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  •  The EvO:R Street Journal

    The EvO:R Street Journal
    Editorial statement
    Dedicated to the culture, business and interests of the indie artist. EVJ delivers controversial points of view, hard-news commentary, Industry Insites, artistic prose and photography and welcomes responses (pro or con), feedback and topic suggestions from readers. If you would like to submit an opinionated article, inspired poem, photo or essay to EVJ, forward all copy to Editor ESJ and put To the Editor in the subject field.

    Remembering Elvis
    By Doc Lawrence

    Accompanied by the great maritime writer, John Christopher Fine, I visited Memphis, the undisputed birthplace of Rock and Roll to learn more about important things like my Southern heritage. Fine, who divides his year between Boynton Beach, Florida and Scarsdale, New York, was the perfect companion to enter all the music shrines of Memphis. Equipped with a superior intellect and an open mind, he has that rare eye for detail many writers I know lack.

    I shared with Fine my childhood stories about Elvis Presley. I saw him when I was eleven at an outdoor wrestling venue in Atlanta before superstardom, which then was about a year away. He actually climbed over the ropes and performed in the ring, had blonde hair, and was backed by two other musicians, Bill Black on bass and Scotty Moore on guitar. There were no drums. In less than two hours of beholding songs I had never heard and watching this kid shimmy all over that wrestling ring and how those pretty girls took to him, I would never be the same person. I saw the world from the top of the mountain and liked what was there.

    Over the next years, I learned how to play the guitar, formed a band while I was in undergraduate school at Florida State, and performed at college fraternity houses in places like Athens, Gainesville, Coral Gables, Tallahassee and Tuscaloosa. I remained a lifelong Elvis fan. I remarked to John Fine that Elvis, in my opinion, invented Rock and Roll and I could prove it.

    We entered the old building near downtown Memphis where Sun Records still exists. The sacred shrine of Rock was the life’s work of Sam Phillips, and the recording home of B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, Wanda Jackson, Roy Orbison, Elvis and countless others. When Bob Dylan first walked into this studio, he fell on his knees and kissed the floor. U2 recorded an album here. Paul McCartney’s PBS special was taped in the room where we stood. All of them said in one way or another that it was Elvis that brought them to Memphis.

    I didn’t kiss any floors, but I found one of Johnny Cash’s guitars and strummed it to my own poor version of Elvis’ “That’s All Right Mama,” the song he recorded on the spot where I was standing around 1 p.m. on July 5, 1954. It was Presley’s synthesis of black blues, country, gospel and some cerebral improvisation and it became known as the first Rock and Roll recording.

    Sun Records attracts visitors daily from the four corners, but can’t quite match the tour busses and throngs invading Graceland, the old mansion where Elvis lived, died and is buried. It is quite a museum and little has changed since the King died at age 42 on August 16, 1977. The gravesite is striking because of the enormous number of floral wreaths and bouquets left by visitors daily. That particular day, school children from France and Japan were there, leaving flowers and handwritten notes, some wiping away tears.

    Ken Williams is a friend from Bogalusa, Louisiana who actually backed Elvis in 1954 at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. Williams, who has a PhD in pharmacology, remembered one of the songs. “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” He reminded me that this was the song on the flip side of Presley’s first hit, “That’s All Right Mama.” Williams said Presley stayed in touch with him through the years.

    I stayed at The Peabody, the Memphis landmark hotel, home of the marching ducks and the Lansky men’s store. Bernard Lansky became known as “clothier to the King” and when Presley became famous, he sought Lansky's help many times. Lansky dressed Elvis for his first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Elvis didn't have the funds to pay for the outfit at the time, but Lansky floated him the loan and thus began a long standing working relationship between the two. For his funeral, Elvis was dressed – for a final time – in a Lansky suit. Lansky, a quiet man, said “Elvis always addressed me as ‘Mr. Lansky,’ and was such a polite man.”

    Memphis remembers the King during this month, recalling his life and music. Elvis impersonators are omnipresent. Beyond Memphis, Elvis celebrations are held everywhere from Scarborough, England to the small Blue Ridge Mountain town of Clarkesville at Joni Mabe’s memorabilia museum. I know a lady in Decatur who has an Elvis room in her house loaded with images of her King. His estate still rakes in millions annually and Graceland is second only to the White House as the most visited residence in the country.

    Hugh Jarrett, one of the remaining members of The Jordanaires, Elvis’ first background singing groups, is a genuine link to Elvis. His home outside Atlanta has walls covered with photos of his performances with Elvis, including movies and television appearances. The telephone plays “Jailhouse Rock instead of ringing, a gift he said from Presley. Jarrett was with Elvis in Las Vegas for stage performances and acted as emcee for many of his concerts in the years before his death. He recalls marathon recording sessions in New York in 1956. “We began early in the morning at RCA studios, and put together maybe 20 songs. I remember doing ‘Don’t Be Cruel,’ about 30 times. The kid was really a perfectionist and always a good friend.”

    I have a famous painting by Folk art legend Reverend Howard Finster. During an interview at his home in Summerville, Georgia, Finster told me that he saw Elvis in visions and while he was, of course, dead, his soul “had not come to rest. He had not yet completed God’s mission.” Finster said that in the visions, Elvis was a child, probably poor, dressed in farm clothing, wearing a straw hat and had angel wings. The painting Finster gave me is titled “Winged Elvis.” It is mounted over my bed and in ways I can’t explain, it brings me peace.


    ESJ is looking for writers/poets for our next issues. All work is appreciated and will be published (with the exception of articles containing racism, bigotry or other demeaning topics) Also, this is a PG-13 rating and will be censored if you do not edit it. Please e-mail The EvO:R Street Journal.
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