Joined: 17 Sep 2006
|The King'S of Rock & Roll
By: R. Nolson, Musician and Journalist
I'm a huge Buddy Holly fan; oddly enough being a drummer and all. It's not just his music, but the way he defined rock & roll in that era as a self produced musician. I'm a big fan of artist's who stand up strong for their work, and don't allow others' to influence their art. That being said, Elvis Presley was never high on my list of musicians who have influenced me...a complete opposite of what I truly dig about Holly. Elvis never wrote a single lyric or note, and was merely a product of some ingenious record label's marketing savvy; much like many of these untalented stars of today whose agent's and publicity manager's make more than they do for good reason. Ironically, the world lost both Holly and Presley, one tragically, and the other a result of pills (in my opinion, a selfish and stupid way to go). Elvis is still considered a musical Deity more so even today, yet Holly is remembered by all but a track or two on the Time-Life Hits of the 50s collection (and I must say a decent performance by Gary Busey in the 1978 docu-drama).
So when I had the recent opportunity to fly into Memphis on business, the last thing on my mind was of course a stop at Graceland. You could bet my left nut that if my company had divisions in Lubbock Texas, I'd be finishing business up quickly so I could do a drive-by of Holly's house; the site of the torn down "Hi-D-Ho" Restaurant; KDAV Radio; the Buddy Holly Center, and of course the grave marker all for the price of gas. That visit will happen one day for sure, but by sheer convenience I found myself in Memphis on this particular day. It wasn't until after completing the business that brought us to the FedEx capital of the U.S.A. that the lawyer that accompanied me on this trip and I found ourselves with some spare time in the evening to kill before our early morning return to Toronto. Of course we discussed the idea of a visit to the famous Beale Street, and maybe a beer and some Blues at B.B. King's or Alfred's, however the digital female voice rhyming off local attractions on our rental car 'NeverLost' GPS gave us different plans...the word "Graceland" finished up her long list of things for us to do. The look of "oh crap, I forgot about Graceland" hit both of our faces immediately, and with a shrug signalling "ah what the hell", we plugged in the coordinates and made our way over to Elvis Presley Blvd...where Presley's famous mansion resides amongst other tourist traps and tacky Elvis themed gift shops.
Well, theres not much to say about our tour, as it lasted a mere total of eight minutes and about 40 seconds. I'll backtrack...
...you see, when we pulled up to the gate past the famous blue Graceland sign and Elvis' two jets on display at the corner, it was clear from the big yellow gates stretched across the mouth of the opening that the park was closed. Strangely I actually felt a bit disappointed at this, but it didnt take a lot to pull the u-turn and drive towards the exit. Little did we know, the main entrance and ticket booth for Graceland tours was one exit further down from where we pulled in, not to mention, Graceland itself was on the other side of the street, not past the gates to the public tour area as we had thought. We figured all this out as we drove past both and saw the huge sign for Graceland Tours...doh! Of course our mild excitement was again interrupted by disappointment as we went to the proper ticket office only to find out the Graceland tours were closed early as well due to a private function. Okay, Elvis fan or not, when I commit to something I need to follow through dammit! This was just getting ridiculous, and quite frankly pissing me off to no end. I was going to see Graceland if I had to break in...and break in we sort of did.
Now, I'm no Rock & Roll martyr, or career criminal past a few amusing shoplifting incidents when I was younger, but this actually turned into a rather memorable adventure, kinda Fear & Loathing-esque, however my lawyer companion was all of about 4ft tall and Jewish (oh, and we werent on hallucinogens unfortunately). Bust in we did...snuck right on the next bus and they drove us right to the front door nobody the wiser. What we didn't realize was the private party was not some wealthy aristocrat renting Graceland out for his buddys 50th birthday party or whatever - it was reserved by Lisa Marie herself this night for some of her closest friends and believe me, although it would be cool and all, we werent on that particular guest list. This is where the eight minutes and 40 some-odd seconds comes into play...yes, that is exactly how long we hung out before the biggest guy in a Security Guard shirt I've ever seen lurched over and asked that question we pretty much expected and very much deserved: "Y'all aren't supposed to be here are ya?"
I didnt see much room to argue with this guy considering my backup came in the form of a circus-midget-sized lawyer that wouldn't be much help even if he had a gun hidden under his yarmulke! It was best to just comply this time and walk away with the memories and our limited visuals of the lobby, den and dining room at Graceland intact. Luckily the Security Guard found our infiltration humorous - something to be proud of considering I'm sure these guys see similar attempted break-in's quite often throughout the years...he actually gave us a few minutes in the gift shop before he escorted us to the bus and off the property. This is where I picked up a couple shirts to add to the Lucky Shirt tradition Mike and I have shared through our many recording and live performance adventures...the shirts we wore for the gruelling vocal track and mixing portion of our latest release....good thing they worked!
So, although my impression and opinion of Elvis hasn't really changed all that much since this incident, I have gained a new respect for the magic that the Elvis phenomenon does impart. One does not have to like the music or the man to appreciate he was a very important part of the music industry in his own right. As far as dead musical influences go, Buddy Holly and Joe Strummer (for example) both contributed far more to Rock & Roll in my opinion as musicians, self-producers, and rebels against the system, but I can now at least recognize Elvis for his contribution to the superficial side of Rock & Roll - shake your arse while singing other people's songs and become filthy rich. If it was that easy every band would be wealthy...that's why Elvis was the King I guess.
You cannot judge the true significance of one's contribution to Rock & Roll history by the price of admission to their gravesite.