Oh What a Day
I am old enough to remember vividly where I was, what I was doing, and who delivered the news to me that Elvis Presley had died. Miss Addie stood in the front door of her little house talking to Mom and me with her screen door open. Mom and I were sitting outside in the driveway in our VW Beetle talking to her when she turned her head back to her living room. I don’t remember her television being on or whether it was her radio, but turned back in a nonchalant way and delivered the news that would rock Mom’s world and change me forever.
“Huh,” she said. “Elvis Presley just died.”
I was eleven when he died. I will have to say, growing up on the tail end of his life was unremarkable. Mom was a fan so we had the usual collection of movie albums, 45 rpm records, and eight track tapes (cassette was just around the corner, but not yet). I liked him well enough, but I couldn’t count myself a fan at least not yet. That would take time to develop but once it did there could be no bigger fan than I.
You see, while growing up at the tail end of his life was unremarkable, growing up as I did in the mist of the madness that Elvis Presley the industry became was extraordinary. It hit its stride by the time I was in high school and was at its peak as I hit my early thirties. His songs were packaged and re-packaged into new albums and collectors sets. People couldn’t get their hands on them fast enough. When cassette tapes dominated, the songs were cobbled together again and resold. People ate them like they were food. Sometime during the eighties, it was announced that Elvis Presley the entertainer had surpassed one billion in record sales and that was before the VCR, DVD, and CD phase of music. Once again, re-packaged and rolled out like they were new songs, people attacked them like ravaged wolves.
There was – is – something about Elvis. People just can’t get enough. From the avid belief that he was still alive and all the shows, books, and television specials that generated to the lurid details of his sex life and self-abusive personality, people just have to know about Elvis. His music was legendary and his command of the audience was unmatched, yet somehow the man’s very life became bigger than the music. If you google Elvis, you can read thousands of articles, watch endless video clips of interviews with people who knew him, women who dated him, even people who just met him and you do all this without once touching on the music itself. To this day, Graceland is the second most visited house in the United States, behind only the White House. I have been to Graceland
and his birthplace in Tupelo for that matter. I haven’t been to the White House. I probably will go back to Graceland before I visit the White House.
Whether it’s the man who once delivered a woman a wheel chair after seeing her need for one while watching the news or the man who belittled and berated his friends and buying them more cars than they could possibly need while managing to shoot the screen out of a television or two along the way, people just have to know all they can know about Elvis Presley.
Oh yeah and the music is pretty good, too.
Anyway, it all ended in the early afternoon of August 16th, 1977.
Except for those of us who were raised in the mania of Elvis the Industry, it had just begun.
August 16th, 2016