What is your connection to Elvis?
My connection to Elvis is through my grandmother. Growing up in Tupelo and having Janelle McComb as my grandmother, I gained first hand knowledge of Elvis at a young age. Janelle and Elvis were close friends up until his death in 1977.
Do you recall any childhood memories of stories that she told you about Elvis or anything that she shared?
I do. She would tell stories about how kind he was and how much he loved is daughter, Lisa. My favorite picture of my grandmother was taken by Elvis at Graceland. She had laid her camera down, and Elvis picked it up and took a picture of her talking on the phone. She was calling my grandfather to let him know that she would be late coming back to Tupelo due to bad weather.
How do you think that being the birthplace of Elvis has benefitted Tupelo?
It has benefitted Tupelo by bringing fans and friends of Elvis from all over the world to our city. You can travel anywhere in the world and say you are from Tupelo, Miss., and the response is, “That is where Elvis is from!” We have over 75,000 visitors to the Birthplace every year. It is always amazing to hear their stories about Elvis and why Tupelo is so important for them to visit. You hear about people having a bucket list; the Birthplace is on the top of a lot of bucket lists for people around the world.
What do you love about working at the Birthplace Museum?
I love the fact that I get to work with and meet people from all over the world. I have made lifelong friends from all over the world while working at the Birthplace. The Elvis world is like a huge family that is connected with members from every inch of the planet.
What do you think it is about Elvis that draw people to him and his birthplace, even years after his death?
The draw has to be because of the person Elvis was, and also what a great city Tupelo has always been. He was the Greatest Entertainer in the world, and still is even after his death. When his fans have done their research about Elvis and learn that it all started in a two-room house in Tupelo, they want to come and stand on the same soil that he stood on.
What would you say to future Tupelo generations about preserving our collective memory of Elvis?
I would ask them to please keep passing it down to future generations to enjoy. Our heritage of music is a treasure and should never be lost. I feel if the collective memory of Elvis is lost, then the heritage of music would be lost, and that would be a sad day for Tupelo.
Photos by Lauren Wood // Interview by Carmen Cristo