In May 2021, over 65 years after she dated Elvis Presley, Dixie Locke Emmons finally published her personal account of her one-and-a-half year relationship with Elvis. Considered Presley’s first “serious” girlfriend, Emmons started dating Elvis in January 1954. She was three years younger than Elvis when she dated the future King of Rock and Roll.
Dixie and Elvis first met at the First Assembly of God Church in Memphis. Since 19-year-old Presley was too shy to talk to her, high school sophomore Dixie made sure that Elvis overheard her making plans to go to the Rainbow Roller Skating rink that weekend. When Elvis showed up, Dixie went over to talk to him and that began their courtship.
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Dixie describes herself as a tomboy growing up being quite active and rambunctious compared to her sister Juanita who was quiet and reserved. As a child, she nicknamed herself “Dixie” because she wasn’t happy with her given name of Willa Dean.
In January 1954, when Elvis came to Dixie’s house to pick her up for their first official date, Dixie and her family were all impressed at what Elvis was wearing. He wasn’t wearing the usual white t-shirt and jeans like most other guys his age. He was wearing black dress pants with a pink seam down the leg and a matching jacket! Seeing Presley’s long hair combed into a ducktail, Dixie’s uncle offered Elvis money to go get a haircut, which of course Elvis refused. A sign of things to come!
The beginning of Dixie and Elvis’ courtship was like a fairytale. They got along so well and their families spent time with each other almost like Dixie and Elvis were already married. A highlight of the book is reading the six pages of love letters that Dixie wrote to Elvis while she was sitting in class, thinking of when she would see him again (usually in just a few hours).
Dixie tells the story of her and Elvis’ young love with such passion. This was the Elvis that would soon burst onto the music scene and attract female fans from all over. As Dixie described: “Elvis was extremely handsome. In fact, he was almost beautiful! I was in love fast! I didn’t think there could ever be another.”
Meanwhile, Elvis had gone into Sun Records several times in the past year asking if they needed a singer. He finally got called in for an audition in early July 1954, the same week that Dixie went to Florida on a family vacation. Imagine Dixie’s excitement when she returned two weeks later to hear Elvis Presley’s first record “That’s All Right” on the radio. Her boyfriend had become a local star overnight!
It is a treat to read Dixie’s account of being there as an eyewitness to rock and roll history. She described spending time at Scotty Moore’s house as Elvis rehearsed with Scotty and Bill. Dixie was also there backstage in the wings as Elvis performed at the Overton Park Shell on June 30, 1954, when he famously kept shaking his leg which made the girls scream. Dixie went to many of Presley’s early concerts and even helped in answering fan mail.
Truth be told, Dixie has given many interviews in the past and it seems like there are many details about her time with Elvis that she did not include in her book. There are no specific stories about the period between the Fall of 1954 and the Summer of 1955 – just more general memories – which is surprising considering the book’s high price tag (currently $26.95). In addition, the paragraph on page 92 about Elvis appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show (part of which is inaccurate) seems like a curious part to include since by that time, Dixie and Elvis were not dating.
That being said, one of the most valuable parts of the book, in this reviewer’s opinion, are the rare photos of Elvis from Dixie’s collection that fans have never seen before. There is a photo of Elvis with the Blackwood Brothers and a class photo of his Young Men’s Sunday School class at the First Assembly of God Church. There is also a group photo with Elvis attending Dixie’s sister’s going away party. Photos like these are a treasure for historians and fans to see.
Throughout the book of 171 pages, there are quotes and recollections from friends and family of Dixie offering their brief memories of knowing Elvis back when he and Dixie were dating. One that stands out is the quote from R.W. Blackwood, Jr., the son of R.W. Blackwood of the Blackwood Quartet who was killed in June 1954 in a plane crash. Elvis idolized the gospel singer and his son described singing at the only all-gospel show Elvis ever performed at in July 1955 in tribute to his father. He also recalled the night in November 1956 when Elvis, Natalie Wood, Nick Adams and friends rode by his house all on motorcycles. “I just wanted my friends from Hollywood to see where my hero R.W. Blackwood lived,” said Elvis.
While Elvis was paying his dues out on the road towards the end of 1954 and throughout 1955, Dixie was still in high school. Elvis made a point of taking a break from his tour so he could take Dixie to her junior prom on May 6, 1955. After being chased by a group of girls across the football field at his show in Alabama the night before, Elvis drove back to Memphis to escort Dixie to the dance at The Claridge Hotel.
The book was co-written by Dixie’s daughter, Kristi Emmons Jones. It has a personal scrapbook vibe the way it is presented with an informal font used for the chapter titles. Kristi shares that she was one of the original tour guides at Graceland when it opened in the 1980s.
Priscilla Presley wrote in the foreword of the book that when she met Elvis in Germany, Elvis used to share stories about he and Dixie to her. Fast forward 40 years to when Dixie and Priscilla became good friends starting in 2002.
Dixie knew her future husband, Bobby Emmons, since grade school, but they didn’t start dating until her senior year of high school. As Elvis got busier and busier in his career throughout 1955, he saw less and less of Dixie. That is when Bobby entered Dixie’s life.
When teased by his friends that his wife somehow ended up with him and not The King of Rock and Roll, Bobby Emmons, replied “That’s right… Dixie knows who the real King is!”
Why did Elvis and Dixie break up? Dixie writes: “I cannot look back and remember Elvis and I ever specifically breaking up, because we didn’t. No matter how far his fame was beginning to take him, we knew in our hearts we were eternally tied to each other.”
Dixie says she and Elvis had planned to get married after her high school graduation. But by that time, she and Elvis had drifted apart. The night of Dixie’s high school graduation in May 1956 explains it best. You’ll have to read the book to see how Dixie and Elvis finally parted ways – although they still remained friends for several years.
The passion that Dixie felt for Elvis really shines through in this book. All the female fans can easily put themselves in Dixie’s shoes and feel what it was like to date Elvis in the early days of his fame. This book has a lot of heart in it and is a great read for Elvis fans. Thanks to Dixie for sharing her story after all these years.
– Trina Young
The book is available either through Graceland’s store at https://store.graceland.com/
or Dixie’s website at https://dixielocke.bigcartel.com/
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