Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail completed in Tupelo
Courtesy of Visit South

“Scream and make a loud noise,” translated and derived from the Native American phrase “Tuh Puh Lah,” is a fitting expression for the heart of the American Music Triangle, Tupelo, Mississippi. The five-time All-American City by the National Civic League is located within the music centers of Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans.

While many people enjoy the Civil War sites, galleries, theaters, shopping and 150 restaurants, over 50,000 tourists arrive throughout each year to visit the birthplace of the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. Eighty-ones years after the long cold Mississippi night of 1935 when Gladys Love Smith Presley gave birth her son, Tupelo continues to celebrate the international icon. On the front lawn of the First United Methodist Church at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 19, the Tupelo Main Street Association held a ribbon cutting to rejoice in the completion of the Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail project.

Connecting downtown Tupelo to East Tupelo and the Elvis Presley Birthplace, the $11.5 million trail project began in September 2014. Engineers and construction crews widened streets, installed green space and new trees, bricked pedestrian walkways and added bike lanes. The trail joins some of the most important sites in Elvis’ influential years from the “Elvis at 13” larger than life statue in front of City Hall and Tupelo Hardware where Elvis acquired his first guitar to the house he was born in.  

The statue, based on a famous photo entitled “the Hands” by Roger Marshutz, stands on the site of Elvis’ famous 1956 Homecoming Concert at the former Tupelo Fairgrounds. “Elvis at 13” faces east toward is birthplace and was created by sculptor Bill Beckwith.

On his 11th birthday, Elvis and his mother walked into the Tupelo Hardware building with his dream of getting a shotgun. When Mrs. Gladys Presley snubbed the idea, a store employee showed young Elvis a guitar to calm him down. After a few strums, Elvis was walked out the proud owner of a new guitar—an instrument that changed the history of music forever.

Citizens welcomed the completion of the Elvis Presley Birthplace Trail, which started out as an idea 12 years ago and finished after almost two years of construction. According to city officials, 14 subcontracting organizations were required to work together on the project which was funded by federal, state and local funds. Three bridges on East Main Street located between Elvis Presley Blvd. and Highway 45 were widened in the project. Almost $2.3 million came from the Federal Highway Administration (U.S. Department of Transportation). Tupelo matched a Mississippi Department of Transportation grant of $575,000. The balance was funded by the Major Thoroughfare Project, a citizen funded program.