… is the home town of Elvis Presley’s ancestors?

There are many myths associated with the “King of Rock’ n’ Roll,” whose 40thdeath anniversary was celebrated this year in August. Conspiracy theorists, for instance, have been convinced up to this day that Elvis is alive and well—which is pure speculation, of course. Based on hard genealogical evidence, however, is the fact that the ancestors of the pop icon came from the Rhine-Neckar region, from the Southern Palatinate town of Hochstadt to be more precise.

Genealogists trace his ancestry all the way back to 1709. The population at that time suffered politically and economically from the aftermath of the Palatinate War of Succession (1688-1697). In the extremely harsh winter of 1708/09, when even the wine froze in barrels, the situation became unbearable for many people. This is why Johann Valentin Bressler (1669-1732) decided to follow the example of numerous of his fellow sufferers: Together with his wife Anna Christina and five children he left Hochstadt for America in search for a better life. His ancestors’ integration into American society correlates with the gradual Americanisation of the original family name: According to the family tree, the original German name Bressler became Preslar at first and finally Presley.

Nine generations later, on 8 January 1935, Elvis Aaron Presley (the German version of which is Alwin Bressler) first saw the light of day in Tupelo, Mississippi. His break-through as a musician came in 1956 with his number-one hit “Heartbreak Hotel.” Soon after that, Elvis Presley was drafted into military service and stationed at the US military base in Friedberg, Hesse, in October 1958. Germany was fully in the grip of the rock’n’roll mania at that time. Public interest in the singing and acting GI was correspondingly high. “Incognito” he visited two concerts of his colleague Bill Haley touring through Germany for the first time.

This happened on 25 October 1958. Concert agent Hoffmeister had brought Haley to the “Universum” in Mannheim together with the “Comets.” Behind the stage, Elvis “the Pelvis” watched the goings-on on stage “slightly swaying his hips,” as a chronicler of the daily “Mannheimer Morgen” recorded. Later that evening, the King himself dug deep into the keys, which was frenetically celebrated by the audience.

Only one question remains: Would Elvis have visited the home of his forebears, had he known of his Southern Palatinate origin back then? This question will always remain unanswered, as matters stand. In Hochstadt on the Southern Wine Route the “King of Rock’ n’ Roll” is omnipresent nonetheless, as can be seen in the developing area of the municipality with its 2,500 inhabitants—where a street reminds of him and his roots.