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  • Writer's pictureCheré Dastugue Coen

Elvis is in the Building

See the movie and then visit the real thing.

For 22 years, Elvis Presley experienced great fame and fortune with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. But it was a complicated relationship, as showcased in the Baz Luhrmann film “Elvis,” opening today. The film looks at their partnership through Parker’s eyes, played by Tom Hanks.

If you want to actually experience that relationship, The Storytellers Hideaway Farm and Museum in Bon Aqua, Tenn., is just the ticket. The building that houses the museum dates to the 19th Century when it was used as a general store, later a 1960s recording studio by independent record producer Red Wortham. Johnny Cash bought the property in the 1970s, just down the road from his farm, and it was here that Cash performed a concert for friends and family to celebrate his 20th anniversary of being in the music business. Brian Oxley and his wife, Sally, later purchased the property and Cash's farm and turned both into museums.

But this story is about Elvis.

Oxley’s “Storytellers” museum may be a homage to Cash, but it includes storytelling of all kinds. A collection of bicycles line the ceiling — “Everyone has a story about their first bicycle,” Oxley told us, — concert posters, artwork and a cedar tree carved into a cross are just a few examples. “Everything you see here ties to stories,” he said.

And that includes Elvis Presley.

Oxley loves to collect items relating to music, especially from the golden age of Cash and Presley. When he heard they were tearing down Colonel Parker’s three-bedroom home/office in 2017, a home where Elvis stayed when he was recording in Nashville, Oxley headed there to salvage what he could. And now, thanks to Oxley’s quick action, tourists can view pieces of Parker’s home inside The Storytellers Museum and pause where Elvis and his manager once stood.

There’s the bar where Elvis and Parker argued about a Christmas album in 1971, Oxley said, meticulously recreated (see above). And a wall sporting knotty-wood paneling from Parker’s home seen in a now-famous photograph (at right) of Parker and Elvis signing a contract. Visitors to the museum can stand in that exact place for the perfect selfie.

And if that’s not enough, Oxley has also salvaged a stone-and-concrete pond from Parker's home that includes a waterfall. It's located in a patio back of the museum that also includes a Parker toilet Oxley’s sure Elvis sat upon. You can enjoy a selfie there as well.

If you want to head back further into Elvis’ life, you’ll want to visit Tupelo, Miss., the King’s birthplace. Visitors may enjoy The Elvis Tupelo Driving Tour or the Self-Guided Bicycle Tour that takes visitors to 14 places, including:

  • Elvis' Birthplace - Tour the home where Elvis was born, explore the museum that chronicles his life, and enjoy a presentation in the original Assembly of God Church where he was influenced by gospel music.

  • Priceville CemeteryMany may not know, but Elvis was a twin. Unfortunately, his brother Jessie Garon was stillborn. He’s buried at this cemetery where Elvis used to visit him often.

  • Tupelo Hardware -- Tupelo Hardware was where Gladys, Elvis’ mother, purchased Elvis' first guitar for $7.91.

  • Lyric TheatreElvis watched Westerns here and, as the legend goes, the Lyric Theatre is where he stole his first kiss on the balcony.

  • Johnnie's Drive-inElvis and his friends enjoyed dining at Johnnie’s Drive-In. You can still enjoy the food Elvis liked to eat, including the Tupelo dough burger, and even sit in the Elvis booth, which sports a photo of Elvis sitting in the same booth.

  • Lee County CourthouseThe Lee County Courthouse served as the site of the WELO radio show where Elvis was allowed to sing on the radio by his friend’s brother Mississippi Slim.

  • Previous site of Tupelo Fairgrounds and current site of Elvis Homecoming StatueThe Tupelo fairgrounds is where Elvis played his 1956 homecoming concert, and the Mayor gave him the key to the city. Today, the site is marked by a larger-than-life statue based on a famous shot called “the Hands” by Roger Marshutz.

And, of course, there’s Memphis and Graceland, the famous home of Elvis from after he became famous until his death.

Want to learn more about America's music, from the Delta blues to Elvis? Check out my story in the California Tours blog.

Thanks to the Lou Hammond Group and Tupelo tourism for the information for this post. My trip to The Storytellers Museum was part of a press trip through The Big Back Yard of Tennessee.

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