Sweet and sad...
By June Robertson Special to Whitehaven Appeal, December 5, 2004
As Whitehaven resident Jesse Lee Denson stood in front of the two-story,
red-brick building at 227 E. Winchester St. that was part of Lauderdale
Courts (pictured right) where his family lived from 1947 to 1969, the
memories came flooding back. "My parents had a mission nearby called the
Poplar Street Mission," recalls Denson, whose parents, Jesse James and
Mattie, were Pentecostal evangelists.
"This is where my mother struck up a friendship with Gladys Presley. The
Presleys were staying in a cramped rooming house and mother helped them to
get a better place in Lauderdale Courts."
Recently refurbished and now known as Uptown Square, the original Lauderdale
Courts were built in 1936 and used as public housing for lower-income
families in need. When Denson met a 14-year-old Elvis Presley for the first
time, he was not impressed.
"He was different from all of the other kids," said Denson. "A bit of a
misfit and scrawny with a bad complexion. He was a good kid, very shy and
never got in trouble." Denson was good at singing and playing a guitar but
was reluctant to assist Elvis when asked.
"I gave in because of Mrs. Presley," said Denson. "She was so sweet, we all
liked her." Practice took place after school several times a week in
Presley's and Denson's apartment or the basement laundry area.
"One day when we were inside the Presley apartment (185 Winchester, Apt.
328), Mrs. Presley told me that my name meant 'gift from God,' " recounts
Denson. "She told me God had sent me to her and from then on she called me
her special son."
According to Denson, Elvis had a huge crush on his sister Virginia, who had
no time for Elvis. "Elvis would hide behind these bushes and watch for
Virginia to come home from school," said Denson. "Most of us went to L.C.
Humes High (pictured right) in those days. We would walk up Jackson Street
until we hit Manassas, quite a good walk."
When Denson left school he sang in Eastern clubs and occasionally saw the
Presleys on visits home. "I kept in touch after the family moved," said
Denson. "Elvis's success took everyone by surprise but we were so glad for
Denson was devastated after learning of Mrs. Presley's death in August 1958.
"It was a tremendous blow," said Denson. "I sure did love that woman, she
was an angel. We had visited with her only months before in her new home on
Audubon Drive. She had looked tired and was not happy that Colonel (Tom)
Parker (Elvis's manager) was keeping Elvis away so much. It just broke her
When Elvis died in 1977, Denson was not as surprised. "I knew what his
lifestyle was like and he worked too hard, but what a tragedy," said Denson.
"All I could think about at the time was that Mrs. Presley got her boy
Denson, a successful singer-songwriter, has written several songs about
Elvis and Gladys (his mother) including "The Mississippi Kid" and "Mrs.
Presley" and Elvis recorded one of Denson's most well-known religious songs,
"The Miracle of the Rosary," in 1972. "If Mrs. Presley had lived longer, we
might have seen a different ending for Elvis," said Denson. "They really
loved each other."
Sweet and sad...
I saw Mr.Denson on a special about Elvis about 3 months ago.I didn't like what he had to say about Elvis.In fact I thought the guy was a complete jerk! I can't remember what the name of the special was called but I do recall seeing Jesse Denson on it.
The One and Only King of Rock'n'Roll.
?he article was very nice. I didn't see the TV special so can only got by this article. I do believe as Denson said that if Gladys had lived there would have been a very different outcome for Elvis.
Jesse Denson comes across as a sweet guy on this article.
A long time ago his brother Jimmy did an interview with Lee over on Elvis Express Radio and he was crazy !!! said Elvis had got yella teeth cos he never brushed them, was a dry washing king, claimed his mother taught Elvis to talk, claimed he had the skin off his a*se grafted onto his face, was a big titty baby and a cissy!! along with many many other bizarre claims, then closed the interview with 'ya better believe me cos I'm a double jaw breaking *** kickin fighter' ... when Lee asked for any hard proof of his claims he replied 'read the book sap sucker ... lee dawson you can kiss my a*s'
One of the craziest, hilarious, completely bonkers interviews I'v ever heard. A mix of the interview was made with Elvis talking and singing replies to Densons claims which was an absolute classic, I laughed so, hard it hurt!
It seems with ref to this article brothers can indeed be as different as chalk and cheese
so Jimmy is the one who did the bad interview about elvis and not Jesse Denson??
sad indeed but I liked his memories. Gladys sure left a good impression on everyone who met her. She must have been real special and yes if only she had lived longer.....
It's hard NOT to imagine Elvis as perfect; how else could someone be THAT good looking, THAT talented, THAT generous & THAT charismatic