Less than 10 years old at the
time, the future King was a frequent visitor who had his eye on a .22
bolt-action rifle. "The older boys in the neighborhood liked to
hunt, so it was natural that he'd want to do it, too," said Bill
Booth, George's son and now the store's owner.
Forrest Bobo, an employee at the time, was married to a relation of Elvis'
mother, Booth says. Bobo let the boy work the bolt and play with the
unloaded rifle when he would come into the store Bobo
told him, 'If you play that, you might be famous someday' just to calm
his disappointment. Well, we
know what happened."
At one point, he
promised Elvis a present, knowing the Presleys were a family of
"slight means," Booth adds. The day his gift was to be given,
Elvis came with his mother to show her what he wanted. "We would
never have sold a rifle to a child, and his mother told him it was too
dangerous anyway," Booth recalls. "His whole world fell in.
He just cried and cried, he was so disappointed."
As the child
carried on, Bobo suggested a guitar. He told him, "Sit here and
play with this guitar-you'll like it," Booth says. Elvis wanted the
rifle, but his mother told him he couldn't have it, and that was her
final decision. So he cried some more. But finally he plunked on the
guitar, because it was that or nothing. Bobo told him, "If you play
that, you might be famous someday"-just to calm his disappointment.
"Well, we know what happened."
In the years between that fateful $7.75 sale and Presley's first brush
with fame, Booth heard from the youngster from time to time. Although
Elvis spent much of the rest of his childhood living in
, Booth says, he often came back to play in
as an adolescent and young adult. "He came into the store one day
looking like he'd slept in his clothes for a week," says Booth, who
was also unimpressed with the young man's longer,
"greasy-looking" hair. "I walked over and waited on him.
He bought a couple guitar picks and left, and I thought he was just some
crummy looking guy who had come in."
turned to an employee and said, '
, did you see that guy?' He said, 'Oh, that's Elvis Presley. That boy
can really sing-I believe he'll make the big time.' About a year and a
half later, he was on his way up. You couldn't turn on the radio without
hearing requests for Elvis songs."
after Elvis' death, Booth still marvels at the impact of the local
boy who made good. In fact, Booth feels that impact every day inside his
"It's unbelievable," he says. "People come in to
see where he bought his first guitar. Every network & media
organization in the world has been here and filmed the place." An occasional
challenge is doing business with the extra traffic attracted by the
store's place in history. The building was especially crowded this
summer, during the week of the 20th anniversary of Presley's death.
Anywhere between 30 and 40 people were continually "milling in and
out" of the store throughout that period, Booth says - The site of a
sale that would help alter popular music, Tupelo Hardware is now one of
most frequently visited sites for fans who come to town to trace Elvis
on a regular basis, tourists come from all over the country - and from
around the world. "I don't know of a single person in the
in my lifetime who ever
attracted so much attention," Booth says. "We've never had
delegations come on a tour bus just because Franklin Roosevelt gave a
big speech here once - but we do because of Elvis."
Elvis fans will be glad to know that they can now purchase a guitar from
where Elvis purchased his first guitar. They come in several sizes and colors with blue being
the most popular. Joe Perry of Aerosmith and Pam Tillis have each purchased a
Elvis smashes his Martin Acoustic Guitar in concert 1977
National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota
in Vermillion, S.D will have on display a slightly smashed acoustic
guitar played by Elvis Presley on his final tour in 1977
now greets visitors in front of the museum's main galleries.
guitar was tossed aside by
his St. Petersburg, Florida concert after suffering
a broken strap and string, said Robert Johnson,
a Memphis-based guitarist who donated the item.
strap and at the same time
Elvis broke a string...
guitar straight up in the air and it just