Elvis

Roadtrip 2020 Day 7: Elvis’  Tupelo Childhood Friends Die


“Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935 to Vernon and Gladys Presley,” the sweet lady sitting on the front porch swing stayed on script. “Born in this two-room house built by his father, grandfather and uncle, Elvis was one of twin brothers born to the Presleys. His brother, Jessie Garon was stillborn. Elvis grew up in Tupelo surrounded by his extended family including his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.”

Mural on Main Street Tupelo.

Knowing the story well, I remained quiet with patience. Our guide’s southern accent was so pleasant, that it matched her polite tenderness.

“Financially, times were hard on Vernon and Gladys, and they had to move out of the house where Elvis was born when he was only a few years old for lack of payment,” she continued. “Vernon and Gladys worked various jobs while in Tupelo and moved several different times during the thirteen years they resided in Mississippi.”

Listening to her pronunciations, I imagined it sounded near like Gladys Presley did: a soft, tender drawl.

Since Dodie and I were the only ones there, I took the time to ask questions. She was polite and knowledgeable, but I could see hints of sadness in her eyes.

I went on in and turned to the front left corner because that’s the exact spot Elvis was born. Dodie and the guide were laughing outside and it comforted me as I took the time to absorb and savor the moment.

When I came back out I took the leash from Dodie so she could take a turn inside. The guide had already been introduced to Beefy.

“What kind of a dog is he?” she asked.

“Well, since we’re here at Elvis’ birthplace with you, he thinks he’s a Hound Dog,” I replied.

She laughed, “I had one like that–about his size too–but he thought he was a German Shepherd.”

That broke the ice. As Dodie walked into the front door, she turned around, looked at me, motioned to our guide and said, “Tell her your Elvis story, Hon. He interviewed Elvis. He’s a journalist!”

She wanted know all about it.

“You mean to tell me ya’ actually met him?” her eyes shined.

After I told her, she asked if had known Guy Harris?

“I only interviewed him by phone but that had to be at least 20 years ago,” I replied, knowing Harris was a childhood friend of Elvis from Tupelo.

“Well, he passed away in April,” she said. “April 7th. We sure do miss him here. He was hospitalized in December from a car wreck. He was able to come back once or twice with therapy, but he was never the same.”

“We had little cards made up for him and he’d come on most Fridays, especially when the tour buses came in from Memphis, and give talks–answer everyone’s questions,” she continued.

Guy’s mother and Gladys Presley were best friends. Although Guy was four years younger than Elvis, the two became friends and remained so throughout Elvis’ life, even after the Presley’s moved to Memphis.

Once when Guy came to visit Graceland, Elvis introduced him to his wife Priscilla as his best friend growing up in Tupelo. Priscilla Presley said on Facebook about Guy Harris “… We will miss you Guy. And you will be missed by all who knew you and those who met you on their journey to know more about Elvis’ life in Tupelo. RIP My friend.”

Elvis, Priscilla and Guy Harris, 1970.

“Nothing stood out about Elvis,” Harris once said. “There wasn’t no-one more surprised than me when he did what he did. Elvis was no different from any of the rest of us, back then. We’d go swimming together in the creek, just hang out, like kids do. There wasn’t a lot to do, growing up in Tupelo.”

“If we had a few cents we’d go to the movies. When we went to see his first movie, Love Me Tender. We couldn’t believe it. A few years earlier me and him’d go to watch westerns together at 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning. Now we’re watching this dude up on the screen!”

Harris, 81, passed away peacefully at the home of his daughter in Saltillo.

Guy said Elvis growing up in Tupelo, was sheltered, shy and used to have to be coaxed to sing.

A quote from Guy at Elvi

“My mother Faye was there when the twins were born,” Harris said. Elvis had a twin brother, Jesse Garon, who was stillborn before Elvis Aaron entered the world on Jan. 8, 1935. “My mother was good friends with Gladys, Elvis’ mom. Because Jesse was stillborn and she couldn’t have no more babies after that, Gladys was real protective of Elvis.”

The two boys kept that friendship into adulthood. Elvis would usually call Guy anytime he was going to be in Tupelo, and Guy went to visit Elvis in Memphis too.

Guy Harris loaned Elvis a bicycle for this picture.

“That was the last time I saw him. It was 1970, when he came back to Tupelo on Dec. 29. He and Priscilla, and a couple of guys who worked with him, were in town. The guy I worked with on the police department named Bill Mitchell, who got elected sheriff, made Elvis an honorary deputy sheriff of Lee County. After we got all that done, he and I and Priscilla came out and visited right in here later on that night, you know, just as it was getting dark.”

Sadly, another childhood friend of Elvis, James Ausborn, passed away at age 87 on Saturday, February 29, 2020.

James was the person who introduced Elvis to his brother Carvell Lee Ausborn, known as Mississippi Slim who taught him three cords on the guitar and introduced him to radio. He was a flashy singer who had his own radio, “Pickin’ and Singin’ Hillbilly” show on Tupelo’s WELO.

Mississippi Slim

“I sat right behind him in class in the sixth grade at Milam (Junior High), and we run around together,” James once told a local newspaper. “I rode him around on my bicycle all over town. We’d go fishing together down on the creek, on Mud Creek, and he would start singing. I’d get on to him singing. I’d tell him, ‘We ain’t gonna catch no fish, you keep singing’.”

James Ausborn

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