Other Players

Remembering The King

1

August 16th every year never passes by without me thinking of Elvis and the day he died, this day, in 1977.

I was a 12 year old 1950s fanatic in August 1977 and read the news as a paperboy delivering papers in a little village in the UK, much as Don McLean described his experience of reading of Buddy Holly’s death in “American Pie”.

For Rockabilly cats like me it just doesn't get any better than Elvis, Scotty and Bill in 1954/1955 when they introduced the whole world to our type of music.

Long live The King.

2

This was the only time I saw my Stepfather cry. Sad day.

3

I was 22, just out of grad school - and playing occasionally with guys who did Elvis acts (even then). Only in the previous 3 or 4 years had I started becoming familiar with his music from the inside.

No matter how much of a personal lodestar he was, when you were of an age not to remember when there hadn't been an Elvis, the thought of there not being an Elvis (Vegas self-caricature notwithstanding) was a little disorienting, like reality had shifted a few degrees.

Not to dilute memories of the King, but I had something of the same reaction - though more extreme - a few years later when John Lennon was terminated by someone else's mental illness.

4

It was the summer holidays. My dad used to take me to his work. He stopped at a paper shack, came back into the car and gave me the paper. Read the headline. Never quite felt the same again- the first important musical figure I was aware of passing in my lifetime.

I get to play a lot of Elvis music. Two of next week's shows, all Elvis.

5

August 16th every year never passes by without me thinking of Elvis and the day he died, this day, in 1977.

I was a 12 year old 1950s fanatic in August 1977 and read the news as a paperboy delivering papers in a little village in the UK, much as Don McLean described his experience of reading of Buddy Holly’s death in “American Pie”.

For Rockabilly cats like me it just doesn't get any better than Elvis, Scotty and Bill in 1954/1955 when they introduced the whole world to our type of music.

Long live The King.

– Wheelgrinder

Cool pic, Dayton, OH May 27, 1956. Gonna use that at some point

agreed, as Proteus described. He was someone we grew up with and it was hard at the time to process a world without him in it.

6

I was born in 1960, Elvis was a hot topic during my childhood. He was an amazing performer, and eyed dubiously by parents (which made him all the more attractive to young people). My favorite Elvis songs were the early ones "Heartbreak Hotel", "Jailhouse Rock" etc. Like James V Roy mentioned, I too had a hard time processing a world without Elvis. He was an enigma, singular, unique, 100% Amaricana. I felt the same way when Jonny Carson died, years later. Both were representative of a time when Americans felt safe and cosey, the days when all a kid really had to worry about was "being home before the streetlights came on". EDIT : Oh and of course "duck and cover". duck and cover

7

I was such a fifties Elvis fan that by the time he reached the 70's he was a bit of an embarrassment. Being older ,wiser, and not so perfect myself ,I have a different view now. Still, I like to imagine another parallel universe where Elvis told the Colonel where he could park his head, and lived a long and revered life as an artist who never stopped creating.

8

I too

like to imagine another parallel universe where Elvis told the Colonel where he could park his head, and lived a long and revered life as a...

gospel singer in a quartet.

Which is, I think, where the Big E would eventually have gravitated, given his taste.


In my version, he and Norma Jean started a relationship when they met in Hollywood during his first movie, and eventually saved each other before her crisis and his drift. By the Kennedy years, they had steadfastly retired from public life in Memphis. Norma Jean went to college majoring in psychology, the better to process her own trouble, and then became a professor of psychology, publishing self-help books.

Elvis formed a gospel quartet, singing for a time only in his local church, then on the gospel circuit. By the 90s and 00s he was ready to revisit rock & roll and became the godfather of the rockabilly revival circuit - except he also did new material.

Norma Jean eventually returned to select character roles, always playing a gracefully-her-own-age mature woman in small independent productions.

That's the way I got it figured.

9

Greg, we have so much in common.

I woke up on the morning of the 17th for my paper round and my dad said, guess who's died. My brother and I guess around for a while and found out somehow. The enormity of it didn't sink in fully - I was 13 years old and had yet to really discover the music of the 50's, but I knew it was big. I remember so clearly delivering all those papers with those heavy headlines.

And now, 41 years on, we lose Aretha on the same day. Aretha was born in Memphis - not Elvis's birthplace, but certainly where he came of age and became the force that we all know and love today. And here's a curious thing; the day that marks Elvis being dead longer than he was alive is March 25th 2020 - Aretha's birthday.

10

To anyone born after Elvis died, it is impossible to explain just what an impact he made. One cannot simply read about his extraordinary feats and fully understand just what it meant at the time it happened. Almost everything about rock and roll, even to this day, has Elvis' mark all over it. Rock and roll had been born, and was beginning to make waves before we knew about Elvis, but once the word got out, and his music began to be played over the radio, there was an explosion unlike anything else up to that time. All the boys wanted to be like Elvis, and all the girls wanted to be with Elvis.

Gone way too soon, but never to be forgotten.

11

Funny, I had a morning paper route as well, and saw many heavy headlines before my customers (including Walt Disney's death), but no announcements I recall of immortal rockers translating early to the domain of living memory. Morrison, Joplin, and Hendrix were even a couple years after I stopped throwing papers.

But somehow, "American Pie" with its paperboy narrative struck home with me when it came out, and I instantly knew how seeing the news in morning hush under a streetlight, in 144 pt bold type, before the sun came up or others knew...put a certain personal edge on it, made me somehow a participant in spreading a new tragic reality.

The music hadn't died for me personally when I was riding my route (1966-68, I think) - in fact, it was still coming to life in the form of the rock of that time - but by 1971 when "AmPie" was released, Jim-Jimi-and-Janis had all gone, and I knew what the phrase meant emotionally.

At that point I understood what Buddy Holly's death had meant in its time, and when Elvis died I remembered the feeling.

12

''gospel singer in a quartet."

One of many possibilities. I read somewhere that he and James Brown would hang at Graceland and sing gospel together. Now I'd a loved being a fly on that wall ! Wonder if any tapes exist of that pairing ?

I could also see him as doing R&R with the younger generation of musicians of the time(Beatles/Stones/ etc. )

13

Add Jerry Lee, Little Richard, and Jimmy Swaggart and you'd have the Conflicted Gospel Five.

14

Only Rock and Roll artists allowed.

15

Well...Jimmy was close. That preachin' he did when I caught him on the AM radio skip, before I knew "who he was," punctuated with that greasy B3 - and his honeyed vocalisme when he was wrenching his heart out of his chest - were prettttty bluesy, in a deep inescapable way.

It was like a mysterious visitation from another domain for me (though I didn't know it at the time), the gospel blues rock & roll south come north across the Ohio in all its gothic dimension. Must've been 1970, 1971-2. We didn't get preachin' and singin' like that in the Methodist church - and it was clearly from another world than Billy Graham's more sanitized soul-savin'. That it just came in bursts between static when I was cruising between the local stations made it equally surreal, and in some ways precious.

But OK, no Jimmy. I was just trying to enlist most from that era and that locale who were deeply torn between the sacred and the secular. The intensity of the conversations, the accounts of personal demon-rasslin', the outrageous humor to break it up ... you can just imagine.

16

Jimmy’s out, George Jones is in.

17

Tim mentions that there were Elvis acts before the real Elvis passed away. 'Tis true. I was one of them. An unruly up and comer with dyed hair, sideburns, some makeup and with stage clothing that was quite uncomfortable in some never-mentioned places, I was the front man for a band in the area that had added the Elvis tribute about a year earlier - and found success with it.

I was home when I got the news. Sick with some sort of stomach bug that made it a little hard to concentrate. It hit like a blow to the gut. Perhaps it wasn't entirely unexpected, but when it happened it was like a light was turned out in some small part of my brain.

A few days later, the band held a meeting. Collectively we decided that we were done. The real "E" was gone and interest in those who copied him would certainly dry up pretty quickly after the headlines faded. Even the agent we had a the time agreed, and it was done.

We agreed to play out just the gigs we had booked and then, to coin a phrase, go our separate ways. That meant our final show would be in October, and it was. Curiously, we pretty much failed to notice that the audiences began to grow rather than shrink (although our last Sunday afternoon show -outdoors at a local fair on Labor Day weekend- literally stopped the fair for an hour).

So we moved on. Life went on.

Who knew there'd still be an entire industry all this time later?

18

I'll take George Jones. A mighty fine blues singer.

But was he conflicted enough?


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