MOODY -- At the time in 1947, Doris Willis Gracia was 14 years old, sitting in an old country church in Crooked Creek, Mississippi.
She was at a singing convention, but the guest singers did not show up.
Little did she know that the preacher of the church would come and ask her and a 12-year-old boy to take turns singing and playing the piano. Little did Gracia know that boy turned out to be Elvis Presley.
That was 72 years ago, and Gracia is 86 and living in Moody. But her mind is as sharp as a tack, and she remembers things as if they happened yesterday.
“Elvis came up to me that day and told me that he loved to sing, but there was no way he was going to get up and sing in front of a bunch of strange people and make a fool of himself,” Gracia said. “In my 86 years, I have never met anyone who was meeker than Elvis was. He was extremely bashful. I told him I was not going to do this by myself.”
Gracia said she told Elvis to get up there and look out over the congregation and ask himself if he thinks anybody can sing as good as he can.
“I also told him to really speak his words clearly, like someone was paying him $100 per word,” she said. “The third thing I told him is if he could not do the first two things, then sit down and spend the rest of his life wondering what could have happened. The Bible says do not hide your talents under a bushel.”
Gracia said Elvis did sing, and at first he was sort of mumbling.
“But when he saw how the congregation was responding to him, he started showing more energy,” she said. “He and I sang for about three hours. I like to think that maybe I jump-started his career.”
Gracia said she did not see Elvis again until 1973 when he came into the hospital in Tuscaloosa where she was a registered nurse.
“I did not tell him who I was,” Gracia said. “I had opportunities, but I just didn’t want him to feel obligated to me. I remember seeing him on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’”
After 45 years as a registered nurse, Gracia retired. While she enjoyed writing her entire life, she never pictured herself as an author.
That all changed in her 80s, as she decided to write a book. She has actually written three books.
Her first book is titled “The Girl From Silver Creek,” and the story of Elvis is in that book, along with 45 other stories about her life growing up, stories that are titled “Sneaky Snake,” “Red Light District,” “The Chair That Walked,” “Working Woman,” “Class Clown” and “Kissed by a Clydesdale,” just to name a few.
“Most all of my short stories are hilarious and funny,” she said.
Gracia has lived in Moody since 1995.
Reach Gary Hanner at firstname.lastname@example.org.