Elvis: 25 years gone...

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley.

I’m too young to remember Elvis when he broke on the scene (almost 50 years ago!) but my mom isn’t. When we got the news (I was 10 years old and living in Wilmette, IL at the time) mom took out those old LPs and we played them until our ears bled. Truly, having a mother who understands rock and roll music is a blessing for a young man.

Then I largely forgot about it. Elvis was just one more oldguy[sup]TM[/sup] in the rock patheon.

Then, in 1984 I was taking the bus down Rockville Pike in Rockville, MD. With me were my thoughts and my trusty walkman. I was listening to DC101, the local rock station, and the evening guy (it was dark out…must have been evening) came on and said he wanted to break format and he played ‘Jailhouse Rock’.

It hit me like a brick between the eyes. Even though the song isn’t really a great example of songwriting (it’s really a piece of simple pop format) the enthusiasm that Elvis put into it captured me there just below Viers Mill Road. I got off about a mile later, hit the Kemp Mill Music store and bought the 45 they had in the ‘oldies’ bin.

I took it home and played it over and over for more than an hour. Given how short the thing is I must have played it 30 times in a row. Mom came in and asked me what I was doing and I told her what had happened. She told me she was glad I’d had the experience and the same thing happed to her 30 years earlier. Then she told me about trying to convince her high school band teacher (in rural Michigan…hello Bronson!) that they should play ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. Mom even said she’d worked out the lead so she could play it on flute.

Since then, it’s not like Elvis has been a prime mover in my life. But he’s respected in my house (by me, at least). Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard…all of them are welcome on the radio.

Mom and I have visited Graceland and toured all the Elvis stuff in Memphis. It was a good pilgrimage, highlighted by one very late night where we’d been bumming around and stopped to get gas. I finished pumping, went in to pay and get something (I’ve forgotten what) and when I left the building I saw it. Across the street was a small building, surrounded by other small buildings in the walk-up brownstone format, that had, over the door, “Sun Records”. Unknown to me I was pumping gas across the street from where Elvis recorded some of the greatest music of the rock and roll era. Mom and I just pulled the car up, sat on the curb, and talked about rock and roll for half an hour. We walked up to the window but it was closed so we just stood there. It was worth it, every moment.

So, Elvis, for all the music, thanks. For the joy in performance, thanks. And for the bond between mother and son, thanks again.

Jonathan: It’s indeed a weird feeling standing there and looking at the Sun Record Company building, no?
Think of all the early greats that walked in there from the cotton fields of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee! Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison on the rock/country side, and Howlin’ Wolf, Joe Cotton, B.B. King and Roscoe Gordon on the blues side, to name just a few. Some of those would doubtless have made it without Sun Records, but others just as surely wouldn’t have made it.
Sam Phillips may have been hard-headed and egotistical, but the guy could recognize talent when he saw it.
Tell your Mom I paid $3 to see the Elvis Presley show in Miami in 1956. The performance was held in a movie theater ! Can you imagine? A few years later, they could have filled the Orange Bowl with an Elvis show. Anyway, that little movie theater was rockin’ when Elvis cut loose with “Hound Dog” :smiley:

I am also much too young to have seen Elvis live (born in '66), but I’ve been a huge fan for a long time. May he rest in peace.

I just finished watching the documentary ‘This is Elvis’ on TV here in Holland, and I was absolutely riveted to the screen. They showed some great stuff, like Elvis’ first TV appearance, Elvis singing with Frank Sinatra right after he got back from his tour of duty in Germany , scenes from Elvis’ home in Bad Nauheim (which is actually only about 30 miles from where I was born), which included a young girl of fourteen named Priscilla Beaulieu, and tons of other stuff.

There were also some really scary scenes (I mean the jumpsuits, belts and capes alone were pretty scary) like Elvis in the limo wih four bodyguards/sycophants talking about the incredible head he got from some groupie. Any appearance of Colonel Tom Parker pretty much frightened me also.

There were also scenes of great hilarity (sometimes unintentional). I think my favorite was Elvis giving a Karate demonstration together with some of his bodyguards. He had a suit that was absolutely incredible. I have never seen someone dress for karate with a collar. The letters EP were embroidered on the back, and the whole thing had garish red and gold trim!!! Elvis started doing these moves like he was Bruce Lee on speed! Then again, he might have actually been on speed at this point.

But even until the very end (they showed a concert he performed six weeks before his death), he had a great voice and he just sang with emotion.

Oh well, somewhere up there, there is probably some really good jamming going on right now with Elvis, The Big Bopper, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Johnny Horton and Carl Perkins. Heck maybe Patsy Cline could join them for a couple of numbers.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the building!!!

I was 13 when he died. I recall seeing the CBS Newsbreak stating that “The King has died” and I thought they were referring to an actual royalty-type king.

He was scheduled to appear in Savannah in September. In fact, the show had sold out within hours of tickets going on sale earlier in the month.