Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thoughts on Elvis Presley on His Birthday

It's hard to believe Elvis Presley would've been 81 years old tomorrow, January 8th. Elvis, the "King of Rock and Roll," was in his early 40s when he died, but he lives on through his music and memories of him.

My mom was an Elvis fan. Sunday nights we sat around the TV and watched Elvis and other musicians perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. At other times, Mom would turn the radio on and dance around the kitchen to tunes by Elvis, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, and Andy Williams. She also loved Tom Jones.

Two of her glitzy (and, to be honest, ditzy) sisters made several trips to Vegas, where they saw Elvis and other famous entertainers perform then they'd come home and tell Mom about their adventures. Mom could never afford to go with them -- although she was thrilled when my sister Kathleen and I took her, much later in her life, to see Tony Bennett and Andy Williams perform when they visited St. Louis on separate occasions.

Back to Elvis. I wasn't a huge Elvis fan. I liked some of his music, especially "Love Me Tender," "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and "Blue Suede Shoes" was another good one, but I thought his movies were cheesey. Several friends from our neighborhood Bunco, which has been going strong since 1974, adored "The King" while they were teens and well into adulthood. In fact, a few of them were  upset on Bunco night two days after Elvis died in August of 1977; they were so inconsolable they could barely roll the Bunco dice.

Another Elvis story came from Nick Nixon, a contemporary of Elvis. Nick was a local St. Louis area celebrity, a songwriter, and country singer. Nick discovered late in life that he wanted to write something other than songs, and he became a treasured member of our Coffee and Critique writers' group for several years until he passed away a couple years ago.

Nick once told a story during lunch at C&C of how, while he was in the Marine Corps and stationed in Tennessee, he had a run in with "The King of Rock and Roll." Apparently words were exchanged between Nick and Elvis, a gun was brandished, and an apology from Elvis arrived in the form of a telegram to Nick some time later.

How about you? Care to share any thoughts or memories about Elvis on his birthday?  Or, do you have a favorite Elvis song?


  1. His movies were cheesy, but I liked a few anyway. I did and do like to hear him sing. His gospel music is as good as this Pop stuff...and I loved his smile. Too bad it hid a tortured soul inside.

    1. I liked his smile too, and he had beautiful eyes. And I agree with you about his handsome looks hiding a tortured soul.

  2. I was never a fan of Elvis, but he built quite an empire. The only thing I have to share is this bit of trivia.

    Elvis was set to record Dolly Parton's song "I Will Always Love You," but Colonel Tom Parker wanted Elvis to get a writing credit. He said Elvis got them for every song he released. Dolly did not want to give up half the money she would earn if she let Elvis have the credit. So the deal fell through. Nothing personal on Dolly's end. Just business. She's built quite an empire herself.

  3. Donna--I was going to tell the same story that Val told. I know lots of people thought Parton was crazy for saying no to Elvis... but I think a singer named Whitney Houston did a little something with the song after Elvis Presley got a no.

    A bunco group that's been going strong since 1974? That's amazing.

  4. I admit I was thrilled to hear that you weren't a great Elvis fan either. Love Me Tender was my favorite song, too. What's funny is my husband's grandson has been a huge fan since he was three (almost 6 yrs. old now!) Blue Suede Shoes is his favorite. Fun to remember seeing Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. R.I.P. Elvis and the good old days.

  5. I was a little late for the Elvis party - it was always the Beatles for me. But as a youngster I won tickets to see the movie Viva Las Vegas and I was so thrilled. Elvis was okay but I loved Ann Margaret!

    1. I've heard that Elvis really wanted to be a dramatic actor but was overruled by the Colonel. I'm not sure he was talented enough at acting for that to have been a success but sorry he didn't get his chance. (A western and another drama movie didn't fling him into that fame.)

  6. Elvis never did anything for me. I thought he was okay, liked the same songs you named, Donna, but that's about it. I was in high school when Elvis died. I remember being in the kitchen when my dad made the announcement. My response: "Who?" It took a second for it to click, and then I wondered what all the fuss was about. I've always been a Tony Bennett fan...used to stay up to watch the Jerry Lewis MD telethon on Labor Day hoping to catch Tony Bennett. He's still a class act.

  7. Not a huge fan although I found his younger days far more appealing then the sordid years leading up to his death.

    Critter Alley

  8. How did I miss this post? I loved Elvis's music, and his sneer. I was jealous, not of Priscilla, but Ann Margaret who starred with him in those cheesy (I agree) movies. ha ha
    My cousin lived in Memphis and passed his mansion every day, often saw him out on his golf cart. My late friend lived in Maplewood years ago. She was stunned when a white limo pulled up next door and out came Elvis who had a date with a girl next door to her.

  9. Hi Val,
    Interesting. I didn't know that tidbit about Dolly Parton. Good for her!

    Hi Sioux,
    Yep. My sister started the group. It still has 5 original members, some later joiners (I joined when I returned to St. Louis from Mass. in 1975 then again in 1986 from TX and have been going strong since then).

    Hi Clara,
    That's so cool that your husband's grandson is an Elvis fan. His music touched the lives of so many generations.

    Hi Marcia,
    That is so cool that you won those tickets. I bet that was a trip to remember. I always liked Ann Margaret too.

    Hi Lisa,
    Oh, yes. The Jerry Lewis MD telethon was a Labor Day tradition with so much money raised and so many celebrities.

    Hi Pat,
    How true. Such a waste of talent. Too bad the people around him didn't take better care of him.

    Hi Linda,
    Now, those are some memorable stories about The King!


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