Tue August 23, 2011
What's Shakin' in Whitehaven
By Rob Grayson
Memphis, TN – Tensions were mounting on Audubon Drive in East Memphis in late 1956. The folks at 1034 were nice enough people, but the visitors were a problem. The traffic jams of people wanting to get a look at the house, the pink Cadillac in the driveway, maybe get a picture taken with the parents, see if the son was home; all this was getting to be too much for the neighbors. In early 1957, after a business trip out west with the son, mom and dad called up Virginia Grant, a real estate agent, to see if there was a nice secluded location where they wouldn't be a bother. The second property they visited looked promising, and March 17, 1957, they put down a $1,000 deposit on 3764 Highway 51 South, Whitehaven, Tennessee.
The son got a look at it and liked what he surveyed. He walked the 13.8 acres of rolling farmland, checked out the barn, and took his first tour of the two-story house, stopping to play the piano in the front room. The YMCA already had a $35,000 contract on the property, but this prospect could up the ante significantly. Ten thousand dollars down, $55,000 from selling the home on Audubon Drive, and a $37,500 mortgage were enough to make the sellers say "What contract?" So mom, dad, and son were joined with grandma as they moved into their new home in April, 1957.
The first thing the new home needed was a touch of security, so new custom-built gates were ordered, decorated with music notes. Did I mention the son was a musician? When his fans realized he had moved, they found their way out to his new house. They wrote on his stone wall fence, and on the mailbox. They hung out all hours to see if he would come out and ride down on his horse or golf cart, or stop and sign an autograph and pose for a picture.
Years later, they would have to buy the property across the street just so all the fans would have room to park when they came to see the house. That really would have rankled them on Audubon Drive. Some fans went to extremes to get his attention. Several jumped the wall, and a couple made it as far as the pool. The most famous trespasser was probably Bruce Springsteen. In town for a concert on his Born To Run tour, he was given the heave, despite having just been on the cover of Time and Newsweek. I guess they didn't subscribe.
The son, the musician, had a number one song on the charts right around the time they were packing for the move. Otis Blackwell wrote it, and Elvis Presley dispatched Buddy Knox's Party Doll off the mountaintop with All Shook Up, April 13, 1957. The business trip out west was for the filming of Presley's second movie, Loving You. If you had seen the final Presley performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, January 6, you might have noticed Ed said Elvis was headed to Hollywood to film Running Wild. That was one of the working titles, but by the time they started filming, the name had been changed to fit a proper theme song, Leiber and Stoller's Loving You. As a matter of fact, unlike his first film where the songs were sort of jammed in as an afterthought, in Loving You the script was written specifically to include soundtrack songs. This time around, the movie was in Technicolor, and Elvis took the bold move of dying his hair black. Elvis skipped the public premiere at the Strand Theater July 10, and took his parents and girlfriend-at-the-time Anita Woods to a private midnight screening.
By the way, over half a century after the Presleys moved in, there is still a lot of traffic on their street, and only one other residence in the country gets more visitors in a year's time (and the President lives there). Annexed into the city of Memphis in 1970, Whitehaven's main north and south drag was renamed Elvis Presley Boulevard in 1971.