Happy Birthday, El

If there was ever a celebrity I was “raised on”, as we say in the South, it’s Elvis Presley.

My Aunt loved him from the moment she knew of his existence. Dot always claimed to not really care for him, but that was just her wanting to be contrary and different, as was her way. When you spend over $50 on a book about a dead guy, you like him.

The Cousins and I heard Elvis music from birth, there are probably thousands of kids that can make this claim. In the age before internet, before VCRs even, 8 tracks, what’s that? We listened to vinyl Elvis. The first movie I saw in a theater, rather than a drive-in, was an Elvis movie, Fun in Acapulco. It was in Opelousas LA, and I remember being shocked when we got out that it was still daylight outside. It was dark in the theater, and I was sure it was night time.

I’ve always joked that you couldn’t be in my family if you weren’t up on your Elvis facts. That’s not exactly true, but over the years we have picked up an intense amount of Elvis trivia. I won’t bore you with any here, cos chances are you know some on your own, or you totally do not care.

1973 was the year they showed Aloha from Hawaii on TV. In 1974 my aunt and grandmother got to see his concert at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. Needless to say, the Aloha from Hawaii had semi permanent possession of the turn table. We knew every word of that album, every breath, nuance, every mention of Kathy Westmoreland and the Sweet Inspirations. “I hope these pants don’t tear up, Baby.”

Then that sad day in August 77 when E expired, he was only 42. On the Lafayette stations and the newspaper let us know everything we needed or didn’t really need to know about the entire situation. I think it may have been the precursor the media blitz that consumes any newsworthy happenings these days.

Moving back to North Mississippi, which is inches from Memphis, in 86, we were settled in just in time for the big 10th anniversary of Elvis’ official leaving of the building. My mother, who didn’t like Elvis, as you’ll recall, taped all movies played, watched all live coverage. It was like nothing I’d ever seen; now we see this type of thing all the time.

When you encounter someone who has never been down this way, their first question about Memphis is about Elvis or Graceland or death week. Elvis Death Week, it’s embarrassing, you must roll your eyes all the way back into your head at the very mention of it. OMG the things people will do. You can’t fault the powers that be for going on with it, year after year. It’s a big money maker. In some twisted way, it keeps Memphis on the map, and you wanna always be on the map.

Okay, now forget all that and let’s concentrate on the man and his music.

Vi’s favorite Elvis song? I can’t pick just one. His gospel recordings are goose bump inducing. His Christmas album is awesome. Once Elvis did a cover of a song, even just goofing off, or a little live ditty, it became his. I can’t think of one cover I’ve ever heard El sing that didn’t blow the original away. He could sing as well in a live setting as with slick producing on a finished recording. Even singing in a language he didn’t speak, it’s as if he’s been singing that way all his life. He had the best backup singers. He couldn’t stay still, soul and emotion oozed out of every pore. Even as I am writing this, I am finding songs and performances on You Tube I was unaware existed that are awesome. Elvis movies, eh, I only care for the musical numbers.

My kids have only ever held Elvis in medium esteem. Oh sure they like a few of his songs, who couldn't like some of them. A couple of weeks ago, the afternoon DJ on 98.1 here in Memphis was playing an Elvis song, probably a Christmas song, a couple of weeks ago was Christmas time. Anyway, it might have been part of her daily “Relationship Roulette” game, because she was talking to a younger listener and she was telling him he would have to get a little older before he could appreciate Elvis. Chris said, “You know, that’s true, Mama. I used to think Elvis was stupid, I’ve always liked some of his songs, but I could never get into him the way you do, but lately …..” Then the subject changed, you know how conversations progress. Maybe Mel can grow into her inner Elvis, too. After she gets over the screamo, death metal, makes Gwar look like The Jonas Brothers music (?) genre phase.

Here is the official Elvis.com website.

I am going to leave you with this with this performance from the ’68 Come Back Special that says it all.


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