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  • Writer's pictureHazel Lee


Updated: Feb 22, 2023

By Elvis Presley




By Hazel Lee

It seemed appropriate to write about Elvis on Valentine‘s Day. From this southern lady’s eyes, what better love song could we ask for?

Elvis Presley has been a part of my life since the early 50s. Growing up in the South, dancing around the living room to Elvis singing “All Shook up”was the best. Elvis had become famous, depending on where you lived, and most definitely your religion.

It was a conservative period in the Southern churches as a whole, but he ultimately would become known as the biggest rock and roll pioneer of all time. Country western shows like The Grand Ole Opry, The Porter Wagoner Show (where Dolly Parton began her career), Buck Owens’ Hee Haw show in the ‘60s, The Johnny Cash Show and The Glenn Campbell Show were a few of the most popular. Honky-tonk music and so-called “juke joints” were considered one and the same.

The Grand Ole Opry was born in 1925. It was a Saturday night tradition in the South, airing on the radio from Nashville. Country western singers were heard in our home most Saturday nights. Hardly anyone had a television those days. I can remember the neighbors’ radios tuned in to the same station.

Sadly, when Elvis played at The Grand Ole Opry, his style of music wasn’t accepted.

He was never invited again.

Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, January 8, 1935, Elvis’ family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in November 1948. Elvis was in the eighth grade. His family came from humble, hardworking beginnings. They moved to Memphis seeking a better life. Raised in the Assembly of God Church, Elvis's faith in Christ and love for southern gospel music became his platform.

It was there he found his ever-present faith in God and an insatiable desire to sing gospel. He often attended his friends' black churches where he admired and loved singing their moving gospel songs. Elvis felt the soulful songs were of hope and joy, revealing a genuine dependence and desire to follow our Lord.

Their reward would be living with Christ in His eternal heavenly kingdom: no more pain, no more sorrow. The upbeat and heartfelt soul of their old-time religion, stole his heart. He attended many gospel singings as a young man. Ultimately, he developed his own style and expression of the good old southern gospel music he grew to love.

I remember attending the Assembly of God Church as a little girl. Behind the podium, hung a picture of Christ. We had a picture of the Lord's Last Supper nearby.

As a child, Granny was quick to remind me, “Hazel Lee, you must forgive others.

If you don’t, Jesus won’t forgive you!” Strong words for a little six-year old girl. “Do you want to go to Heaven and live with Jesus, child?” It was always “Yes ma’am.” Then off to the altar I would run. My biggest “sin” was beating “George up,” and taking his marbles. Imagine! Soon, I would feel granny slip in next to me, putting her arm around me. “Hazel Lee, you don’t worry. We will always be together.” I questioned how that could be. I soon learned. Granny’s scare tactic worked every time. I think I understood. I just wanted to be with my granny.

Our songs were the old-fashioned gospel hymnals. “The Old Rugged Cross” stands out in my mind the most, but there were many others.

As a southern child, I was taught the basics. You were right or wrong, telling the truth or telling a lie. You better make peace with the good Lord before you go to sleep tonight, or else! That “else,” as I understood it, meant simply you were not going to Heaven.

Seems like the preacher talked a lot about the devil and he made sure it was included in his “forever sermons.” When the invitation was made to come to the altar and confess your sins, I would be squeezing up close to my granny. "You will be fine, sweet child," she would say. Pulling me closer to her, I knew I would go to Heaven. She wasn’t leaving without me. How safe I felt, snuggled as close as I could to my granny.

Simple, Heaven or hell. I was next to her every time she went to the altar. Was it a fear tactic? Maybe so, but it worked for this little girl. I related to Elvis. I loved the same gospel songs. Yes, I remember falling asleep many a time on the wooden pews at church because of all-night sings. Looking back, why did they do that?

Tent revivals? Yep, we did those too. Sunday night dinner on the ground, we sat on granny's homemade quilts. Yes, ma'am! But likewise, as I became older, Elvis's music was moving into combinations of genres. Gospel, blues and what became known as rock and roll, my love for music changed.

I loved Elvis Presley. Sam Phillips, owner of and producer at Sun Records, began Elvis’s singing career producing “That’s Alright Mama.” Then came “All Shook Up”, “Jailhouse Rock”, among so many others. Many of his hits came from the black culture of Memphis.

Such groups, like the Platters and the Ink Spots combined with his own style.

If I were seen jumping around to his music as an eight or nine year old, I would definitely have gotten a peach tree switch across my little rear end. No, ma'am, his music was not allowed. My granny said his music was from the devil. Elvis’s music was banned forever in my family! He was singing blasphemous words that would shame our Lord, not to mention his obscene gyrations and movements while performing!

My mama and grannies said no one, and I mean no one, was allowed to play his music in our home. Even our neighbors would not allow it played in their homes! You would go straight to hell. End of conversation. While my granny, God rest her soul, might have had her “grape juice" in an old mason jar, as you might have heard me mention before, (which I ultimately found out wasn’t grape juice but homemade wine), Elvis’s Name, no way, no time, and no place was ever brought up on our front porch.

In spite of such criticism, in 1956, Elvis was on his way to a successful music career. At the time, the civil rights movement was just beginning in the South, causing much unrest,. His music and style were unacceptable in my little town. His movements gave off sexual connotations my family would never accept. How could he say he was a Christian when his actions and behavior were totally different to the teachings of our faith? I became smart enough not to go around them. He certainly was able to keep my family stirred up. Just not in a

good way.

He was a southern boy, never wanting to embarrass his mother whom he worshipped. The strict ways of our faith were extremely limited. There was no need to bring this subject up. So, we didn’t. Afterward, he met Colonel Tom Parker who became his manager. Realizing the colonel could expand his career nationally, Elvis signed with the colonel. He took Elvis to a higher level nationwide. It was exactly what Elvis wanted.

When Elvis first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, it was his biggest success.

At the end of his performance, he would sing a gospel song for his mother. We later found out that Ed Sullivan had said no. That didn’t stop Elvis. He sang it anyway. He sang her favorite song, “Peace in the Valley.” The richness of his voice, along with his style of singing was captivating. The verse, “…His voice is so sweet, the birds hush their singing,” was emotionally stirring. He had to be a believer in Christ to sing with such intensity and beauty..

In 1958 the draft board came a calling. Having been drafted, Elvis signed up to perform his duty and serve his country for three years. He put his entertainment career on hold during this time.

Sadly, the closest person to him, his mother, passed while he was abroad. It was the most devastating time in his life. He would never be the same. Returning home, his gospel music and his faith, became his companions, always searching for peace.

New faces of the pop era, such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were on top.

Elvis had to be reintroduced to the public.

His official welcome home show was with Frank Sinatra where he performed dressed in his full military uniform.

Looking back, moving to Memphis at the age of 12 was the greatest turning point in his life. It was there he would follow his dream, creating a new genre of music known as rock and roll. He chose the lyrics that fit his feelings, turning them into beautiful music. Nothing would hold him back.

“You can take the boy out of Memphis, but you can’t take Memphis out of the boy,” was a comment made by one of his friends on his new documentary, “Elvis Presley – The Searcher”. Elvis said his music was a combination of country music, gospel, rhythm,

and blues.

Having originally started out driving a truck for an electric company, his spirit and love of music propelled him forward. It all began when he walked into Sam Phillips’ recording studio, Sun Records, and recorded, “That’s Alright Momma”. As time went by, music as a whole was changing. None could compare to Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll!



By the time I was 12, I mailed in a quarter to the Elvis Presley Fan Club.

It began in Tupelo, Mississippi, during the ‘50s.

A few years back, my son and I attended the grand opening of the Guesthouse Hotel, (decorated by Priscilla Presley, across from Graceland, Elvis’ home)

The lady who began the Elvis Presley Fan Club in Tupelo, Mississippi, during the

‘50s was one of the guest speakers at the hotel that weekend.

After her discussion, I hurriedly went over to meet her. While visiting, I discovered my money had gone to her address for an Elvis membership. I received a card showing MY NAME as a member of this fan club AND a small button pin with his picture on it.

I could not believe 60 years later, I would have the pleasure of meeting this sweet southern lady, named Betsy, we had our picture taken. It felt like a reunion.

After visiting, I asked her if she was staying over until the next day, Sunday. "Oh no," she quickly replied. “I have to drive back tonight so I don't miss church tomorrow.” Well, of course she was! Such a kind, well-mannered southern lady.

"Come see us sometime.” I assured her I would. I wanted one of their cookbooks too. Some of the best recipes are in Mississippi cookbooks!

Turns out, this same book club gives four scholarship checks to four music students every year upon graduation from Tupelo High School. It continues on until this day. She was such a blessing to me!

I wish I still had that little button pin and membership card.

I told her I would be joining the Elvis Presley Fan Club AGAIN, as a regular member. It would be my pleasure.

Seemed most everyone we talked to at Graceland, had a family connection to someone who worked for Elvis during his lifetime.

The many charities he began during his lifetime, continue receiving yearly contributions.

The never-ending tourism and financial impact his legacy has left on Memphis is untold.


I followed him throughout his career. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend a concert. Amazing how someone who was an idle during the ‘50s is more popular today! What a testimony!

He grew up humble, but his faith and talents could not be kept silent.

To whom much is given, much is expected. Elvis did that. He’s still giving. What a loving and living memorial to his life and others.

My son remarked he would have written his thesis on Elvis in graduate school had he known about him. He spent two days reading and studying this self-made man. He too is a

fan of Elvis! Who wouldn‘t Be!

John Lennon had once said without Elvis there would never have been the Beatles. Wow, that speaks volumes, doesn’t it.

Elvis’ ’ voice was pristine. His innate ability of writing, perfecting and creating a song were ingenious.

From humble beginnings, Elvis will be remembered as one of the all-time greats who changed our world of music. There will never be another Elvis! Thank goodness he had the faith, strength, and desire to overcome obstacles in his path that would have prevented

his career. Somehow, I just can’t imagine what life would have been without him,

When I listen to him sing, “Only believe,” I know, God is with him

and Elvis is with God!


Remember, God loved us so much, He gave us His only Son, Jesus, that whoever believed in Him, would never perish, but have everlasting life! John 3:16

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