“Channeled and embodied my father’s heart and soul beautifully”
The day before the May 15 release of Lisa Marie Presley’s album, Storm & Grace, the daughter of the most famous entertainer in history sent a social media message to the world regarding the upcoming Elvis movie.
This release, her first album in seven years, is also her Universal Republic/XIX Recordings debut. Presley is managed by Simon Fuller, CEO and Founder of XIX Entertainment. The album was produced by 12-time GRAMMY® winner T Bone Burnett and recorded at The Village in Los Angeles.
“When Lisa Marie’s songs arrived, I was curious,” Burnett said. “I wondered what the daughter of an American revolutionary music artist had to say. What I heard was honest, raw, unaffected, and soulful. I thought her father would be proud of her.”
“The more I listened to the songs, the deeper an artist I found her to be,” he continued. “Listening beyond the media static, Lisa Marie Presley is a Southern American folk music artist of great value.”
Since 2019, Lisa Marie has met several times with director Baz Luhrmann about the Elvis movie. She told Us Weekly, “I have been involved with Baz. He has come to my home and he has been emailing me… In fact, we’re going to be having another lunch at my home. He’s keeping me on top of everything. It’s been wonderful. He is a genius. I’m not getting involved with any kind of telling him what to do or how to do it or suggestions. No, no. I think this will be very stylized, very different.”
The movie follows a young Elvis, played by Austin Butler, as well as his dealings with his wife, Priscilla (played by Olivia DeJonge) and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks.)
When prompted about what she thought of the Colonel Parker role, Lisa Marie said, “Tom Hanks can pretty much capture anybody as far as his acting ability and how professional he is and how deep and deeply involved he gets with the character…I’m extremely pleased. I think that it’ll be very good.”
During filming, Tom spoke about a conversation he had with Priscilla, who revealed she had great affection for Colonel Tom, which is a different perception to that which many have.
He told late night host Stephen Colbert: “I was expecting to hear stories about the distrust she had for Colonel Tom Parker over these many years.”
On her post, Lisa Marie revealed she has seen Luhrman’s movie twice. Her thoughts?
“It is nothing short of spectacular,” she said. “Absolutely exquisite.”
“Austin Butler channeled and embodied my father’s heart and soul beautifully.”
“In my humble opinion, his performance is unprecedented and FINALLY done accurately and respectfully.”
“You can feel and witness Baz’s pure love, care and respect for my father throughout this beautiful film, and it is finally something that myself and my children and their children can be proud of forever.
“Elvis” will be released in theaters June 24, 2022.
Elvis Presley was flat out the world’s greatest singer. The King of Rock and Roll has been gone longer than the number of years he lived, but the truth of his legacy keeps marching on.
Even now, the recorded voice of Elvis has been heard by more people on earth than any other human being in history.
With his amazing versatility, he mastered and broke records (no pun intended) across music barriers.
Jack Dennis polled Elvis fans across the world from August 1-December 1, 2017 and again for CleverJourneys from January 3-May 1, 2022 to find out which songs they believe or wished he should have recorded. Over 3,400 fans (3,421 to be exact) responded.
Note: Jack Dennis (Texasjackson) was the president of the Texas Chapter of the Official Elvis Presley Graceland Fan Club in the late 1970s and at the time of Presley’s death in August 1977. He continues to maintain friendships with Elvis’ friends, family and fans globally.
Here are the top 50 songs Elvis fans wished he would have recorded.
I Will Always Love You
Originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973, “I Will Always Love You” is the number one song Elvis fans wished he would have recorded. The song won an Emmy for Best Recording of the Year by Whitney Houston in 1992 (from the movie “Body Guard”). Other notable covers were by Kenny Rogers in 1983 and Connie Talbot in 2007.
Old Rugged Cross
“The Old Rugged Cross” is the number two choice of Elvis fans. It is a popular hymn written in 1912, the year Elvis’ mother Gladys was born, by evangelist and song-leader George Bennard.
In order of Elvis fan choices here are the other 48 songs they wished he would have recorded:
In 2020, defying lockdowns and wearing masks, we took a 32 day roadtrip from the Texas Hill Country to Washington DC and back.
Our first stop was near Fort Hood in a central Killeen Texas neighborhood. If the walls of the circa 1950 ranch-style house at 605 Oakhill Drive could talk, they’d sing!
It’s a nice house but doesn’t have any visual features that dramatically set it apart from the other homes in the area not far from Conder Park. It’s a one-story, brick home with a rather large mailbox out front.
As big Elvis Presley fans, we thought there might be a landmark sign designating it as the house the most famous entertainer in history lived while going through Army training.
At the height of his early fame, the Army drafted Elvis in 1958, and at the Memphis induction center, he received his shots, his buzz cut, and his orders. On March 28, he and others were sent by military bus to Fort Hood, the Second Armored Division, General George S. Patton’s “Hell on Wheels” wild bunch.
Enroute the new troops stopped for a restaurant lunch break in Hillsboro causing “a small riot” when teenage customers recognized him.
Elvis didn’t want any special treatment offered. His desire was to be just another G.I. His fellow soldiers saw that in him and Elvis became one of the guys.
Private Simon Vega recalled, “I thought he was gonna get special treatment but he did KP, guard duty, everything, just like us.”
When basic training was completed, the Army allowed soldiers to live off base as long as they had dependents living in the area. It was not long before Elvis’ parents, grandmother, and a friend traveled to Killeen where they found a three-bedroom home to rent from Chester Crawford, an attorney who charged an outrageous $700 a month.
Soon crowds began showing up on Oakhill Drive to catch a glimpse of Elvis. It was common for him to stand outside and talk to fans for hours. Occasionally, he detoured through neighbors’ backyards to avoid the crowds, and according to neighbor Janie Sullivan, the clothesline in their yard once caught Elvis and the dog bit him.
Not everyone was thrilled by Elvis’ presence in the neighborhood. Some Oak Hill residents called the police to complain about the clouds of dust stirred up by the cars and the carnival-like atmosphere.
While completing an additional ten weeks of advanced tank training, Elvis had to take emergency leave to fly to Memphis to be with his mother, Gladys, who had returned home to be hospitalized. She died two days later on August 14.
After his mother’s funeral, Elvis returned and put in long days at Fort Hood learning to be a tanker. During his final days at Fort Hood, large crowds gathered outside his house, and some nights a hundred people kept vigil. The last night, on September 19, 1958, Elvis and his gang gathered at the home to make the drive to the troop train that would take him and 1,360 other G.I.s to Brooklyn to sail for Germany.
Biographers and friends reported that Elvis’ time at Fort Hood and in the Army was among the happiest of his life. For a time, he was almost “just another soldier.” Everyone agreed that Elvis was a good soldier, one of the best in the company.
His longtime girlfriend, Anita Wood, said, “he had finally found himself.”
Elvis said later, “I learned a lot about people in the Army. I never lived with other people before and had a chance to find out how they think.”
In 1958, longtime Killeen resident Edith Carlile lived four doors down from the house Pvt. Elvis Presley lived in with his parents, Vernon and Gladys. Presley rented the home for seven months from a local lawyer when he was stationed at Fort Hood.
“The street was extremely crowded with cars going by,” said Carlile, who lived next door to the house Presley lived in before she passed away a few years ago. “People were standing in the yard, wanting to touch him, kiss him.”
Carlile was a mother of four at the time, and wasn’t really into the rock ’n’ roll music that Presley is famous for.
“I’m not a fan of music of that age,” Carlile told a local news reporter, adding she was more into the tunes of the big band era.
Her children did get autographs from Presley, but Carlile said she threw the signed pieces of paper away years later.
She said the rock ’n’ roll king dated a few of the local girls when he was here, and his presence made a big impact, especially in the Oakhill Drive neighborhood, which in 1958 was home to lawyers, business owners and other upper-middle class families.
More than 64 years later, the house is still standing, and although it’s aged, the outside doesn’t look dramatically different from when Presley lived there.
Surprisingly, more recent owners of the Presley’s rental house indicated they didn’t even know the house had once been lived in by Presley when they bought it some years ago.
To this day Elvis fans regularly pop by the house to take a video, some puctures or inquire about the former home of the King.
Some drive hundreds of miles to do so. Others want to peep inside or look at the backyard.
Although there has been updated renovations (exterior windows and roof) owners are reluctant to offer details.
In November 2006, the 2,400-square-foot house was placed for purchase on eBay.
The owner at the time, Myka Allen-Johnson, a sales representative for CenTex Homes, said she wanted to sell the home to someone who would understand the historical significance.
“I didn’t buy the house with the intention of selling it on eBay,” Allen-Johnson told the Killeen Daily Herald in 2006. “I just don’t want people to forget that he lived here in Killeen.”
Penny Love was 3 or 4 years old and lived around the corner in 1958. She recalls her family seeing Presley sneak through her backyard to avoid the crowd that waited out front. She said she would sometimes sit on Presley’s father, Vernon’s lap on the front porch.
The community has missed out on any significant tourism and marketing opportunities over the years. In August 1958, Presley fans petitioned the Killeen City Council to change the name of Oakhill Drive to Presley Drive, bringing nationwide publicity to the area. Today, however, Oakhill is still the name of the street.
The owner said she allows Presley fans to take a quick picture of the front of the house. But those who try to pry closer are not totally welcome.
The backyard has a steep incline, she said, which can be dangerous, and a German shepherd patrols back there, too.
Barbara Eden will make her first-ever appearance at Elvis Week 2022 on August 15 at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee as a special guest at Conversations on Elvis. In memory of the 45th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s passing, she will share some of her favorite memories of co-starring alongside Elvis in the 1960 film “Flaming Star.”
Throughout her illustrious career, Barbara Eden has starred in over 25 feature films, five network TV series, and 19 top-rated network made-for-television movies. Her iconic “I Dream of Jeannie” NBC Television series, launched in 1965, became an instant hit.
In addition, Barbara is a New York Times bestselling author with her memoir, Jeannie Out of the Bottle. She most recently released her debut children’s book, Barbara And The Djinn.
Barbara also guest starred on Nickelodeon’s #1 animated Pre-School series Shimmer & Shine lending her voice, for the first time, as Empress Caliana. Barbara keeps busy acting, making personal appearances, touring, participating in numerous charity events and home life, all of which are a part of her regular agenda.
Three Music Historians Open the Blinds of Truth on How He United People of All Races
With Over 40 Historical Photos
Presley fans across the globe realize that knowing the truth about Elvis Presley and the subject of racism requires knowledge about his early childhood and an exploration of the facts of his life throughout his career.
The great American musical pioneers of the 1950s were precise in their adamant characterizations of Presley being a uniting force. They often described him as the person who did far more for bringing blacks and whites together than anyone culturally.
According to three of the finest music culture researchers around the world, they all agree that Presley was a catalyst and powerful (as an individual human being and a worldwide example) influencer from the beginning and still continues to be.
Some time ago, I reached out to three experts on the topic to set the record straight. Their cumulative research represents over 85 years of study, exploration and documentation in the field of culture, music history and Elvis Presley. These specialists are:
Guillermo F. Perez-Argüello
Craig Philo (CP) is a music researcher and historian from Sheppey, in Kent, U.K.
Jay Viviano (JP) is a pop culture historian with over 20 years of experience in research of icons of the 50’s and 60’s, with a strong concentration on Blues artists.
Guillermo F. Perez-Argüello (GPA): “Critics and the uninformed should put themselves “in the position the 7-year-old Elvis Presley found himself in, circa 1942. He was white, but living in an area of Tupelo, Mississippi, totally surrounded by African Americans.
With an unerring ear and a photographic memory, he totally absorbed everything he heard, LIVE, at the gospel churches attended by African Americans. Now, this was not Georgia, Florida, New York, or Illinois, let alone California, Washington State, but Mississippi, a state which was then the poorest of the then 49 states of the Union.”
Craig Philo (CP): “Sam Bell, a childhood black friend in Tupelo, feared for his friend when Elvis made his life changing journey to Memphis at the age of 13 with his beloved parents. You see, perhaps old Sam knew a thing or two about human behavior, knew how his friend’s open and honest approach to all he came in contact with, driven into him by his mother not to hurt another’s feelings would someday hurt him, how right he was!”
GPA: “Then, at age 13, with his parents, he moves to the second poorest, Tennessee, actually to Memphis, the crossroads of urban and city blues.
Forget about the ear and the memory as, by now, starting at age 16, we are talking about a human being who MUSICALLY loves and masters everything around him–namely R&B, the Blues, and Gospel of all denominations, plus European ballads, Country and Western, Opera, Neo-classical recordings, Pop, you name it, he masters it.
And to top it all, he is armed as well with the most eclectic and elastic voice in history. In 1954, it became the most important, which it remains to this day. And that is why BB King was so impressed when he first met him, a lad of 17. ‘He knew more blues and gospel songs than anyone I had ever met’ and years later added, ‘I understand why they call him the King.’ Nuff said, from the King of the Blues.”
Jay Viviano (JV): “Reverend Milton Perry was an early Civil Rights activist in the 1950s. He had Elvis’ back just like many other great legends did. He published an open letter to Black America in a 1957 magazine that stated, after spending time talking to not only white people, but Black people in the R&B and Blues community, as well as African Americans that knew him as a child in Tupelo.
‘I found that an overwhelming majority of people who know Elvis speak of this boy as a boy who practices humility and a love for racial harmony,’ Rev. Perry wrote. ‘I learned that he is not too proud or important to speak to anyone, and to spend time with his fans of whatever color, whenever or wherever they approached him.’”
GPA: “Elvis stealing from black music? Tell it to BB King, Otis Redding, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Cissy Houston, Darlene Love, Jim Brown, Mohammed Ali, Jesse Jackson, Al Green, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Sammy Davis Jr. Count Basie, even Public Enemy’s Chuck D, who reconsidered his 1989 views in Fight the Power, and he did so in 2002, as well as to hundreds of other notable African Americans I have on record saying that was NOT the case with Presley.”
JV: “BB King, bluesman Little Milton and Little Richard referred to Elvis as an ‘Integrator.’ And they both use the words ‘that guts it took for Elvis to do what he was doing’ in their own interviews.
Elvis ticked off mainstream racist white America when he came on the scene–especially the KKK and white Citizens Council members—by hanging out with black folks in public, speaking respectful of black artists and continually defending rock and roll, R&B and blues music to the point that young white American kids were paying attention and opening up their minds.
This drove their parents (meaning mainstream racist white America) to anger against Elvis. For his first two years on the scene he was public enemy number one. Little Richard in a later interview in his life praised Elvis passionately for his impact on young white America.”
CP: “In all my time on researching Elvis Aaron Presley I have never ever once come across any racial behavior or activity. Indeed the only stuff you will find was a slanderous lie that’s gathered mythical proportions through the years originally reported by Sepia magazine in April of 1957 and consequently torn to shreds by none other than the great Louie Robinson of Jet Magazine.”
GPA: “In fact Louis Robinson, the talented African American writer who Jet Magazine commissioned to go to LA and interview Presley on the MGM set of “Jailhouse Rock”, in 1957, to obtain his views on racist and other “copycat” remarks which appeared in SEPIA, a magazine geared towards the African American market in the US South. But unlike Jet and Ebony, it was owned by white anti-integrationist and based in Fort Worth, TX.
Robinson has just passed away. He unequivocally stated the rumors were false, so this mentioning of Presley as one who stole, or copied, from African Americans and coming from a prestigious magazine as Ebony tells me (that any writer who differs), well how can I put this, is ill informed.”
JV: “The truth though, which stands up to scrutiny, is that there simply was no other white man as famous as Elvis back in those days that took so many hits for proudly befriending the black community.
The ridiculous fact that people try to spread the opposite as ‘some sort of truth’ makes it paramount that this is handled aggressively.”
CP: “When actor Sidney Poitier and tennis great Arthur Ashe wanted to write books, they sought Mr. Robinson’s help.
‘Never in my life have I known a better man,’ Poitier said.
Yes, Robinson went and interviewed Elvis on the set of Jailhouse Rock. The fact Presley was never in Boston when the quote was reputedly made matters little to some. It was and remains a vicious lie concocted by a fearful white middle America as a weapon to try and cut down this brave and carefree spirited individual whose only crime was to record the music he loved and respected. And at all times in doing so paid reverence and respect to those black artists that he deemed did it better than he did. After all, there is no color in music!”
JV: “People need to get over their ignorance about American history. Elvis did himself NO favors back then by hanging out and letting himself be photographed with black folks. Racism was a common blatant practice of the day. It was these very things that made Elvis hated by many older white folks, yet respected by the black community.
Reverend Milton Perry concluded his statement by saying ‘Presley set an example of wholesome Brotherhood. I find something to admire in Presley and that is his attitude on the racial issue. And that it would be good if other people in the South in other parts of the nation emulated his attitude’.”
GPA: “Notice that, in the US, of all the early Blues, Country and Western, Gospel and R&B masters, the ones who sprang from them, namely Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley, Little Richard and Ray Charles, let alone the ones who sprang from or appeared in the scene IMMEDIATELEY after them; namely Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and say Eddie Cochran, the only one whose MUSICAL palette was totally complete was Elvis Presley.
Otherwise, how can one explain that the top singer in the world, on December 4, 1956, should start, the guitar now firmly in his arms, the so called Million Dollar Quartet session with an Agustin Lara song from 1941, the classic “Solamente una vez.” Only Elvis, in this case with (his mother) Gladys’ music taste’s help, was destined to rule.”
JV: “Interestingly, not only did Elvis have the same Blues background as many blues men had, but also their same Country and Western roots. As so many Blues artists did indeed, in many of their interviews, state they had strong Country and Western music influences as well.
Otis Blackwell had strong country and Western roots. Some in the Blues and R&B community accused him of being too country. That explains why he and Elvis were probably such a perfect fit right out of the gate for Elvis to end up doing a handful of his songs. I always thought these dynamics were interesting and things aren’t always cut and dry as people assume.”
CP: “Is it so farfetched or is it just simple logic that of the time in mid-50’s segregated America that it took a white kid to bust open the doors for all these truly great black artists?
Is it right that Presley gets lambasted and ridiculed by so many because he was that one?
People seem to forget the song that catapulted him to stardom in the south had on the backside of it ‘Blue moon of Kentucky’ steeped in Bluegrass/Country, until Presley spiced it up as he did with ‘That’s Alright,’ which is in no way a theft of any kind! Crudup is in there but so too are other influences. Presley was not a COPYCAT! A COOL CAT YES!”
JV: “I mean is there anybody that SERIOUSLY would say, if they could go back in time, they would tell Muhammad Ali, James Brown, BB King, Bobby blue Bland, Etta James, Sammy Davis Jr, Jackie Wilson and many others, they were wrong for proudly calling Elvis their friend and stating he was a help to black artists.
Many of them said it wasn’t until Elvis got other white kids across America listening to rock and roll that it was after that, their own records started to skyrocket in sales. And if we go back and look at the physical numbers and sales charts we see this is true.
Even modern activists that have been around since the 1960’s civil rights movement have admitted they were wrong about Elvis. Nikki Giovanni there for the movement since the 1960s is a perfect example: ‘I’m glad to find out I was wrong about Elvis.’
Dret Scott Keyes when becoming aware of the integrity Elvis had, always pointing out the black music influence on him, just as he did the country and western and white pop artists, ‘Elvis was honest.’ And they’re certainly not the only ones.
The R&B community acknowledge him and inducted him into the R&B Hall of Fame the same year along with Little Richard, Bobby Rush and other legends that had publicly praised Elvis.”
CP: “When a reporter referred to Elvis as the ‘King of Rock ’n’ Roll’ at the press conference following his 1969 Las Vegas opening, he rejected the title, as he always did, calling attention to the presence in the room of his friend Fats Domino, ‘one of my influences from way back.’ He often paid homage to Fats recognizing no one could sing those songs like he did.
From close friends to the many, many black entertainers that he adored or merely those that met him briefly, have come out and said PROUDLY he was my friend. To quote Muhammad Ali, ‘Elvis Presley was the sweetest, most humble and nicest man you’d want to know.’ Sammy Davis Junior another also was quoted as saying “the only thing that’s matters, is that he was my friend.”
GPA: Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey was highlighted on a recent Black History Month television program and I the “mention of Mahalia Jackson and Elvis Presley having recorded the Reverend’s ‘Take my Hand Precious Lord.’ There was another song also penned by the Reverend which was, in fact, written for Mahalia in 1937 and which Presley sang live, on January 6, 1957, during his third appearance at the Ed Sullivan Show, at CBS.
The audience, estimated by Trendex, the precursor of Nielsen, at 50 million. As this may be the largest audience ever assembled on US television for a gospel song, ever, and that includes Obama’s swearing in which drew less than 50 million. It may be important to take note of what became of it.
Presley wanted to sing it, as he had promised his mother that he would do, but Ed Sullivan was initially against it. During rehearsals that same day, the decision to film Presley from the waist up only was taken by Sullivan, for other reasons, so eventually Sullivan eased on Presley’s request.
Elvis was allowed to sing it that night, immediately following Sullivan’s announcement that Presley wanted specifically for those watching to send their contributions towards the lessening of the plight of some 250,000 Hungarians fleeing the Soviet intervention of their country and which had taken place on both the 24th and 31st of October of 1956. Sullivan added that Presley wanted to dedicate the song to the Hungarians.
By the end of 1957, in the next 11 months, some $6 million were received as a result of Presley’s request. In 2010, the Mayor of Budapest honored Presley posthumously by making him a citizen of that city and naming a park facing the oldest and most beautiful bridge, the Margaret Bridge, after him.
The song’s delivery by Presley was so earnest, that it brightened the hearts of the 50 million watching, and they in turn, as I said, sent the equivalent of $49.5 million in 2016 dollars (SFR 26 million at the 1957 SFR 4.31 to the US$ exchange rate). So, the Reverend’s song brought a happy ending, via Elvis, as the refugees settled for life in both Vienna and London.”
JV: “Just one example is Elvis being the ONLY white artist that bothered to show up at charity events for black folks. Google ‘Elvis Goodwill Review Memphis.’ Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Bill Haley and many other white artists, were NOT doing these things. And many of the black artist from those days have pointed this out, while making it very clear, Elvis WAS.
People need to get over the NEED to inaccurately, continue to portray Presley as just some ‘cold-hearted cultural bandit.’ We need to quit believing the lies and rumors that keep getting passed on over the decades as “truth” and to start respecting the words of our legends who said otherwise.
To even try to disagree with these things or argue against it only makes those that do look bad, and it’s a disrespect to our great black legends that have praised and defended Elvis.
There were white guys back then that were cheap imitations, just jumping on the bandwagon, like Pat Boone, and others that are guilty of appropriation, but James Brown, BB King, and many others said Elvis was NOT the one. They pointed out Elvis came from extreme poverty and humble conditions and new and respected the music he was singing.
The R&B community has done the research themselves in recent years and found out Elvis was incorrectly labeled ‘a racist and cultural thief.’ They have done their part trying to publicly honor Elvis in many ways the last few years and help clear Elvis name of slanderous claims of him being a ‘racist thief.’
Many have paid attention to many of our great black legends from the past who have defended Elvis in their interviews and in their own autobiographies, basically stating how much credit EP always publicly gave to black artists in his interviews and how much help he was to the black community ….especially when we consider the KKK is documented to have hated Elvis.”
CP: “For far too long accusations of cultural thief, racist and white trash have been disgracefully hung around Presley’s neck like a blinding Vegas neon sign. The time has come once and for all for this crap to be debunked–blown to smithereens. You can label it anyway you like, but purely and simply, isn’t it time the real truth was told?
Now telling the truth, researching the truth is far different from listening to rumor. If you think by cupping your ear to listen with intent to nasty whispers and needless tittle tattle in trying to dirty a man’s name is without shame, then continue. The real shame here is that actually that man stood for so much that was right with the world. Still, if that is OK and of noteworthy behavior to you then stand up and be counted and look like the fool you are. Do some reading! In all seriousness it borders on stupidity and ignorance of biblical proportions.”
The recorded voice of Elvis Presley has been heard by more people than any other in human existence. Elvis remains arguably the most famous and recognizable entertainer in history. From music, movies and memorabilia, his lifetime earnings were $4.3 billion–worth $19 billion today. His earnings since his death on August 16, 1977 far exceed that.
Here are some of our readers favorite articles about Elvis from Clever Journeys, beginning with the most widely viewed.
“It would be so boring to be 70. I’ve lived a full life and if I’m dead tomorrow, I don’t give a damn,” said Freddie Mercury, perfectly summing up his life – and famous attitude.
Mercury died from complications of AIDS at age 45 on November 23, 1991, just one day after announcing to the world that he’d been diagnosed with the disease.
Widely regarded as one of the all-time great rock singers and frontmen, Freddie used his powerful vocals, flamboyant persona and dynamic performing style to help Queen become among the most popular and successful bands in the world.
As an aspiring journalist, I met the flamboyant Freddie on March 20, 1974 backstage at the Municipal Auditorium in San Antonio, Texas during their Sheer Heart Attack tour in the United States.
Leading Queen’s performance onstage, was Al Stewart and a group called Brownsville Station. Freddie was upbeat, wearing a Fedora type hat with red and white foot long feather plumes poking out. The autograph I acquired from him remains promently placed in a large glass frame in our home.
I recall him saying he was happy to be in Texas, as they had played in New Orleans and Miami just days before. Dallas would be their next stop after San Antonio.
They blew the Alamo City crowd away. Even today, 47 years later, I will run across someone who was at that concert who will say “That blew my mind,” or “Could you believe them? How did so much music come from basically three players?”
While Freddie played some piano and tambourine, he was backed by the original members Brian May (electric guitar, backing vocals, banjo), Roger Taylor (drums, backing vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar, triangle)
The once-shy boy, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar in 1946, went on to become one of the world’s most eccentric frontmen. Mercury’s range – both vocally and in terms of his character remainslegendary. B2018’s hit biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
A legendary songwriter, music producer, and all-around theatrical entertainer, Mercury was one of the 20th century’s best-known lead signers, who sang for Queen from 1970 until his death.
Freddie also co-wrote Queen’s classic 1981 collaboration with David Bowie, “Under Pressure.” Mercury’s performance with Queen at London’s Wembley Stadium at the 1985 Live Aid festival is considered one of the highlights of that historic event.
Mercury also released a pair of solo albums during the 1980s.
Following Freddie’s death, May, Taylor and Queen manager Jim Beach co-founded the Mercury Phoenix Trust in his honor. The charity supports AIDS-related causes.
Mercury was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Queen in 2001. His legacy continues to make its mark on the rock and pop world.
Known for challenging the parameters of pop and rock, Mercury was willing to take any musical risk to prevent him from being mainstream. He unapologetically pushed artistic boundaries and was the life of all of the band’s live performances, ensuring no two shows were the same.
Electric and eccentric, he worked across a range of genres, but the songs were always poetic and heartfelt, filled with melodies you wanted to hum and witty metaphors you couldn’t help but remember.
From perhaps his most famous song, Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975, through to We Are the Champions in 1977 and then Crazy Little Thing Called Love in 1979, which pays homage to Elvis Presley’s rockabilly styling, Mercury took music to bold new heights.
A six-minute-long banquet, Bohemian Rhapsody involved a lavish mixture of production, vocal layers and choral overdubs. Described by Mercury as “mock opera”, it topped the charts for weeks. And rightfully so.
Mercury possessed a voice so powerful and expressive it would be hard not to want to listen to him sing. His excellent pitch and incredible vocal control, array of note choices, dynamics, tones and vocal effects were astounding.
Queen’s live performances were iconic, with one of their greatest generally acknowledged as being their Live Aid Concert at London’s Wembley Stadium in July 1985. Mercury was phenomenal on stage, controlling the entire crowd of 72,000, who were all clapping along to the rhythm of We Will Rock You. Their set was electrifying.
Years of touring had given him “an arsenal of stagecraft prowess, strutting, holding poses, dressed in his glam-rock style” and the audience adored his flamboyance.
Thirty years later, Mercury continues to influence many musicians, such as 12-time Grammy award winner Lady Gaga, who has said the inspiration for her stage name came from the Queen song Radio GaGa. In the past decade, Queen’s Somebody to Love was used in film soundtracks for Happy Feeet (2006) and Ella Enchanted (2004).
Mercury will always be remembered as the powerful songwriter with the magnetic stage presence who was taken far too soon. But his legacy, of course, will continue to live on.
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Elvis earns more money now than he did alive…and even then, his income was phenomenal.
In August 2021, Elvis Presley‘s iconic white eyelet jumpsuit and cape worn by the legendary musician at a string of shows was sold for more than a million dollars.
Most famous for wearing it at one of his Madison Square Garden performances, the white and gold jumpsuit even graced the cover of one of his best selling live albums.
The jumpsuit, designed by Bill Belew, was sold by Kruse GWS Auction the entertainment memorabilia auction house specializing in celebrities, started with an opening bid of $350,000 while the cape was going for $50,000.
World Record in Auctions
The Elvis Presley Eyelet Jumpsuit and Cape from his 1972 Madison Square Garden performances in New York have sold for $1,012,500, with the auction house reporting it as a world record price.
Kruse GWS Auctions also collaborated with Presley’s ex-wife Priscilla and has begun taking live bids for a private lunch with her.
A chunk of Elvis Presley’s hair sold for $72,500.
In 2017, during Elvis week celebrations, a wide array of Presley memorabilia was on the block that raked in a total sum of $1.5 million.
Elvis Presley genuine autographs generally sell in the $400-$2500 range. This autograph recently sold for $862.
In previous writings and conversations over the years, when I asked if others could name Elvis Presley’s first #1 rated national record, the answers were inevitably “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” or “Hound Dog.” Ocassionally, “Love Me Tender” or “Jailhouse Rock” were mentioned.
Even most big time Elvis fans were wrong. The first #1 national hit was released on August 1, 1955. Although I wasn’t born until four months later, I remembered the date because it was my maternal grandmother, Ruby Floyd’s, 45th birthday.
A few years or so later, she’d play Elvis Presley’s greatest hits album and we would dance to each song on both sides of the disc. It’s little wonder I became a solid lifelong Elvis fan.
The first night of showing a new movie at the Trail or Mission Drive In theaters in San Antonio, my family would be there early–in time to be parked front and center and catch the cartoons and upcoming attractions previews.
Bill Black, Scotty Moore with the addition of Johnny Bernero on drums were the musicians.
Elvis’ first national hit was actually his last recording at Sun Studios and was cut on July 11, 1954 but released on August 1st over a year later.
Johnny was actually a full time plumber who worked opposite Sun Studios, but was hired by Sam Phillips to play drums from time to time.
Johnny was a bit older than the rest of the group and was more of a western swing style drummer, evidenced from the groove he plays on this track. He was offered the job as Elvis’ drummer but turned it down due to having a family.
Johnny did go on to record under his own name at Sun, however the singles weren’t released at the time and he never became successful in the music industry. You can find some of his recordings on line now though.
Scotty Moore’s guitar had a Nashville steel guitar sound, and Bill Black played a clip-clop rhythm on his large stand-up bass (now owned by Sir Paul McCartney).
Elvis sang a brooding vocal. This is the closest the trio came to a traditional country song while at Sun.
The song reached the Billboard national country music chart #1 position on February 25, 1956 on the Billboard C&W Best Sellers in Stores chart. It remained there at #1 for 2 weeks, and spent 5 weeks at #1 on the Billboard C&W Most Played in Juke Boxes chart.
The record reached #4 on the Billboard Most Played by Jockeys chart. It was the first recording to make Elvis Presley a nationally-known country music star. The song remained on the country charts for 39 weeks.
The single reached no. 2 on the Cash Box Country singles chart on the March 10, 1956 Top 15 Country Best Sellers Chart.
The flip side of this release, “Mystery Train”, peaked at the #11 position on the national Billboard Country Chart.
Believing in miracles, coincidences, and serendipity can be a stunning endeavor. Many people consider them a lucky break, a fluke, or happenstance. But it only takes a second, an eighth of an inch, or some other instance to stumble upon a blessing or make a difference in life.
At any given moment, at any location, by any given person, lives can be moved and shaped by our decisions, actions, or circumstances.
Job 9:10 “He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles.”
It’s been 65 years ago this month. ABC Radio Network’s Peabody Award winner, Edward P. Morgan maintained his professional composure while broadcasting the most challenging newscast of his life. Based in New York City, Morgan reported the collision of two ocean liners in the Atlantic Ocean off the Massachusetts coast.
Later, Morgan would become known as an anchor with Howard K. Smith on ABC television covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a press panelist between the campaign debates of Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon, and a hands on reporter at presidential nominating conventions. But on the night of July 25, 1956 as he announced the details of the disaster at sea, his listeners had no knowledge that his 14-year-old daughter was on one of the vessels.
During the broadcast, Morgan was handed a list of 52 dead passengers from the crashing of the S.S. Stockholm into the luxury liner S.S. Andrea Doria.
As the ships separated and the Andrea Doria started to sink, rescue and first aid efforts began almost immediately. Passengers were escorted to lifeboats while six vessels in the area closed in.
Morgan had announced that among those survivors were Hollywood actresses Ruth Roman and Betsy Drake (wife of Cary Grant). Also on board were Philadelphia mayor Richard Dilworth and a man named Mike Stoller, who later wrote many Elvis Presley hits such as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Treat Me Nice.”
This was the last night at sea of their Trans-Atlantic trip from Naples, Italy to New York.
“It was a very foggy night and the fog horns had been sounding regularly for hours,” Anna Maria Conti, who was traveling with her mother Lucia, explained. “The ship was due to dock at 9:00 a.m. the next morning… we proceeded to the ballroom and listened to the band for a while before retiring for the night.”
“About an hour later, we were startled from our sleep by people screaming and yelling outside our cabin and opened the door to see what was going on. People were scrambling around trying to find other family members in other cabins. Someone shouted that we were sinking, others thought there was a fire.”
“Many of the passengers were barefooted, in their nightclothes, and panic stricken. My mother and I decided to get dressed quickly, put on our life jackets and report to our muster station as we had practiced on our second day out to sea. Our muster station was located in the main ballroom of the cabin class section of the ship.”
“We had difficulty getting dressed as we were staggering and trying to stand upright and assumed it was the rough ocean. When we left our cabin, we noticed the floor was no longer level and we could not close the door. I know now the ship was listing. It was difficult to walk and stand upright while trying to get to our muster station. We had to hold on to the railings in the corridors to move. There was panic, confusion and chaos. There were no announcements on the intercom.”
The Contis eventually reached the main ballroom where they found many passengers assembled.
They waited for “instructions or information on the intercom but it was silent. The only sounds we heard were those of distant screams, broken glass and furniture sliding across the room as the ship continued to list. We still did not know what was happening. Tables, chairs, and musical instruments slid across the room while we waited and prayed. Two nuns that were in the room with us left. A priest came in and gave general absolution to everyone and also left. Where were they going? For sure we thought this was the end.”
“Thinking we had nothing to lose, we decided to go up the stairs and on deck. Some passengers had gone before us and others after us. To reach the upper deck on the starboard side of the ship we were forced to crawl up the stairs on our hands and knees due to the severely listing ship. It was impossible to stand up. While crawling, we had to dodge sliding furniture and broken glass which was all over the floors and stairs.”
“We finally reached the upper deck and couldn’t believe what we saw. Passengers were leaving the ship. If we had not ventured up on deck from the main ballroom, we might never have known that the ship was sinking and that passengers were being evacuated.”
Thinking death was imminent, Conti cherishes the next moments, in her eyes, a miracle. Suddenly, the dense fog lifted. In the distance they could see the bright welcoming lights of the luxury liner, Ile de France, which was traveling outbound from New York.
When the Andrea Doria sent the SOS, the captain of the Ile de France, Raul De Beauden, immediately ordered that the ship reverse her course.
Captain Beauden and his crew would soon be rescuing the Contis and 751 other passengers, “many half-naked,” from the doomed Andrea Doria. He kept the Ile de France a safe 500 feet away and lowered his desperately needed lifeboats for the sinking ship’s passengers.
“It seemed like a mirage in the middle of the ocean,” Conti said. “The lifeboats were evacuating the passengers of the Andrea Doria to the Ile de France with the assistance of other smaller boats. Crew members and some of the passengers helped women and children to climb up over the side of the ship to rope ladders and descend to waiting life boats. It was a long way down and many people fell into the ocean screaming. My mother urged me to go first and she would follow. As terrified as I was, I knew that at 19 I could physically climb down that rope ladder.”
“I had doubts that my 56 year old mother would follow or be able to climb down,” Conti remembered. “I couldn’t take the chance that she would not and the crew was rushing us to move quickly as time was running out. I refused to climb over until my mother did first and with the aid of others we helped her over the side of the ship. I remember yelling down to her to ‘hold tight’ reassuring her that I was right behind her. We made it to a waiting lifeboat safely. Praise the Lord!”
But on the list of those who did not survive were radio news broadcaster Edward P. Morgan’s daughter, Linda, along with her half-sister, 8-year-old Joan.
Linda’s mother and stepfather had bedded down in the upper deck of Cabin 54, while she and Joan slept in Cabin 52.
While others onboard heard the crash, Linda’s family directly experienced the terror when the Stockholm smashed 30 feet into their side of the ship. At 11:11 p.m. the two ships began pulling apart as scraping sparks showered the water.
Prior to the voyage, Andrea Doria Captain Piero Calamai sought a trip postponement due to steering and stability problems. Because it was the height of the summer travel season and the ship was completely booked, his request to place the vessel into drydock for repairs was denied.
While Andrea Doria started her 230-plus feet descent to the ocean bed, Stockholm somehow remained afloat. One of the crew members, thirty-six year old Bernabe Polanco Garcia, surveying the damages, heard a familiar language above him.
Someone was calling in Spanish among the mangled steel of the Stockholm’s bow. He walked up and toward the call to hear the words “Madre! Madre! Dónde esta Mama” (“Mother! Mother! Where is my mother?”). On his hands and knees he crawled forward and found a young teenage girl in yellow pajamas. She looked up from the mattress she was still on. It was Linda Morgan.
Miraculously, as Stockholm’s bow crushed through the Andrea Doria, it lodged just under Linda’s bed in such a way that it hurled her at least 80 feet onto its own front deck. She landed just behind a 30-inch sea breaker that spanned the full width of the ship. Below her were crew quarters in the forward section where five crew members were killed and others injured.
Captain John Shea, commander of the USNS Pvt. William H. Thomas, directed rescue operations for almost six hours. He classified the cause of so many people being saved was due to “a miracle.” With over 30 years of experience Shea said he had never seen a rescue operation proceed so smoothly.
“It is certainly unusual to get so many survivors off a sinking ship safely,” he observed. “If this happened four months from now it would be a different story. In cold weather there would be lives lost. You could bet on it.”
“A thing like that would happen once in a lifetime,” he continued. “If the fog hadn’t lifted when it did it would have been bad, very bad.”
Naturally, Linda’s name was not on the register of persons rescued from Andrea Doria lifeboats. She was assumed dead or missing at sea. Upon the Stockholm’s arrival at New York, she was taken to St. Vincent Hospital with a broken arm, kneecaps, and minor injuries. Around the world, the press reported her as the “Miracle Girl.”
During his broadcast the following day, Morgan, whose credo was “to be as fair as possible but as critical as possible,” revealed he had just returned from meeting his daughter at the dock. She had survived the collision, and was indeed the “Miracle Girl.” This emotional announcement became one of the most memorable in radio news history.
“To all those, of whatever nationality, who participated in the rescue operations following the tragic collision between the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm I extend personal congratulations and admiration,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower extended his “personal congratulations and admiration” to those involved in rescue operations.
When her Spanish-speaking rescuer, Polanco, went to the hospital the next weekend to pay her a visit, administrator Sister Loretta Bernard presented him with a Miraculous Medal Of Our Lady.
Mr. Morgan, who had worked in Mexico City where Linda was born, greeted him with an enthusiastic squeeze. “Hombre, hombre,” Mr. Morgan reacted. “Man, man how can I ever thank you?”
Linda grew up graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, moved to Washington D.C and met a coworker named Phillip at the Office of Economic Opportunity. Phillip had been a captain piloting B-47 bombers in the United States Air Force and later became the executive secretary of the Peace Corps during the Kennedy administration. When he met Linda, Phillip was a special assistant to the director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity under President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Her mother, Jane Cianfarra painfully survived on the Andrea Doria, but on each anniversary of the July 25th disaster she would sink into depression thinking of her daughter Joan and the remembrance of seeing her husband take his last breath.. It was on a July 25th in 1967 that she died. The following year Linda and Phillip were married and moved to San Antonio in 1970, where she became active in civic affairs.
“At 14, you think you live forever,” she said in 1997. “I learned otherwise earlier than most. The accident made me more cautious in the physical things, but less afraid of growing old and more adventurous in the mental things. I was pleased when we moved from Washington, where people live such public lives, to Texas, where people accept you for what you are and do.”
“I never understood the attention I got because I didn’t do anything, I just survived,” she continued. “I was once given a life-saving award, but I didn’t save any lives. I just survived. I couldn’t take credit for anything.”
“My husband’s a pilot,” Linda was quoted in the book “Saved!” by William Hoffer. “We fly all over. We hike and canoe and climb. I feel life is to be lived to the fullest. Life is precious. There’s a very thin line between when you’re living and when you’re not.”
Linda earned a master’s degree in Library Science from Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, and master’s degree in Art History from the University of Texas, Austin. She worked for seven years at the San Antonio Art Museum and later became the chief curator of the highly respected Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum.
She was the founding curator of the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts and has authored books on the history of stage design in Europe, Russia and the United States. She’s been a member of the Historic Review Board and the San Antonio Conservation Society. Recently a permanent endowment fund in her name was formally announced to provide support to grow community gardens, harvest stations, water catchment systems and training opportunities throughout the city.
As for husband Phillip, he became Chief Justice of the 4th Court of Appeals and a future respected mayor of San Antonio–the Honorable Phil Hardberger.
In 1977, he piloted a single-engine plane to re-create Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic on the event’s 50th anniversary. In 2007, Hardberger was honored by the Federal Aviation Administration with the Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award for 50 years of piloting planes safely.
The most popular mayor in San Antonio history (approval rating of 86%), he expanded the River Walk, brought integrity back to city leadership and led the acquisitions of more parks.
A signature Voelcker dairy farm and homestead was acquired in 2007 and turned into a park. In recognition, the City Council in late 2009 named it Phil Hardberger Park.
Jerry Lee Lewis is one of the first true rock ‘n’ rollers. He catapulted to fame with his 1957 hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” and proved to the world that a piano man could play front and center on the world’s biggest stages.
He has stirred up some trouble in his days, once lighting a piano on fire on stage with a Coca-Cola bottle of gasoline to close out the show. Other rock legends have said that they never wanted to follow Jerry Lee Lewis’ performance.
Dodie and I drove by his home, the Lewis Ranch in Nesbit, Mississippi not too long ago, but on that particular day, “The Killer” was not home. He was out rockin’–but not in a rocking chair. It was where he needed to be, on a piano bench.
Lewis was born on September 29th, 1935, in Ferriday, Louisiana. He began playing the piano at age 9, copying the styles of preachers and black musicians that traveled through the area.
He signed with Sun Records in 1956 and quickly became a star. He was the first person inducted into the first class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
With his innovative and flamboyant piano playing style, Jerry Lee Lewis emerged as one of rock music’s early showmen in the 1950s. His musical talents became apparent early on in life. He taught himself to play piano and sang in church growing up. Lewis listened to such radio shows as the Grand Ole Opry and Louisiana Hayride. Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Al Jolson were some of his early influences.
When he was 10, Lewis’ father mortgaged the family farm to buy Jerry Lee his first piano. He gave his first public performance at the age of 14, wowing the crowd gathered for the opening of a local car dealership with his piano prowess. With little formal education, he basically gave up on school around this time to focus on his music.
Rise To The Top
Lewis eventually ended up in Memphis, Tennessee, where he found work as a studio musician for Sun Studios. In 1956, he recorded his first single, a cover of Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms,” which did well locally. Lewis also worked on some recording sessions with Carl Perkins. While working at Sun, he and Perkins jammed with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. This session by the “Million Dollar Quartet” was recorded at the time, but it was not released until much later.
In 1957, Lewis became a star with his unique piano-driven sound. “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” became a hit on the pop, country and R&B charts. By this time, Lewis had also developed some of his famous stage antics, such as playing standing up and even lighting the occasional piano on fire. He had such energy and enthusiasm in his performances that he earned the nickname “The Killer” for the way he knocked out his audiences.
Lewis was on a roll with his next single, “Great Balls of Fire,” proving to be another big hit in December 1957. The following March, Lewis struck again with “Breathless,” which made it into the Top 10 of the pop charts.
In the 1960s, Lewis returned to the music of his youth. He found a new career as a country artist, scoring a hit with 1968’s “Another Place, Another Time.” Lewis recorded several country albums over the next few years, including 1970’s Olde Tyme Country Music and 1975’s Boogie Woogie Country Man.
Lewis never left the rock world completely. In 1973, he did well on the album charts with “The Session”. He revisited some of his older songs as well as the works of Chuck Berry and John Fogerty on this popular recording.
When he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first class in 1986, there was a strong resurgence in his rock & roll career and music. A new generation of listeners got introduced to Lewis through the 1989 biopic “Great Balls of Fire”, when Lewis was played by actor Dennis Quaid.
This nearly lifelong musician and singer continues to record new music and perform around the world. For 2006’s “Last Man Standing”, Lewis sang a number of rock, blues and country classics with some help from such famous admirers as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Buddy Guy. Collaborator Kristofferson described Lewis as “one of the few who can do rock ‘n’ roll, country or soul, and every song is authentic.” He told USA Today that Lewis is “one of the best American voices ever.”
Lewis and Kristofferson worked together again on Lewis’s next effort, 2010’s “Mean Old Man”. The all-star guests on this release included Eric Clapton, Tim McGraw, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock and John Fogerty among others.
In April of 2013 Lewis opened Jerry Lee Lewis’ Café & Honky Tonk on historic Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. It is filled with one of the Killer’s pianos, a motorcycle, photos, and memorabilia, along with great food and live music.
2014 kicked off Jerry Lee’s “80th Birthday Tour” with shows across the country, from California to Tennessee to New York. The Killer is also traveling to Europe.
In October of 2014 The Killer released his first ever biography with Pulitzer Prize winning author Rick Bragg. “Jerry Lee Lewis – His Own Story” came out to critical acclaim. His new CD “Rock & Roll Time” also came out in October. He told Rolling Stone magazine “This is a rock & roll record…That’s just the way it came out”. As he looks back on six decades of music and what the future holds, Lewis says he’s grateful. “I just think it’s a blessing from God that I’m still living… and I’m still rocking.”
Lewis spends most of his time-off at The Lewis Ranch in Nesbit, Mississippi, where he is happily married to his wife Judith, since March 9th, 2012.
Judith, a fan favorite, keeps the faithful up to date on social media. Here are some recent photos.