Welcome to the first annual Elvis Week on Real Southern Men! This week, to coincide with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign for an Elvis-themed documentary entitled Duke & The King by your faithful publishers (Kris Wheeler and myself), we’ll be bringing you a whole week of stories about The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Self-serving? You bet. But it’ll still be entertaining.
We start by recapping our adventures in Memphis for Elvis Week. Trust me, this tale only gets stranger as the week goes on. You’ll want to check back every day to see what happens next. Enjoy!
We’re here among the throngs of faithful Presleyterians to work on a new documentary film entitled Duke & The King. We’ll tell you more about that next week as we count down to the Kickstarter campaign to raise completion funds for the film.
In the meantime, we’ll try to share some of our Elvisian excursions with you via blog entries such as this one.
We hit the road from Birmingham this morning well before the sun had dared to show its face, loaded for bear with three cameras, three tripods, four microphones, four lights, a jib, a homemade dolly and a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album to get us rolling. (Why NGDB and not Elvis? Long story that we can hopefully share soon.)
Kris is notorious for stopping anyplace that he deems even remotely interesting, as you can tell by some of his stories here on RSM. But not today. We didn’t stop to capture images of the fairytale-like mists hanging around the bases of the green Walker County hills. We didn’t stop for fishing at Elvis Presley Lake or to visit the Elvis birthplace in Tupelo. We didn’t stop at the Stax Museum of Soul or the Cotton Museum in Memphis. Nothing would distract us from our goal: the mass gathering of Elvisness on Beale Street.
We arrived. We circled the block several times, passing Elvis Presley Plaza and the famed Orpheum Theatre (home to tonight’s Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest finals), circling the Gibson factory and wondering if they’d give us a guitar to offer as an award for our Kickstarter campaign, and searching frantically for a parking space where our $20 dollar, built from scraps “WannaDolly” would be safe from curious onlookers.
In our driving around, a shocking reality struck me, one later confirmed when we got boots on the ground (or in my case, cheap plaid canvas loafers) on Beale Street: there were no Elvises. Or Elvii. Or whatever. What a rip!
I came to this event expecting to find that, in the immortal words of Mojo Nixon, Elvis is everywhere. He wasn’t. There was Elvis Radio blaring in the streets. Banners up and down Beale proclaimed welcome to Elvis fans while hawking cheap, American beers. But no, not one single Elvis. Admittedly, it was early yet. We ducked into a restaurant for some spicy étouffée. That’s when it happened: my first Elvis sighting of the day.
To answer a common question, he was neither middle-aged, bloated Elvis nor young, hip-swiveling Elvis. He was a thing beyond nature – an aged, wrinkled possible future Elvis. Sure his hair was Brylcreemed to Hell and back, and he sported a set of mutton chops that made my folliclely-challenged cheeks blush with envy, but he was no Elvis I’d ever seen. This guy was more hip fracture than hip swivel. He wasn’t Elvis the Pelvis, but more like Elvis the Swollen Prostate.
But to me, it mattered not. The floodgates had opened. After lunch, we visited the Elvis statue in Elvis Presley Plaza and then walked up to the Orpheum to get a better look at the place that would later host the granddaddy of all Elvis tribute artists competitions. (Don’t call them impersonators.) Outside the theater, Kris busied himself being bilked out of $6 by a homeless tour guide. The Rendezvous serves great barbecue? No! Martin Luther King, Jr. Was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel? Right here in Memphis? Surely you jest!
As we stood there listening to the charming, semi-toothless raconteur wax on about barbecue, music and the best routes to both, along came a young man in a pompadour, t-shirt and jeans, looking for the stage door. Tribute artist. As we were walking away, along came another with a guitar clung across his back. These guys couldn’t have been more than 25. Even if they were in their early 30s, they’d have been born after Elvis’ death. If you’ve ever thought Elvis Mania was only for those old enough to remember when, you were mistaken.
We later made our way down toward Graceland to an Elvis trade show that was a bit of a freakshow in it’s own right – and not because of the many Elvis sightings. I’ll tell you more about that later tonight. Right now we’ve got to gear up and get back down to Beale Street. There are Elvises to be met! (Elveoli?)