Why Elvis Presley?
I mean, why should anybody, anywhere, care anymore?
Well, first of all, if it hadn’t been for Elvis, we simply wouldn’t be sitting here reading this right now. Really!
Think about it: If you like, write or think about, and/or make rock ‘n’ roll music, Elvis – indirectly or not – is the reason why.
Prefer those Beatles or their ilk instead? That’s just fine. But remember: There would have been no Beatles without John Lennon, and Lennon’s on permanent record as admitting to the world that, and I quote, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”
Huh! He’s right, of course.
Sure, there were Hank Williams and Chuck Berry, not to mention Jimmie Rodgers and Jimmy Reed, Bill Haley and James Brown, lest we ever forget Bill Monroe and Ray Charles. In other words, two mighty musical rivers they called C&W and R&B, flowing strongly – but separately – cross their chosen ways o’er this great wide land of ours.
Certainly it was only a matter of time before those waters were forever after intermingled to surge forward as one unstoppable force, deep, strong and pure. But for those who simply think it was Elvis’ first recordings for the tiny Sun label in A.D.1954 (downright bizarre, and for their time near-blasphemous, readings of Arthur Crudup‘s “That’s All Right” and the aforementioned Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky”) that bridged those two waters – just the inevitable musical accident waiting to happen, as it were – then think again:
Elvis’ first record was, in fact, the sweat-soaked, blood-stained result of unimaginably fraught months spent searching for that ever-elusive, brand new, and (this was the scary part) colorless “sound.” Just listen to how painstakingly Elvis and his brilliant accompanists, Scotty Moore and Bill Black, lunge toward that tantalizing, all-encompassing, hitherto uncharted “sound.” They made recordings that form no less than the blueprint upon which every musical thought of the past half century is inextricably based.
Here was a man who damn well wore his fingers, and his band, to the very bone in order to break out of the South (off of Sun and onto RCA, too, by the way) in his quest upwards and onwards toward global stardom and damn-near universal immortality. Indeed, here’s one boy who unfailingly “yes ma’am”-ed and “no sir”-ed all the right people, deigned to sing at a hound dog (not to mention kissed Ed Sullivan‘s black and white ass) in order to get himself, and his wonton moves, onto TV. And in doing so, he spread his beautiful madness irreparably and irrevocably around the globe … only to seemingly toss it all away and spend the entire 1960s doing time on the silver screen while his protégés in all their manifest forms (Bob Dylan, the British Invasion, even Jimi Hendrix) took over the public airwaves. For a while, anyway, that is: One hour of prime time just before Christmas of ’68 was all it took for Elvis to forever regain his throne.
Naturally, as all martyrs to their various causes must, Elvis ultimately sacrificed himself and his career upon the unforgiving altar of public opinion, heading way down just as his ex-posse were nailing him to the cross with their sordid little book Elvis, What Happened? For most out there, all that soon remained of our hero was the bloated, pill-bellied National Enquirer cover boy who seemed content to sweat, mumble and at times even “moo” his way into the realm of truckstop immortality (witness, if you must, videos of his final concerts of 1977: gut-wrenching and ultimately heartbreaking footage of apocalyptic artistic decline).
However, despite this most bitter of ends, there’s really not that much needed to say when looking at this man’s life and career, from Tupelo, Miss., to Hollywood, Calif., and all the way back home again. That’s because, you see. he really was The One. There’s never been another like him. There never will be.
In fact, there honestly doesn’t have to be anymore, does there? He did – and, most importantly sang – it all. For me.
Even for you.
— Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M’Lou Music label.