Elvis: Return to Tupelo
This 90-minute special will premiere on the bio Channel (A&E's spinoff of its long running Biography series) Thursday, September 11 at 9 PM EST and repeat again at 1 AM EST. The show will air again Sunday, September 21 at 1 PM EST.
Rose discovered this story while shooting a travel program on the Natchez Trace that took his crew through Tupelo. "While there we met local historian Roy Turner who introduced us to the fascinating and little known details of Presley's early years. Turner opened up a world that we didn't know existed," Rose said.
According to Rose, this documentary reveals the cultural impact that Elvis Presley's rocket rise to fame had on America. "He was a white man singing like a Black man at a time when the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to intensify. His raw sexuality and appeal to mixed race audiences, including lots of squealing young white girls, created a panic among parents, politicians, preachers and the press," Rose continued. "He was a force for change that threatened and eventually helped to reshape the American cultural landscape."
We discovered the importance of the various musical influences, both sacred and profane, that shaped his life and his sound. Tupelo was at the base of Appalachia and within listening range of the Grand Ole Opry that filled the air with country music. The town was just north of the Mississippi Delta that introduced Elvis to the blues. And the churches, both African American and white, gave Elvis a rich grounding in gospel music that continued to nourish his spirit.
The documentary includes authentic recordings of American roots music from the Library of Congress as well as interviews with old friends, family members, co-workers and other eyewitnesses who provide personal, previously unknown insights into a story that many believe they already know.
Schoolmates describe how shy he was and how hard it was to convince him to perform. Others talk about how poor he was and how kids taunted and picked on him because he was different. The documentary follows his father's incarceration in the infamous Parchman Farm prison and his mother's relentless campaign to get him paroled.
His family never gained their footing and lost their house. They slinked out of town in the middle of the night - heading for Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis' star would eventually shine. His talent, determination and charisma would conquer all adversity and create a loyal following around the world.
The program ends on a note of triumph - the return of Elvis to Tupelo for a benefit Homecoming concert where he received the Key to the City and the screaming adulation of his fans. He'd come full circle and finally conquered the fears and doubts and opinions that had plagued him from birth. "Elvis: Return to Tupelo" is a timeless story about an American icon who not only changed the music world but whose shaking and singing paved the way for a more tolerant America.
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