Johnnie’s Drive-In in Tupelo, Mississippi, is the kind of mom-and-pop diner that looks like it hasn’t changed since the mid-1950s when it was the favourite eating spot for a local school kid named Elvis Presley.
It’s still doing good business, and every lunchtime table was taken as I enjoyed the local specialty, a doughburger and fries. Presley preferred their cheeseburgers, and kept coming back for them even when he became famous. A photo of him hung above what was his favourite booth.
A tall, slim man in his 70s entered and asked if he might take a seat at my table. “Sure,” I said, and we were away into conversation in that casual American manner. His name was Guy Harris, and when he told me he was one of Presley’s best friends, I figured that everybody in Tupelo of a certain age would probably claim that. But in Harris’ case it was true. His mother delivered Presley when he was born in a shotgun shack on 8 January 1935, the same tiny two-room house I’d just seen at the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum, which is what brings music fans like me to Tupelo.
It was my third visit to Tupelo and the King’s birthplace, but the first time I’d met anyone who actually knew Presley. I was embarrassed to ask the questions Harris must have been asked 10,000 times before, but this was my chance. So what was Presley like?
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