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EXPANDING THE LEGEND
LONGTIME FAN DOES GOOD WORK IN ELVIS’ NAME
August 01, 2016  -  By M. Scott Morris for the Daily Journal  /  Elvis Express Radio
TUPELO – Two things are true: Elvis Presley, the undisputed King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, is dead, and his legacy continues to serve people in his hometown.

“When he died, I stood in line from about 12 to right before 6 for the viewing,” said Barbara Mallory, 77, of Tupelo. “I got in. I saw him in the casket. It was him.”

In the mid-1950s, she was a teenager in Endville when Elvis’ version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” came over the airwaves from WAMY in Amory.

“It was the first song of his I had heard,” she said. “I just knew it was different. It was something that was different and I liked it.”

A cousin went to school in Belden, so Mallory knew the exciting young singer was coming for a concert at the school gym.

“I grew up – we all did – poor. Our mothers worked at the shirt factory,” Mallory said. “If I had any spending money, I had to earn it. The way I ended up making it was by hoeing and
picking cotton for my uncle.”

She earned $3 for every 100 pounds of cotton picked. That took her all day, but she had plans for the money.

“My two cousins and I, we knew that his favorite colors were pink and black, so we got pink dresses with big bows,” she said. “I only got two pairs of shoes a year. We tried to dye
our white shoes black. They turned out charcoal gray.”

The concert was a night she’d never forget, and the fun continued after the music stopped.

“He was under the bleachers. That’s where the boys dressing rooms were. We all lined up to get his autograph,” Mallory said. “He had on a white lace shirt. I’ll never forget that. He
didn’t perform in it. There’s one just like it in the museum at the birthplace, but it’s gold-colored.”

She’s pretty sure she saw Elvis at the Belden gym again, but that could be a trick of memory. Some of her friends back up the idea of a second show, but people in Elvis world who
document such things need more tangible evidence.

Even so, she saw him at the Tupelo fairgrounds in ’55, ’56 and ’57, then she traveled to Tuscaloosa in ’71, followed by a concert in ’74 in Memphis.

The last time she saw him was in a casket in August 1977.

When she was 17, Mallory and four others formed the Elvis Presley Sweethearts. They’d thought having a fan club would make it more likely for them to meet their idol at the
fairgrounds.

That meeting didn’t happen, but the five of them got back together to celebrate Elvis’ legacy after his death.

“The Sweethearts helped with a yard sale to raise money to build the chapel at the birthplace,” Mallory said. “One of the stained-glass windows, we donated for that.”

Fast-forward to 2006, and organizers wanted to create a Tupelo Elvis Presley Fan Club in connection with a 50th-anniversary concert in honor of Elvis’ 1956 show at the
fairgrounds.

After the event, officials realized they no longer wanted to be in the fan club business.

“If we wanted it, they’d give it us,” Mallory said. “We elected officers. I ended up becoming president because I was the original president. They turned over $2,000 to us. I said, ‘The
only way I would be involved is if we could be a service club.’”

Members have been raising money to benefit children for nearly 10 years. The club provides financial support to Regional Rehabilitation Center in Tupelo, Boys & Girls Clubs of
North Mississippi, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Thousands have been invested into the Tupelo Aquatic Center and the Elvis Presley Birthplace, and $10,000 in scholarships are awarded each year.

“It is a lot of work, a lot of hard work,” Mallory said, “but it’s worth it.”

The club has sold memberships to fans around the world, and money has been raised from sales of “Takin’ Care of Cookin’” cookbooks, as well as the Mississippi license plates
that depict a dancing Elvis. In addition, members have sold bricks that surround the statue of Elvis at Fairpark.

The group also has scheduled concerts, like Saturday’s show at 6:30 p.m. at St. James Catholic Church’s Shelton Hall. Rockabilly hall-of-famer Ace Cannon and the Legends of the
Blues will perform. Tickets are $25.

Visit www.tupeloelvisfanclub.com for more about the concert and the club’s ongoing philanthropic efforts. Keith Henley is the current president, but Mallory remains active.

“Anybody who’s ever known me knows I’ll always be an Elvis fan,” she said.

In life, Elvis sang like no one Mallory had heard before. Since his death, Mallory’s been part of a team making sure the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s legacy lives on.

“Nobody knows how much that man gave away,” she said. “No one will ever know.”