Elvis Presley was the sweetest, most humble and nicest man you’d want to know. – Muhammad Ali
I wasn’t just a fan, I was his brother. Last time I saw Elvis alive was at Graceland. We sang ‘Old Blind Barnabus’ together, a gospel song. I love him and hope to see him in heaven. There’ll never be another like that soul brother. – James Brown
It’s rare when an artist’s talent can touch an entire generation of people. It’s even rarer when that same influence affects several generations. Elvis made an imprint on the world of pop music unequaled by any other single performer. – Dick Clark
Elvis was the only man from Northeast Mississippi who could shake his hips and still be loved by rednecks, cops, and hippies. – Jimmy Buffett
There have been a lotta tough guys. There have been pretenders. And there have been contenders. But there is only one king. It was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody’s ear, and somehow we all dreamed it. – Bruce Springsteen
When I first heard Elvis’ voice, I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss. Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail. – Bob Dylan
The first concert I attended was an Elvis concert when I was eleven. Even at that age he made me realize the tremendous effect a performer could have on an audience. – Cher
When I saw Elvis on television, I just fell in love with him completely. As a singer, I want to be able to relate to an audience like this man did. Of course, nobody can – he was the best there ever was. – Faith Hill
Woman wanted him, men wanted to BE him, or just hang out with him. – Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson
A short film about Elvis’s hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi, directed by Mike McCarthy and narrated by Elvis’s drummer, DJ Fontana. It stars Amy LaVere and Corey Parker.
As we were finishing breakfast on a Saturday morning, my dad said “Hey, Junior, I was thinking we could get your guitar today. I think after our two weekends of window shopping, it’s time. Unless you have something more exciting to do.”
“Nothin’ more exciting than that.”
“That’s what I figured. Crack open that money jar of yours, and we can head over to Main Street in an hour.” Dad got up from the table and then leaned over to kiss Mama’s cheek. “Lauralee, honey, thanks for the wonderful breakfast.”
“Well, they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
“You sure have my heart ten times over because look at the gut I’m getting,” Dad said as he patted his full stomach. Even though my dad was getting the “married man belly,” he was strong and built like an athlete. He used to play football when he was younger, and until last year, we used to play quite a bit when we lived close to all the cousins. At six-foot one-inch, with wavy dark brown hair, my dad still looked pretty good for a guy approaching forty.
“I’m excited for you, Junior,” Mama said.
“Maybe we can have lunch at Culpepper’s Chicken Shack later,” Dad suggested.
“Already thinking of your next meal, Pops, and I can’t even manage another bite,” I said.
Dad and I went to the pawn shop on Main Street and there were only three guitars on display; I recalled there were about five or six when I had stopped in during the summer. I hoped the guys who had to pawn them in the first place were able to buy them back. And now, I was going to take some poor fellow’s six-string. At least I was going to play the heck out of it. But as I looked more closely at the three guitars, I was disappointed.
“I don’t know about these, Junior. I want to get you something nicer like the one we saw last week,” said Dad.
“Yeah, I don’t like them either. Can we go someplace else?”
We walked to the front of the shop to leave. The shopkeeper, a skinny pale man wearing a cowboy hat and a brown-and-white-checkered shirt, who was on the phone, now called out, “Can I help you, gentlemen?”
“I’m shopping for a guitar, sir. But these aren’t exactly what I’m looking for.”
“I’ll call you back,” he said to the person on the line.
He came from behind the counter, and said, “I think today might be your lucky day. Boy, have I’ve got a beauty in the back.”
Before the clerk returned, my dad whispered, “Let me handle the money part. And remember the plan.”
The man returned with a semi-acoustic Gibson. It looked almost new and indeed, it was a beauty. It had a spruce wood body with maple back and sides.
“Of course, let me bring you a chair.”
I strummed it a few times and it sounded tuned up. I fooled around playing it country style. Then, I played some blues riffs.
“Golly, you’re pretty good, and it fits you real nice.”
I was amazed by this guitar’s powerful sound and how natural my fingers felt playing it. I was in love, and it must have shown.
The clerk tried to butter me up with more compliments like how he’d never seen a kid my age play so well before. “I could tell this guitar was made special for you, young man. A match made in heaven.”
“Yeah, it’s nice.” I tried to play it cool. Then I let my dad know with our code statement that this was the one I wanted. “But there’s another one I’ve got an eye on at another shop down on Beale. The man’s holding it for me now,” I said.
“Oh yeah? How much is his asking price? And is it as nice as this one?”
“We didn’t settle on a price, but yes, sir, it is a little nicer.” I gently leaned the guitar on the counter and walked casually to look at the guitars I had no interest in.
My father took a scrap of paper from his shirt pocket and asked the man to write down the price for him. My father looked at it, wrote something else down and passed the paper back. The clerk paused and didn’t write anything down.
My dad said, “Let’s go, son. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this is beyond our budget. I hope that fellow kept his word and is saving the other guitar for you. But it’s looking like we might not be able to afford that one either.”
Wow, my dad maybe should’ve been an actor because he was taking this real serious. I played along, hung my head, and said, “I guess I have to save my allowance for another year. I might never get a guitar.” My dad put his hand on my shoulder as if he was consoling me.
When we reached the door, the man called out, “I think we can work something out, you know, for the kid’s sake.” When my father retuned to the man and to the piece of paper still on the counter, the man said, “This is the best I can do.”
And I guess it was good enough.
As I left with my new guitar, I tried to control my excitement and not feel too guilty for lying to the guy.
At Graceland during Elvis Week, Aug. 2012, 35th Anniversary Celebration
Forty years ago today, Aloha from Hawaii, Elvis’s history-making event of 1973, was broadcast live via satellite. It was the first of its kind.
The concert took place at the Honolulu International Center on January 14, 1973; it aired live in over forty countries across Asia and Europe. The United States did not air the concert until April 4th, as the concert was on the same day as Super Bowl VII.
It’s estimated that over one billion people watched worldwide. This event cost about $2.5 million, the most expensive entertainment special of the time.
Elvis wore a Bill Below-designed white “American Eagle” jumpsuit, and a lot of leis and scarves around his neck, which he gave to the adoring female fans in the front, sometimes with a kiss to go with it!
Watch the concert here: Aloha From Hawaii.
On display at Graceland
Read about the anniversary celebration in the Honolulu Pulse: Updated Classic Caps Elvis Week
On this blog you’ll find excerps of my novel in progress – Blue Suede Blues – as well as related photos, videos, music clips, etc. I have traveled to Memphis, Tennesse to make the setting details of my novel as accurate as possible and to take photos and video to provide my readers with some historical context.
The first excerpt will appear on January 8, 2013, the birthday of a musical and cultural icon who plays a significant role in my novel.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey. I’d greatly appreciate comments and feedback, or simply knowing that you are enjoying what I’m writing.