Mississippi has produced more than its share of gifts to the world when it comes to music. One of them even earned the title of king. He got things all shook up and died too young, but his legacy thrives, especially in this corner of the Magnolia State. This is where Elvis Presley was born to Vernon and Gladys and lived until the age of 13. It’s where he got his first guitar and sang on a stage — all just 60 miles up the road, in Tupelo.
Elvis may have been the “King of Rock and Roll,” but first he was a child of north Mississippi, a child of humble circumstances, raised within a close circle of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Elvis was “one of us.” So when a tract of Tupelo land with Elvis lore attached goes up for online auction — along with a mobile home from Elvis’ Circle G Ranch in DeSoto County, a personal jet, ’57 Cadillac and a boat named “Hound dog” — the faithful back home tend to notice.
GWS Auctions Inc. of Los Angeles County, California, has amassed the Elvis memorabilia to be offered Nov. 11. It’s part of a larger auction online that features much more, including wardrobe, cars, pianos and other items owned or used by such as Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe and John F. and Jackie Kennedy.
“The enduring popularity of these icons is due to the enormity of their talent and the tragedy of their deaths,” said Brigitte Kruse. She is founder of GWS and a fifth-generation appraiser and multilingual auctioneer. “Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Marilyn Monroe are musical and Hollywood royalty. Their possessions are rare, but beyond any monetary value, fans place an emotional value on owning something that came in contact with their idols.”
Back to Tupelo
The 16.5 acres at Tupelo’s 1330 Hankins St. being auctioned includes a modest shotgun house said to have been originally built by Elvis’ father, Vernon, and Vernon’s brother, Vester. It’s been updated through the years and was reportedly moved from near the Elvis birthplace to its current location in 1942. It’s said that Elvis’ grandparents lived in it.
“I can tell you that Elvis stayed in this house,” Charlene Presley of Tupelo told The Dispatch. She was married to Elvis’ cousin, the late Harold Ray Presley. “My grandmother lived down the street, and my aunt and Gladys were friends. Elvis and Gladys stayed in the house when he was in third grade.”
Charlene Presley’s relatives relayed to her how Gladys would walk Elvis to Lawhon Elementary School in the mornings. “They said she’d always comb his hair one more time.”
Elvis played, hunted and swam in the creek on the property, Kruse said.
“We have notarized affidavits of authenticity on the Presley items up for auction provided to us by the Presley family, including Charlene Presley and Patsy Anderson Presley, a 22-year employee of Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises,” Kruse noted.
“We want to emphasize that there is a lot of information on the Tupelo property that is not published online because we want to keep that information confidential,” she told The Dispatch. “We want folks to know that they can reach out to us for that.”
In addition to the land in Tupelo, the impressive collection of auction memorabilia includes a restored 1957 pink and black Cadillac that belonged to Elvis, a Chris Craft boat named “Hound dog” used by the singer and his personally-owned 1962 Lockheed Jetstar jet, featured on the Discovery Channel. GWS Auctions first sold the plane this past May for a little under half a million dollars.
From the ranch
Many worldwide fans are aware of the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo that attract about 100,000 visitors each year. All are familiar with Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. What most don’t know about is Elvis’ Circle G Ranch near Horn Lake. A two-bedroom mobile home Elvis purchased for the ranch is up for auction. Acquired in 1967, the ranch was a retreat from stardom, a place for Elvis to take his wife, Priscilla, invite friends, ride horses, have barbecues, target shoot and picnic.
“Elvis loved that place (the ranch),” said Kruse. “It’s actually been published that he was the most happy in his life there.”
The mobile home is still in Elvis’ name. “We have all the original paperwork,” Kruse said.
One unusual collectible in the auction is a television from Graceland. The accompanying affidavit from Letetia Henley Kirk, Elvis’ personal nurse at the time, explains the story. An excerpt reads:
“One night I was upstairs at Graceland with Elvis. We were talking and watching television in (daughter Lisa Marie’s) bedroom. Lisa was not in Memphis at the time. The picture on Lisa’s TV would not keep from ‘rolling.’ Elvis reached over to the TV tray that was next to the chair in which he was sitting, picked up a hand gun and shot at the TV.”
All these and other pieces of Elvis history will be offered Nov. 11 — among them a cache of photos, a reel-to-reel cut of “Paradise Hawaiian Style,” raw concert footage and an audio documentary. An auction catalog and additional information are available at gwsauctions.com under the “Famous Music and Hollywood Icons Historical Occasion” link.
Charlene Presley glimpsed both sides of Elvis’ life — the unassuming beginnings in east Tupelo and the glitter of Graceland. Her family even moved to Memphis about the same time Elvis did.
“My mother and daddy were crazy about Elvis. They thought he was the grandest thing that ever was, so I went to everything Elvis did,” she said. “I grew up close to Graceland, so I’ve been close to it on both sides all my life. … When I went to Bellevue Jr. High, that was the highlight of our day when we found out Elvis was at Graceland. He would come out and talk to us. He was so sweet and humble. He was a true Southern gentleman.”
It was a sad day years later when she also attended his funeral.
When the auction is over, bits and pieces of history will likely be in new hands — including a piece of Tupelo.
“This is his roots,” Charlene Presley said. “I hope this will honor Elvis.”
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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