We're Gonna' Move ... Elvis Presley's Home Sweet Homes
Source: EPE / Elvis Australia
October 21, 2015
But for about the first half of his life, Elvis and his family had many other home sweet homes. The family moved often in both Tupelo and Memphis, and lived in many different houses and apartment complexes. Before Elvis ever crossed the gates of Graceland, he called many other places from Tupelo to Memphis 'home'.
Old Saltillo Road
Elvis' birthplace was built by his father, Vernon, with help from Vernon's brother Vester and father, Jessie, whose relatively 'spacious' four-room house sat next door. Located above a highway that transported locals between Tupelo and Birmingham, Alabama, and nestled among a group of small, rough-hewn homes along Old Saltillo Road. The house had no electricity (It was connected but it was not used due to the cost) or indoor plumbing, and was similar to housing constructed for mill villages around that time.
On May 25 1938, Vernon, Travis and Lether are sentenced to three years in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman for forging the check.
In his book, Day By Day, Ernst Jorgensen states, 'Gladys is unable to maintain the repayment schedule on their home causing the family to lose this house, and she and Elvis are forced to move in with relatives'. In his book, Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick states that 'During the brief time time Vernon was in prison, Gladys lost the house and moved in briefly with her in-laws next door. This is contradicted by Elaine Dundy in her book, Elvis and Gladys, which states; These are hard times for mother and son. Understandably, in view of Jesse Presley's attitude toward his son, Gladys had grown more and more uncomfortable living next door to her father in law. At some point during Vernon's prison sentence, Gladys moved out and stayed with her first cousin Frank Richards. Whatever the reason, the Presleys never return to the house Vernon built, stories differ as to the reason and how the house left their ownership.
May 16, 1940, Vernon, Gladys and Elvis along with their cousins Sales Presley his wife Annie and their daughter are living in Pascagoula, a port near Biloxi at the southernmost tip of mississippi on the Gulf of Mexico. Vernon and Sales had found work on a WPA project to expand the Pascagoula shipyards.
June 20, 1940, Homesick for family and friends both families returning to East Tupelo. For a time the Presleys shared a two-family house on Reese Street with Vester and Clettes.
November 6 1940, The Presley's are now living in a rented house at 510 1/2 Maple Street in East Tupelo.
August 18, 1945, Vernon purchases a new four room house in Berry Street, East Tupelo from Orvile Bean. The price is $2000, with a down payment of $200 and monthly instalments of $30 plus 6% interest.
July 18, 1946, Just eleven months after purchasing the house on Berry Street Vernon 'sells' - actually transfers the deed over to friend Aaron Kennedy for $3,000 to avoid foreclosure proceedings. Immediately then, Aaron Kennedy gives Orville Bean a deed of trust, which is the same thing as a mortgage. The Presleys move into Tupelo, first to Commerce Street, then to Mulberry Alley, a small lane running beside the fairgrounds, just opposite the town's black neighbourhood, 'Shake Rag'.
September 1947, By the time Elvis enters seventh grade at Milam Junior High School, the family is living at 1010 Green Street in Tupelo, a house designated for whites only in a respectable 'colored' neighbourhood.
September 1948, Elvis enters eighth grade at Milam Junior High School.
November 6, 1948, when Elvis was in the 8th grade, the Presley's moved to Memphis, Tennessee, about 80 miles northwest of Tupelo, and lived in downtown boarding houses for most of the next year.
Let's take a look at where the Presley family lived in Memphis before their move to their beloved Graceland.
In November 1948, Elvis and his parents, Gladys and Vernon, packed up their 1937 Plymouth and drove about two hours northwest from Tupelo, Mississippi, to Memphis, Tennessee. Vernon and Gladys hoped for better job prospects in the bigger city, but work was often scarce or low-wage. And it wasn't just the three of them; other family members, such as Elvis' paternal grandmother, Minnie Mae, moved with the family, too.
The family's first address in Memphis was 370 Washington and they paid $11/week in rent. The Presleys stayed there for less than a year, and then moved to 572 Poplar, where they stayed just a few months. Elvis entered Humes High School while living on Poplar, and he earned mostly B's and C's in school.
In September 1949, the family moved to 185 Winchester Street, which is the address of the Lauderdale Courts apartments. The family shared a two-bedroom, first-floor apartment, #328, for $35 a month.
Elvis Presley Lauderdale Courts.
The family stayed at Lauderdale Courts from September 1949 to January 1953, which was the longest time they lived at a single residence that wasn't Graceland.
Elvis had many friends who lived in and around Lauderdale Courts. The Courts proved to be a pivotal place for Elvis. For it was from here that a shy Elvis would practice his guitar in the basement laundry room and would also meet and play with other musicians who lived in The Courts. Elvis would walk to nearby Beale Street and gain inspiration from blues artists. You could find him listening to records at Pop Tunes around the corner. Sun Studios was over a mile away. It was here in this close knit community that Elvis met girlfriends, went to Humes School and developed as a performer. Even after Elvis found fame, he still went back to Lauderdale Courts to see his friends who lived there.
More importantly, it was where Elvis would garner affirmation from friends and neighbors as he performed in the wonderfully designed communal courtyards and mall of Lauderdale Courts.
Communal life in the courts included monthly inspections by the Memphis Housing Authority staff. 'Elvis got written up for leaving a cereal bowl on the table'. 'He was late for school. There was a report like, 'Needs help in cleaning up'. Then they would come back and give you a cleaning lesson'.
Elvis and Buzzy Forbess and Farley Guy hang out at Lauderdale Courts in 1954. Elvis' career was growing by the time this picture was taken.
Ken Black, brother of the late Bill Black, Presley's bass player, reminisced about when his widowed mother Ruby and his eight siblings lived at Lauderdale Courts. (Bill Black was grown and did not live at the courts, but would come to visit.) Ken Black is a member of a group of former Lauderdale Courts residents called 'Poor Boys Done Good', who meet every Thursday for coffee at a Perkins Restaurant in east Memphis. They agree their time at Lauderdale provided for some of the best memories of their life.
'I met Elvis in 1949 at Humes High School', Black said while sitting in the Presley living room. 'He was in the ninth grade, I was in the 10th. I lived at the other end of the complex. When Elvis moved out, he went to Alabama Street [about a half-mile from Lauderdale]. I lived across the street and got to know him real well'.
A young pre-fame Elvis hanging out with pals in Memphis (possibly Lauderdale Courts).
Scheduled for the wrecking ball in the mid-nineties, Elvis' teenage home was saved by the efforts of fans, journalists, preservation groups, the City of Memphis and Memphis developers. Lauderdale Courts, now renamed Uptown Square, is being renovated to become one of Downtown' Memphis' hippest addresses.
Built in 1938 by a cadre of Memphis' finest architects and designers, it was a public housing development built under President Franklin Roosevelt's WPA. Lauderdale Courts was one of the first U.S. public housing projects.
The family packed up again and moved to 698 Saffarans, which was across the street from Humes High School, followed just a couple of months later with a move to 462 Alabama in April 1953. Elvis graduated from Humes High School while they lived on Alabama.
Elvis poses near the family's Lincoln in front of his home at 462 Alabama.
2414 Lamar Avenue / 1414 Getwell
Next, the family moved to 2414 Lamar Avenue in 1954, followed by 1414 Getwell in late 1955.
There isn't a lot of detail in Elvis biographies about these moves, because it's during this time that his career takes off. He records his first acetates at Memphis Recording Service (now Sun Studio), his first single, 'That's All Right', is played on the radio, and he performs at his first concerts. He also performed at the Grand Ole Opry, joined the Louisiana Hayride, signed with Colonel Parker and left Sun for RCA.
Elvis shines up his cadillac at his Getwell home.
As his popularity soared, Elvis needed a better home. He and his parents purchased the house at 1034 Audubon Drive in March 1956, and they lived there for a year.
The young star and his family paid $29,500 for the house - the first they ever owned in Memphis.
Before flying to Shreveport on March 3, 1956 with cousin, Gene Smith, Elvis writes a check for $500 toward the purchase of a house for himself and his parents at 1034 Audubon Drive, a well-to-do suburban neighborhood east of downtown Memphis. While Elvis is on tour, on March 20, his parents move into the new house.
Elvis really did find a new place to dwell ... purchasing his first home, 1034 Audubon Drive, with royalties earned from 'Heartbreak Hotel'.
This was a time of innocence, gracious southern living and the dawn of pop culture, as we know it today.
During his 13 month stay at Audubon, Elvis became a multiple hit recording artist with RCA, movie star, teen idol, breadwinner for his immediate family, heartbreaker, award winner and ultimately homeowner with numerous additions and customizations to the property as designated by Elvis, which remain to this day.
They would have been comfortable there had their son not become the biggest show business sensation in the western world. It soon became apparent that 1034 Audubon Drive failed to provide privacy from an increasing army of fans who even started camping on the home's front lawn. Consequently, Elvis and his parents spent much of early 1957 in Hollywood where Elvis was filming 'Loving You', which featured his parents as extras.
Above, taking a break from fans, Elvis relaxed with family on the patio of his home at 1034 Audubon Drive in Memphis. Elvis paid $40,000 for the four-bedroom, ranch-style house in 1956, a year before he purchased Graceland. On the same day this photograph was taken, July 4, Elvis also played a benefit concert at Russwood Park.
There is more information, '10 facts 'that you probably don't know' in the booklet, In The Eye Of The Storm.
Elvis' career skyrocketed in 1956. For the first time in his life, he had the money and the stability to truly buy his forever home, and so he did. On Saturday, March 17, 1957, a day after they returned to Memphis, Elvis' mother and father called real estate agent Virginia Grant to see what she had to offer. Grant wasted no time. That day she showed them two properties, leaving Graceland to last. By 6 p.m. she had accepted a $1,000 deposit from the Presleys and drawn up a provisional sales contract detailing the terms of sale, including an asking price of $90,000.
At 10:00 a.m. on Monday, March 19, 22-year-old Elvis, accompanied by his parents, met Grant at Graceland located at 3764 Highway 51 South (now, of course, Elvis Presley Boulevard. Elvis surveyed the property for a few minutes, then baptized the house by playing some Rock & Roll at a piano. Elvis, Vernon and Gladys Presley signed the sales contract on the spot as purchasers.
After spending the first 22 years of his life moving from house to house, he was ready to settle down. When Elvis purchased Graceland, he didn't just purchase a house; he purchased his own home sweet home, and with that, stability like he'd never experienced before.
Elvis never moved from Graceland - or Memphis, although his career took him across the country and he could've lived anywhere. In the 20 years he lived at Graceland, he took care of his home, regularly redecorated it and managed to turn it into both the first true rock star's mansion and a cozy family home.
Elvis spent much of his time touring and on movie sets, but he always came home to Graceland.
Elvis loved and was very proud of Graceland.
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Elvis Presley's Home Sweet Homes
Elvis Presley's Graceland : The Tour
The Graceland Wall : To Elvis With Love
The 'Den' : The Jungle Room
Elvis Presley : Home Movies of Graceland
Drone Footage of Graceland
The Graceland Music Gates
3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis Tennessee
Visiting Elvis Presley's Graceland
Elvis Presley : Rising Sun and other Horses at Graceland
Over the years
Graceland Newspaper article : March 1957
Elvis Presley with the music gates of Graceland : April 22, 1957
Photos of Graceland : April, 1962
Elvis Presley at Graceland : March 1965
Elvis Presley : Graceland : February 16, 1968
Jerry Lee Lewis, Arrested at the Gates of Graceland
The Night Springsteen Jumped the Fence at Graceland
Elvis Presley's 1955 Pink Cadillac at Graceland
President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Visit Graceland
Graceland Mansion Designated National Historic Landmark
Elvis Presley Biography
For a more (very) detailed history of Elvis Presley see Elvis Presley 1935-1953
Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.