Friday, August 04, 2006

Tupelo Hardware Company (Tupelo, Mississippi)

The video production in Birmingham finished Thursday night. It was hot and difficult, but we managed to get everything -- just. The shoot, for a new motorcycle, came with a VERY ambitious storyboard. It would have been doable in 3 or 4 days, but 2 days was asking for a miracle. But the weather cooperated, we had a fantastic rider/talent, a great crew and we managed to get all the shots in the can before the racetrack kicked us out. If we had more time, we would have done some cooler things, but that's the way it always is, I guess.

On Friday morning, Big Dog and I left Birmingham for Tupelo, Mississippi. We were on our way to Indianola, to visit some of his relatives, and went via the birthplace of the King of Rock and Roll.

Elvis Presley was born in a tiny 2 room house that his father built for $180. The house is still preserved in its (mostly) original state. It's a white wooden house on "the other side of the tracks" in Tupelo and when you go in, you really see how very, very small it is. There's one room that serves as the kitchen/living room and another room that's the bedroom. Elvis lived in this house with his parents til he was 3. His father couldn't pay back his debts and so Elvis moved in with his grandparents til he was 13, when the family moved to Memphis to find a better life.
I think if you visit this house, and then the opulence of Graceland, you'll have a pretty complete picture of The King and a little insight into why he was the way he was.

Once you get to Tupelo, it's Elvis this and Elvis that, but it's also pretty amazing how much the city DOESN'T cash in on his name! Sure, there's the Elvis Presley Lake and Presley Heights and plaques placed on Presley-related landmarks, but Johnnie's Drive-In where the young Elvis used to hang out with his friends, munching on a "dough burger" (hamburger made with meat and flour to stretch the meat) is still the same little shack of a drive-in and has not turned into a merchandising pit. There are a few Elvis pictures on the walls, and the staff will tell you the exact booth that was Elvis' "regular booth" but it's not the Elvis Shrine and Shop that it could have turned into. Thank God!

A driving tour of the city will also take you to the Tupelo Hardware Company where Elvis got his first guitar. An elderly employee is on hand to tell you the exact story, too.
"Elvis' mother brought him here to buy a bicycle for him when he was 11, but when he got here, he saw a 22 caliber rifle which he wanted instead. His mother wasn't about to buy the boy a gun and there was a bit of an argument so the salesman who was standing right here where I am, pointed to a guitar in this here case and asked Elvis if he wouldn't like a guitar instead. He looked at the guitar, touched it. His mama asked him, 'well, do you want the guitar?' and he said, 'Yes, ma'am, I do.'"

If you were wondering if YOU could buy a guitar in the same shop where Elvis got HIS first guitar, you can! In the back, there is a small selection of guitars from cheap and cheesy to fairly nice. Howard, the Elvis authority, told us that Joe Perry of Aerosmith also bought a guitar here. "That one there. It's the Sunburst model."

Aside from the guitars, a bowl full of magnets and keychains, and some T-shirts, the store is just a normal hardware store selling hammers and nails and such. How cool is that?!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what kind of authority
you are on guitars but most of the guitars we sell to Tupelo Hardware
are not cheesy. Even the cheapest ones will tune and play. The guitars that they sell range from the cheap ones for those people who just want to buy a guitar where Elvis bought his first guitar, to a good sounding guitar made for playing. They buy their guitars from us, The Lakealnd Music Group. I don't appreciate you
calling our guitars cheesy. If you want a $2000 guitar, go to a music store

8:04 PM  
Blogger bad-dog said...

I just found this comment today. Wow. Foot in mouth, huh. I guess looks can be deceiving. I should have just said "bright pink guitar" or even just "inexpensive" or "very inexpensive." Cheesy was not the right word, was it. And furthermore, Elvis' mom didn't buy HIM an expensive guitar. Price (or even quality) is really not an issue when there is great talent behind the instrument. I should know better. I've seen amazing musicians do unbelievable things with a kid's tambourine!! (And I've also seen and heard some horrible music played on all kinds of instruments, cheap and outrageously expensive.)

3:34 PM  

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