)

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I look at two photos of Elvis when he sang at the fair, first at the age of 10 and second when re returned in triumph 11 years later. And before my eyes is living proof that it is the ugly duckling who turns into a swan. Of his 10 year old self Elvis, grown, would comment casually that he wore glasses, thought he came in firth in the children’s talent contest at the fair, and was sure he got a walloping for going on rides when he was forbidden to. In the photograph there are the eyeglasses alright. More revealing are his clothes. His ill-fitting trousers are obviously hand-me-downs. In fact, he is wearing suspenders to keep them up.

11 years later at 21, Elvis the Swan is Elvis Complete who had become the ecstasy of the teenagers and the agony of their parents. It was all in place: his pompadour and sideburns, his spectacular clothes, his features full formed. The Swan is rocking, rotating, vibrating his body at breakneck speed to the beat of his heart, his golden voice finding new meaning to each song. What’s more his return to the Fair was celebrated as “Elvis Presley Day” and there was even a parade on Main Street.

Before I went to Tupelo I expected Elvis’ first years to be downtrodden and poverty stricken. The truth turned out to be different. By circumstance and temperament Elvis was a go-getter who made his own luck. Of the positive things first on the list was his mother Gladys. The right child had the right parent. Both realized it was Elvis’ talent that would fulfill their desires. Both were forceful dreamers whose needs dovetailed. Intuitively Gladys knew when to hover protectively and when to let him go. She walked him to and from school so he wouldn’t play hooky. But, alone, after school, he would hitch the long mile to the country radio station WELO where he closely watched the performers and learned from them.

Looking back old timers remember Gladys, a beautiful 16 year old dancing a wild Charleston. She had a fine voice, fire, and the instincts of a performer. Recalling her in action they agree, “Elvis got it honest, Gladys had rhythm.” Another inspiration to him was in the singing and sermons at the Holiness Assembly of God Church which the Presleys attended. Further, he joined the Lee County Library, a step almost unheard of for a boy his age. Most significant was the little 5-street section where the Presleys lived whose inhabitants were referred to disparagingly as “Them folks Above-the-Highway”. Yet his tiny impoverished community on the wrong side of the tracks survived by mutually sharing good fortune. The one existing Kodak owned by Elvis’s neighbor, Corene Smith, became the communal camera that everyone used, as did the few privately owned radios on those streets. The community also survived by practicing the art of good manners with an almost ritualized politeness and having an attitude of optimism-in-spite-of-everything. Plainly this formed Elvis’ character in future years when he was known for his generosity and consideration of others. Had Elvis spent his first 13 years in an urban setting, the Presley’s poverty would have been experienced as far more hopeless and humiliating.

There were some down times of course, particularly when Elvis’s father, Vernon, forged a check during the Depression. He was caught and offered to make restitution to Orville Bean, an unforgiving hard-hearted businessman who refused to accept it, which sent Vernon to prison for 9 months. This landlord continued to torment Elvis’ father in all their future transactions. Yet, Elvis emerges from this debacle as head of his family. He becomes the sole breadwinner at the age of 19, calling his parents his “babies.”

Which brings us to the Mississippi – Alabama Fair: How did Elvis get to be entered in the first place? The children were selected from the schools in the area. But at this point Elvis was not known for his voice as were the other aspirants, notably Shirley Jones who, even younger than Elvis, won first place. What happened that day at the fair was that for the first time Elvis sang in public. It was not to a small audience in an obscure nightclub, nor to an invisible one on radio, but for him a live audience, an exhilarating one in a grandstand that seated 2000. It was a turning point for him, a green light that in retrospect made him come back to re-experience the excitement 11 years later.

Interestingly it was Mrs. J. C. Grimes, his strict 5th grade homeroom teacher, who played a major part in launching Elvis. At morning devotions, one day she asked for a volunteer to say a prayer. Elvis rose, said a prayer and without dropping a stitch segued into the ballad, Old Shep, about a boy and his dog. Mrs. Grimes was impressed, “He sang it so sweetly it like to make me cry.” She is quoted as saying. Uncharacteristically softened, she took him to Mr. Cole, the principal, who upon hearing Elvis sing was similarly taken. Thus, Elvis was promptly entered into the contest. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of Mrs. Rime’s encouragement at that moment in Elvis’ life. Not only did she have the honor of being Elvis’ first academic booster but if she had not singled him out, Elvis would not have been entered. Elvis was aware of his debt to Mrs. Grimes and at times would visit her when he returned to Tupelo.

But what lifts the story from being merely an ordinary good deed anecdote, is who Mrs. Grimes was besides his teacher. She was none other than the daughter of Orville Bean, the hard hearted landlord, who virtually put Vernon in prison when Elvis was three and began looking after his mother, comforting her with the words “There, there, my little baby.”

On a deeper level, in helping Elvis Mrs. Grimes put an end to the grim, deadly pattern of what Euripides and Shakespeare decreed as the sins of the father being laid upon the children. In other words, the first generation, Vernon and Orville Bean fell into the roles exploited and exploiter. But in contrast, in the second generation, Vernon’s son and Orville’s daughter, played out the reverse roles of supporter and supported turning it into a true-life morality play; or a part of the universal human comedy; or of the stuff that miracles are made.

Written by Elaine Dundy who is the best selling author of Elvis and Gladys available on Amazon Buy Book

We love you Gladys!

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Gladys Presley, Vernon Presley and Catherine Adamshock. Gladys is holding her dog that Elvis gave her.

One of the things we all love about E.P. is his love for Mamma. Gladys Presley was born on April 25, 1912 and died on August 14, 1958. A very unlucky day for Elvis. RIP Gladys. Her middle name was Love, and we love you Gladys!

EXCERPT from The Rebel & The King by Nick Adams. In this passage Nick tells us what he and Elvis did after they arrived in Memphis.

As we drove Elvis pointed out various points of interest to me. Then he told me about his dog, which died just a short time before and how his folks and he sure missed him. He said, “Nick, keep your eyes peeled for a pet shop. I’m going to buy Mamma and Daddy another dog.”

     Elvis spotted the pet shop before I did. He pulled up in front of the place and we both went in. We went from stall to stall and in each one were the cutest little puppies I’ve ever seen. Elvis finally turned to me and said, “Gee Nick, I don’t know which one to get. They’re all so cute and friendly and I wish I could buy everyone in here and give them all a home.”

     By this time the man who owned the place came over to us and he recognized Elvis (as does everyone no matter where we go) and he said, “Welcome home, Elvis. We sure are proud of you son.”

     Elvis smiled and said, “Thank you sir. I’m interested in buying a puppy for my Mamma and Daddy but they’re all so blamed cute I don’t know which one to pick.”

     The man took us over to one of the stalls near the rear of the store and showed us the cutest litter of puppies you ever laid your eyes on. They were real tiny and sort of blondish, reddish type of hair. The man said that these puppies wouldn’t get much bigger than what they were now and that they were wonderful house dogs.

     Elvis picked up one of them and held him in his arms and the poor little thing was shaking and trembling. Elvis patted the pup gently and said, “The poor little thing is scared stiff. And he looks so lonely and homeless. Golly he’s cute. I’ll take this one, sir. How much do I owe you?”

     Elvis paid for the puppy and held him gently in his arms and put him down on the seat between both of us in the Continental, and away we went.”

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E.P. with Catherine Adamshock (Nick’s mamma) and a puppy, that is not Sweet Pea.

AND HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED

And as we drove home Elvis had a wonderful expression on his face and every now and then he would say, “I can hardly wait to tell Mamma and Daddy about the new furniture, and wait until they see the puppy.”

     It was dark by the time we pulled into the driveway and entered the house. Mrs. Presley was in the kitchen getting supper ready and as Elvis approached her he hid the puppy behind him. He kissed his mother on the cheek and said, “Look what I have for you Mamma,” as he handed her the puppy.

   Mrs. Presley’s pretty face lit up like a neon sign and she said, “Well if that isn’t the cutest little thing I ever laid eyes on.”

     And Elvis stood there and had the greatest smile you ever saw on anyone. Mr. Presley walked into the kitchen and said, “Well whatta you know. That’s the cutest little rascal I ever saw. Where did you get him son?”

     “I bought him for you and Mamma. He was the cutest puppy in the whole shop.” And with that Elvis reached over and petted the pup that was being held very lovingly by Mrs. Presley. It was a beautiful scene watching the three of them standing lovingly around the frightened, trembling little puppy. I couldn’t help but think how I wished that some of these conscience-less reporters and writers could only be there to see what Elvis and his family were really like so that they could see how wrong they were when they printed lies about Elvis and his family.

     “What do you think we should call him, Nick?” asked Mrs. Presley. And I suggested a few names and so did Mr. Presley and Elvis. Finally, Mrs. Presley said, “Golly, he’s so sweet looking and everything, I think we’ll just call him Sweet Pea, because he’s so tiny and sweet.” And that was the way Sweet Pea got his name.” (End of excerpt)

If you haven’t already read ELVIS AND GLADYS by Elaine Dundy, you may want to check it out. Elvis and Gladys by Elaine Dundy available on Amazon

As a tribute to Elvis and Gladys, I will be posting “Elvis and the Mississippi/Alabama Fair”an essay by Elaine Dundy from the new, expanded edition of The Rebel & The King on August 16, 2014. 

Elaine gives us beautiful insight into Elvis’ destiny and the stuff that miracles are made of!

Hope you are having a great Elvis Week!

Love,

Allyson

What makes a legend?

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Everybody wants to be a rock star. The pay is good, the sex, fame and fancy hotels, all point to a fabulous lifestyle. If you peek behind the curtain your apt to find regular Joe’s worrying how their hair looks. Something Elvis did a lot. But how does one reach those rarefied heights? Talent and style help. Nowadays, the music business spends as much time on image as sound, because we have become a fashion and visual oriented world. So how does one become a legend?

FANS.

With Elvis Week approaching, I want to salute all the beautiful fans who keep the whole ball rolling. Elvis loved his fans and he spent hours signing autographs wherever he went, especially in the early days. I met so many wonderful and kind people while traveling the south during my Book launch that I want to share some of them with you.

WITHOUT FANS, YOU’RE NOBODY.

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Elvis in the Hood

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I have been gathering so many stories since I launched The Rebel & The King, that suddenly I’m an Elvis expert! Local fans were surprised by my stories about Elvis’ humble beginnings. Some they had never heard before.  The true gift was having my family and friends there to support me. Most of my engagements are out of town so familiar faces in the audience are rare. Thanks to everyone who showed up at the LMT screening and listened to my Elvis and Nick tales. Give me a microphone and away I go. I had a blast!

I thoroughly enjoyed Elvis in Love Me Tender, but such a sad ending! I don’t think dying in your first movie is a good idea. Call me a Hollywood baby but I’ll take a happy ending any day! Which reminds me of one of my favorite sayings “If there isn’t a happy ending, make one out of cookie dough.” Gluten- free advisable.

And for all you believers out there, I have a confession to make. The spirits of Nick and E.P. are alive and well. I almost choked up a couple of times from a loving, good natured presence I felt coming from beyond. You Never Walk Alone.

Thanks to Judi for latest press in Conejo Happening: http://conejovalley.happeningmag.com/film-91301-goes-scenes-love-tender/

And in case you missed this one: Allyson Adams takes nostalgic look back at friendship between Dad and Elvis. http://conejovalley.happeningmag.com/allyson-adams-takes-nostalgic-look-back-at-friendship-between-dad-nick-adams-and-elvis-presley/

Make sure you pick up a copy of the New, Expanded Edition of The Rebel & The King with MORE ELVIS! http://www.therebelandtheking.com or http://www.amazon.com/The-Rebel-King-Nick-Adams/dp/0615693105

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Author, Allyson Adams, of "The Rebel & The King".