‘The King of Rock N Roll’ turns 85
A very special Elvis Week celebration
‘Darn Yankee’ By Mark Randall
Lord a’mighty, Elvis, the King of Rock n’ Roll would have been 85 years old this year on his birthday, January 8. It is hard to believe that Elvis has been gone now for 43 years, longer than he lived.
But really, when you think about it, Elvis isn’t gone. He never truly left us. His spirit still lives on at Graceland in Memphis, in movies and television, and of course, his music, which will never go out of style.
I’ve been an Elvis fan probably my whole life.
My mother introduced me to Elvis. I distinctly recall watching Elvis in Concert, his last television special which aired on CBS in October 1977 only a few months after he died, or at least I think that was it. It was either that or a rebroadcast of Aloha from Hawaii. I doubt I knew who Elvis was at the time anyway. I was only six. But I knew he was a singer and I knew my mom loved him.
My mom has been a fan of Elvis since the 1950s. She told me that she remembers watching television the night Elvis appeared on Ed Sullivan for the first time on September 9, 1956. She and a girl friend laid on their stomachs in front of the tv set in my grandparent’s living room and watched his performance as my shocked grandparents looked on disapprovingly. “He must be on drugs,” she recalled her mother saying. “Nobody moves that way.”
Their reaction was typical of the older generation who were not at all fans of his kind of music, or his long hair and sideburns, or that wiggle of his, which was thought to be lewd and encouraged juvenile delinquency. Mom said her father would always give her a few dollars to buy records.
She swears that she had several of those now priceless 45 Sun records with the yellow label and gave them to my aunt Sue as she got older. I’ve never asked my aunt if she still has them though. If she does, I sure want them!
When you look back at the life of Elvis Presley there is a good reason he is called the King of Rock n’ Roll. He didn’t invent Rock n’ Roll, but nobody sang or performed it better than he did. And the things he accomplished in his lifetime are still impressive: • Elvis recorded more than 710 songs and has sold more than one billion records worldwide.
That’s billion with a ‘b.’
• 149 songs appeared on Billboard’s Hot 100 Pop Chart, 114 of those in the Top 40 and 18 went to No. 1.
• 14 Grammy nominations with three wins for his Gospel recordings • He starred in 31 motion pictures, two theatrically released concert documentaries, and three TV specials.
• 1968 Comeback Special, 1973 Aloha From Hawaii (which was seen by 1 billion people in 40 countries), and 1977 Elvis in Concert.
• Elvis’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sept. 9, 1956 was seen by 60 million viewers or 82.6 percent of all TV viewers.
• His four-week 57 Las Vagas engagement in 1969 set attendance records.
• Graceland draws over 600,000 visitors annually making it the second most visited home in America, behind the White House.
• Elvis Presley’s estate earns about $35 million annually making him the fourth highest earning dead celebrity.
Not bad for a poor kid who grew up in a two room shotgun shack in Tupleo, Mississippi.
As an Elvis fan, I am blessed to live within driving distance of Graceland in Memphis.
I can get my Elvis fix any time I want. And believe me, I do. I’ve lost count now of how many times I have been through the mansion. I also attend Elvis Week events every year in August to commemorate his death, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in November, and birthday week in January.
I’ve seen his boyhood home in Tupelo and Tupelo Hardware where he got his first guitar. I’ve snuck on to his Circle G Ranch in Walls, Mississippi and swiped a brick from his outdoor fireplace. I’ve been to Sun Studio and stood on the spot where Elvis recorded “That’s All Right” on July 5, 1954. I’ve stood on the stage at the Overton Park Shell where Elvis sang in public for the first time. Heck, I’ve even been to high school gymnasiums and armory buildings in Arkansas and Missouri where he played some of his first shows.
I have Elvis movies on DVD, Elvis vinyl records, and dozens of Elvis CDs. I have Elvis t-shirts. I have books about Elvis. I have original Elvis movie posters. I have friends who play Elvis music live on Beale Street every weekend.
And you know what?
I still get all shook up about Elvis! Being an Elvis fan is a lot of fun.
You meet people from all over the world who are fellow fans. It’s actually a lot of fun.
If you haven’t been to Graceland recently, you’re missing out.
Yeah, the house hasn’t changed. The green shag rug carpet in the Jungle Room is still there. But there is a brand new 200,000 square foot entertainment complex now across the street where you can see all of his gold records, his pink Cadillac, and those cool jumpsuits. And for a guy who has been dead for over 40 years now, they still keep finding more things Elvis to show you. There is also a new resort next door, the Guesthouse at Graceland to stay at.
Elvis is still very much alive. And the great thing about Elvis is that there is something for everyone to like. There’s 50s Elvis, movie star Elvis, 68 Comeback Elvis, and Jumpsuit Elvis. Even if you are not a fan, they like to say at Graceland that all you have to do is get them to come, and Elvis will do the rest.
So, on his 85th birthday I want to stay to the King… thank ya.
Thank ya very much.
And as Elvis’s old pal and radio DJ George Klein used to say, America has had 45 presidents, but only one king.
‘Darn Yankee’ By Mark Randall