Jesse D Presley

'The Forgotten Presley'

Spotlight by - Tony Stuchbury

Born in 1896, Elvis' Grandfather Jessie D Presley was often regarded as the 'bad apple' of his family- and described as being 'mean as hell' .

Elvis supposedly had little connection with his Grandfather. This may not be surprising since the wife he divorced, Minnie Mae, lived with Elvis at Graceland. She would go on to outlive both her son Vernon, as well as her grandson Elvis.

EIN contributor Tony Stuchbury recently investigated the stories of Elvis' Grandfather to see if he might have been unfairly mis-represented within the Elvis history.


Most well-read Elvis fans are familiar with his Grandfather's appearance on the U.S TV show "I've Got A Secret" in the late 1950's and possibly the recordings he made while Elvis was away in the service titled 'Who's That Kickin' My Dog Around'/'The Billy Goat' Song coupled with 'Swingin' In The Orchard', but how much more is there to know ?

Louisville Memorial Gardens, Kentucky, USA.

On a recent visit to Louisville, Kentucky I was very lucky to spend some time with Alanna Nash, author and biographer of Elvis' manager Colonel Tom Parker. As a native of Louisville she had already started to delve into Jessie D. Presley herself, but now together with Alanna, myself and my wife would have a very interesting couple of days ahead.

Born in 1896 in East Tupelo, Mississippi Jesse became the so called 'bad apple' of his family.... (if what we are told is to be believed).

(Left; Elvis' Grandfather on the U.S TV show "I've Got A Secret")


His Brother Noah eventually became the Mayor of Tupelo yet in April 1936 it was Jessie who was the one to warn the worshipers at the Baptist Church of the on coming storm that turned out to be the Tupelo tornado.

The tornado caused massive death and destruction in the area and he was the one who signaled the family to hurry out of the church to safety and it was then that his Brother Noah drove the family (Vernon, Gladys, Elvis, Minnie Mae and the children) to the family home in a school bus where the men then braced themselves up to the walls against the storm.


According to various Presley family related stories and other publications Jesse had a 'mean as hell' reputation. He liked to drink, dress sharp and womanize.... then maybe this was a Presley 'male' family trait as apart from the drinking doesn't the sharp dressing and womanizing sound familiar?

That aside it is unfair to judge anyone from only one side of a story yet even after her divorce from him Minnie Mae still called him a S.O.B. to anyone who may ask about him.

Marty Lacker one of the Memphis Mafia members had this to say:
"The only times I heard Elvis speak of his Grandfather was in terms about how much his Grandmother hated him. It seems he just left and abandoned her many years ago. He also said that he thought he was a ladies man and was a dandy in his dressing. I never met his Grandfather and I don't recall him ever being at Graceland."

Jesse might well have had a reputation and he might even have recognized it within himself but when his own Son Vernon (Elvis' Father) was aged 15 he was kicked out of the house and sent to a relatives farm in Pickets, Mississippi for a year to straighten himself out. This might seem harsh but then again you could argue the point that this is the action of a Father who cared enough to try and rectify his Sons attitude and problems.

It is also said that Jesse was controlling over Minnie Mae and when they had visitors to the house he instructed her on how many biscuits and cheese slices to hand out to their guests. Again you could argue that as times were hard he was just being careful and thrifty.

The house in which Elvis was born was built with help and although Vernon and Vester are commonly reported to have built the two room shack, Jesse and his Brothers also had a hand in helping build the home on Old Saltillo Road.


In a 1977 interview given by Vernon he states his father was present at the birth of Elvis along with Minnie Mae, the midwife, Dr Hunt and a family friend named Edna Robinson.

(Right: The hammer used to build the Old Saltillo house is on display in the Tupelo Birthplace Elvis museum)

Elvis' Cousin Billy Smith relates a story that Jesse was drunk at the scene and was 'coochy cooing' the stillborn twin until Vernon shouted at his Father exclaiming that the baby was dead ! Other than Billy Smith himself I cannot determine a source for this story but I can take an educated guess.

Either way the family still thought enough of their Father to name the dead twin Jesse.

Most Elvis fans are aware of the time Vernon spent in prison for forging (or changing) a cheque from Orville S. Bean relating to the sale of a hog, strange then you might think that Jesse filed bail for Travis Smith (another family member) and not his own Son Vernon. Maybe it was to teach him a lesson but could this not be the action of a Father protecting the rest of his family on a larger scale ?

At the time Jesse was farming on land owned by Orville S. Bean and Bean was Jesse's landlord also, to rock the boat any further by filing bond for Vernon might just have put the whole family out on a larger scale..... draw your own conclusions.

In the mid 1940's aged around 50 he took off and filed for divorce from Minnie Mae, (anyone heard any of those stories about how hard and mean Grandma could be?) she protested that he hadn't provided for his family in over a year but the divorce was granted none the less.

Jesse made his way to Louisville Kentucky and although a carpenter by trade he was a night watchman at the local Pepsi-Cola plant.

His association with his blood line family didn't end there though. . .

On Sunday 25th November 1956 Elvis played two shows (2pm/8pm) at The Jefferson County Armory in Louisville.

On Monday the 26th after picking up his cheque Elvis paid a visit to his Grandfather at 4008 Beaver St (photo below) and he didn't arrive empty handed.

Elvis brought with him what is reportedly the very first car he ever gave away, a brand new 1957 Ford Fairlane with a new TV set in the trunk and handed over $100 to Vera Presley (nee Leftwich) his step Grandmother.


The event was even reported in the local newspaper under the headline as follows:

Generous Sort.
Presley Leaves New Auto, TV Set , Cash for Kin Here.

(The car is now being restored in Louisville and we were thrilled to meet "Mr B" and see the car ! - see Below)

Elvis' Grandfather was rightly proud of his Grandson and kept a collection of scrapbooks about him.

Elvis even wrote to his Grandfather (writing was a rare thing for him to do) while he was away in the army and he even sent him Christmas cards too.

These items were auctioned in 1995 by Butterfield and Butterfield as part of the Elvis Presley Museum collection.


Vernon also kept in contact with his Father, actually visiting him in Kentucky in July 1959 to introduce him to Dee Stanley.... hard to think then that this was the action of a Son who had no respect for his Father?

There are also pictures (allegedly) of Vera Presley (credited to Maria Columbus) on the set of Follow That Dream in the book 'From Memphis To Hollywood' by Alan Fortas, it would therefore not be hard to presume that she would be there with her Husband Jesse.



(Right; Jesse and Vera on vacation)

There are rumors of family visits from Kentucky to Graceland and it would be safe to assume that the families did indeed keep in touch more than previously reported.

On the 7th November 1971 Elvis played Louisville Kentucky again and at Freedom Hall he introduced his Grandfather (who was in the audience) to the crowd.

I have come to the conclusion that Elvis' Grandfather Jesse D. Presley has been much maligned and mis-represented.

It seems to me that although Minnie Mae continued to hate him with avengence even after their separation and divorce, I personally think that he deserves a re-evaluation within the 'Presley' world.

From what I have been able to determine thus far Jesse never asked Elvis or the family for anything after leaving and he spent the rest of his life making his own way in the world with Vera and for that at least his deserves some respect.

Jesse D. Presley died on Monday 19th March 1973 aged 77 of a heart attack and for obvious reasons Elvis did not attend his funeral.

He now lays at rest with his wife Vera in Louisville Memorial Gardens, Kentucky, USA.

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Spotlight by EIN Contributor Tony Stuchbury.
Copyright © & © - December 2008
Do Not Borrow Images or Article without Permission

Right: 4008 Beaver Street, Louisville, Kentucky nowadays - where in November 26 1956 Elvis paid a visit to his Grandfather.

Right; Jesse Presley's original 1957 Ford Fairlane under restoration today.
Right; Another great close-up of Jesse Presley's original 1957 Ford Fairlane.

Spotlight by EIN Contributor Tony Stuchbury.
Copyright © - December 2008
Do Not Borrow without Permission

Right; Jesse Presley's original 1957 Ford Fairlane under restoration today.

And GO HERE for more information..

Elvis Presley Scrapbook for unique photos, interviews and clippings

'The Billy Goat Song' from EP Scrapbook

The EP Scrapbook original article

EIN interview with Alanna Nash

EIN Marty Lacker Interview 2008.

Billy Smith talks with EIN


The gravestone of Jesse's brother Noah Presley - who would become the Mayor of East Tupelo. He was Elvis' Great-Uncle.














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