I made a special trip to Primitive Union Cemetery in Miller County to see this unusual memorial. It’s an enduring tribute to a man who made a second career paying tribute to Elvis Presley.
Marion Kenneth “Kenn” Blankenship was born in 1940 to a West Virginia coal mining family, and after working for the Ohio State Highway Patrol, he changed careers and began working for Southern Bell. His new occupation brought him South, first to Florida, then to Bainbridge, and finally, Colquitt.
Music was initially a side gig, and in his early days in Southwest Georgia he played lead guitar for a country band known as East River Junction. He married Barbara Jones in 1978 and soon thereafter, he got out of the phone business. He and Barbara opened a restaurant and supper club in Bainbridge. Moving on from the restaurant business after a few successful years, the couple formed their own band and traveled all over the Southeast, working regularly. In the 1990s, Kenn began doing his Elvis tributes and they were wildly popular. He even bought three suits from the company that outfitted Elvis.
Kenn passed away on 8 June 2009, but his love of performing and sharing his talents still brings joy at this unique memorial. The beautifully maintained gravesite invites reflection and will likely inspire people far into the future. In addition to the life-size “Elvis” and the bench featuring laser cut images of Kenn performing, there’s a concrete palm tree, and a guitar shaped stone, presumably the future resting place of Kenn’s fellow guitarist, Denzil Newbern.
What a fascinating post, Brian! Kenn and his wife sound like a remarkable couple.