By John Moore
There are events that are so significant that virtually everyone can tell you where they were when they happened.
The loss of Kennedy, the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, the moon landing, and of course 911.
But the death of Elvis came to mind recently when someone mentioned it was his birthday. When I looked up his birth year I was taken aback.
Elvis would have been almost 90. The age of 88 to be exact.
What’s even more jarring is that he’s been gone longer than he was here. He’s been gone 46 years.
There are at least two generations walking among us who weren’t even born when The King left the building. The man who was arguably the biggest deal of the 20th Century is still big business. Even I have been to Graceland. Twice.
Elvis may be gone (he’s buried with his parents in front of Graceland), but he’s not forgotten. He can’t be. He’s big business now. Much bigger than he was when he was still touring; rhinestones and all.
To be completely honest, as a younger person I wasn’t a huge Elvis fan, but understood how big of a deal he was at the time.
When he died in August of 1977, I was in high school. Even though he hadn’t had a number one hit in years, the older, pudgier Elvis could still pack concert venues.
Like many guys who grew up in the 60s and 70s, the Beatles influenced me to want to play guitar. And I did. I took lessons, got in a band in junior high school and played anywhere we thought there’d be girls.
Just as the Beatles influenced my generation, Elvis influenced theirs. The Beatles said so. All Fab Four of them were thrilled to meet him. Even though they’d become bigger than Elvis, more than one report of their meeting at Elvis’ California home indicates they were star struck.
I never got to see the Beatles perform, but I have seen Paul and Ringo play individual concerts and I was star struck. And I was sitting in the rafters. The cheap seats.
You have to give Elvis credit for leaving the Beatles in awe.
And when it comes to credit, Elvis gets almost all of that for bringing Rock and Roll to the forefront and sending it mainstream. John Lennon was quoted as saying, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”
Not completely accurate, but pretty close.
If you look back at what was popular on the radio and was selling in music stores before Elvis came on the scene, it was songs such as “How Much Is The Doggie In The Window” and “Three Coins In A Fountain” that dominated the charts.
Elvis moved that hound dog from the window and into the very being of American teens.
I mentioned Graceland. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan, you have to visit Elvis’ home if you’re in Memphis. They left the house as it was on the day he died. So taking a tour of where Elvis lived is truly like going to visit the place when he was still there.
The kitchen still has the cast iron skillet on the stovetop where his cook made him fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, bacon, and his other favorites. It’s a reminder that even though he was one of the most famous people in the world, he was still just a Southern boy.
So, where was I when I heard Elvis passed? I was playing with my band at a county club in Arkansas on the Little River. Yes, there were lots of girls there, and yes, everyone was sad to hear the news. Especially the moms of the girls.
I remember thinking that it was sad, but that it shouldn’t be that unexpected since he was older.
He was 42. Oh, the perspective of the young.
We now know that Elvis had not been healthy for much of his adult life, and he had a bit of a problem with over medicating. A path many a famous person has traveled. But he still recorded and toured. The show, as they say, must go on.
I wonder if Elvis would be more impressed with the fact that we are still talking about him on what would have been his 88th birthday, or that he’s still a business and he’s generating more money now than he could have ever dreamed of when he was here.
Either way, he’s still The King. Thanks, Elvis. Thank you very much.
©2023 John Moore
John’s books, Puns for Groan People and Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.