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Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Tue Aug 05, 2014 11:05 am

The late Janelle McComb, a Tupelo resident from the age of two weeks, was acquainted with Elvis from his Mississippi beginnings, but came to know him better in the 1970s as fan and friend.


710600_Graceland 02.jpg
With Janelle McComb, Graceland - Thursday, July 1, 1971


Although some question the true extent of her experiences, McComb may be best remembered today for a framed poem ("The Precious Gift") she crafted and framed at Elvis' request as a 4th birthday gift for his daughter, being the apparent recipient from Presley of the 1977 CBS-TV Special outtake tapes, which the singer did not want to even look at, and always being a supporter of a boy from Tupelo.


710600_Graceland 01.jpg
Holding a Tupelo bumper sticker from Janelle, Graceland - Thursday, July 1, 1971


Tupelo bumper sticker.JPG



About 14 years ago, the University of Southern Mississippi interviewed Janelle as part of their Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. In the course of the chat they, naturally, touched upon memories of Elvis. Below are those thoughts, captured about five years before her passing.


All right. Janelle, one thing that we sort of eluded all during this interview is one person that you meant a lot in his life, and he was a Tupelo native, and I know what he thought of you and what his father thought of you, and that's Elvis Presley. And one of the stories that always (inaudible) is the time that you went up to Graceland, and—well, first, how did you—you know Elvis from—

I knew him better in the later years. And on a number of occasions, I would—he called them "happies." My secretary was Cathy Cody [?], Mike Cody's wife. And if he was sick, Cathy always answered the phone, and she would come in and say, "Elvis is in Baptist Hospital. He thought you might do him a little happy." That might be a little funny card or something just to acknowledge the fact that I knew he was ill. "He Touched Me" is my favorite song, and we had had a previous discussion about—we were in Las Vegas, and we had gone upstairs, and he was remarking about so many people there.

And I made the remark, "And there are people here from all over the world. There's a British conclave."

"Really?" And it seemed to amaze him.

And I said, "You know, when you placed your talent in the hands of God, Elvis, it was enough that the whole world knows you by one word, Elvis."

He said, "Really?" Again, really humble.

So, I spoke with his father about it, and I said, "You know, I want Elvis to let me borrow one of his guitars, and I want to design what I mean by 'He Touched Me.'" So, I've got the letter that I could choose which ever guitar I wanted. So, when we went upstairs, I chose the one with the mother-of-pearl name on it.

And he laughed, and he said, "How are you going to insure that? That's a pretty valuable guitar." (Laughter.)

I said—thought for a minute, and I thought, "Well, I sure didn't have the kind of money to insure it." I said, "I tell you what. I'll just sleep with it." I said, "Roy can sleep in the other bedroom, and I'll just sleep [with it]." So he got a big laugh out of that. So, I designed the picture, and I noticed an extra strap inside the guitar case. So, when the picture was completed, and it had been shot and framed, I thought we would go back with it, and—

So, you took it back to Graceland?

Back to Graceland, and I have a picture of Roy holding his hand. And the man on the gate whose name is an old bachelor's name, Mr. Fred. And I said, "Mr. Fred, I've come back to bring Elvis' guitar." Elvis called him the little waving man. Every time you'd go through the gate, he'd wave. So, when I went back with it, I put—I have a picture of me sitting on the couch by the lamp with the picture.


711200_Graceland 01.jpg
With Lisa's 4th birthday gift, Graceland - December 1971


But before he even looked at that, he grabbed the guitar case, opened it, and held up that strap and said, "Look, she brought it back." And for a minute, I didn't even know what he meant. He looked around; there were others in the room. And he said, "You didn't keep it for a souvenir."

And I said, "No. It was yours." And the look on his face was worth everything. I hadn't even thought about keeping it. I thought that it belonged to him.

If he had said, "You can have it." Or, "It's yours." But even then I don't think a guitar strap would have meant as much to me as my own way of demonstrating to him what I meant by "He Touched Me." But, I came home with a feeling.

Roy said, "You know, I guess so many have done that he really thought you wouldn't come back with that strap." Well, I won't ever forget that. And it stayed in my house two weeks. I just really never thought, "I wonder why a new strap"—it was new—"was put in the guitar when the old one"—I thought, "I wonder why he's got the new strap with the old guitar." But if I had to say of a legacy to children, he was not without fault, and he was—but if I had to say a legacy that he probably would leave or his era had left, it's the fact that in those two rooms, being involved in this particular era, I have found that most great people come from humble beginnings that really are great, and they never seem to forget that. And I think—

Did he love his birthplace?

Yes. He did.

What did he always say about his birthplace?

Well, he would always laugh, and, you know, say, "You can take this birthplace and put it in my living room at Graceland." But I think the thing that even his daughter—I've had the privilege of her sitting in his little chair in his birthplace, and I think she is always amazed to get that feeling that, "My dad came from this." I think she senses an impossible dream, and I think that the, as I have said often, when he sang, that little secretary remembered those two rooms, and she became office manager, that intern became chief of staff, that apprentice plumber became master plumber because he gave hope and inspiration to all those born under similar circumstances that could dream that impossible dream. And I think any time you leave a legacy of hope and dreaming, you've achieved. You don't have to sing. You can be the best butcher. You can wax floors or clean doors better than anybody because you want to be the best at what you do.

Did Elvis love Mississippi?

I think a telegram in the museum at the Park[?] demonstrated that when he says, "Dear Colonel, I want to do a benefit for the McComb victims of the tornado in the state in which I was born. I want it to be a 100 percent benefit." So, I think that says something about Mississippi.

Elvis's home.

Elvis's hometown, Mississippi, in the state—and he goes on to say, "in the state in which I was born." And so—

Did he ever—when you would go to concerts and you would be his guest and things, would he ever mention that he was from Mississippi or would he—

I think on one occasion. One occasion I remember particularly that we were there one night, and he said, "There are some people here from my hometown, from the state I was born in." He said, "They're going to know what I mean when I sing 'poke salad.'" (Laughter.) And I never will forget, Robert Goulet was sitting on the right of us, and that night the Carpenters were there, Karen and her brother. And when he was done, she said, "What is poke salad?"

Now, Elvis told Liz, when y'all were out at the Park one time, (inaudible.)

He said, "Where are you from, Liz?"

She said, "Pelahatchie." (Laughter.)


Image

With Janelle McComb and Linda Thompson at Graceland - December 1972


Now, where is Liz? What's her last name?

Elizabeth Hill.

From Jackson.

From [Jackson], but she lived in Pearl and Pelahatchie. I think she was born in Pelahatchie. And he laughed, he said, "Where the heck is Pelahatchie?" But he said, "It doesn't make any difference. It's where your mother gives you birth that's important. So, I guess all in all, the bottom line, is people are people. And shake it, twist it, wind it, elevate it, illuminate it, if you ain't got it in the heart, then you never were in the right place to begin with. All the talent in the world is not going to suffice or serve any entity if it doesn't come from the heart. The mainstream of life begins in that heart, and I think that your job, you do it with your heart. You do it for your salary, but you couldn't take that salary in good faith unless you knew that you'd given your very heartstrings for that entity in which you were responsible for doing.

Now, let me ask you something. Let me figure this out. Year 2100, and you're probably going to have great, great-grandchildren that will be listening to this tape. And what would you tell them the secret of life is? They're sitting there listening to this tape; what would you say to them? What would you want them to know?

About him or about life?

About life.

I would say to my grandchildren—

Or great, great.

Or great, great, great-grandchildren. (Laughter.) Life is going to always be what you make it. It was a gift given to you in love and because of God's creation. You were made and born into his image. Don't distort that image because of wooden images, but take the gift he gave to you and remember you have the same twenty-four hours a day that any other person in this world will have. Take those twenty-four hours; encourage them; illuminate them; and, light the way for another person in another era to find his way through the niche in which you've arrived.


Oral history with Ms. Janelle McComb
http://www.lib.usm.edu/legacy/spcol/coh/cohmccombj.html



Here's the poem, framed and delivered to Elvis for his daughter's birthday in February 1972:

The Priceless Gift

Birthdays are always special
as your fourth one comes to you
and I wondered what I’d give you
Just anything wouldn’t do.

I thought of childish treasures
to hang upon your wall
Yet nothing seemed appropriate
or none I could recall.

Money seemed so cold and fleeting
Bought treasures go so fast
And I wanted a gift to please you
And one that would also last.

You know you’re sort of special
You are really all we’ve got
You’re Mama’s bit of heaven
And Daddy’s tiny tot.

I closed my eyes - the years rolled by
And I slowly found my way
To a shadowed corner in the attic
T’was a link to my yesterday.

I raised the lid to a frayed old trunk
And there a priceless treasure lay
A tattered apron with strings still tied
And I knew I heard her say -

“Son, I’m now just a precious memory
But don’t ever forget one thing
I always tried to guide your life
With these worn out apron strings.

They guided a man named Lincoln
As he steered the ship of State
It’s the only gift I gave you
That will never go out of date.

Apron strings changed the course of
History as great men felt their tug
They followed sons onto battle fields
Without the slightest shrug.

They guided both kings and beggars
Through harmony and strife
Son, you surely must have felt their tug
For how God has blessed your life."

I bowed my head and said a prayer
For I knew God had surely touched
A tattered old trunk so tucked away
And an apron that had meant so much.

So Lisa, I give you the “Priceless Gift”
That surpasses all other things
A whole lifetime of love for you
She tied in her apron strings.

- Daddy
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Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Tue Sep 30, 2014 5:39 am, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Tue Aug 05, 2014 11:09 pm

We met her in '85 I believe. She was wearing a huge Gold Cross that Elvis gave her. A very nice lady.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Tue Aug 05, 2014 11:18 pm

This is another quality post by DJC, very informative! highly appreciated! Thanks Doc

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Tue Aug 05, 2014 11:44 pm

A great review! Thanks for sharing Doc.

I thought the pictures of Elvis in Graceland were taken in September 1970 :?

http://www.elvis-collectors.com/candid- ... kle70.html

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Wed Aug 06, 2014 12:21 am

The first time I ever saw any "Elvis In Concert" out-takes was at Elvis' birthplace centre in Tupelo in 1983. I can't remember exactly what songs we were shown, although I'm pretty sure "It's Now or Never" was one of them. My main memory is of seeing the backstage presentation. The footage was in colour and I don't remember seeing a time code. Presumably these were taken from the tapes given by Elvis.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Wed Aug 06, 2014 12:30 am

BONUS PHOTOS!


710600_Graceland 03.JPG
With (maybe) Janelle's granddaughter, Graceland - Thursday, July 1, 1971



710600_Graceland 04.jpg
With Gene Autry Turner from Lee County (MS) Sheriff's Office, Graceland - Thursday, July 1, 1971
Turner was delivering a badge from the Tupelo office to the singer.
http://www.elvis.com/photos-video/legacy_project.aspx?id=125




710600_Graceland 05.JPG
With a framed photo collage gift, Graceland - Graceland - Thursday, July 1, 1971



711200_Graceland 02.JPG
With Janelle McComb, "Pull My Finger," Graceland - December 1971
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Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:24 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Although some question the true extent of her experiences

Well she sure didn't look like she would have much in common with Elvis.

Good stuff.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Wed Aug 06, 2014 5:30 am

Dan_T wrote:We met her in '85 I believe. She was wearing a huge Gold Cross that Elvis gave her. A very nice lady.


McComb seemed to have a very nice manner, judging by the oral history interview, The entire thing is quite interesting, not just the Elvis bit included above. Click the link to read the whole transcription.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:01 am

Great post. I have to admit, though, one part I didn't quite understand was, how exactly did she design what she meant by "He Touched Me" using the guitar? Maybe this was due to the interviewer interrupting her during the story (a pet peeve of mine). Or it could just be that I'm being dense tonight.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:49 am

Many thanks.

And I, too, was a bit confused about the guitar. Guess you had to be there for that.

rjm

Sent via mobile

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Wed Aug 06, 2014 1:22 pm

Thanks a lot, Doc. Wonderful poem and the pictures are very beautiful. Elvis looked great in June 1971.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Wed Aug 06, 2014 4:12 pm

Does anybody remember the "Memories Of Graceland Mansion" poem that was printed on the Graceland tour guide?

It started something like this:

"I stood aloft on this stately hill for oh so many years..." or something like that.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:05 pm

luckyjackson1- Here is the "MEMORIES OF GRACELAND MANSION" poem you remembered.

It was posted on the Elvis web site years ago. Here's what was written about it: In 1982, the year Graceland opened to the public, Graceland management commissioned Elvis' long-time friend, Janelle McComb, to create a poem for a visitor's guide brochure. The idea was to think of Graceland Mansion as a living entity and give it a voice to express its memories of life with Elvis and his family and to express the excitement of having the home opened to the public. The result was the following poem, which has been used in various Graceland brochures over the years and in the Graceland guidebook.

MEMORIES OF GRACELAND MANSION

I've stood aloft on this stately hill
for lo, these many years.
I've known the great joys of life
and wept its saddest tears.
I've seen the leaves turn umber
then bow to winter's snow.
I've basked in the lights of Christmas
and my pride would always show.
I've shared the kiss of a mother's love
and the paternal pride of a dad.
I've known the joy of bride and child;
thank God for the memories I've had.
My owner redefined musical history
with his unique style and voice.
I saw accolades heaped upon him;
he was clearly our nation's choice.
I've seen his fans come up the hill
and stand at windswept graves.
I, too would cry along with them;
I'd tire of being brave.
Today my columns seen more erect;
my pride shows within these walls.
My life has taken on new meaning;
his friends have come to call.
I knew that one day you would come;
I've waited and counted the minutes.
Even though my owner is away just now,
his heart is still here within it!

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Thu Aug 07, 2014 2:29 am

That floral shirt is in the birthplace museum, as is the lurex-edged snow jacket. No photos but I snuck a couple.
The shirt is the one I was asking about in my thread this evening.

http://s29.postimg.org/3ot8ttnlj/IMG_1315.jpg

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Thu Aug 07, 2014 3:00 am

Jovan wrote:This is another quality post by DJC, very informative! highly appreciated! Thanks Doc


Thanks.



javierTCB wrote:A great review! Thanks for sharing Doc.

I thought the pictures of Elvis in Graceland were taken in September 1970 :?

http://www.elvis-collectors.com/candid-central/buckle70.html


My research and his appearance place the date to June 1971.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Thu Aug 07, 2014 4:06 am

2kisses&3scarfs wrote:luckyjackson1- Here is the "MEMORIES OF GRACELAND MANSION" poem you remembered.

It was posted on the Elvis web site years ago. Here's what was written about it: In 1982, the year Graceland opened to the public, Graceland management commissioned Elvis' long-time friend, Janelle McComb, to create a poem for a visitor's guide brochure. The idea was to think of Graceland Mansion as a living entity and give it a voice to express its memories of life with Elvis and his family and to express the excitement of having the home opened to the public. The result was the following poem, which has been used in various Graceland brochures over the years and in the Graceland guidebook.

MEMORIES OF GRACELAND MANSION

I've stood aloft on this stately hill
for lo, these many years.
I've known the great joys of life
and wept its saddest tears.
I've seen the leaves turn umber
then bow to winter's snow.
I've basked in the lights of Christmas
and my pride would always show.
I've shared the kiss of a mother's love
and the paternal pride of a dad.
I've known the joy of bride and child;
thank God for the memories I've had.
My owner redefined musical history
with his unique style and voice.
I saw accolades heaped upon him;
he was clearly our nation's choice.
I've seen his fans come up the hill
and stand at windswept graves.
I, too would cry along with them;
I'd tire of being brave.
Today my columns seen more erect;
my pride shows within these walls.
My life has taken on new meaning;
his friends have come to call.
I knew that one day you would come;
I've waited and counted the minutes.
Even though my owner is away just now,
his heart is still here within it!


Interesting. I don't recall reading the above before. She also wrote Elvis's epitaph on behalf of his father.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Thu Aug 07, 2014 5:49 am

Tony C wrote:The first time I ever saw any "Elvis In Concert" out-takes was at Elvis' birthplace centre in Tupelo in 1983. I can't remember exactly what songs we were shown, although I'm pretty sure "It's Now or Never" was one of them. My main memory is of seeing the backstage presentation. The footage was in colour and I don't remember seeing a time code. Presumably these were taken from the tapes given by Elvis.


You're probably correct. Interesting that you saw segments at the Tupelo Center in 1983, as nothing leaked to the fan base for another five years or so.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:20 am

mike edwards66 wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Although some question the true extent of her experiences

Well she sure didn't look like she would have much in common with Elvis.

Good stuff.


It's too bad Janelle is not around to be interviewed again. I'd like to learn more details about the CBS tapes she was given in July 1977.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:37 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:
mike edwards66 wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Although some question the true extent of her experiences

Well she sure didn't look like she would have much in common with Elvis.

Good stuff.


It's too bad Janelle is not around to be interviewed again. I'd like to learn more details about the CBS tapes she was given in July 1977.


You and me both. Oh well.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Fri Aug 08, 2014 1:51 am

The segments I saw were in broadcast quality, certainly not many generations down. As I said before, we did not see much of the footage, maybe ten minutes? I was there on an OEPFC trip and all of us, or those interested, were shown the tapes. Writing of this has made me remember one other thing, we were also shown Elvis' portion of the first Milton Berle Show. At the time, fans could not track down this footage, I'm not even sure if the audio was available then. A couple of days later we had a presentation at our hotel from the people behind The Music Works label. They played us extracts of some Louisiana Hayride shows that they were about to release and which shortly afterwards ended up on RCA. I'm not opening a can of worms, everything that was played is very familiar to all of us now!

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Fri Aug 08, 2014 2:11 am

Very interesting post Doc thanks


norrie

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Fri Aug 08, 2014 2:12 am

Very interesting post Doc thanks


norrie

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Fri Aug 08, 2014 10:00 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
javierTCB wrote:A great review! Thanks for sharing Doc.

I thought the pictures of Elvis in Graceland were taken in September 1970 :?

http://www.elvis-collectors.com/candid-central/buckle70.html


My research and his appearance place the date to June 1971.



OK Doc, thanks.

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Fri Aug 08, 2014 10:39 pm

Tony C wrote:The segments I saw were in broadcast quality, certainly not many generations down. As I said before, we did not see much of the footage, maybe ten minutes? I was there on an OEPFC trip and all of us, or those interested, were shown the tapes. Writing of this has made me remember one other thing, we were also shown Elvis' portion of the first Milton Berle Show. At the time, fans could not track down this footage, I'm not even sure if the audio was available then. A couple of days later we had a presentation at our hotel from the people behind The Music Works label. They played us extracts of some Louisiana Hayride shows that they were about to release and which shortly afterwards ended up on RCA. I'm not opening a can of worms, everything that was played is very familiar to all of us now!


All of these rarities must have been thrilling to watch and listen to!

Re: Tupelo's Own --> Janelle McComb

Mon Aug 11, 2014 12:09 am

It's funny, I was on such a high being in Elvis-land for the first time the impact of what I saw and heard was lessened. There were so many highs during that ten day period the video and audio clips I was treated to did not have as much impact as they would have if I had been at home watching them. It was a magical time, a trip I had planned for many years, I started saving while at school. The aim then was to see Elvis live. For many years, I remembered the CBS backstage presentation footage but in some ways doubted what I had seen because I never saw reference to it anywhere. Then, out of the blue years later, the tapes were bootlegged and my doubts were cast aside, it was exactly as I remembered it to be.