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Harris Blackwood: Elvis lived 42 years, and we've now lived 42 years without him
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

On Aug. 16, Elvis Presley will have been dead for 42 years.  He was 42 years old when he died in 1977. So, we have been without Elvis for as long as we had him.

It’s a bit challenging to picture the King of Rock ’n’ Roll at 84. I wonder if he would have had a hip replacement or two by now.

James Brown, who was of the same era as Elvis, could still cut a move or two until just before he died at the age of 73.

I wasn’t alive when Elvis made his first national TV appearance on The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show on CBS. The network censors were clearly aware that Elvis was prone to gyrate his hips in a fashion that might not sit well with more conservative families.

He performed “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” and most of the camera shots were from the waist up.

My late friend, Hugh Jarrett was a member of the Jordanaires and was on the right side of the screen when Elvis appeared seven months later on the Ed Sullivan Show.  On one of his Sullivan appearances, Elvis insisted on singing “Peace in the Valley,” because he told his mama he would.

I went to the final Elvis concert at the Omni in 1976. He was ever the showman, but I thought he didn’t look well. But it was Elvis all the same.

Elvis didn’t appeal to everyone. My mama and daddy didn’t care for him. When he made his first appearance in Las Vegas in the 1950s, the older Vegas crowd didn’t care for him. He was paid $15,000 for a two-week run, but the guests at the New Frontier hotel weren’t buying it.

Newsweek magazine called the disconnect between performer and audience like “a jug of corn liquor at a Champagne party.”

It would be 13 years later before he headlined in Vegas and the crowds loved him.

When Elvis died, there were people who devoted entire rooms of their home to the king, complete with photographs and other memorabilia.

Elvis liked shiny things, like white laminate bedroom suites with mirrors and lights. As much as I liked Elvis, I thought Graceland mansion was a museum of cheap furniture.

One of Elvis’ relatives hung on to Presley’s discarded furniture and sold it at auction for nearly seven figures. Someone estimated that at a typical yard sale, it might have fetched $2,500 for the whole lot.

People have paid big bucks for an Elvis jumpsuit or a stage cape. Truth is, Elvis has made more money dead than he did alive.

People will pay handsome prices for some lifetime souvenirs. I found a Babe Ruth autographed baseball for $133,000.  An autographed photo of Frank Sinatra is being offered for $1,300.

You have to wonder how long the Elvis fandom will continue. After Roy Rogers died, they moved his museum to Branson, Mo. It didn’t make it and the memorabilia was sold. Trigger, Roy’s palomino horse, was sold for $266,000. Trigger, incidentally was not stuffed. His hide was stretched over a plastic mold. He was mounted, not stuffed.

Gone now for 42 years, it will be interesting to watch what the future holds for Elvis.

Long live the King’s fans!

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly. 

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