Some know my story - how I got into Elvis Presley. Since this is my Elvis blog, I thought I'd repost it here.
My life took a 90 degree turn a few years ago.
In January of 2000 I went to Graceland for the first time. One of my best friends, Barbara Murphy, who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given 3 to 6 months to live, had made a list of things she wanted to do while she could. Seeing Graceland was at the top of this list. Although I am old enough to remember seeing him on the Ed Sullivan Show, I was never really an Elvis Presley fan. I knew his songs, but had never seen any of his movies, including the two documentaries of his performances in the ‘70s. I didn’t even know about what is now known as the “’68 Comeback Special”, arguably the highlight performance of his career.
So when Barbara asked me to go to Memphis with her in January of 2000, I wasn’t really excited about the idea, but I agreed to go - for her. We flew to Nashville for 2 days and drove to Memphis for the “Elvis Experience” package at the Heartbreak Hotel down at the end of Lonely Street (really!). Elvis music was playing over a loudspeaker as we walked into the hotel. The first thing I noticed once we got inside was a portrait of a young Elvis. I’d forgotten how drop-dead gorgeous he was. The fifties-style lobby had an old television playing old Elvis movies. Once we got to our room I figured out that they had an all Elvis TV station!
We took the tours of all the museums and the mansion. The more I saw, the more I wanted to know about this man, Elvis. We bought a cassette of his love songs for the car trip back to Nashville. Wow, I’d forgotten what a really nice voice he had! But what I still didn’t understand was that what I was to learn about Elvis in the coming months would change my life.
When I got home I knew I had to get my hands on everything I could to know this man better. As weeks went by, I spent a great deal of time trying to learn about as much as I could. I was surprising myself at this interest and I didn’t understand the pull Elvis was having on me. To that end, I went to bookstores, eBay and internet newsgroups to obtain books, pictures, and videos. I found the documentaries of his performances in Las Vegas and on tour, outtakes, home movies and recordings, and books by people who knew Elvis. I wanted anything that might help me know who Elvis was. While the concert footage –especially the 68 Special’ – blew me away, I was still looking for information about Elvis the man - anything that might give me more information about who Elvis was. I still couldn’t understand my new obsession! Then, as fate might have it, I was channel surfing one night – and came across an infomercial for the gospel videos “He Touched Me”. This program includes interviews with people close to Elvis that knew how much gospel music meant to Elvis. Not only did I not know that Elvis had recorded gospel music, I didn’t know that Elvis’ only 3 Grammy awards were for his gospel albums (not counting the life-time achievement Grammy he got at age 36). I ordered the 2 videos as well as the double-CD of his gospel music.
As I watched the infomercial (which was video #1) I started to cry. Sob, really. Where was this coming from? I wasn’t particularly a fan of gospel music. Was I was crying about how sad it was that Elvis died so young, with so much left to give? Well, maybe a little, but not really. Where was this coming from? When the videos arrived in the mail I tore the package open and put video #2 into the VCR. As I cried (yet again), all of a sudden I knew. A light bulb went on. This was the breakthrough to my understanding of the effect Elvis was having on me. And what a wonderful relief it was!
Only four months before I went to Graceland my older brother Michael died suddenly and unexpectedly at the too young age of 56. My grief was intense, as you might expect, but I thought I was dealing with it. However, the more I learned about Elvis, the more I thought about Michael. There were many similarities between Elvis and Michael: both were musicians, both had connections to Las Vegas (my brother was living there when he died), both were gorgeously handsome but had gained a lot of weight, and both of them had heart attacks and were found on their bathroom floors. And on top of that, I was finding pictures of Elvis that reminded me of Michael – especially pictures with certain funny expressions on Elvis’ face.
I could not even think about these gospel videos or music without finding tears welling up in my eyes. More often I would just break out in a sob. It seemed as if the dam had broken! All the bottled up emotions of grief came out. This lasted for weeks. I watched the videos over and over again, crying every time. Same thing for the CDs – I listened to them in my car and would cry as I drove. A friend told me I would solve my crying problem by simply not watching and listening to Elvis. I couldn’t stop. I truly believe that Elvis came into my life for a reason - to help me through my grief. And that he did. After a month or so I felt immense relief, like a huge boulder being removed from the pit of my stomach. I could begin to listen to the music and simply appreciate that voice for itself.
Of course this changed my life, but Elvis wasn’t finished yet.
The Experience Music Project in Seattle was having a month-long tribute to Sun Records in May of that same year. Sun Records is, of course, where Elvis got his start. Because of my new found interest in all things Elvis I just had to attend. I couldn’t believe my luck! I was going to get to meet Sam Phillips (founder of Sun) and D.J. Fontana (Elvis’ original drummer). During DJ’s session I got to meet Dan Griffin who had been managing DJ and Scotty for a while. He showed us some samples of a documentary he was making about the Blue Moon Boys (Elvis’ original backup band). He hinted that he was looking for some help finishing this project and there it was. A new direction for my life. Documentary producer! I am still working on this project, but one month after the Sun tribute I got sidetracked to work on a second Elvis project – “200 Cadillacs” a music/video documentary about Elvis Presley’s generosity. 200 Cadillacs - the website I’ve gotten to meet so many people that knew Elvis well over the past few years. I’ve made several great new friends and my life has changed. If ever one thought a spirit or an angel could guide one’s life, here’s your proof.