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Examiner
  • Ted Stillwell: Elvis’ memory, music continues to rock on 35 years after his death

  • I guess you could say “I cut my teeth on fast cars and rock and roll.”

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  • I guess you could say “I cut my teeth on fast cars and rock and roll.”
    At least, my brother-in-law, Bob Farris, and I spent an awful lot of time running the quarter-mile down at the drag strip. Thanks to his mechanical ability, we were able to replace second gear every other weekend in my mom’s 1953 Ford flathead, and she was never the wiser. I was also an avid Elvis Presley fan back in those days.
    It was 35 years ago this past week that Elvis died, and all of the additional airplay that Elvis songs have gotten these past few weeks has brought back many good memories of a much simpler time.
    Elvis died on Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42 at “Graceland,” of heart failure and drug abuse. At that time, I asked my sister-in-law, Joann Stillwell (who was the biggest Elvis fan I knew), what the world would be like without Elvis. Joann’s reply was, “Why nothin’ different, son, it will be just like when he went into the army, hopefully they will even continue to release new albums every year.”
    While rumors persisted that he faked his own demise – “Elvis sightings” – his career has never really died. My sister-in-law was right! His post-death career has lasted nearly twice as long as his career before he died.
    Elvis has continued to release albums and compilations at a pace that would embarrass Bruno Mars, one of today’s biggest hit makers. Incidentally, Elvis could be blamed for Bruno Mars’ recording career. Bruno was once the world’s youngest Elvis impersonator, starting  around age 4. He performed in full Elvis regalia in the 1992 movie “Honeymoon in Vegas.”
    “The King of Rock and Roll” was born in a two-room shack in Tupelo, Miss., on Jan. 8, 1935 to a working class family. When Elvis was 13 they moved to Memphis, where the boy entered Humes High School. He was an indifferent student who demonstrated little potential and almost no talent, according to his teachers. That is until Elvis climbed upon the school stage and sang “Old Shep” and discovered the effect he had on the teenage audience.
    While he was still in school, Elvis began hanging around Sam Phillips’ famous Sun Records. In 1954 he talked Sam into letting him record a birthday song for his mother. Phillips was so impressed with the black soulful sound of his voice, that he allowed Elvis to record a (white version) of a song by blues singer Arthur Crudup, “That’s Alright Mama.” For marketing reasons, Phillips suggested a country song for the flip side, Bill Monroe’s bluegrass hit of “Blue Moon over Kentucky.”
    Sun released the record and sent the 19-year-old Elvis on the road to promote the country side of the record. By September, Elvis had earned a spot on the Grand Ole Opry, but the management was less than impressed. However, there was no stopping the kid. Flamboyant record promoter Colonel Tom Parker saw the audience appeal to Elvis and signed him to a contract.
    Page 2 of 2 - Today’s industry that is Elvis routinely finishes at or near the top of Forbes Magazine’s annual list of the biggest earners among dead celebrities.
    (This year, he came in second with $55 million gross for the year, behind only his late son-in-law, Michael Jackson.) Elvis has sold over a billion dollars worth of records since the release of his first recording. Yes, that’s billion with a “B.”
    Graceland is one of the most popular tourist attractions in America, the second most-visited private home residence in the U.S. after the White House.
    No doubt, Elvis would have appreciated being the McDonald’s of rock and roll. So, love or hate the King, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
    Ref: Forbes magazine and www.elvis.com
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