Every time I hear Elvis’ music or watch one of his movies, I remember the first time I saw him. He was my first crush. Maybe that’s why my romantic heroes have features similar to the King of Rock and Roll.
I can still hear myself swoon. It was a hot, summer night near Sarasota, Florida.
I had not reached puberty yet, but I realized I was close to it when the lean, mean “Memphis flash” walked out on a rickety stage, attacked the microphone, hiked up one side of his mouth and shimmied down into a split. He looked handsome and pure one minute, animalistic and sexy the next, while singing in the voice of an angel.
I didn’t know it then, but he personified American rock and roll. How could I know? I was a kid, attending a day camp. Mother drove me and my sister and members of my swim team to see our heartthrob. His songs had inspired us while performing our water ballets.
We were certain Elvis loved women. He told us so in song. He was always wanting to love us and wanting us to forgive him. How could we NOT love him back?
That night, so many moons ago, Elvis surveyed the crowd with an amused look. Our screams made him laugh.
But when the music began, he was transformed into another dimension. He was a wild man, a tiger out of control, stalking his prey with song.
He was the American dream, a sharecropper and truck driver’s son who found fame and fortune. He represented the future, the integrated South. He seemed both black and white.
That night, the microphone and a string from his guitar gave way to his wild gyrating performance. I screamed myself hoarse and my knees felt week. Yet, I’m pleased to say I didn’t faint as others in the crowd did.
It was a night I will never forget, and I feel fortunate I was able to see him then and a number of times after that, even though I later realized he was in trouble.
When he died, I came to the conclusion he was a bundle of contradictions, sort of like the American South.
He spoke out against drugs but he died from a heart attack brought about by drug abuse.
He loved Jesus and his mother. Yet, he cheated on the women in his life.
He was a law and order man who broke the law when it suited him.
He was a tragic figure who has been idolized the world over in spite of the public’s knowledge of his real life.
He was a millionaire many times over but the Southern abject poverty from which he sprang was always present. He was America’s first Southern rock hero. Yet he disliked hard-rock music.
He gave the world and its people a part of the South we will never forget, and since today, January 8, is his birthday, I couldn’t resist sharing my memories of him.