TUPELO, Miss. (WJTV) – The reason I bring up Elvis every so often is because he was born in Mississippi. I really can’t think of any individual Mississippian who has had as much influence on the world and the culture of the world as Elvis. We’ve had others who have made their contributions, of course. William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, B.B. King, Robert Johnson and a bunch more. All important, but Elvis didn’t contribute to culture. He changed it.

Before Elvis came along, children pretty much listened to the same music as their parents. After Elvis started making music and the radio started playing it, sales of guitars skyrocketed. Radio was saved from being eclipsed by television. The children started taking their radios and record players to their rooms and started having an existence all their own and not so tied to the family.

Here is a landmark in the Elvis saga, Tupelo Hardware, where an 11-year-old-Elvis got his first guitar. Now, he really wanted a .22 rifle, but when his mother found out that’s what he had brought her there to buy for him, she said no. Elvis pitched a fit. Bill Booth remembers. 

“She said you’re going to be in serious trouble when you get home for acting that way in public.”

A salesman grabbed a guitar from behind a counter and suggested it instead. Elvis still wanted the rifle, to which Ms. Presley told him, “Now, you can have that or nothing.”

Something being better than nothing, young Elvis took the guitar. His mom consolingly said, “If you take it and learn how to play it, you might even be famous someday.”

I have a couple of cousins who heard Elvis play that guitar and sing in assembly at school when they were growing up in Tupelo. Many years later I bought one of my cousin’s cars. It had an Elvis CD in the player. Just a bonus, I guess.

Mississippi had many contributors to the 20th century, but only Elvis helped invent the 20th century.