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Friday, October 4, 2013

Elvis's Pink Cadillac

Going’ to Graceland

My first time to Graceland. The mansion is modest by today's standards for superstars. And yet, few if any of today's superstars could match the fame and success of Elvis.

How many musicians have been inspired by Elvis's voice in a million? Who can help falling in love with the boy from Tupelo with the looks and moves to go with that voice?

As we drove to Memphis we played Paul Simon "Graceland". We hummed "Walkin' in Memphis" as we strolled downtown. At Graceland we looked for the porcelain monkeys Warren Zevon sings of. There they were in the gaudy jungle room. Lots more Memphis-themed songs rolled through our heads.

I could hear Gillian Welch’s sad tones in “Elvis Presley Blues” in my head as we walked the Graceland Estate. Barely big enough to display all of his gold and platinum records. The voice on the audio tour said Elvis sold more records than any other person, living or dead.

Graceland is frozen in a time when shag rugs, heavy furniture and large TV/stereo combos were the latest styles.

A child's 1960's era swing set preserved on the grounds brings our own childhoods to mind. Lisa Marie Presley, the only daughter of the biggest musical star of all times, played on a swing set a lot like the one down the block from where we grew up. It's obvious this was a simpler time in some ways. Even if Elvis's large plane, named for that same daughter sits just a short distance away. As if ready to whisk her off to the mountains to see snow when the King realized his little girl had never seen snow.

A life of contradictions, cut too short, as have many of the lives of musicians and other celebrities.

We toured Sun Studios where Elvis's recording career began. We heard his first recording. Elvis's distinctive voice and soulful tones, that would soon captivate the world, sell millions of records, and change music, already were present on the record Elvis paid $4 for to give to his Momma for her birthday. Later he gave her the pink Cadillac. That inspired Bruce Springsteen’s song by the same name.

You know, it’s hard to write about Elvis and Graceland without sounding like you are quoting song lyrics. Maybe that’s because so many songs have been written for and about Elvis.

To quote Welch who wrote one of the best songs about Elvis:

“I was thinking that night about Elvis
Day that he died…

Just a country boy that combed his hair
Put on a shirt his mother made and went on the air
And he shook it like a chorus girl
He shook it like a Harlem Queen
He shook it like a midnight rambler, baby
Like he never seen, never seen, like he never seen, never seen.”

I’m going to try to not be sentimental. But you don’t say goodbye to Elvis. You say “until we meet again.”