No, It wasn't the kool-aid

Bless me Father, for I have sinned.

My sin: I've never given Elvis Aaron Presley his due.


In fact, when the Elvis stamp was introduced, I was a newspaper reporter at the time. I wrote a column stating how it was a big deal about nothing for people of my generation. I remember saying the only Elvis's I knew were Grbac and Costello, a never-was NFL QB and the guy who wrote "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" ... one of the greatest songs ever written and recorded. Because after all, there is one thing I wanna know ... what's so funny about peace love and understanding?

Anyway ... the column continued with me commenting on the fact the only Elvis Presley I knew was a bloated, sweaty, jump-suit wearing guy who had a lip problem ... and that women screamed over and kissed pictures of for reasons that were unapparent to the seven- or eight-year-old me in the mid-70's. And the main reason I vowed to never use the stamp had something to do with realizing, after putting in the envelope, I had licked the backside of Elvis.

And that was all true.

I was born in 1968, the year of Elvis's Comeback Special. I've never watched it. Or listened to it. I hear it's magic.

My mom raised me musically on Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, America, John Denver, Harry Chapin ... cats like that. And as I grew and matured, I embraced all sorts of music ... from classical to hardcore punk, from Alabama to ZZ Top. And no matter who I was listening to, or what I was reading, I'd hear (what I considered to be old) people talking about how Elvis started it all. I heard about how he was the King.

And I turned my ears, my head and my heart away from that.

Because all I could see was the Elvis I knew ... that mid 70's pre-death, bloated, sweaty Elvis.

Later in life when I worked for an oldies radio station, we had Elvis weekends. I hated them. Those were the only weekends I took comfort in the fact I worked mainly when the church shows or nationally syndicated shows were run. I had to run the board for such great classics as the 70's rock show "Reelin' In The Years" and "Car Talk" and the HBA Show on Saturday ... Sunday was even better (where's the HTML tag for sarcasm? Still not approved? Damn) ... live church worship services mixed with the crazy Catholic church's reciting of the Ava Maria. In English. And Polish. And Italian. And a few other languages I didn't recognize. For 28 consecutive minutes. That's thrilling radio right there kids. Then an one hour of music ... that hour was usually my 70's showcase of shit I wanted to hear. I am the DJ. I am what I play. I had believers believin' me. Then it was time for Dr. James Dobson. Oh yeah. Then John came in with his goofy hats and ugly girlfriends to smoke away the evening with other church services.

And yes, for that hour, I was a bad DJ ... I did not follow Lee B. Jolly's rotation wheel. And if I could help it, I'd play stuff I brought from home ... it fit the format (maybe) ... or what I could scavange from the bins ... the happening stuff.

But I never, ever played Elvis.

There, or in my real musically-indulged life.


And went well out of my way to avoid Elvis, entirely. Since coming to Columbus, I've managed to avoid both Elvis-A-Thon's ... despite the fact bands I love and respect were playing. I didn't go because they were playing Elvis music.

Because, as I've readily admitted ... I never gave the man his respect, or realized and recognized his place in music.

I never saw the young, handsome, humble, gifted singer who turned the country, and the world, on to rock and roll.

I never saw the man who changed music. Television. Radio.

I never saw the man who then gave it all up to serve his country when drafted without ever attempting to get out of the then-mandatory military service.

I never saw the man who gave away his money to help the less fortunate in his community, gave benefit shows and cared so little about awards bestowed on him he only went to one awards show, ever, and that was as one of the 10 most outstanding young men in America given by the JC's.

Until Wednesday.

Because on Wednesday, Kara and I went to Graceland.

A place I never had a desire to go. And I told her that.

Why did I change my mind?

Well ... we were in Memphis. On the way from St. Louis to Nashville to Columbus after taking in all five shows of Aaron Tashjian's midwest solo acoustic tour.

And because several friends recommended that I go ... people with opinions that matter to me ... so I bit the bullet, so to speak.

Yes, it's gaudy. Yes, it's tacky. But yes, it was the 70's. Loud colors and shag carpeting ruled.

But here's my confession: It was an amazing eye-opening experience for me.

Forget the commercialism of the whole get up. Yes, there is Elvis everything for sale. So what. Good for you, Elvis Presley Enterprises. Keep the cash flowing.

I'm talking about the tour. The house. The history.

From the first thing I saw in the mansion ... his solitary piano ... sitting there, waiting for him to come back ...

... to the last thing I saw at the mansion ... his final resting place ...

my eyes were opened ... my prejudices thrown away ... my respect rightly given ... and my reverence extended, as it should have been all along. That's what's great about life ... you can learn more about people, and ultimately, that changes your opinion of them. It appears I've changed a few of mine this week.

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