Joseph Krein: FIRST CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF?
Mike Freeman : I grew up in Memphis, went to school here and never moved away. So I have
been in Memphis since the late 1960's. I have made a study of Memphis
history and I am considered an expert of several local history subjects.
Right now I do tours of the city and surrounding areas with almost always
Elvis fans. My most popular tour by far is the Tupelo tour.
Have You Always Been An Elvis Fan?
Well, no. Like a lot of people who grow
up here, I took him for granted. A few years after Elvis died I really
became interested in Memphis music history, and then I began to listen more
closely to Elvis' music, and also, to watch the impact Elvis had on Memphis
For me, I am still amazed at all the people throughout the world who come to
Memphis just because Elvis lived here.
My wife, Cindy, and I wrote two books about
Elvis. The first was "Best of Elvis" in 1992 which described his good deeds
and donations to charity. We published it ourselves first under the name
Memphis Explorations, then in 1994 it was released again under Bantam Books.
In 1997 we did our second book, "Memphis Elvis Style," which is a guide to
the city with a description of 125 places that were part of his life. Our
present day Memphis tour is based upon this book.
Will There Be More Books?
Yes, we have an agreement with Elvis Unlimited to
do a book about Elvis, the year 1956 and Audubon Drive. I would like to
finish it sometime in 2006.
Why Another Book, Has It All Been Written By Now?
Another way to look at it
is; if people were not fascinated by Elvis today then I could not sell one
more book. But people are fascinated by him today, including many people who
were not even alive when he died. To the younger people, all the stories are
new. There are many people who want to know every detail, and see every
photo. I think a lot of future publications will actually take the form of
DVD's, the combination of words and images, moving and still. There is a lot
of repetition out there, and I think the measure of a book is how well do
you do the research. It is a challenge to find a fresh way to tell the story
of Elvis and his all important year, 1956.
feeling, Goosebumps on the arm! In a lot of ways the structure of the house
had not changed. It was as if we stepped back into time. Some people have
told me that they "felt" Elvis in our house. I don't know if it is "haunted"
or not. I haven't had that many supernatural experiences in there.
Did you just say" had not had many" ?will you tell me a story?
I have had one. It was July 3, 2004 and we had an exciting weekend coming up
with the 50th anniversary of rock and roll. To explain, Cindy had become
involved in dog rescue groups. So we had 7 dogs of our own, plus two new
"rescued dogs'" who would only stay temporarily. Needless to say, our dogs
did not want the two newcomers and were barking as loud as they could. Our
seven were inside the house, in the big game room, and the other two were
outside separated by the glass wall. We were inside with our dogs trying
futilely to quiet them.
Then we heard a woman's voice, clearly speaking, "Hush." The voice was not
too loud, certainly not screaming loud. We heard it and were convinced that
the voice came from the front of the house. Immediately all the dogs rushed
to the front. My first thought was, how did we leave the front door open
for someone to come inside. But the door was closed and no one was there.
Our house is insulated enough that it is nearly impossible to hear a voice
What was most amazing that the dogs did become quiet, no barking for the
rest of the night. So we said that "Gladys told the dogs to Hush."
Did You Want To Buy It Right Away? Where You Looking For A Home?
all, we did not know that it was for sale until a friend told us, so we
never expected to buy it. It sounds unbelievable that one could buy the
actual house that Elvis bought in 1956, but we did. In 1998 I worked nearby,
by then I was know as the "Elvis expert" among the employees. One employee
and her husband had bought our books. During lunch hour, her husband drove
down Audubon Drive and noticed the for sale sign. he told me that day. By
the end of the week Cindy and I decided to buy the house.
Did you ever see an Elvis concert, meet Elvis or the Colonel?
No, when Elvis
was alive I was not paying attention to him. Like a lot of Memphians then,
and even today, I took what he accomplished for granted. I have always
hears a lot of stories about Elvis from Memphians, but those same people
likely didn't or do not belong to fan clubs or go to Graceland. I didn't
meet the Colonel either. I began to meet people who were part of Elvis' life
in 1990-91 when we did the research for our book, Best of Elvis.
What Did You Think Of The Colonel?
Elvis fans always ask that question, the
Colonel's legacy is a controversy that will not end. In short the Colonel
was helpful in the beginning and hurtful in the end. Reading again the
stories from 1956, I can see how valuable the Colonel was to Elvis' career:
by convincing RCA to buy Elvis' contract, by getting the audition in
Hollywood for Elvis, and most important, by getting Elvis on the national TV
shows. In the last few years, when Elvis most needed some help, the Colonel
increased his percentage from 25 to 50. he took advantage of a sick man.
That was the worst thing he did to Elvis.
Where Were You When Elvis Passed?
I was in Memphis preparing for a trip out
of town. At my parents home, I watched as the afternoon TV show was
interrupted by the local news special broadcast. I can remember the reporter
on location at Baptist had tears in her eyes.
Do You Collect Elvis Items? What is your best item?
I used to collect a lot
of different things, none rare and expensive, except for 1034 Audubon Drive.
My favorite items now are photos of Elvis in 1956, usually copies, and the
first fan magazines. The magazines are a wonderful source of information
about Elvis then, what he was doing, what fans thought of him, or what the
news media thought of him. Also the magazines had a lot of photographs of
him and family at home. Recently I donated a lot of my research material on
Elvis and music history to the Memphis Public Library, which is building an
archive on Memphis music history. I intend to donate my research on Audubon
Drive to their archive as well someday.
Can You Mention Some Interesting Visitors In Your Home?
We have had several.
Once we had Joe Esposito and Wanda Jackson in our house to do interviews
with a Belgian TV show. Joe didn't know Elvis in 1956-57 of course and had
never been in the house before, but that was where they chose to film him.
Wanda had been in the house in 1956, she toured with Elvis at times in 1955
and 56. June Juanico did an interview for ABC News in 1999. And recently
George Klein filmed part of his forthcoming DVD/video inside our house. We
also hosted Richard Davis; 60 birthday party a few years ago.
How Do You See His Impact On the World Today?
Elvis is probably one of the
five best known individuals of the 20th Century, world wide. From My
experience I see his impact through the number of visitors from around the
world who come to our house. He will be remembered for many years to come,
in the same way that Shakespeare is remembered today.
What Is In Store For the House?
That is a hard question for me this month
because Cindy and I have separated and I actually moved out of the house.
For the first time in seven years we have stopped tours of the hours. I
regret that this has happened. We may well have to sell the house. If we do
sell, I will make sure that you and every other fan that I know, is aware of
the sale. For I want another fan to buy the house, and to preserve it just
as we have tried to do.
On a positive note, we are very close to have our house listed on the
National Register of Historic Places, a high honor.
Joe, we did ask fans to help us find furnishings that were from the 1950's
to help decorate the house. Also, we asked for help with photos and fan
magazines or any information about Elvis and Audubon Drive. Today I don't
think that we need any additional furniture, until we resolved our decision
to sell or keep the house. But I continue to ask for help with photos or
information, for I intend to finish that book on Audubon, whether I own it