Tuesday August 16th will be the 34th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death and the fans still remember. In fact, each year more and more fans flock to Memphis to pay their respects and remember the King of Rock n Roll. This is my 6th Elvis Week. I went to the 25th anniversary, then the 30th and then every one since.
Yesterday was a great day. In the morning I went to the screening of the documentary Sam Phillips: The Man Who Started Rock n Roll hosted by Knox Phillips and Peter Guralnick at the University of Memphis. Knox is Sam’s son and Peter is the great music biographer. And for those of you who live under a rock, Sam Phillips opened Sun Studio in Memphis in the 1950s. It was here that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich, Howlin Wolf, BB King and Rufus Thomas and many others got their start. Because of Sam Phillips, we have Rock n Roll.
It was a great documentary. I actually learned a few things I didn’t know, because quite honestly I could give the tour at Sun Studio I know the history so well. I love the quote that ‘Sam Phillips was his own best friend, and he loved his own company’ – sounds very familiar. After the documentary, Sam’s son Knox and author Peter Guralnick told stories about Sam and Elvis. It was a great couple of hours.
Later that night I went downtown to the Orpheum Theatre for the Elvis Presley Live: the King in Concert. I was excited because I haven’t seen one of the Elvis Presley concerts since the 30th anniversary Elvis Week. But I was also a bit skeptical because it was not Elvis’ band playing this time.
It was a fantastic show! Elvis’ conductor Joe Guercio introduced the show. When the curtain opened and the music started, the audience went wild. Elvis on stage, at least he looked as if he was on stage, with the band behind him. They used footage from Elvis ’69 performances in Las Vegas on a big screen that covered the entire stage top to bottom, but you could still see the live band behind it. I was so into the show that I forgot Elvis has been dead for 34 years and wasn’t really singing in front of me. From the screaming and cheering I heard, everyone in the audience agreed with me. In fact, every time Elvis shook his hips the girls, I mean the women, squealed. At intermission The Imperials, the gospel quartet who toured with Elvis, performed a few songs. It was a great night, and the most fun event of Elvis Week for me.
Tomorrow night is the annual candlelight vigil at Graceland, the pinnacle of Elvis Week.