August 16, 1977, brings back so many memories. I recall all the extraordinary details of a day that started out so typically and ended so tragically.
Returning home from early morning journalism class at Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University) in San Marcos, Texas, the phone was ringing.
It was a friend, Jerry Farris, calling from San Antonio.
“Jack, are you all right?”
“Yes. Is something the matter?”
“You haven’t heard the news yet, have you?”
To this day, I don’t know how I suddenly knew.
“It’s Elvis. Oh my God Jerry, Elvis is dead, isn’t he?”
“Yes, turn on the TV. It’s all over the news.”
I did…and I’ll never forget that day.
In June, Dodie and I visited Graceland again and relived some precious and meaningful times. Some of our stops in Memphis included Sun Studio, his teenage home in Lauderdale Courts, his first owned house on Audobon Drive and Humes High School.
I recalled the story of when Elvis was in eighth grade. Some of the rougher boys in Elvis’ class grabbed his guitar and cut the strings.
Can you imagine?
Your family’s dirt poor. One of the few things you have going for you is a cheap guitar and your music. Then, a few bullies break your prized possession. Not good.
But it didn’t last long.
Elvis’ classmates banded together, collected their spare change and bought him new strings.
Whose idea was it to pass the hat for their broken-hearted classmate that day?
Whoever it was, we owe a great deal of gratitude. He or she saw an injustice and led the charge to address it. The Presleys carried this same ethos into their own lives.
“There were times we had nothing to eat but corn bread and water,” recalled Vernon, “but we always had compassion for people. Poor we were, I’ll never deny that. But trash we weren’t…We never had any prejudice. We never put anybody down. Neither did Elvis.”
It’s been 43 years since Jerry called and while the pain isn’t raw, the scar is still tender. Most fans feel the same. They can tell you when and where they heard the unimaginable and how they felt.
The collective grief and universal sadness weighed heavily on millions of shoulders. We remember the pandemonium at the Graceland gates and wall, the funeral processional of white Cadillacs and it all floods back – hard.
The heart never forgets losing someone held so dearly. Whether we actually met in the flesh is immaterial in the case of Elvis. Those of us who were fortunate enough to meet him, shake his hand or even see him in concert know. It’s part of the unexplainable, the solid binding component of the Presley connection.
Elvis, you are always missed and forever loved. Rest in peace.
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Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.
As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.
He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.