For those living in the Arkansas Ozarks, there were few, if any, opportunities to see the King of Rock and Roll belt out “Jailhouse Rock” in person. In his early days, Elvis Presley played numerous clubs in eastern and southern Arkansas. As his fame grew, he performed in Little Rock as well. The rare concert in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the best people in Northwest Arkansas could hope for.
Until January 3, 1977. That was the day Elvis came to Mount Sherman, five miles northwest of Jasper in Newton County, to attend William Alonzo Spencer’s funeral. Spencer was a country preacher who founded the Mount Sherman Assembly of God Church, a tiny house of worship with just a few pews. This would be a funeral Elvis would not have attended except for one thing: he was engaged to Spencer’s granddaughter, Ginger Alden.
Details of the visit are hard to come by, and it appears not many people knew about the visit, though the local press had apparently caught wind of it. (At this point, his career was spiraling downward, so this may have not been as huge of a deal had it been 20 years earlier.) But accounts of the day, as detailed by the Newton County Historical Society Newsletter, indicate Elvis was a welcomed guest — not a distraction — where people enjoyed hearing him sing along to some of the hymns during the service.
Photos of the day, along with a brief account, can be found here.
That Elvis started out the new year with a funeral had ominous overtones. Just seven months later, Ginger would discover Elvis dead at his Graceland home in Memphis, Tennessee.
And, lastly, footage of a New Year’s Eve concert in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, shot three days before his journey to the Ozarks: