Elvis Presley’s humble beginnings in the Heartland remembered
Presley performed in the mid 1950′s in some small communities in southeast Missouri
GOBLER, Mo. (KFVS) - In 67 years, a lot has certainly changed, but the memories and the stories are still the same.
Many people still talk about something that happened in Gobler, Missouri not once, but twice.
“It was a big deal, right here in Gobler of all places,” said Chuck White.
Gobler is right on the border of Dunklin and Pemiscot Counties.
These days, it’s mainly know to hunters.
Other than that, there’s not much left, at least not much to the outside world that is.
“I think it’s bigger than what people know because all you see now is a telephone pole, but the memories go far deeper than that,” said Chuck White.
Back in 1955, a place called the B & B Club sat on what’s now Chuck White’s property in Gobler.
“The foundation of it stayed out there for years and years,” said White.
People, however, still talk about it today because of who performed there, including Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and a young man just getting started, Elvis Presley.
“Rockabilly was just starting,” said Tony Byrd of Kennett.
In April of 1955, Tony Byrd was about to leave to join the service.
“I was 18 years old in high school,” said Byrd.
For one last hurrah, he convinced the local sheriff to help him and his buddies get into a bar.
“He made a deal to get us three boys into the B & B Club to see Elvis,” said Byrd.
The B & B Club had a bit of a reputation.
“It was famous and infamous,” said Chuck White.
“Probably calling it a night club was giving it too much credit,” said Steve Burke. “It was a bar, it was a honky-tonk.”
Steve Burke would know. His dad, Gerald Burke was the owner of the B & B.
Steve wasn’t born yet when Elvis performed at his dad’s place, but he has heard the stories over the years.
“Really dad didn’t talk about it much, but mom said he was a nice looking young man and was polite and did his job,” said Burke. “Of course the people went crazy when he started playing and mom said he was a nice guy.”
Burke still has the contract from when Elvis performed at his father’s bar.
In 1955, Elvis made several stops across the Heartland.
“They had a circuit that ran up and down 61 Highway,” said Tony Byrd.
Elvis performed in Poplar Bluff, Sikeston, and Cape Girardeau to name a few places along the way.
“This is part of the area where that history evolved,” said Steve Burke. “Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana...it didn’t happen in New York or California it happened right here.”
Also what happened there, stories of The Colonel, Tom Parker, who would eventually become Elvis’ manager.
“Colonel Parker really popped him out there in front of everyone,” said Tony Byrd. “I think he took advantage of him more than anything else.”
Parker is a focal point of the newest Elvis movie.
“The Colonel had not had Elvis for very long and was determined to make him a big star,” said Alanna Nash.
The makers of the newest film researched Alanna Nash’s book about The Colonel that she wrote in 2003.
Nash, who is from Louisville, has heard about some of the stunts Parker may have pulled in our area.
“His background was in carnivals so he knew every kind of promotional trick possible, and I think he may have pulled one there in Gobler,” said Nash.
In fact the story is, when Elvis performed in Gobler he stayed the night in Kennett and wrote a check to a local business for lodging and liquor.
Nash says The Colonel was notorious for telling Elvis to sign checks and telling people not to cash them because it had his signature on it.
Tony Byrd says that’s what happened in Kennett when a local businesswoman took the check to the bank.
“The check bounced,” said Tony Byrd. “Colonel Parker didn’t put the money in his account. She framed that check and put it up in the liquor store for years after that.”
Elvis would come back to the area again later in the same year, once again to the B & B Club.
But, this time everyone knew who he was.
“When they heard that he was coming to Gobler, Missouri they came in by the thousands.”
Locals say people parked for a mile up and down what was once a gravel road in Gobler.
“They said the second time he was there he was really too big to be in a place like that,” said Steve Burke. “It was standing room only.”
And, Gobler hasn’t likely had that kind of traffic since.
The big draw back then was the Gobler Mercantile.
Locals say the store, that offered just about everything, brought in people from all across the region putting Gobler on the map in those days.
The Mercantile burned not long after Elvis came to the area.
Gerald Burke also moved his family to Doniphan, closing the B & B Club.
A chapter closed, but decades of memories remain.
“In America, Elvis is seen largely as an nostalgia act he makes us feel warm and fuzzy about a more innocent time,” said Nash.
Which is why so many people love sharing their own stories, and stories about what their parents and grandparents remember from some pretty exciting times in their lives.
“He was one of a kind, and we’re still talking about him,” said Steve Burke.
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