Ladies And Gentlemen: Elvis Has Left The Building.

16 Aug
Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. Even though I was 9 months old when he died, Elvis’ music has had a major impact on my life. I don’t consider myself to be a fanatic by any means, but my love of Elvis cannot be denied.

It started in high school when I joined the show choir and met a guy named Adam. His mom and dad were local celebrities in Paducah, known around town for their band playing gigs here and there, but mostly for their history of covering Elvis’ music. They had both toured in the late 80’s with a show called Elvis: An American Musical and Terry Mike, Adam’s dad, had played “young” (1950’s) Elvis. Debbie was in the ensemble. She once told me that her big featured solo was at the top of the show, singing a gospel number at what was supposed to be Elvis’ funeral. She said one night just before the curtain went up, the follow spot operator who was sitting just above her behind the proscenium dropped an entire bag of Skittles, scattering little rainbow-colored candies all over the stage floor and into her wig. As she told it, the only way she could keep from laughing during what was supposed to be a very sombre moment was to play off her chuckles for sobs. That’s a pro, ladies and gents.

The Playbill for Elvis: An American Musical.

The Playbill for Elvis: An American Musical.

Adam’s family was wonderful to me from day one. Adam and I had become close friends through show choir, and they invited me into their home many times. Debbie and I became close, as well. She was so sweet and funny – a cool mom who happened to be a pretty kick-ass rock and roller. She also wrote beautiful poetry. Terry Mike was always great to us, too, but he wasn’t around as much because of performance obligations. The fact that he had actually met The King a time or two made him incredibly intriguing to me, though I rarely ever got up the nerve to talk to him about it.

Because of the Jeffrey family’s connection to Elvis and his music, I became slightly obsessed, too. I bought his greatest hits CDs. I had Elvis t-shirts. I watched the movies. When I got a car, I got a “1ELVIS” novelty plate for the front. I went with Adam’s family to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, one weekend and there I had a “Viva Las Vegas” hat embroidered at a kiosk in one of the strip malls. And, of course, as I’ve already written, we did a medley of Elvis music for our year-end choir show, which very nearly killed me.

Adam and I at Dolly's Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, TN circa 1994. I was rockin' that Elvis t-shirt!

Adam and me at Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, TN circa 1994. I was rockin’ that Elvis t-shirt!

Terry Mike once took several of us to Graceland for a day trip. I don’t know if we actually did or not, but I felt as if we got VIP treatment because of Terry Mike’s connections. I’ll never forget my first time entering the TV Room, decorated in yellow, black and white with a huge lightning bolt in the center of wall and the letters TCB, which represented Elvis’ personal credo, “Taking Care of Business in a Flash.” Or the hideously tacky Jungle Room, which is covered in green shag carpet. The racquetball court now features all of Elvis’ trophies – awards, gold and platinum records, etc. as well as some of his fancier jumpsuits. And across the street, his private jet, the Lisa Marie, which had a “King” sized bed fitted with a huge seat belt that went across the width of the bed so you could be strapped in for safety as you napped. Yes, it was tacky and yes, it was over the top, but would you expect anything less from a man who wore bedazzled white polyester jumpsuits?

Elvis' TV Room at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee

Elvis’ TV Room at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee

My Mom loves Elvis. She’s particularly moved by his recording of “Mama Liked The Roses.” It makes her cry every time she hears it. I sang “Can’t Help Fallin’ In Love” at my friend Lissa’s wedding. For auditions, I have an entire book of monologues about or involving Elvis. And every time I hear “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” I can’t help but think of the episode of “Designing Women” in which they visit Graceland and Julia finds out why people really love Elvis’ music. He’s the butt of a lot of jokes now, but Elvis was the real deal and I will always be a fan.

So, in honor of the King, here are some of my favorite Elvis performances. I hope you enjoy.

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2 Responses to “Ladies And Gentlemen: Elvis Has Left The Building.”

  1. Katherine August 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    Dixie Stampede!!!!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Walking In Memphis With My Feet 10 Feet Off Of Beale | Confessions of a Merch Whore - September 21, 2013

    […] at the same time. The city has an entire week dedicated to Elvis during the anniversary week of his death that draws thousands of fans for concerts and candlelight vigils at his grave at Graceland. I […]

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