My Childhood Trinity, Part One

Throughout my childhood in a small town outside Chicago, I idolized just three larger-than-life figures:  Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley and Leadbelly, aka “Huddie Ledbetter”.  Everything and everyone else in popular culture washed over me.  I worshipped each god in this trinity, so to speak, in equal strength and measure.

Elvis was the problematic idol—he had a widespread cult among both boys and girls and especially young women.  Only men disliked him:  they knew trouble when they saw it. Elvis initiated what became known later as “the sexual revolution”. Therefore, although he was like the proverbial older brother you never had, he also seemed a bit weird and androgynous—off putting to us boys approaching puberty.

Our dads worked in distant factories or in offices in “the city”.  Their influences on our social life and perceptions of culture, if any, were weak.  Thus, Elvis kept on dancing and singing in our minds uninterrupted, and we were constantly surrounded by fellow cultists.  Girls and women went especially nuts for him.  Even older ladies.  “Oh, he’s such a nice boy!”  They knew fertility when they saw it.

The black community nearby (where Katherine Dunham had spent her childhood) embraced Elvis. They particularly sympathized with a southerner, same as they did my mother, who hired Imogen, a part-time housekeeper and babysitter from the neighborhood.  Oddly, though, my mother didn’t care for him.  She disliked movies (the darkness bothered her) and seldom listened to the radio, and then only to country and western stations.  She preferred the records of folk music from her childhood: The Carter Family, Woody Guthrie and the new interpretations by The Weavers and The Limelighters.

Such was Elvis’ genius that, literally, all of humanity was affected from the first moment he stepped on stage to the present day.  I remembered this when I saw the little logo used to observe Michael Jackson’s death.  It was his figure in a familiar pose:  back arched, knees bent and feet up on the toes of his shoes—a version of  one of many poses Elvis first popularized.  Elvis was popular music’s Beethoven and teenage dance’s Nijinsky, bringing the forces of nature to a sterile, lifeless post WWII world.  Who did it before?  Who’s done it since?

Many dismiss his movies, but they’re wrong.  The 31 musical films he headlined presented the true Elvis, and our cult’s complete program.  I saw only a few, but they were enough.  The Glen Theater in downtown Glen Ellyn showed them on Saturday afternoons, where we’d flock after chores.  Everyone left the movie as if intoxicated and transformed in the bright afternoon light.  In the following weeks we’d dress differently, depending on the movie’s theme.  Lighter, darker, tougher, gentler, smoother.  We also applied large gobs of hair cream to shape what hair we had into side sweeps and the little conch in front.  I practiced my left eyebrow lift-up for hours.  This was not exactly a mystery cult.

Elvis was a great actor—very resourceful with throw away stories and scripts.  He played troubled teens well; an aimless, happy-go-lucky drifter adequately; but he was best as a challenged young man, be it from business worries or as an ex-soldier returning to his dad’s company.  Overall these B-flicks were formulaic and, by today’s standards, dreadful.  But as vehicles for the Elvis gospel, they were magnificent.  We’d sit and wait for the songs and dances, most of which were breathtaking.  He was always amusing, with the personality of a genie from a bottle.  There was the air of a cunning trickster about him, perhaps the influence of his Cherokee grandmother. Recently I saw both “Blue Hawaii” and “King Creole” and they were so fresh and exciting that they could’ve been made yesterday.

A masterful guitarist, he also competently played bass, piano and drums.  (He was even a certified Black Belt in karate.)  His music composing consisted of only a few songs, but he arranged all the others.  He molded and shaped each song, rather than learned and read it.  (In this he was similar to Sinatra, who hated him.)  Performing music was his greatest passion, even more than his family or many other diverse pursuits.  It is revealing that he won only three Grammys—all for his gospel records.

His mom’s early illness and death in 1958, most of which Elvis missed while stationed two years with the US Army in Germany, almost killed him.  (Quick—name a pop star in the last 30 years who served in the military overseas.)  Always shy, he gradually felt more so and, over the remaining two decades of his life, withdrew from the enormous potential of his career.  It is almost incomprehensible, but Elvis could have been much more popular than he was.  Yet, with this psychic limitation, he became the greatest selling solo performer in the history of music.

A manipulative manager, who was afraid of sending him overseas due to his own legal and immigration problems, convinced him to stay in the U.S.  “These are your real fans”, etc.  Of course, it was baloney and the results were tragic.  Had Elvis toured the world the way the Beatles did the U.S., he’d have prevented the “British Invasion” and spared us the many adenoidal mop tops.  In turn, the UK, Europe and Asia might have broken their postwar cultural molds much earlier than the 1980s-1990s.

Alas, the selfish manager, “Colonel Tom Parker”, disabled The King, and thus enabled the Fab Four to leave their home turf in safety and invade our popular music industry.  It was war!  The Beatles look like girls—a big problem for 11-12-13 year old boys. But they were only the first of an assault force of at least a dozen bands of shaggy, thin, and—for the most part—talented and well-trained musicians.  The problem was—except for the Animals—they sang through their noses. But like all invasion forces, the one in 1963 was well planned and provisioned.  The boy ensembles were like musical death squads.  Strangely, too, they all looked alike, as if taking a page from British military dress.

These foreign invaders deliberately used American musical styles—rock, country and blues—and reshaped them into a sort of “super glue” of pop music that American youth found irresistible—especially very young girls, 11-12-13 year olds in particular.  It was a disaster for Elvis and for us, his loyal soldier-fans.  Hence, doubts that we had formed over our years of Elvis worship, crystallized in the face of the British onslaught.  We “had to have” the Beatles.  The girls mobbed them, and we mobbed the girls.  So, in effect, we “fragged” our sergeant!

Elvis made a big target.  He was not a group, but a lone individual, often performing solo with his guitar for a girl or her mother.  Other times he sat surrounded by men beating drums, bongos or tin cans; still other times he fronted an old-fashioned swing band under a simple spot light.  Never was he a member of a group.  That was the Old World, now re-imported from Britain. Too bad for him and too bad, ultimately, in my opinion, for us.  He could have conquered the world with his Caesar-like genius.

However, the Fab Four launched their D-Day invasion of AM radio in the early winter of 1963.  They were a polished product that was well-marketed.  No one had heard their sustained and textured electric guitar sound, artfully constructed songs full of compact syncopations and, especially, Ringo’s fantastic drumming.  As the old saying goes, “It was over before it started”.  I’m not sure Elvis even noticed.

No matter to me.  I always preferred the dancing, singing, facial expressions, clowning and awesome charisma of The King. Elvis had it all and gave it all and we were grateful.  Although, in a way, he abandoned us, it wasn’t his fault.  His manager was monumentally greedy and stupid.  The American public was left with either the aging “Rat Pack”, surf or bubble gum as our signature American musical styles.  No wonder the nation turned to drugs.

As I say, Elvis was the problematic idol.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 at 9:03 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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38 Responses to “My Childhood Trinity, Part One”

  1. Tony York said:

    Whenever someone lays out opinions like this it provokes response. That’s a good thing; we examine what we think and why.
    I’m a loyal fan of The King but having trouble agreeing with the artistic protectionism I read. Some parts of the Invasion reminded us of our own musical roots in the Blues. Jagger & Clapton & Mayall fed us a diet we’d been neglecting. Jimi Hendrix (not my idea of a bubblegummer) went to UK to develop his artistry & get financially established before returning as Blues Bodhisatva (sp?). At the time there was a better market there for both live and recorded Blues in much the same way as Brubeck drew bigger crowds in Europe than here.
    Cultural waves wash all sorts of stuff onto the beach; that stuff with the true gravitas remains over time. Jimi’s stuff, especially that later stuff with less studio gimickry, still works for me as well as Elvis’ or Aretha’s or Satchmo’s or the Temps’.
    So why did Elvis turn to drugs? His case seems more like the departed Mr. Jackson’s than Keith Richards’ or Amy Winehouse.
    Thanks for the stimulation.

  2. George said:

    Hey Tony, thanks for the post. I was trying to say that Elvis was, in a sense, the first “liberator”, and that the ensuing social phenomena generated by him stimulated an over-reaction. We got locked back up again, IMHO.

    I agree wholeheartedly about Aretha and Satchmo, et al, but maybe I guess that’s what I’m trying to say a bit differently. I think the “corporatism” of the music machine business killed the music. The essence of music is dance. Dance is the beginning of all art, in my view. The Beatles and everything afterward began the “listen to it” craze, and that led to the passivity that has paralyzed our entire culture. But I don’t mean to “blame” the Beatles. I hope I didn’t sound like that. Just voicing my opinion: Everything after Elvis pales in comparison. Nice to hear from you again.

  3. Glynn Springer said:

    Should we presume that Elvis might have been a gardener since he was from the south and he sang such greats as Polk Salad Annie, Blueberry Hill, Green Green Grass of Home, Cottonfields, Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees, In the Garden, Mama liked the Roses, etc. Don’t step on my blue suede morning glories.

    I’m all shook up thinking about it!

    Thank you. Thank you very much.

    -Glynn (Memphis, TN)

  4. George said:

    Wow, Glynn, that’s hilarious. Yours is one of my favorite posts of the last 3 years. Please, please, please—post again. And, oh my gosh, you live. . . in. . . MEMPHIS!

  5. Debbie Fitch said:

    I loved reading the posting about Elvis because it made me feel young, and I’m approaching 60. I was one of the “very young girls” who fell hard for the Beatles. At the time I never could understand Elvis’s appeal. His sexuality could be frightening to pre-adolescent girls, while the innocence of the Beatles’ early music was reassuring.
    Now when I hear Elvis’s music, I’m sorry I missed out, because he really did have a beautiful voice.

  6. George said:

    Thanks very much, Debbie. I’ve had some further thoughts on why the Beatles were such a “hit”.

    Think for a second, or go with me on this one. The Beatles were from Liverpool—north of England, the same general area where the Industrial Revolution started. The Beatles were pop music’s “industrial revolution”, right?

    Here’s the US (and the rest of the world) doing everything in the music world “by hand” so to speak. County fairs, pig-races, demolition derbies, and—in the midst of it all—little wooden stages with variety acts, some of which would get recorded on portable equipment. Then, “studios” were developed as somewhat controlled indoor versions of the live acts. This pertained to the ethnic communities, the rural or “country” black, brown and white communities, the urban or vaudeville shows—all the way down the line.

    Think also about the image the Beatles conveyed: they were “corporate”. They even wore little, modified business suits! Also, their signature was a combination head-shake and head-swivel while they kept their bodies straight and stiff. And then they’d hoot at the same time. This is a symbol of the factory whistle. Imagine the difference between a quartet of human factory whistles and a hip-shaking, gyrating, blues-shouting, bad-boy fertility god. Elvis was a one-man wrecking crew—nothing “factory” or “corporate” or “machine-made” about him. He was the polar opposite of the Beatles in almost every way imaginable.

    Consider also the concept of the “division of labor”. The Beatles each had their little cubicle-like job. You can just imagine the departmental supervisor touring the office with a group of visitors. “Here’s John—he does some lead singing and plays what’s called the rhythm guitar. . .and over here we have George. Now, he does blah, blah, blah, etc.” Elvis was the Farm, the Beatles were the City. Elvis was, at heart, acoustic. The Beatles were electric and machine-made.

    If anything, as I suggested, the Beatles were a digression, maybe even a step backwards from the spontaneous and “original” of a broad array of musical cultures.

    It’s peculiar: I liked the Beatles very much when I first heard them. It was when I saw them that I got turned off. But that’s just my view.

    Thanks again for reading my post, Debbie.

  7. Karen Campbell said:

    Ah, Memories! Elvis was the first entertainer to catch my ear after Perry Como. I had and still have my official Elvis Stuffed Hound Dog. It was given to me by the teenager next door. My aunt Stella owns every piece of music Elvis ever recorded. I was told the Beatles were bad, to stick with Elvis. Alas, I didn’t fall for the Beatles but The Hermits, and other invasion groups that remain my favorites still today. No one can match Elvis for personality and talent in the long run. Thanks for the trip back in time. Long Live the King. (Teddy Bear just came on the oldies channel as we speak)

  8. George said:

    Yes, Karen, “Catch A Falling Star” by Perry Como was my very first musical memory after my mother’s lullabies. I remember it vividly and very little else—I was just a toddler. Much later, I could never understand Sinatra’s appeal. Como was it with Dean Martin and Louis Prima close behind. Sinatra always struck me as dull, which was strange since everyone else loved him. Thanks for the many nice memories. Long Live The King.

  9. Judy said:

    I don’t believe I have ever read since a nice story concerning Elvis. It was so well written and I enjoyed every minute of your opinion of Elvis.

  10. George said:

    Thanks very, very much, Judy.

  11. Judi Fiest said:

    I was not an Elvis fan either, but he still managed to keep me spellbound, so I truly enjoyed your article. It explained something about the fascination that only a well informed fan of our age group could. Good job! JF

  12. George said:

    Thanks. Judi. You’re very kind

  13. linda said:

    Elvis is my King. I love his music and movies.
    I love your writing. With regard to another of your writings, I to hate this high tech, fast paced world we live in, and well “snap my suspenders” I preferr to live in my garden, and listen to music of nature.

  14. George said:

    Thank you for the commendations, Linda, you are too generous! I’m glad you enjoy the blogs.

  15. jo said:

    well said…and now i am plunged into the depths of despair and depression…

    hindsight is so much prettier than present…

  16. George said:

    NO! Don’t despair! Elvis represented everything good and hopeful. Just crack open his greatest hits. Or, better yet, one of his gospel albums. Plus, you have the summer garden to snap you back into the present. Sorry to bum you out!

  17. judy glascock said:

    Chet Adkins set Elvis up with the Jordanaires, and also worked with the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison. I climbed over a fence to hear Jerry Lee Lewis when I was fifteen years old. My mix was Pet Sounds, and the Beatles never were anything but part of it all. Living in Nashville, going to venues to hear blues and country-was all part of the music I listen to today. And then, I garden. Today my mortgage broker tomato gave me one tomato. It has been a cool Summer in Nashville, so there haven’t been many tomatoes, but it’s fine for me to set up some more raised beds. Did I say I have a friend in West Memphis who went to high school with Elvis? Yep. I’ve been in the right part of the world for music.

  18. George said:

    Wow, Judy, thanks so much for the terrific memories. It’s been a horrible year for tomatoes here in PA as well. They are creatures of heat and sunlight. High school with Elvis—what a friend to have. Many memories.

  19. Mark said:

    Caesar-like genius? You’re pulling our legs, right? It’s humorous stuff if you mean it to be. It’s also an artful presentation of the childish admiration and devotion that young people have for their teen idols, but is that all it’s supposed to be? I can’t tell where your evocation of youthful mania gives way to an opinion that you would hold as an adult.

    I was an Elvis fan during the 50’s and early 60’s, but I don’t grasp your animus against the British groups. Are you serious? Do you remember the state of American pop/rock at that time? Did you hear enough Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vinton and Paul Anka? The Brits did us a huge favor by pushing them off the radio. And I still think Blue Velvet was a great song.

    Your article, taken at face value, sounds xenophobic at best…… even addled with regard to your speculations concerning Elvis’ potential impact in Europe and Asia. It’s unclear to me what you’re suggesting. He could have torn down that wall before it was even built? The French could have gotten in touch with their sexuality?

    I can’t agree with you concerning the movies, but that may be because you don’t even seem to agree with yourself. The King’s movies were on a par with the Beach Blanket pap with the exception of Jailhouse Rock, Love me Tender and King Creole. The music was generally lamentable. It bears hardly any relationship to the Sun Sessions or his early RCA material. Very, very few of those movie tunes hold up today.

    Rave on, it’s a crazy feelin’.

  20. George said:

    Dear Mark – Thanks for your thoughtful post. Yes, “Caesar-like”! I really mean it. Elvis never performed abroad. He’d have smothered the British boy bands in their sleep, figuratively speaking, and it would have been a good thing. They’d have found a deeper wellspring for their own musical talents. We’d have been spared all that unbelievable late 60s garbage.

    Think about it. Elvis left the battlefield after only 5 or 6 years, after single-handedly creating the rock’n roll movement. Not touring abroad was career suicide as well as depriving Europe, Asia and the UK of the true gospel of musical joy and liberation. Do you call “When I’m 64” liberation? As far as the French are concerned, I was referring to the cultural establishment overall, not just their sexuality or whatever. France, as well as the rest of Europe, is still very hide-bound and traditional compared to the US. I sincerely believe they would have been transformed by Elvis’ live musical concerts, just as we were in the late 50s and early 60s when he first quit touring the US. By the mid 60s it was too late. The boy-like, Peter Pan, European-like, predigestable Beatles and their ilk (except Ringo, who was a musical genius) had taken over popular music. Even our parents were “frugging” to the Beatles. It was nauseating.

    Elvis was a panther, a wolf, a Dionysian challenge to the existing order. He might’ve shaken things up so deeply that, yes, Europe and even Asia might have been different. The Beatles, et al, were prophylactic, so to speak. Please excuse the excessive language. I exaggerate to make my point.

    Thanks again.

    P.S. Mark, you can’t tell me that the Elvis movies aren’t anything but 100% pure joy, can you? I didn’t mean to suggest that they were Fellini or Kurosawa. They made us very happy, that’s all. So. . . anyone in the pop music world ever do that on a consistent basis for a decade lately—say in the last 50 years? Anyone do it even once or twice?

  21. Sue J. said:

    I wan’t an Elvis fan nor a fan of the screaming Beatles. I never figured out why people idolized performers. They were just normal people until the height of their careers went to their heads.
    People turned to drugs as they copied their idols…histroy repeats itself in each generation as it did recently in LA…

  22. George said:

    Sue – Michael Jackson, however, tortured by his life, was a good singer, but not a great one in my opinion. ‘Mama’s Pearl’ was terrific, but that’s about it. I think his story is terrible rather than tragic. He was probably severely abused as a child, and it was a miracle he lived so long. But a talent on the level of Elvis—not even close.


  23. Mary Rowlands said:

    Speaking for yourself I hope…I attended Woodstock, was straight from the first day. The cops would get me to help with finding people, etc.You forget about Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Grateful Dead, to name a few. I was there. I remember.
    Insofar as the drugs go, well let me tell you I disagree with that entirely. Our generation opened a Pandora’s Box the likes of which I have seen to believe. What we did to every generation since then has been quite calamitous.
    In fact I think a few stoners were running Wall Street, and had just re read “Steal This Book”, no doubt their Bible.
    You could enjoy the music without being stoned. I did. To me you get centered with yourself by being yourself. Not with drugs. Call me a control freak. And by the way I loved Elvis. But your timeline was a bit confusing.

  24. George said:

    Dear Mary – Thanks for your post. Strange, but I find your message to me a bit as incoherent as you find mine. First, I never did drugs. Second, I was not endorsing drugs—I merely said that perhaps they had become a problem in large part because of the passivity engendered by the mind-numbing music of the British Invasion and its aftermath. Third, what’s exactly your concern about my “timeline”? Did I get anything mixed up?

    Thanks again for your thoughtful post.

  25. Linda Kay Pressley said:

    Ah, yes! Elvis. Having the last name of “Pressley” you can imagine the comments we receive everywhere we go. I can always tell someones age if they do not recognize that our name is spelled a bit different than the “King”. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I so enjoy all of your posts…do you by chance write them in the garden?

  26. George said:

    Dear Linda Kay – Somewhere I read that that is the original spelling of the Presley family a few generations back. An old German name, is that right? I wish I wrote in the garden. I can’t take the sunlight when I’m writing.

  27. Mark said:

    George – thanks for your helpful reply and clarification. You really are a fan! European cultural dynamics are not really my area of expertise, but I’m skeptical. Elvis certainly brought about a tectonic shift in the US. It’s very easy for folks today to be unaware of just what a radical phenomenon he was. My parents were horrified. I walked to school singing Elvis songs with my friends. Joyful indeed.

    I can’t say that ‘When I’m 64’ was liberating exactly, but what about ‘I Saw Her Standing There’?

    As for the movies, I wasn’t interested for long. My idea of cinematic excellence at the time was ‘Rodan’ or ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’. There was a lack of the requisite destruction of real estate in the King’s movies.

    It’s difficult to say what he could have done without the influence of Tom Parker, but he stuck with him for better or worse. I had lost interest in Elvis and remember being very pleasantly surprised when he released ‘Burnin’ Love’. It’s fortunate that we have ‘That’s Alright Mama’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ since the bulk of his career was spent one-upping Bill Bixby, et al, on the silver screen.

    I think the Beatles were about as influenced by Elvis as they could have been.

    I’ve enjoyed the discussion. Long live the King!

  28. George said:

    Dear Mark – It’s my pleasure. I was having a good time, that’s all. But I’m sincere in my “alternate history” belief that, perhaps, the Berlin Wall would never have been built. Elvis was that great. Berlin would’ve gone crazy! Can you imagine a tour behind the Iron Curtain? He was exactly the sort of liberating force the Soviets hated. They loved the Beatles, who were all about softness. Elvis was tough!

    I too liked the Beatles—at first—when I heard them and most especially, “I Saw Her Standing There”. “Love Me Do” was also a magical number. But I wish they hadn’t spread like a virus. There was a lot of great music before “the invasion”. Most of it died in their wake.

    It’s hilarious you mention science fiction movies! (That’s what the invasion was!)
    I’m a huge fan as well. In grade school we started a “monster club” that met in a different basement every Saturday morning to discuss our favorites—like a pubescent book club. (But Elvis’ movies hit us at the same time, right in the gums.) I have a special place for “The Day The Earth Stood Still”. The blackboard problem solution scene really got me, since I was so terrible at math. I also liked Sam Jaffe’s hair, didn’t you? He made brainy look hip.

  29. Val said:

    I just enjoyed your writing, and the memories that Elvis left behind for us all who was there in his time. Thank You!

  30. George said:

    Val – You’re most welcome. Thanks for posting.

  31. Marshall Smyth said:

    “Kentucky Road” Play it again and again as I play in my gardens all day long. I’ll be happy. Gardening and tunes. Cool as a Lemon Cucumber, so fresh it says ouch when you bite into it. I’m going to cross one with a fancy greenhouse cuke next year and select for a vigorous vining greenhouse cuke. How about I call them “Kentucky Road” Cucumbers?

  32. Marshall Smyth said:

    Sorry, some more. About your PS post to Mark. Annete Funicello’s movies brought 100% pure joy. They always will. Many of the tunes from the early ’60’s are beautiful, and there is at least one good Sinatra tune, when he did it his way. I’m just not so sure it’s about all the big social contexts. The music comes from the writer’s mind, then is interpreted. Oobie doobie is just fun. The Association mind expanding. Cherish, that’s it, that’s what it’s about. It was great being in fifth grade when the cool kid, whose last name was Seger, told me the Animals were better than the Beatles, and a few years later a tune called Riders on the Storm was played on the radio in the bus on the way to school. Who could hum that one? In later years, these days, I like the Ballads. Elvis’ or Herman’s. Someone asked Paul McCartney what music he liked to listen to. Good music he said. Me too. Leave the social implications for the cool kids to know.

  33. George said:

    Marshall – I’m going to put “Kentucky Road” in the “new names for vegetables” bin. Not sure we have the right cucumber, but we’ll try to think of something. Thanks for the excellent suggestion. How about “Blue Moon”? Do you like that also?

    By the way: did you also like “Bread”? They were a great favorite in my late teens.

  34. Louise said:

    Sorry but I seriously disagree with your adoration of Elvis. He was not a songwriter. Over his entire career he wrote about 9 songs. The Beatles were genius songwriters with hundreds of ORIGINAL hits covered by thousands of artists! His guitar work was mediocre compared to George Harrison or Keith Richards and his acting was just laughable. Elvis was a song stylist using the melodies and lyrics of others and a great back-up band. “He could have conquered the world with his Caesar-like genius.” I saw no genius in Elvis just an over-inflated ego and waistline. “No wonder the nation turned to drugs.” Elvis was a drug addict whose addiction eventually killed him!

    Your theory that Elvis would have prevented the British invasion is strange and isolationist. “The boy ensembles were like musical death squads. Strangely, too, they all looked alike, as if taking a page from British military dress.” Really? The Stones looked like the Beatles? Perhaps you weren’t interested enough to notice their vast differences.

    This is not the gardening newsletter I was looking for…

  35. George said:

    Louise – Don’t apologize—to each his own. First, I said “his music composing consisted of only a few songs. . .” That would be considered less than the “about 9” you mentioned. Right? Second, I just don’t agree that the Beatles were better or even as great. John Lennon became a somewhat pathetic person in just a few years. I agree he was extremely talented, but what a bummer. Plus, he wouldn’t stop with the dreadful songs, such as “Imagine”, “Mind Games”, “Instant Karma”, “Jealous Guy”. Paul was brilliant, but he wears quite thinly compared to Elvis. Check it out.

    Regarding guitarists, Keith Richards and George Harrison would require “cherry pickers” just to clear Scotty Moore’s ankle socks. But it’s interesting that you bring this up. Elvis was one of the first to let his lead guitar players step forward. His practice popularized the “guitar solo” and gave rise to the hundreds of players of the following decade. He preceded the Beatles by over 5 years.

    I got personal with the Beatles’ appearance, so you can trash Elvis’ waistline. He also used drugs, indeed, as did “the nation”. That was what I meant to say.

    Yes, I’m a bit isolationist. But I don’t think I’m excessively so. And the British bands did, in fact, look more alike than US bands did. Our bands were more diverse than the Brits. The US has a greater diversity of regions. In contrast, they were from the same types of gangs. The Mods: piped pants, Italian boots with stacked heels, short jackets and bobbed hair. What did I miss? If some were a bit shaggier than others, that’s a matter of degree, not kind.

    I’m truly sorry you don’t like the newsletter. In the summer I go a little off track. Soon enough I’ll be discussing and picturing the gardens in great and interesting detail, like last year. This is just a blog! I try to be light-hearted and interesting. Please pay no mind. Thanks.

  36. OK- I was abrupt about Elvis. But my first husband was a bandleader of a small outfit in Los Angeles until WWII took most of the players. He idolized the Hot Club of France. My choices were strictly Big Band. I loved Stan Kenton before he embarked on his frenetic cycle. Dorsey Bros, Miller, etc., were all big. I recall dancing something called the Two O’Clock Jump, I think it was at the Glendale Civic one night while Kenton’s group gave it all it had. That was the last time Bob would dance. He would attend any good dance – as a listener, strictly. I didn’t like Elvis’ wiggles and Chubby Checker helped me put my back out. Bob went into the radio and broadcast industry for some years, and when we parted he left me with a fairly good library of all the best stuff of those years, including Bing Crosby cuttings. But I never did care for Crosby, except for two items – Rum and Coca Cola and White Christmas. The Andrews Sisters were precise, excellent performers who kept going for many years. Cheers, Ann Garlick

  37. Marshall Smyth said:

    Yes George, I very much enjoy Bread’s music. Their album came out just when our FFA teams were on the bus going to Cal Poly for a meet. It was kind of romantic. Marvin Gaye’s music was playing too. We picked up different cool radio stations, and music made the memories that are still here. Blue Moon> Nemophilas! Our wild local Nemophilas are probably yours, but unselected versions. Might get an excellent Blue Moon F2 mix by cfrossing them with Pennie Black. I’ve never crossed a Hydrophylaceae, but it looks straight forward. You want to try it using your nicely selected version, and I’ll do it with the wild ones that look so similar when they bloom next May? The Kentucky Road Cuke cross of Lemon would be with a stressed Tiffany F1, might need to backcross, might not want to. …now to read your new blog…

  38. Evelyn said:

    Although I did not “worship” Elvis, I did, as a teenager, enjoy his music. For me the Beatles came later, and I also enjoyed a lot of their music as well.
    I even bought 45’s of Elvis’ music, and do you remember the tune, “Don’t”? I felt that was underrated, as it was on the “flip side” of one of his hits. I think that I enjoyed every one of his songs, even the lesser known ones, but especially since I was young and impressionable, the tune “Don’t” stands out. I bet most people have not even heard of it.
    Another thing about Elvis is I think that his music helped the acceptance of rhythm&blues, all by the black folks, which became “rock&roll” and really brought about social change as well as change in how people listen to music, (and dance to it)! All I can say to him, is “Thank you!” And thanks to you for bringing back all of those adolescent memories.
    And before adolescence, I enjoyed gardening, and now I enjoy it even more. It was all those “lost” years in between. (I had a VERY long adolescence!)


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