Just as one remembers where one was when President Kennedy murdered in November of 1963, so too do people over the age of 45 or 50 remember exactly where they were on August 16, 1977. With the announcement of his death on that date shook up the casual listener of music to the Beatles.
How did a humble young man from Tupelo, Mississippi change music, dress, romance, when his day job was a truck driver?
From a very early age, he wanted to give his mother, Glady’s, a better life than she had. His father Vernon new he had a talented son, and bought him a guitar, and in Elvis’ teens, moved to Memphis, Tennessee where Elvis pursued his music career at Sun Records with uber manager Sam Phillips, and the least mentioned but equally important Jack”Cowboy”Clement who would produce and engineer and play and whatever else was needed. Not surprisingly, ‘That’s All Right, Mama” was one of his first hits. Carl Perkins had recorded ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ a few months earlier, but when Elvis recorded it, it put an end to really rocketing Perkin’s career with that song.
But here it is, 48 years later, and there are thousands of people from around the world, lined in single file around his former mansion, ‘Graceland,’ where his fans will wait until 10 a.m. if needed. Yet there are no complaints, only gratitude, if one ha to wait until the next day to file by the memorial garden to pay their respect to Elvis the King. Many countries have royalty, but Elvis isn’t a royal heir, and he is Americas’ only King. But what was different about this youngster from Tupelo that he would change the course of popular music around the world, and influence all genres, and be an accidental leader for integration in the 50s?
First, he was a very polite Southern teenager who put his mama on a pedestal and wanted to give her a better life. But his natural good looks combined with his very natural gifts of being able to sing and move, attracted people of all colors, at a time where sadly, it was an integrated country. Yet Elvis would take the stage and would naturally move and sing and dance unlike any white man had before him. He wasn’t intentionally trying to be like Little Richard and Chuck Berry, the earlier architects of rock and roll. Nicknamed “Elvis the Pelvis,” his moves were very natural, and in 1956, were considered to sexual for television and often would only be sown from the waste up.
There are numerous stories about how The Beatles were so taken with him, that when they met him, it was The Beatles who were shaken up, not Elvis.
Elvis was very moody, and known for his generosity, yet often depressed from losing his mother at an early age, and in 1972, a divorce from the love of his life, Priscilla. Elvis met Priscilla while he was serving in the Army in Germany, and she was a mere 14 years of age. With her parents permission, Priscilla moved to Graceland with the promise she would finish high school, and remain a virgin until they married. And as odd as it sounds, by all accounts both promises were kept. When Elvis and Priscilla divorced in 1972, some say that he could not recover from that, and that was the beginning of his downward spiral into drug abuse, which ultimately contributed to his early death at age 43.
And yet his influence on music continued long after his death. Bruce Springsteen notoriously was caught jumping the fence to Graceland. U2’s Bono tried to imitate Elvis in the early days of U2, and only recently stopped dyeing his hair dark black like Elvis did.
His influence changed the course of rock and roll, and if you ever travel to Graceland, especially during the candlelight vigil, as you hold your candle and listen to Elvis songs blasting from numerous speakers, you can feel his presence….which pretty much sums up a soul that will live eternally, as will his music. Long live the King.
Elvis videos at: www.YouTube.com
Videos of the candlelight vigil and other videos of Graceland available at www.elvis.com