Local Folks: Elvis' place has become Lamb's second home
M. SCOTT MORRIS
Sep. 30, 2017
TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — Thanks to her job, Rhonda Lamb has friends all over the far-flung globe. They make pilgrimages to the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum, where she's the assistant director.
"They come year after year," she said, "and it's like a big homecoming."
She started telling the King of Rock 'n' Roll's story to tourists a quarter century ago, so she has a solid grasp of Elvis trivia, but she doesn't get cocky about it.
"There are some things I will look up just to double check myself, but, yeah, I can tell what song is on which album, and I usually know when he played where," Lamb, 51, said, "but there are times I have to go to Google to make sure I'm giving the correct answers."
Depending on the day, she could be working behind the gift shop's checkout counter, cleaning the bathrooms or uploading fresh content to the website, elvispresleybirthplace.com.
Her primary duty is coordinating events, and that can include weddings, receptions, business meetings and special activities for devoted fans.
"We'll do a dinner theater and bring the tour buses here," she said. "We provide dinner and an Elvis tribute artist, or, when they ask for it, a quartet or whatever they prefer."
As with everything, exceptions prove the rule, but Lamb said the vast majority of Elvis fans are just happy to be in Tupelo, and she and other staff members try to remember what the trip means to them.
"They come here because they want to come here. They don't have to come here," she said. "If they're still shopping at closing time, we don't make them leave. We accommodate our guests. They have driven so many miles and they want to see where it all began."
The birthplace attracts its share of celebrities. Lamb said she's learned it's usually best to treat them as regular people.
"When Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were here, they were in ball caps," she said. "We just let them look around."
Prince Albert of Monaco was happy to have his photograph taken, while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg preferred no photos. Dolly Parton was practically unrecognizable in a cap and blue jeans.
"I think James Taylor said it best: 'When I'm here, I'm not James Taylor the entertainer, I'm James Taylor the Elvis fan,'" she said. "That's how we treat them. We don't say, 'Oh, my God, it's James Taylor. Let's clear the museum for him.' We don't do that. If there's a line, they stand in it like anyone else. That's how they want it."
But Lamb's reserve might slip away faster than a horse's tail could swat a fly if her celebrity crush, Sam Elliott, showed up on Elvis' front porch.
"I'd have to pick myself up off the floor probably," she said. "All he has to do is open his mouth because nobody talks like him."
Lamb said working at the birthplace can get busy and overwhelming at times. It's not a 9-to-5 job, and she's on duty plenty of nights and weekends.
"I honestly could not do my job without the support of my family," she said.
On the flip side, life at Elvis' place never gets boring.
"It's always something different, a different question, a different person, a different story," she said. "I guess that's why I stayed here so long."
Some of those visitors have become friends over the years. Elvis' fans have invited Lamb to Australia, England and other spots around the world. She appreciates the invitations but doubts she'll ever follow up.
"I'm a homebody. This is my second home. If I'm not here, I'm in Eggville. Most people know where to find me," she said. "If I'm not in Eggville, I'm at 306 Elvis Presley Drive. That's just how it is."
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com