WARNING: If you don’t know or care what happened on this day 41 years ago, this blog post is not going to mean a thing to you. Read it anyway because you need to be enlightened.
Anybody who knows this family of mine knows that we revere his legacy, uplift his music at the weirdest moments and are dedicated to keeping the legend of Elvis Aaron Presley alive among our friends and family. Furthermore, we are always willing to indoctrinate the unfortunate among us who were born too late or into families where the rock-n-roll gospel of Elvis was never heard.
Although it came as natural as breathing, I didn’t have any choice but to love Elvis from the time I was born in 1955. I was welcomed by three older sisters and two parents who recognized greatness when they saw it on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was less than a year old when Elvis climbed the charts to #1 with his song “Heartbreak Hotel.” By the time I was two, the words to his songs flowed out of me as if they had been placed on my tongue by a divine being. Or maybe it was because my oldest sister Charlotte played them 24/7 on the stereo radio console that daddy bought at Sears-Roebuck to play Marty Robbins and Hank Williams records on and to listen to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights. She ran a needle through that first 45 r.p.m. record (while dancing with me in her arms) and all the ones to follow—“Blue Suede Shoes,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog,” and “I Got a Woman.” She also ran my momma half crazy in the process. Momma thought Elvis was a great singer that had some moves she liked, but he had stepped on her last blue (but not suede), postpartum nerve.
By the time I was in first grade, my mother sent me off to the Arabian Theatre with my sisters to see Elvis movies. He made thirty-one of them during his career. Some were terrible at best. Most were cheesy and embarrassing for a star of his caliber. Some were actually almost noteworthy and showcased Elvis’ acting skills that were often intentionally ignored by directors and producers who preferred to capitalize on his sex appeal. Sex appeal sells movie tickets. As innocuous as it was in those days, women, men, teenagers and even first graders recognized it when they saw it in living Technicolor. Throw in some buttered popcorn, a cool dark theatre, a box of Milk Duds, Elvis’ brooding eyes, cheesy love songs, lame story lines, and you’ve created an addiction that cannot be overcome. I am living proof. The first time that I saw “Blue Hawaii,” at the age of 6, I became fully aware that there is an opposite sex and for the rest of my life I would be attracted to it. It didn’t take me long to realize that an Elvis couldn’t be found on every corner, or any corner for that matter. However, I discovered you could find the one that gives you the same weightless, butterflies in your stomach, weak-in-the-knees, Lord help me feeling while riding a ferris wheel as “Burning Love” blared in the background of your first kiss. True story.
On August 16, 2019, Elvis will have abided in the hereafter longer than he lived on earth. Let that sink in for a second because I just can’t think about it. For the last 41 years our family has kept his memory alive. His picture is on my refrigerator. A copy of his death certificate and his last will and testament is upstairs in an undisclosed safe place. My exact replica of Graceland at Christmas is in a closet just begging to make an appearance on Thanksgiving night or sooner. I would keep it on display all year long, but I don’t won’t to be labeled as some kind of wacko Elvis fanatic who needs mental evaluation. I don’t own all of his albums nor does the Elvis channel play at my house 24/7 on Sirius. In fact, I sometimes turn the radio dial to something else because it’s just too sad to remember that he’s gone. I’ve seen numerous Elvis impersonators perform. Honestly, it makes me nauseated to watch their pathetic attempts at “Polk Salad Annie” and scarf throwing. I can listen, but my eyes have to be closed to keep from vomiting. I may or may not have a small altar built in a corner of my house where I honor his memory by lighting candles every August 16th. I don’t own a collection of his movies, but you can bet your last teddy bear that I will watch if one happens to come across the satellite menu. Our family doesn’t have that kind of fanatic devotion. We are subtle, mostly sane, but steadfast.
If a party needs perking up, we always put him center stage because he’s as alive as ever for us. If a baby needs to be indoctrinated, we will not hesitate to turn up “Suspicious Minds” while they are in still in the crib. If a toddler gets all shook up in his carseat, we’ve got plenty of Elvis melodies that will love them tenderly out of pitching a fit.
Up until about 2007, I often fantasized that Elvis was still alive and out there dreaming the impossible dream. With so many sightings of him over the years, (I even spotted a rough looking version of him in Corner Market a few years ago) I had hoped he would drive up to the gates of Graceland in a pink Cadillac all slim and tan wearing his ’68 Comeback black leather suit where he would reclaim his beloved domain and the empire he left behind. After 41 years, it’s just not going to happen. If he didn’t die on August 16, 1977, he would surely be dead by now. It’s hard to swallow, but the King is gone.
Elvis has missed the last 41 years of his life on earth, but we didn’t. We have enjoyed countless moments of loving his music, comiserating his passing, and keeping the memory of that hunka’ burning love alive.
Thanks Elvis. We couldn’t have made it without you.
P.S. We will keep on TCB.
Karen Clark Rasberry, besides being Erin's mom, is an IPPY-award winning author and realtor in Laurel, Mississippi. When she isn't playing competitive league tennis, you'll find she and Erin's dad at the beach with their pup Hooper or playing on the banks of their lake with their grandson and granddaughter, Walker and Helen.