Tupelo, MS: The Humble Birthplace of the King of Rock and Roll

Elvis Presley posing for a photo while playing his guitar
Elvis Presley posing for a photo while playing his guitar
Portrait of Elvis Presley

When most people think of Elvis Presley, they picture him in his famous Graceland estate in Memphis, Tennessee – a symbol of opulence and prestige. It may come as a surprise, however, that the “King” wasn’t born into the wealthy lifestyle that was virtually synonymous with his fame.

Elvis Presley and a female friend outside his Graceland mansion in 1957
Elvis Presley and a female friend outside his Graceland mansion in 1957

Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. His parents, Vernon and Gladys Presley, worked several jobs and struggled to make ends meet. Elvis was born in a two-room home built by his father, grandfather, and uncle. Vernon Presley borrowed $180 to purchase materials for the house that spanned just forty feet in length. Humble by any standards, the walls were insulated with newspaper, and the furnishings were meager.

Birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi
Birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi
Inside the two-room house where Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi
Inside the two-room house where Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi

Vernon was arrested for check forgery in 1937 and went to jail to serve a nine-month sentence. While he was incarcerated, the Presleys fell behind on their house payments, and the house was repossessed. Elvis and his mother were forced to vacate the property. They stayed in Tupelo until Elvis was thirteen, and Vernon’s search for a job took them to Memphis, Tennessee.

Home to around 38,000 residents, Tupelo has retained the same spirit of southern hospitality and charm that it held in the 1930s. The small city is full of unassuming landmarks that helped shape the early life of one of America’s most beloved musical legends. Elvis’ childhood church still stands, moved to the Elvis Birthplace, Museum, Chapel, and Park, for visitors to admire the same, simple wooden structure where Elvis learned his first guitar chords.

In a world where image often drowns out everything else, Tupelo holds proof that even the most humble beginnings can nurture talent that transcends any social or economic limitation.