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Elvis Presley downtown Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1947


By: Elvis Australia
Source: EPE
October 16, 2015 - 2:45:59 PM
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In January 2014, Vanity Fair magazine published an article showing a photo of Elvis Presley presumably taken in downtown Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1947.

The article traces the origin of the photo to a woman who was walking into a drugstore to drop off some film that had one exposure left on the roll. According to the story, she noticed a young Elvis on his bike and asked him to pose, snapping her last frame of him. The woman later gave the photo to Presley family friend Janelle McComb of Tupelo, who passed along the photo and the story of how she obtained it to Elvis fan and memorabilia collector Wade Jones shortly before her death.

The story behind the photo may have been correct, but the city was wrong.

A young Elvis posing on his bike in front of the S&S Drug Store in 1949.
A young Elvis posing on his bike in front of the S&S Drug Store in 1949.

Tupelo lies in Lee County, which was a dry county in the 1940's, meaning it was illegal to sell alcohol, yet the background of the photo shows a liquor store. Mississippi didn't repeal Prohibition until 1966.

The bike in the photo is also familiar.

Elvis on his new bike in Tupelo around January, 1948.
Elvis on his new bike in Tupelo around January, 1948.

Elvis received a Firestone Pilot Classic bicycle, most likely for his 13th birthday. In 1993, a photo was found in Gladys' closet at Graceland of Elvis on a new bike with 'age 13' written on the back.

The bike is the same one in the Vanity Fair photo, except for the rims, which were removed in the later photo.

Looking east down Poplar Avenue at High Street in Memphis around 1955. The distinctive twin gable home on the right shows up in the background of the Vanity Fair photo.
Looking east down Poplar Avenue at High Street in Memphis around 1955. The distinctive twin gable home on the right shows up in the background of the Vanity Fair photo.

The Presleys moved to Memphis in November 1948 and lived at 370 Washington before moving just around the corner to a large rooming house at 572 Poplar Avenue in June 1949. They briefly lived there until September, when they moved to Lauderdale Courts. Elvis' grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley, continued living at the Poplar address, according to the 1950 Memphis City Directory. City directories list homes and businesses by street throughout the city.

Memphis City Directory listing for Poplar Avenue in 1950.
Memphis City Directory listing for Poplar Avenue in 1950.

Sanborn Insurance map of Poplar Avenue showing the Presley's early homes and neighborhood from 1948 to 1949.
Sanborn Insurance map of Poplar Avenue showing the Presley's early homes and neighborhood from 1948 to 1949.

The 1950 directory also shows the S&S Drug Store, Lando Marossi restaurant and Milo's liquor store that appear in the Vanity Fair photo. John Sampietro, whose father operated the S&S Drug Store at the corner of Poplar and High Street, remembered his father talking about how a young Elvis would come into the store to play pinball.

S&S Drug Store building today at 548 Poplar Avenue in Memphis.
S&S Drug Store building today at 548 Poplar Avenue in Memphis.

Milo Solomito operated the liquor store just across the street from the drug store and his son, Milo Jr., identified the store in the photo as the one his father ran for many years. To the right of the liquor store was the Marossi restaurant, which was also located across the street from the drug store before moving to a nearby location in 1954, according to Jerry Marossi.

Then and now photo showing the spot where Elvis posed for the snapshot in 1949.
Then and now photo showing the spot where Elvis posed for the snapshot in 1949.

This was Elvis' neighborhood for almost a year before moving to Lauderdale Courts in the fall of 1949.

Although not taken in Tupelo, the photo is one of the earliest photos of Elvis in Memphis, a city he would call home for the rest of his life.


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Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.

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.

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.