Monday, August 10, 2009

Elvis Has Left the Building

I was a summer missionary in the summer of 1977, and August 16, a Wednesday, was our team's last day in the last church we would visit during that summer.

I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing on two specific occasions: when JFK died (riding home from Gordon Grammar School in the back seat of Mrs. House's 1953 Plymouth) and August 16, 1977.

Mama and Daddy had brought my car, a 1970 fire-engine red Impala, to me the night before. I came back from an activity that afternoon and showered. When I got out, my partner, Fred O. Pitts (Fred-O), was waiting.

"Roscoe," he started, "the King is dead."

I didn't have to ask who he was talking about and he didn't have to tell me. He knew I loved Elvis. I talked, sang, and acted like him constantly. Fred-O wanted to be the one to tell me.

In disbelief I drove down to the 7-11 to get an Atlanta Journal, which was then published in the afternoon (the Atlanta Constitution was the morning paper). I knew it was true when I saw the "Blue Streak" edition of the Journal, only published under special circumstances. The headline told me the same thing Fred-O had: "THE KING IS DEAD". I still have the paper. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal said it best: "A Lonely Life Ends on Elvis Presley Boulevard".

I had seen Elvis in concert at the Macon Coliseum less that two months earlier. He was wearing the same powder-blue suit they would bury him in. I was shocked at his appearance and told my date, "He won't last six months." He didn't.

This week I'll be sharing my favorite memories of Elvis. I grew up with him, and, like most Southern boys, dreamed of being who he was: good-looking, talented, and rich.

Two out of three ain't bad.

1 comment:

Michael Ruffin said...

Two out of three? For Pete's sake, why do you tempt me with lines like that?

At least you didn't write about how you used to jam with Elvis and the boys over at Graceland. I'd have to be p.o.ed all over again.

Seriously, I know how much you liked Elvis and I know that his death was a real blow to his real fans. I myself was a fringe follower.

I look forward to reading your reflections.