Radio 2 Elvis Season - The Elvis Trail - Episode 2
Following his journey along the trails of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Judy Garland, Michael Freedland takes to the road again to mark the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley's birth. First stop is the town where Elvis was born, shortly before dawn, on 8 January 1935 - Tupelo in Mississippi. Michael visits the birthplace museum where director, Dick Guyton, guides us around the two-room shack built the year before Elvis' birth, by his father Vernon and grandfather Jesse. Whilst here, Michael chats to some of the visitors and marvels at their loyalty and devotion to the King, as many of them return year after year like pilgrims to a shrine. The religious imagery recurs throughout this trip. Moving on from the house, Michael visits the tiny but beautiful First Assembly of God church where Elvis sang as a boy. Helping to tell the story of his early years are several of his school friends; Guy Thomas Harris, James Ausborn, Azalia Moore and a cousin, Sybil Presley; whilst Steve Holland, a member of the local assembly, provides some economic and political context. James Ausborn, a special friend of Elvis' and brother of Mississippi Slim, the musician and local DJ who promoted Presley's career, takes Michael to Johnnie's Drive-In, to see where Elvis sat and ate his burgers and drank his special Royal Cola. Later, on the "right" side of the tracks in Tupelo, Michael meets genealogist Julien Riley, who tells us that Elvis was actually not a Presley but a Wallace, with links back to Scotland! At one of Elvis' schools in Tupelo, Milam High, Michael meets up with several more of his friends, including psychiatrist Billy Welch who used to sing with the King at school, and harmonica player Jimmy Gault. At the Elvis Presley Heights Museum, the trail leads to Bill and Linda Kinard, who've amassed a good deal of Presley memorabilia, including the famous pink Cadillac. Whilst there, Michael talks to the policeman who was on duty the night Elvis made a legendary home performance in front of a near "riot" of Tupelo girls; Presley cousins, Charlene Presley and Edie Hand; collector Joyce Logan; and DJ Charlie Watts, who interviewed Gladys and Vernon Presely and Elvis himself. Extracts from these interviews are included, the interview with Gladys being the only known example of her recorded voice. Charlene later takes Michael out to Priceville Cemetery where Elvis' stillborn twin brother Jesse Garon is buried at a secret location. At Lawhorn school Michael talks to school friends Don Winders and Shirley Gillentine, who won a talent competition, knocking Elvis into fourth place! At the local cinema, Elvis's black friend Sam Bell explains how they used to go to the movies, but in segregated seats, and how Elvis would sneak over into the black section to sit with Sam. The visit to Tupelo ends at the famous hardware store where Elvis was bought his first guitar; and the store is exactly as it was in 1945.