Fact Check: Elvis Statue Is NOT Being Removed From Downtown Memphis Because He Stole The Blues From Black Musicians

Fact Check

  • by: Eric Ferkenhoff
Fact Check: Elvis Statue Is NOT Being Removed From Downtown Memphis Because He Stole The Blues From Black Musicians Statue Lives On

Is it true that "new guidelines" are forcing the removal of a statue of Elvis Presley from Memphis because the singer stole the Blues from Black musicians? No, that is not true. The Elvis statue still stands in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, and there are no plans to remove it. A Facebook post making the claim is a complete fabrication.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) shared on Facebook on July 8, 2020. It read:


'Elvis Presley statues to be removed under new guidelines. Accusations that the Presley family, feigned poverty in order to take up residence in Shake Rag's, poor quarter of Tupelo, and eventually steal the Blues from Black musicians, it has also thrown into doubt the originality of his hip swivel, which many residences believe, was also appropriated from them....'
When is this bulls**t going to stop?οΏΌ"

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Jul 27 17:07:34 2020 UTC)

The post, which includes a picture of the Memphis statue, makes no mention of what these "new guidelines" are or who or what entity implemented them.

False claims that Elvis statues were being taken down have been shared on social media for several years -- this time amid the call-out of racial injustice in the United States that has seen Confederate and other monuments toppled, removed by local officials or relocated.

Consider this tweet, posted July 26 by the Right-Wing Courier:

According to RoadsideAmerica.com, versions of a statue of Elvis have been located, on and off, in downtown Memphis since 1980:

In 1980 the world's first bronze Elvis statue was unveiled on Beale Street, where the future King of Rock and Roll crafted his early musical style. But the statue, by Eric Parks, proved too delicate for the elements and souvenir-crazed fans, who stripped its guitar strings and tore the tassels from Elvis's suit. It was taken down in 1994 and moved indoors to the downtown Memphis Tennessee Welcome Center.

That left Elvis Presley Plaza with a big, empty spot. It was finally filled in 1997 with the arrival of a new, completely different bronze Elvis statue by sculptor Andrea Lugar. This Elvis, unlike the original, shows him as he would have looked on Beale Street circa 1955 (pre-tassels), wearing a stage outfit he might have bought at Lansky Bros. down the block.

Although designed to be more sturdy than the previous statue, it's also kept at a distance from the public behind an encircling fence."

There have also been claims that Elvis statues were being removed elswhere, including in the birthplace of the "King of Rock-and-Roll" in Tupelo, Mississippi. That rumor, among others, was squelched by Tupelo's mayor, Jason Shelton, on Facebook in a post that included a succinct "Elvis statues are not being removed":

As for the post's claims that Elvis's family faked poverty and moved to "poor quarter" of Tupelo, there is no evidence to back that claim.

The claim has also been debunked by Reuters and USA Today.

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  Eric Ferkenhoff

Eric Ferkenhoff has been a reporter, editor and professor for 27 years, working chiefly out of the Midwest and now the South. Focusing on the criminal and juvenile justice systems, education and politics, Ferkenhoff has won several journalistic and academic awards and helped start a fact-checking project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he continues to teach advanced reporting. Ferkenhoff also writes and edits for the juvenile justice site JJIE.org.


Read more about or contact Eric Ferkenhoff

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