Book Review: East Tupelo & Elvis That’s the Way It Was

By: Barbara Garton
September 22, 2010

An In Depth Look at Elvis Presley's Childhood
By Those Who Shared His Life and Hometown
By, Barbara Garton

When one hears 'Elvis Presley' what exactly comes to mind? Talent? Wealth? Fame and Fortune? What is usually overlooked is the fact that before all of that was possible, Elvis needed to grow up, be nurtured, educated and try his hand at forging relationships and find religion. All of this took place in East Tupelo and Tupelo from birth to age thirteen when Elvis' family made the move to Memphis, Tennessee. Wanda Powell Heagy is also a native of East Tupelo and shares growing up in practically the same environment as Elvis separated by only a few years. Most Elvis fans have a general idea of Elvis' background, but this engaging book gives the reader a much better understanding of Elvis' surroundings and relationships than ever before.

Reading the accounts of those who knew Elvis as a young boy and those who actually grew up with him and called him their friend is intriguing. From Elvis' fifth grade teacher to those involved with the WELO Radio Station, the reader is taken inside life as Elvis knew it. Weather history dealt Elvis' hometown a huge setback in 1936. Up until now, Elvis fans have known there was a tornado, but now find out just what it was like to experience this tragedy by those who lived through it and through pictures of what was left behind.

East Tupelo & Elvis Presley
East Tupelo & Elvis Presley
These accounts bring to the reader the true level of devastation and the spirit to rebuild that was so strong in the will of the people of Tupelo.

Religion was the center of much of Tupelo's everyday activity during the years that Elvis was growing up and played a huge role in the development of Elvis' character. Through the accounts of those who attended the same church as Elvis' family, a deeper understanding of the role that gospel music played in Elvis' formative years is presented. The reader begins to piece together all these aspects of a child growing up and a much truer picture of Elvis begins to form. Social relationships between Elvis and all of those with whom he lived are remembered and one can understand why Elvis was always comfortable with many others around him.

Each account has been left in its original form.

The author, by doing this, has left intact the feel of each person's memories and this adds much to the appeal of this endearing account of the environment surrounding Tupelo's native son. All of those characteristics in Elvis' adult personality were nurtured by those who entered his life as a child. These cherished memories are precious, as are treasured pictures owned by these fortunate families who shared life with Elvis.

What we have in this book is an in depth study of every aspect of life in East Tupelo and Tupelo through it's businesses, churches, schools, tragedy, politics, social life and the spirit of those who have made Tupelo their home. And, woven through this history is the story of Elvis' early years, his most formative years. These years molded Elvis into the entertainer who left his mark on the music industry and created the legend that Elvis Presley is today and will be forever. This book puts the spotlight on the child, the times and the very compelling relationship between the two. This book is a must read for anyone interested in rural American life during this period of our history, and more importantly for those Elvis fans who have a desire to experience Elvis' as a shy, well mannered little boy who became the music icon who changed the music world and somehow remained the shy well mannered adult who earned the love and respect of the world.

Barbara Garton
Member, We Remember Elvis Fan Club Pittsburgh
President, Jamie Aaron Kelley Fan Club ~ Easterners

Buy 'East Tupelo & Elvis, That's the Way It Was' by Wanda Powell Heagy

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Elvis Presley Video Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD

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.