With Shark Week over until next season, cable / satellite viewers turn their attention to Elvis Presley this week. I look forward to the celebration far more than I used to.
I became aware of Elvis right before he started with RCA. I was a little guy visiting my father's family in northeastern Arkansas. Memphis was not far away. My cousins were well aware of Elvis Presley and introduced me to him. I was only eight and I hadn't really began to soak up music like I would the next year or two. I heard plenty of Ernest Tubb, Hank Locklin, Carl Smith, and Webb Pierce at that time. Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney, Sinatra, and others got plenty of radio time in our home, but I had no concept of choice, musical tastes, what was good, what was bad. The radio played it. You listened. For some, this seems to be way it is to this day. I liked the songs, but didn't see what the big deal was.
It wasn't until some of he older folks started carrying on about how Elvis' music was trashy and it hurt their ears, that I took notice. It sounded OK to me. Hanging out with my older cousins was more fun than sitting around with the old folks. They liked Elvis.
As I grew. I noticed that people who were fun to be with had the best records and listened to the best stations. By then I had been introduced to R&B and the flood of Rock & Roll that followed, but I enjoyed Elvis' music until the time he joined the Army. Even so, I was not a big fan.
A few years ago, Sarah visited Graceland and reported that it was something that I had to do. I happened to be in Memphis soon after that and did spend some time on Beale Street and went to Sun Studios. I didn't have time for Graceland, but my interest in Elvis was piqued. I read Peter Guralnick's two-volume biography of Elvis Presley and came to appreciate the impact of EP on American culture. I returned the next year with Patti and I finally went to Graceland. I was half expecting to see a tacky carnival-like display with hordes of nut cases fawning over every scrap of Elvis memorabilia. This wasn't the case. The tour was fascinating, even inspiring and, dare I say, touching. I visited his family graves and showed genuine respect for the man and his devotion to his family and craft.
Long live the king.