He was a hunka-hunka burning love, this Elvis, and all the girls loved him for it. Just to hear their screams during his shake-rattle-and-rolls on stage and you knew how much. He was a magician and he gave us a magic that shot electricity through every performance and right down to our bones. When he delivered with his pelvic motions and his unh-huhs, we stood up and danced.
If jazz has a face, it’s Satchmo; if rock ‘n’ roll has a face, it’s Elvis. Not Elvis Presley. Just Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. But all that was before Col. Tom scooped him up and took him off to Hollywood, and the movies tamed the wildness out of him.
In those very early days of the mid-1950s, he was a hound dog man all shook up. And he was one of us. Only more so. A little bit larger than life ’cause he was on his way to the Valhalla of the Greats. You could hear the pure rock ‘n’ roll in that voice of his that was tenor, baritone and bass all rolled into one big yeah. Sam Phillips of Sun Records had said so, and he ought to have known. It was the sound he had been looking for all his life.
Oh sure, there’d been rock ‘n’ roll before Elvis. Bill Haley and the Comets were rocking around the clock a year before Sam heard the magic. And there was the rhythm and blues that Elvis poured into his rock ‘n’ roll. Had been for years. But that r & b was a black folks music played and sang by the likes of LaVern Baker, Lloyd Price, Ruth Brown and Big Joe Turner. Black magic, the preachers called it. The devil’s music, and it would drive all the teenage listeners mad with lust.
No. Elvis was different. He was safe. He called his elders sir and ma’am and he went to church regular-like. He worshipped his mamma like the Southern boy he was. Yet there was that Voice. He was a white boy with a black man’s voice. In the recording studio of Sun Records, he let it rip. Sam Phillips was ecstatic. He had found his singer.
And so had American music. The dam broke and the musical waters flooded the air waves. There was no stopping it. Soon there was Little Richard and Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Richie Valens, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent. Down the road a-ways, there would be the four lads from Liverpool, England. There was no putting the rock ‘n’ roll genie back in the bottle. The world was never to be the same as it had once been before rock ‘n’ roll. And Elvis.
In a long history of Unh-huhs, Elvis has got to be one of the Big Kahunas of Unh-huh-dom. Yeah, baby. It’s hard to say where America ends and Elvis begins. That’s like asking where the unh-huhs end and the pelvis begins when it comes to Elvis. It’s just not possible. It’s also another way of saying that deep down we all want to be Elvis, and it’s a fact that we United Statesians have a bit of Elvis in each of us.
Just look at Lady Gaga. She has done an Elton John so she can be the latest incarnation of the King. This should tell us about the state of the world. Not. All it tells us is that we have a need to tie down Elvis’ pelvis and tame those unh-huhs. Then they can be marketed and we can make a lot of sales. If tain’t the truth, then why did they let Elvis keep making all those corny movies. It was for the dough, the moolah, the benjamins. It sure wasn’t ’cause he was still the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He wasn’t. Even the Beatles said so when they met him in 1965. Looked like Col. Tom had buried that Elvis years before.