“What kind of songs do you sing?”
“I sing all kinds.”
“And who do you sound like when you sing?”
“I don’t sound like anybody.”
According to Rock history and lore the above lines are taken pretty well from a conversation between Elvis Presley and Marion Keisker, Sam Phillip’s assistant at Sun Records in Memphis, when Elvis went there to record a song for his mother in the summer of 1953. On June 6, 1954 Sam Phillips, upon Marion’s urging, invited the ‘kid with sideburns’ back again to help in the recording of a song. The rest, as we like to say, is history.
And now 35 years after his untimely death in 1977 Elvis is still remembered by his legions of old and new fans alike. They flock to Memphis each year to visit Graceland and have made it the second most visited home in the United States. They gather at his memorial service in August each year at the Meditation Gardens at Graceland Mansion and, of course, they continue buying his records by the millions every year.
So, why? Why after 35 years is Elvis still so popular with his generations and a several more generations since his death?
We all love a ‘rags to riches’ story of course and Elvis’ rise to fame and fortune was just that. He was born into a fairly average family in Tupelo, Tennessee and was starting a training program to become an electrician in 1954 after finishing high school in Memphis. But those plans changed after he met Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records and started recoding songs.
And Elvis was good at his craft. He had that famous voice that propelled him to immortality and into the annals of rock history. He recorded about 40 number one hits and a number of number one records. Back in his day you had to sell a million copies for a record to be considered gold as compared to the 100,000 you need to sell today.
Elvis recorded music in several genres that touched many peoples’ lives. Some people may not be aware but Elvis recorded Gospel music with great conviction and that his Gospel music, like all his records, sell to this very day.
And, Elvis was different as the great ones always are. He marched to different drummers and he followed different stars than most people do.
He may not have been the originator of Rock music but he came along when rock was in its infancy. While many singers of that time were good, they were bland compared to Elvis. He sang the ‘Devil’s music’ as many parents called it, and they didn’t like the way he swivelled his hips on stage. But their teenage children loved it, especially the girls, and they all loved Elvis despite some of the negativity about him in the 1950s.
And despite being away from us for 35 years there have not been many truly original Rockers since then who are different and will stand the acid test of time. The simple fact was that Elvis was a great singer, his writers wrote some great material for him especially in the early 1960s, the Golden Age of Rock and Roll. There may never be another age of Rock like that. And besides, is there any really good Rock music today?
Some people say that Chuck Berry was or is the true King of Rock and Roll and that John Lennon was the greatest Rocker of them all.
But Elvis fans don’t worry too much about that. They know that no one could, can, or will ever, will ever be able to sing a song like Elvis could. And Elvis will be just as popular as long as they keep on playing his music all over the world.
And they’ll be playing Elvis songs forever.