Saturday evening we watched the new film Elvis.  I’d give it high marks, worth the time, if you have any interest whatsoever in “The King”.

There were three of us a”in the house” literally.  Son-in-law Don came over and joined us.

There are a great plenty of reviews and others personal experiences about Elvis Presley – I thought I’d recall the few intersections of my own life as a country kid with his career.

I was a junior in high school when he hit the big time early in 1956, with Heartbreak Hotel.  We lived in the country, literally, in southeast North Dakota.  Television was months in our future.  There was TV then, of course, but in places like ours transmission of signals was iffy at best and I can’t say I ever saw television until September of 1956.

There was AM radio, but even that was not for casual use.  Somehow or other, though, I do remember hearing that first hit.  There seemed to be something that stuck.  I don’t recall any photos or such.  It was just a voice on a record played over the radio.

Somehow I connect Elvis with Brylcreem (“a little dab will do yah” – never enough), and with ducktail haircuts and sideburns and blue suede shoes.  I overdid the Brylcreem; but no ducktail, sideburns or blue suede shoes.

The next contact was in Valley City, North Dakota.  I was doorman at the Omwick Theatre in 1960-61, and during my time there, Elvis’ Blue Hawaii and GI Blues were big hits.  I saw only bits and pieces – I was working – but there was certainly plenty of customers for the shows.

From then on, Elvis became “The King of rock and roll”, and most everyone old enough knows that story.

Then came the day in August, 1977, when breaking news was that Elvis was dead, at age 42.  Even though I was the most casual of fans, for some reason his death is on the list of deaths I remember, including where I was when….

In December of 1977, son Tom and I joined my sister and her family and we drove south to visit Mom and Dad in Texas.  Enroute, we drove through Memphis and went to Graceland, just to see it.  At the time, shortly after his death, there wasn’t much going on.  No souvenirs or even a photo to present evidence of having been there – but we certainly were there.

Life goes on, and the legend lives on.  Elvis impersonators are still a draw, and some are pretty good.

I’m struck by the common thread, though, of many celebrities like Elvis, and other young performers, who hit it big, early, and died young for various reasons.

We sort of eat our celebrities alive.  And fame has its down side.

Still, the film Elvis is worth the time.  If you haven’t seen it, I think you’ll enjoy it.

POSTNOTE: Today’s generation of young people cannot imagine a time when communication was still rather primitive.  As noted above, we had no television till 1956; radio was AM only, and our family had one radio, perhaps in the country you might be able to access two or three stations, and to my recollection we had no car radio.  And that was it.  Media began to expand in the 1960s, and exploded in the 2000’s.

In addition to Elvis, by the end of the 1950s I’d heard enough Buddy Holly to be able to say I liked his music.  But “the day the music died” in February 3, 1959, I was a sophomore in college 60 miles away from Holly’s concert venue, and I really don’t remember even knowing the concert was going on.  It was a different time.

POSTNOTE 2: Country legend Loretta Lynn died on October 4 at age 90.  Here is her website.  Our local PBS station pre-empted its normal program for an American Masters film on Loretta.  It was a great retrospective, we’d highly recommend.  Check with your local PBS station for information.

We saw Loretta perform once, in her later years, at a concert at Mystic Lake, October 25, 2008.  It was an evening very well spent.

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