Top Songs Elvis Presley Fans Wished He Would Have Recorded

Over 3,400 Elvis Fans Around the World Polled

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:

3. Hallelujah

4. He Stopped Loving Her Today

5. I Fall to Pieces

🔹Need You Now


🔹Today I Started Loving You Again

🔹The Most Beautiful Girl


🔹I Love a Rainy Night


🔹Save the Last Dance For Me


🔹Fire & Rain


🔹Brown Eyed Girl


🔹All Summer Long


🔹When a Man Loves a Woman


🔹Autumn Leaves


🔹The Prayer


🔹One Pair of Hands


🔹The Lighthouse


🔹Tears From Heaven


🔹Don’t Pull Your Love


🔹Puddle of tears


🔹Crazy Little Thing Called Love


🔹Rock n Roll is King


🔹Miss Ann


🔹Shake a Hand


🔹Send Me Some Lovin


🔹I Told You SO


🔹Don’t Close Your Eyes


🔹Let It Be

🔹Me and Bobby McGee

🔹Fire


🔹Only the Lonely


🔹Piece of My Heart


🔹Delilah


🔹Only You


🔹Bohemian Rhapsody


🔹Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

🔹To Love Somebody


🔹Candle in the Wind


🔹Annies Song


🔹Oh Holy Night


🔹Sleigh Ride


🔹You Lift Me Up


🔹Behind Closed Doors


🔹The Keeper of the Stars

🔹In the Still of the Night


🔹There Goes My Baby


🔹Kansas City

🔹Sittin on the Dock of the Bay


🔹I’m a Honky Tonk Man

Favorite Fan Photos

Elvis Presley, The Rockin’ Motorcycle King in Photos

https://cleverjourneys.wordpress.com/2021/07/04/elvis-presley-the-rockin-motorcycle-king-in-photos/embed/#?secret=PiyyBRSf3r#?secret=bmFIRMFK45

More Rare or Unseen Elvis Presley Pictures From the 60s

https://cleverjourneys.wordpress.com/2021/06/10/more-rare-or-unseen-elvis-presley-pictures-from-the-60s/embed/#?secret=uTktdtSy6l#?secret=M1T0AJRS5z

25 MORE Rare Photos of Elvis Presley in the Army

https://cleverjourneys.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/25-more-rare-photos-of-elvis-presley-in-the-army/embed/#?secret=UOyeJk5X5D#?secret=on4xtc033j

20 Rare Photos of Elvis Presley in the U.S. Army

https://cleverjourneys.wordpress.com/2020/05/20/20-rate-photos-of-elvis-presley-in-the-u-s-army/embed/#?secret=IgHEGbNvxs#?secret=SKZZ5wdVuD

20 Elvis Presley Photos You May Have Never Seen From The 1960s

https://cleverjourneys.wordpress.com/2020/05/22/20-elvis-presley-photos-you-may-have-never-seen-from-the-1960s/embed/#?secret=GgcHR62Mnp#?secret=fpAp549wBW

Elvis Presley: Rare Shots From the 1970s

https://cleverjourneys.wordpress.com/2020/05/23/elvis-presley-rare-shots-from-the-1970s/embed/#?secret=fee25bCw4D#?secret=RzVA6HMpi1

Elvis Presley Movies Ranked

https://cleverjourneys.wordpress.com/2020/05/26/elvis-presley-movies-ranked/embed/#?secret=IM0okZpvDG#?secret=K8Zg16VZEN

10 Rare Elvis Presley Photos in the 1950s

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Visit Graceland

Elvis Presley, Music in Black and White

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.

Elvis with B.B.King, 1956

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!”

Sam Bell

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.”

Downtown Memphis

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.”

Fats Domino and Elvis

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.

Elvis Presley Park, Budapest

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.

Elvis Presley With Sweet Inspirations Astrodome March 3, 1974

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.”

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Goettle HVAC and Plumbing services are located in Phoenix, Tucson, San Antonio, Austin, Las Vegas areas as well as regions in Southern California.

What To Do If You Have the Mandate and Lockdown Blues

Special Note:  If you start having thoughts of wanting to die or harm yourself, seek professional help immediately, or let a loved one know. Or call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides 24/7, free, and confidential support.

When the COVID-19 Pandemic first appeared in early 2020, Jack and I were as startled as everyone by the strict restrictions of just going to the grocery store to buy toilet paper and food. After a few weeks, we both agreed “NO MORE.”

We moved to the country, lowered our living expenses (cut them over half), started an organic garden and became far more self sufficient (energy, water, food backups and redundancies). In a nutshell, we simplified.

While many people we knew were rushing to get experimental vaccines, buying hoards of masks, staying home and complying with lockdowns, we took the opposite approach.

We went on several roadtrips (Washington DC, Las Vegas, Colorado Springs, Phoenix, Graceland in Memphis, Pigeon Forge in the Smoky Mountains, Andy Griffith Museum in North Carolina, Ark Encounter in Kentucky and other crowded places) visiting 20 states.

We were a bit surprised to see both ends of the spectrum:

1. People wearing masks, gloves, headgear and wrapped in extra clothing just to walk outside to their mailbox.

2. Or like us, RVers, bikers, campers, and travelers enjoying America’s freedoms indoors and outside. We only wore masks per local establishment restrictions, but even then, like other patriots, it was minimal. We attended theater plays, saw movies, enjoyed concerts, explored museums and road amusement park rides.

Everyone experiences ups and downs, but the sadness we’ve been seeing from some people is like weather. It tends to come and go, and it can lift quickly if something positive happens. We made sure to focus on positiveness. We turned off the TV and especially mainstream media of any kind (radio, newspapers, magazine’s, etc.)

Those who took similar approaches seem to snap out of it—sort of like a rain cloud moved aside by the sun.

When It’s More Than Normal Sadness

But some people practically bolted themselves indoors and continuously watched the propaganda and news. Their sadness wasn’t a temporary occurance like a rainshower. It is full blown depression, like a season.

Depression moves in and stays for a while, most of the day, every day, for weeks at a time. It can affect your mood, your physical health, and the way you perceive just about everything. Rather than an emotional state, depression is a health condition.

Consider simplifying your life, finding alternative news sources (like CleverJourneys.Com), and improving your well being. Here are some suggestions:

1. Get moving. Any form of regular exercise boosts mood and energy. It’s hard to get moving when you’re feeling down, so start with small steps and build from there. Standing, stretching, or taking a quick walk around your house or neighborhood is better than being boarded up. And guess what? You don’t need to wear a mask! As a registered nurse of 40 years, I’m not about to wear a mask so frivolously. Just move!!!

2. Try meditating. Research has shown that medication can improve depression symptoms, but research shows you can equate the benefits of 30 minutes of meditation to the effects of one antidepressant pill. Of course, if your doctor has prescribed medication, you should continue to take it as instructed—but you can add meditation to your routine. There are plenty of apps that can help you get started, including Headspace, Calm, and The Mindfulness App. Or simply just go walk!

3. Go outside. Spending time in nature can decrease feelings of depression. It also exposes you to sunlight, which can help your body produce vitamin D. Low levels of the nutrient have been linked to depression, but soaking up even 15 minutes of sun per day can lift your spirits in the present and over the long term.

4. Foster close relationships. Nurturing your existing relationships with friends and family is one of the best things you can do for your health. But it’s also never too late to forge new bonds. How? Sign up for a book club, volunteer to lend a hand at your local community center or place of worship, take a group exercise class, or simply invite a neighbor to meet for a cup of coffee. As feelings of connection increase, depression often decreases.

5. Read. Simply pick up a book and read it. I say book, instead of reading on a computer or phone, for the sake of your eyes. Each day, I have a ritual of reading Bible devotionals and a few chapters in a novel. Library cards are a good thing. It is positive and good for the spirit.

6. Practice gratitude. Making daily lists of what you’re grateful for has been found to help lift mood. Even if you’re not able to write everything down, simply thinking about it or expressing gratitude to others can help boost happiness.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Simple Things Baby Boomers Know That Millennials Don’t #1

I watched a video of two fourteen year old boys recently trying to use a 1970s vintage rotary dial phone without any instructions. It was hilarious. Hadn’t they ever seen an old movie video of anyone using a dial phone? Or watch an old episode of the Dynamic Duo on the Batphone?

“What is this coiled cord for?”

“These holes? With numbers?”

It took them 21 minutes, together, to do it. The dial tone was hard to figure out, but putting their fingers in a dial (especially “9”) and seeing their reaction as the dialer spun around was amusing.

This made us wonder what other things younger generations may not know about.

When my daughter, Jennifer, was a teenager, a large closet was open upstairs in my home office.

“What are those, Dad?”

“What?”

She pointed to hundreds of LP record albums in my collection.

“You don’t know what record albums are?”

I reached for one and unsleeved it to show her how to handle them. Fortunately I still had a workable record player at the time. She was amazed how the needle made the music.

Since then, we’ve gone through 8-track and cassette tapes, DVDs and a few other advancements along the way. Dodie and I Bluetoothed it along the way in our recent road trips and we are still not certain how they work.

As long as they can play Elvis, Beatles, Eagles, Roy Orbison, The Cars, Rod Stewart, Blondie, Dire Straits, Merle Haggard, George Jones, George Strait, Stevie Ray Vaughan and some good Mississippi Delta Blues, the technology doesn’t matter to us.

We started thinking about simple things younger generations may not know about. Some of these might be nice tips, hints for better living, or just interesting history. Here’s a few. We will add more now and then.

Loop In Back Of Shirt

First of all, this doesn’t apply to garden-variety t-shirts. Surely, you own at least one nice, collared shirt that has this mysterious loop in the top middle of your back. We actually have the Navy to thank for the loops on our shirts.

Believe it or not, there isn’t a lot of closet space while you’re out at sea, so sailors would have loops on their shirts so they could just hang them on hooks. College kids in the 1960s and 70s also utilized the loops, as we could hang up our shirts and keep them neat and wrinkle-free while at the gym.

Today, manufacturers put them on shirts as a sign of class and quality. Also, you may have noticed that young ladies sometimes pull the loops of boys they like, so there is still a practical reason to have these on our shirts.

Randomly Placed Buttons On Jeans

Avid jeans wearers are no doubt aware of all the extra buttons scattered about their pants, usually around their pockets.

Yes, it seems a little odd, but you’ve probably just accepted that’s how jeans are made. But those buttons actually have an important purpose.

First, they’re technically called rivets, even if they resemble buttons. More importantly, they are strategically placed on the jeans to prevent them from getting worn out at the seams and ripping. Imagine that happening at an inopportune time and you’ll be glad your jeans are properly riveted.

It’s actually interesting to note that jean tycoon Levi Strauss owns the patent on these rivets. The idea came about in 1829 after miners complained about how quickly their jeans were wearing out. Young Mr. Strauss came up with a solution to the problem, and now it seems like jeans can practically last forever.

Ridges On Coins

We’re not sure if everyone has noticed this, but both quarters and dimes have rough edges while pennies and nickels don’t.

Go ahead, check all of your coins to confirm that I’m not lying to you. See, it’s true. Well, the reason for this goes back to the days when coins were stamped in different weights to reflect the true value of the coin.

To stop people from shaving the edges of the coins and melting them into new coins, minters put ridges on coins made of precious metals so that it would be easy to tell if the edges had been shaved off. It’s not really an issue today, but we still have edges on our coins.

Volume 2 Coming Soon: Same Bat Channel, Same Bat Time.

Facebook Prison Blues

This is dedicated to all my fellow Patriots who’ve been bestowed the honorable badge of courage: A social media censorship and jail time.

Facebook Prison Blues

I hear that phone a buzzing,
Its buzzing once again.
But I ain’t been on facebook,
Since I don’t know when.
I’m stuck in facebook prison,
Stuck here for my crime.
Stuck in farcebook prison,
Gotta do my time.

When I was just a youngin,
My moma told me son.
Be careful with that face book,
Your having too much fun.
But I slammed islam in Reno,
Just to hear them cry.
And when I hear that phone abuzzing
I hang my head and sigh.

I hear that phone a buzzing
Its buzzing once again
And I ain’t been on fakebook
Since I don’t know when
I’m stuck in fasist book prison,
My posts you cannot see.
Stuck in fakebook prison,
I can’t conform, not me.

I hear that phone a buzzing,
It’s a buzzing once again.
And I ain’t been on fakebook,
Since I don’t know when.
O’ stuck in fakebook prison…

The 27 Club of Famous Celebrities Who Died Early

The first time I heard of “The 27 Club,” referring to celebrities who died at that age, was in 1978.

I was one of the extras who were paid  $5 a day and provided a box lunch to appear in a movie being filmed in San Marcos, Texas. My role was the same as so many other students–a tourist sitting near the “Lost River.”

The river was actually Spring Lake which was part of an amusement park called Aquarina Springs, near Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State).

The movie was Roger Carmen’s Piranha.

One of the actors was Barry Brown, who played a Texas Trooper. I was able to spend some time with Barry at a couple of hangouts around town, but especially at the Holiday Inn, where some of the crew and actors spent time after hours.

“Welcome Piranha” 1978

I found Barry to be an intelligent guy and he was particularly interesting because I was a 22-year-old journalism student hoping to get interviews with some of the filmmakers.

Brown as a Trooper.

By this time in life, I had scored interviews with Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood, Rosalind Russell, James Earl Jones, and Lady Bird Johnson. Perhaps a bit confident, I made sure I was able to meet some of the actors including Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, and Keenan Wynn.

Dillman, Menzies,?,McCarthy.

As President of the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Press Association that year, I had previously met Guich Kook at the organization’s annual meeting during this same time period, so it was nice to see him on set with a role.

I was particularly excited to meet Kevin McCarthy because of his starring role in the classic horror sci-fi, 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Barry Brown, with Eileen Brennan, Cloris Leachman, Cybil Sheppard.

Brown had played the role of Frederick Winterbourne in Peter Bogdanovich’s Daisy Miller with Cybil Sheppard in 1974. Bogdanovich praised Brown’s contribution to the film, describing him as “the only American actor you can believe ever read a book.”

But the problem with Barry was that he seemed to be perpetually drunk. A waitress (and classmate) at the Holiday Inn was a stand-in for Menzies and was able to get me the role and access. It was at the hotel pool one evening that the inebriated Brown jumped into the pool with his costume, a trooper uniform still on.

Brown as Trooper in Piranha, 1978.

After crew members coaxed him out, they sent him up to his room and had his clothes laundered for the next day’s film shooting on set.

I heard later that on his last day of filming in April, he wore the trooper uniform on the plane back home to Los Angeles to surprise his family.

Just a couple of months later, Brown  committed suicide with a handgun in Silver Lake, California. He was only 27.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I knew of the early deaths of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, but had never connected the fact they were all 27.

“The 27 Club has become one of the most elusive and remarkably tragic coincidences in rock & roll history,” said Rolling Stone magazine.

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Down and Out in the Heart of Texas With B.B. King and H-E-B

Recently meeting up with a friend I haven’t seen in over eight years brought back some old memories.

Jack Dennis and Greg Weaver.

In the early 2000’s, as the Director of Facilities Management for H-E-B Foods/Drugs, one of my employees, Greg Weaver asked me to accompany him to some acreage on Babcock Road in northwest San Antonio. The land would later become the location where a store is now.

Greg had been locking the front gate to our property, but someone had been repeatedly cutting the locks and chains.

When we drove in, there was a village of homeless residents, hidden from the street by trees and brush. They had created makeshift huts and tents. Old car seats were used as couches. There were empty wine, liquor, beer bottles, cans, trash and needles scattered throughout.

Particularly alarming were the innocent children playing in their back yards, oblivious to the 30 or so homeless neighbors separated from them by a six foot long cedar border fence.

From Weaver’s experience with them, they weren’t interested in leaving the property and had no use for rules or laws. This community had their own rules, hierarchies and a faux mini-government.

We ended up cleaning the acreage by clearing brush, thinning trees and eventually building a store.

Since 2017, New York’s Special One-Time Assistance (SOTA) program has relocated over 5,000 of their families to other cities across the nation.

This has scattered their homeless to other cities to take on the associated burdens. Texas is discovering a new wave of homeless being bused into many cities with little to no notice for preparation.

With winter approaching, many southern cities are already overburdened with their resources.

San Antonio.

City Ordinances

In San Antonio, some citizen groups are sharing city ordinances as a guide to use when reporting violations to the police. These include:

1. Article 1, Sec 21-28: Makes it illegal to camp in a public place. (tent cities)

2. Article 1, Sec 21-27: Makes it illegal to urinate/defecate in a public place. Homeless camp sites have no toilet facilities.

3. Article 1, Sec 21-29: Aggressive solicitation (panhandling).

4. Article 1, Sec 21-26 Sitting or laying down in public right of way. Sleeping or hanging out on sidewalks, building entrances, public access areas. Soliciting on public streets.

5. Article 1, Sec 21-19: Washing windshield of motor vehicle on public street.

6. Article 1, Sec 29-03: Depositing litter, trash, or waste material on public land. (garbage at tent cities)

“If we intend to follow in the path of Austin, Houston, and other notorious cities with homeless camp sites, we only have to turn a blind eye,” said Unite San Antonio administrator David Moore. “We have a beautiful city; we need to keep it that way.”

“I use to volunteer for an organization that would help homeless people get themselves off the ground,” replied Gilbert Carrizales. “The unfortunate truth is that a vast majority of these people are drug addicts, have mental health issues or just don’t want to be helped. They have lost the ability to comprehend what it means to have a work ethic or motivation. It’s truly saddening, but that’s just what it is.”

For over four years, I lived above the Majestic Theater in the heart of San Antonio a block from the River Walk. I wrote extensively about the homeless for Examiner and other internet news outlets.

One interesting man I met playing saxophone for tips outside the Majestic was Conrad Joseph. He fell on hard times, had a minor stroke, but kept his positive spirit.

Joseph had played for such musical greats as B.B. King, Wilson Pickett and for a while was one of the touring Drells of Archie Bell and The Drells of “Tighten Up” fame.

When I had the opportunity to interview King in his tour bus before a concert at the Majestic, I mentioned Joseph.

Conrad Joseph and friend Don Ward. Both were residents of Haven for Hope.

Not only did B.B. King arrange to have Joseph be his guest at the performance (they hadn’t seen each other in over 25 years), but helped him get on his feet with some lodging.

More B.B. King Click Here

I interviewed many homeless, citizens, police, park rangers and visitors. A bold attempt, called the Haven for Hope program began at sheltered facilities just west of downtown.

Homeless individuals and families have to earn their way with chores, good citizenship and following their rules. I saw some good things happened, but I also witnessed much sadness.

Haven for Hope.

I was accosted with a knife by a homeless man on St. Mary’s Street just blocks from my home. Fortunately, I was able to manhandle the knife out of his hand and knock him down. Some city utility workers saw what was happening and gave chase as he ran away.

We flagged down a police officer on bike patrol and they found him later. Servers at the nearby Blanco Cafe, washed my scrapes and said he had been in their earlier acting strange and talking to himself.

Residents downtown came to realize it was better not to give the homeless money as usually they bought liquor, drugs or cigarettes with it.

Occasionally I would buy a couple loaves of bread and peanut butter to pass out sandwiches. A good 60 percent would thank me, 20 percent lashed out or acted angry and the remainder were basically silent.

COVID Beliefs Blown Away For RVers-Campers on Iconic U.S. Travel Roads

We have just returned from a 32-day, 4500 mile roadtrip (June 19-July 21) from the Texas Hill Country through much of the South, Washington D.C. for July 4th, to part of the Midwest and back.

Our preconceived ideas from news and the continually changing regulations around COVID-19 were blown away with the reality we experienced. It actually restored our faith in the goodness of America.

People of all ages, creeds, races and sexes were friendly, polite and eager to be traveling. By far, they agreed that what news outlets portray and what is actually happening are not in sync. We met scores of campers and travelers who indicated they had no problems with getting reservations and lodging.

We found our routes and destinations were open to travelers, including campers with self-contained RVs.

Pigeon Forge grist mill in Dollywood.

Most restaurants and stores were open with COVID-19 restrictions varying by state, city and location.

Our plans were modified only twice because of not feeling welcomed due to tourist closures.

1. We bypassed Nashville because the Grand Old Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame and Johnny Cash Museum were closed. Nearby Murfreesboro was welcoming for an overnight stay.

2. We left St. Louis immediately after driving to the Gateway Arch and seeing seedy characters in garbage, urine and feces infested tent encampments throughout the area. Wildwood, about 20 miles southwest on Historic Route 66, was awesome.

Here are some of the most notable routes we enjoyed and recommend.

Blue Ridge Parkway

A road trip gem, left Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas towards the Blue Ridge Parkway. This scenic byway traverses the Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains across Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. We especially enjoyed Appalachian towns like North Carolina’s Asheville and Mt. Airy (Andy Griffith Museum).

RVers should be aware some roads have tunnel height restrictions. Check the tunnel restrictions for your planned route. The most restricting tunnels have a maximum height of 18 feet. Cell phone reception could be an issue depending on your carrier (we had no problems with Cricket). There were very few gas stations and other amenities limited. We remained anticipatory and planned ahead just in case.

Blues Highway

Highway 61, known as the “blues highway,” is rich with the history of musicians in the Mississippi Delta area. It’s the birthplace of the blues and the roots of much of American music. 

The original route went from New Orleans to Minnesota, but most of the history of the blues is embedded in Mississippi.

We started in Vicksburg, Mississippi,  a great spot to understand some of the roots of the blues. In 1863 Vicksburg was under siege from the Union Army. General John Pemberton (Confederate) surrendered Vicksburg to General Grant (Union) after sustaining huge losses and facing a catastrophic defeat by an army that greatly outnumbered his abled soldiers.

The Blues developed from slaves toiling on the cotton plantations in Mississippi. The war was over and slavery was officially abolished. Opportunities slowly merged forward toward Memphis, St. Louis and Chicago. The music permeated across the Mississippi Delta.

Some say Clarksdale, Mississippi is the birthplace of the blues. While most of the old Juke Joints have perished, we stopped by  Ground Zero Blues Club (co-owned by Morgan Freeman). It’s a great place to see talented musicians perform and enjoy local food favorites including fried green tomatoes, Mississippi tamales and catfish.

At the Highway 61/49 intersection is a famous location known as The Crossroads. It’s where Robert Johnson was fabled to have sold his soul to the Devil to be the King of Delta Blues. Robert Johnson was born in 1911 and died just 27 years later. 

Highway 61 leads to Memphis, the land of Elvis Presley, SUN Studio, Beale Street and Graceland. The Graceland RV Park is conveniently located next to the Elvis Memphis complex and museums.

Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway is an excellent route to see the southern United States by RV. We loved it because no commercial trucking or 18-wheelers are allowed.

Although it’s over 440 miles from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, we started in Tupelo, Mississippi after visiting Elvis Presley’s Birthplace. We stopped often to see waterfalls, prehistoric mounds, and other historical landmarks.

Like the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, there are maximum RV restrictions. The maximum length is 55 feet (including a tow vehicle) and a 14 feet height restriction. 

Route 66

Long before our current national interstate highway system, federal highways, like U.S. Route 66, were main thoroughfares. On historic Route 66, you can explore America’s Heartland and other enchanting pockets of the United States from Chicago to Los Angeles. 

We began the route in St. Louis and took it most of the way toward Branson. Be sure to visit Uranus, Missouri for a fun, quick pit stop.

We did join Route 66 again later in Oklahoma City. Continuing West, we could have carved out time to visit Grand Canyon National Park, but elected to return back to Texas after four weeks on the road.

New Travel Resources

U.S. State Department’s Traveler Checklist. Read more

The TripIt app has a relative new feature that shows safety scores from 1 to 100 for neighborhoods around the world, representing low to high risk. These scores cover a variety of categories, such as women’s safety, access to health and medical services, and political freedoms. Travelers will find safety scores for their lodging, restaurant and activity locations there.

Roadtrip 2020 Day 5: Sun Studio & Memphis

In the history of rock ‘n’ roll there can’t be many more important places on earth than the modestly-sized red brick building almost on the edge of downtown Memphis.

706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee is the legendary site of Sun Studio, where Sam Phillips established his Memphis Recording Service back in 1950.

His purpose was poviding a recording outlet to black blues musicians. His result was producing gospel, blues, country into an evolving concoction of something new.

Sun recorded the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and BB King. Jackie Brenston, along with Ike Turner and the Delta Cats recorded what is now agreed to be the first rock ‘n’ roll record: ‘Rocket 88’ in 1951:

You may have heard of jalopies 
You’ve heard the noise they make 
But let me introduce you to my Rocket ’88 
Yes it’s great, just won’t wait…

Two years later a young Elvis Presley walked in to cut a one-off disc, supposedly for his mother Gladys. In 1954 Presley recorded his historical single, “That’s All Right.

Soon Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison recorded their early singles. Sun Studio can indisputably proudly claim to be the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.

My preconceived idea about visiting Sun Studio was different than the reality of the actual experience. Often, I’ve wondered what the black of the building looked like. So I went there first.

Back of Sun Studio.

Walking toward it felt much as the first time I approached the iconic Lincoln Memorial, strolled on Ellis Island in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, sailed a Maid of the Mist boat below Niagara Falls, or stepped to the edge overlooking the Grand Canyon.

I paused to take savor the moment, A personal bucketlist thrill.

The side of the building looked like a back alley, with pipes and electrical conduits climbing the wall. Several picnic tables for visitors waiting for their tour time slot to begin weren’t needed on this day. The Studio, like so many tourist attractions, were just beginning Phase 2 of a city ordinance allowing them to open with restrictions.

Turning the corner and stepping through the front door, we barely were in the vestibule when a voice called out, “Welcome to Sun Studio folks, y’all come on in out of the heat.”

At a podium to our left was a young, handsome man in his 20s with a cowboy hat peering above the bandana covering his face. He offered to let us join the group that was a 10-minutes into their tour.

I didn’t want to miss a minute. We waited about 50 minutes for the 4:30 p.m. tour.

Dodie and I walked bought our tickets ($15 each) and relished the extra time to explore the memorabilia, shirts, records and pictures.

One thing I didn’t realize was the side of the building we were in was not part of the original Sun Studio. It was a diner, Taylor’s Fine Food Restaurant, where Phillips held court and used as an ad hoc office. One can only imagine the musicians who’ve eaten there.

The former diner is now a gift shop-snack bar worked by the talented tour guides rotating each hour.

The tour first takes you upstairs above the gift shop to a compact, but remarkable display of period artifacts. My favorites included studio equipment, instruments and other historic photos and documents. A recorded message from overhead speakers provide insite.

Our tour guide then walked us downstairs and turning right into Marion Keisker’s (the first person to ever record the voice of Elvis) front office.

I wasn’t prepared for the lightning strike emotion that hit walking into the actual studio. Our guide did a fantastic job of talking us through the history and played segments of music, including that very first Elvis recording: ‘My Happiness’.

He picked up a guitar and used a dollar bill to play along (and sound like a train rolling around the bend with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison.”

Our guide ended the tour by bringing out an original studio microphone from the control room, one that Elvis, Johnny, Jerry Lee, Roy Orbison and so many others had all sung into at the start of their careers.

He told us it was donated by Sam Phillips on condition that it wasn’t just locked away in a glass case but that visitors could pose and have their photographs taken with it.

I stepped up to the “X” mark on the floor where Elvis sang and proudly sang! You can’t get a better photo-opportunity than that and it was a great end to a magical tour of such a historic site.

Considerations and Tips For Elvis Presley Fans Visting Memphis

How are COVID-19 restrictions impacting Elvis Presley fans visiting Memphis? Here’s the very latest information and our tips for a safe trip.

Note: This data and suggestions are as of today, Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Of course conditions could change at any moment. Our intent is to offer helpful insight for those considering travel. We elected to drive from South Central Texas.

First, know masks are required by Memphis City Ordinance #5751:

“Individuals should wear cloth face coverings that cover the nose and mouth in public settings where being in close proximity to others is anticipated and particularly where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain at all times.”

Six Feet Apart.

“Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age two, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”

“A mask/face covering is not required after a person has been seated in a restaurant or bar or similar facility, but is strongly recommended when a person is ordering food or drink or otherwise interacting with workers or other customers at the restaurant or bar or similar facility.”

Every restaurant we’ve been to is strongly adhering to the ordinance.

Graceland Mansion tours are reduced to 25% capacity. The result is a much less crowded and stress free experience. We didn’t feel any rush and when interviewed by Graceland media, I said “this allowed a more intimate visit, almost surreal like. We could savor the quiet and reflective moments, especially outside and near the Meditation Gardens.”

Don’t bring anything you won’t need for the tour (you’ll be juggling headphones and an iPad as you wander the house).

Securing an earlier tour in the day offers time to enjoy a restful lunch, perhaps at Vernon’s Smokehouse. They offered Meatloaf, Catfish, BBQ plates and sides for $9 to $12 range. BBQ Nachos listed on menu were not available.

Gladys’ Diner was closed, but note that entering from inside the Ticket Pavilion gives access to a “Grab n’ Go” offerings such as Croissant Sandwiches (Turkey: $6.99, Pork BBQ:$8.99).

Vernon and Gladys dining are located at  Elvis Presley’s Memphis the complex, located across the street from Graceland. The museums opened there are Elvis Presley Automobile Museum, Elvis Discovery Exhibits, Elvis’ Custom Jets, and Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum. The ice cream stand was closed.

We’re staying at the beautiful Guest House at Graceland. Every 30 minutes their shuttle takes to and from the Graceland Ticket Pavilion. Be warned that Delta’s Kitchen, the bar, and the gift shop are closed.

Guest rooms are cleaned only upon checkout. There is a “Grab n’ Go” good and beverage setup at the Information Desk in the lobby. The Front Desk also provides a list of local restaurants that will deliver meals to you in the lobby. The bar television remains on and tuned to FOX News per popular requests.

Each night at 7 p.m., an Elvis movie shows (free) in the beautiful theater. Social Distancing is enforced, but easy to follow with limited attendance. Monday they presented Viva Las Vegas and Tuesday, the 68 Comeback Special. Love Me Tender, Elvis On Tour and others are shown.

The pool, open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. have a 30 person capacity limit. We saw couples and families enjoying outside patio and yard activities such as shuffleboard, ping pong and corn hole.

We enjoyed dining at Marlowe’s, about a mile south of Graceland. They offer free pickup and return at the hotel in a pink limo. It’s a fan favorite, not only because of their awesome BBQ, but they’re loaded with Elvis memorabilia, music, a gift shop and even movies on large screens. Marlowe’s has been featured on Food Network, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”

For “Blues, Brews and Burgers,” Huey’s is a great option. This popular, family-friendly chain is often voted as having the best burger in the Memphis and DeSoto County. Some of the most popular options are the Senior Huey, the Madison Avenue and the Bluez 57. 

Coletta’s Italian restaurant has been open in Memphis since 1923, and they made the original barbecue pizza. Their famous barbecue pizza has a thick crust, barbecue sauce, and is piled high with pork and cheese. Elvis and the Memphis Mafia liked it.

Corky’s Ribs & BBQ is open, but seating is limited. They are worth a visit: #1 BBQ Sauce 4 years in a row by Southern Living magazine; Best BBQ 24 years in a row by MEMPHIS magazine; Best of BBQ by TV Food Network.

Sun Studio is open, with tours beginning every hour from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. This historical place is often referred to as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and is a must-see for music aficionados.

Former owner Sam Phillips helped launch many a music career, including that of Elvis, B.B. King, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. In recent years, the studio has been used by artists like Justin Townes Earle, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and The Walkmen, among others. On our guided tour, we heared stories about the legendary musicians who recorded there, listened to unreleased tracks and saw memorabilia from the studio’s heyday.

Beale Street is open and live music continues.

You can still watch the world-famous Peabody Ducks march daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. for free. The Peabody Ducks have never missed a day of work and have continued their daily red carpet marches even under the circumstances. 

Open Wed-Sun from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Rock ’n’ Soul Museum is offering half-price admission for Shelby County residents (with proof) through the end of June. With the discount, tickets will be $7.50 for adults and $5 for youth.

Open Wed-Sun from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame also offers half-price admission for Shelby County residents (with proof) through the end of June. Regular admission is $8.

Stax Museum of American Soul is open.

The National Civil Rights Museum will not be opened until July 1. Housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, the museum features multimedia presentations on the civil rights movement.

The Children’s Museum of Memphis is open with new hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 9a-5p. Closed Mondays.

Roadtrip 2020 Day 3: Delta Blues Highway

Ever since I was fortunate to meet with B.B. King for an interview in his tour bus in 2010, my interest in the origins of American music grew immensely–especially in the Delta Blues region.

The proverbial “melting pot” accurately describes how the Mississippi Delta was fertile grounds to grow gospel, blues, country, and rock into the soul of American music.

Highway 61 Marker in Vicksburg, 6/24/20.

Combined with the selfish need to dive deeper into the roots that influenced Elvis Presley’s success, it was a natural like desire to want to see, feel and experience Highway 61.

Our trip exploring the legendary Blues Highway began South, right through the heart and soul of Vicksburg. The antebellum architecture, Civil War history and of course, the Blues music are just some of the highlights in Vicksburg.

Up the road about 2 1/2 hours was my favorite Delta Blues town, Clarksdale. Dodie and I agreed it was like time stood still. The 1930s-40s-50s was alive, steeped in history with rugged character to boot.

It’s no wonder Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman co-owns Ground Zero Blues Club there because that’s exactly what Clarksdale is–the ground zero center for the Blues. It’s Blues to the bone.

Clarksdale is just forty minutes south of Tunica and is famous for the landmark that is said to be the site where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil, it’s called “The Crossroads.”

B.B. King told me in 2010 the two biggest musical influences for him were Jimmy Rodgers and Robert Johnson, both absolute legends and pioneers of American music.

Clarksdale has lots of funky places to stay for music lovers and visitors. Even the Ground Zero has rooms available upstairs above the bar for overnight stays. A sign described the rooms perfectly: “…It Good.”

 Shack Up Inn is perhaps the most beloved, made up of restored sharecropper flats. It has its own restaurant and music venue and claims “The Ritz we ain’t.”

Tunica, which is home to the Gateway Blues Museum that also doubles as a visitor’s center. This museum is extremely well done and is really worth a stop. The front of the venue is constructed from a rustic train depot, circa 1895. Inside are beautiful Blues exhibits and artwork.

We found two good spots to consider for Southern comfort food. Back in Clarkddale, we saw “Baby Back Ribs and Hot Tamales” on the Crossroads northeast corner at Al’s Bar B-Q and the Blues since 1924. There is probably no better, or historic, place than Tunica’s Blue & White Restaurant. Also established way back in 1924, the Blue & White is situated right on Highway 61 and has served all the great Blues musicians over the decades.

Before we arrived in Memphis, we traveled through DeSoto County. Located due east of Tunica and just across the border from Memphis, DeSoto County is the home of Jerry Lee Lewis, John Grisham and timeless Delta traditions. Visitors will find the final resting places of blues greats, like Gus Cannon and Memphis Minnie.

A must stop for me was off the beaten path to the gravesite of Memphis Minnie.

Her real name was Lizzie Lawlars, and she rests besides her husband, Ernest Lawlars, who recorded under the name “Lil’ Son Joe.” They are buried in the New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery in Walls, Mississippi.

The headstone memorial unveiling took place on the morning of October, 13th, 1996 in beautiful fall sunshine and was recorded for radio presentation by the BBC of London.

The ceremony was next to the Memphis Minnie marker and the New Hope Baptist Church. It stands between Highway 61 and the Mississippi River, and cotton fields surround the church and the adjacent cemetery. The front of the monument has a small picture of Minnie and her birth and death dates.  

Ninety people attended, including Minnie’s sister Daisy and 33 members of her extended family, many of whom had no idea of their relative’s powerful musical legacy. Bonnie Raitt financed the memorial stone which bears engraved roses and a ceramic cameo portrait.

A plaque, one of many along the historical region, describes it best:

MISSISSIPPI BLUES TRAIL

Travel has been a popular theme in Blues lyrics, and highways have symbolized the potential to quickly “pack up and go,” to leave troubles behind, or seek out new opportunities elsewhere. Some of the most famous Mississippi artists who lived near Highway 61 included: B. B. King, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Son House, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, Robert Nighthawk, Sunnyland Slim, Honeyboy Edwards, Sam Cooke, James Cotton and Jimmy Reed, just to name a few.

The Mississippi Blues Trail road trip markers tell stories about Blues artists through words and images, about the places they lived and the times in which they existed—and how that influenced their music. The marker sites run the gamut from city streets to cotton fields, train depots, cemeteries, clubs to churches.

2020 Presidential Candidates flag/sign sitings, days 1-3:

Trump 36, Biden 0

B.B. King, Others Knew and Defended Elvis Presley Against All Racist Assertions

Elvis & B.B. King and racism-Interview with Jack Dennis, 2010

B.B. King knew “the definitive truth about Elvis Presley and racism.” ‘.

‘Let me tell you the definitive truth about Elvis Presley and racism’, The King of the Blues, B.B. King said in 2010. ‘With Elvis, there was not a single drop of racism in that man. And when I say that, believe me I should know’.

A few years before Presley walked into Sam Phillip’s Recording Service at Sun Studios in Memphis, Riley B. King was beginning his recording career there in 1951.

King remembered when he first met the young Presley, it was obvious how respectful and comfortable he was around bluesmen. King, in his 1996 autobiography, said Presley ‘was different. He was friendly. I remember Elvis distinctly because he was handsome, quiet and polite to a fault. Spoke with this thick molasses southern accent, and always called me ‘sir’. I liked that’.

There has been some debate and speculation in the political world recently about Presley’s impact on music as it relates to race.

About 10 years ago, controversial lyrics from a then new Macklemore song called ‘White Privilege II suggested Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea and Elvis Presley were ‘so plastic, you’ve heisted the magic’ from the black culture.

Some suggest ‘race baiters’ or those with politically socialist agendas for America have been promoting and growing division between races.

In an Oct. 10, 2010 interview with this writer in his tour bus behind the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, Texas, King was particularly open in his comments.

(Perhaps it was because present was Hilton Conrad Joseph, a saxophone player for King in the 1970’s and 80’s that the writer helped arrange the two to see each other after more than 20 years).

B.B. King in San Antonio, 2010.
Photo: Jack Dennis

.

King enthusiastically shared his thoughts about happiness, his famous guitar (‘Lucille’), musical influences and Elvis, ‘the other King’.

‘All of our (Presley’s and King’s) influences had something in common’, King explained. ‘We were born poor in Mississippi, went through poor childhoods and we learned and earned our way through music. You see, I talked with Elvis about music early on, and I know one of the big things in heart was this: Music is owned by the whole universe. It isn’t exclusive to the black man or the white man or any other color. It shared in and by our souls’.

‘I told Elvis once, and he told me he remembered I told him this, is that music is like water’, King pointed out. ‘Water is for every living person and every living thing’.

King raised his finger up as if Elvis was still in front of him, and profoundly declared, ‘Water from the white fountain don’t taste any better than from the black fountain. We just need to share it, that’s all. You see, Elvis knew this and I know this’.

‘Many people make the mistake of being wrong about all of this’, King continued. ‘If you ask anyone, I’m talking about people from all kinds of music – Blues, Soul, Country, Gospel, whatever – and if they are honest with you and have been around long enough to know—they’ll thank Elvis for his contributions. He opened many doors and by all his actions, not just his words, he showed his love for all people’.

‘People don’t realize that when ‘That’s All Right, Mama’ was first played (by Dewey Phillips in July 1954) no one had ever heard anything like that record’, King stressed. ‘It wasn’t just country. It was Rhythm and Blues. It was Pop music. It was music for everybody. This is important’.

King spelled out that there were two very specific music influences that he had in common with Presley.

‘I was barely 11 years old, when one of the greatest influences of my life, Robert Johnson, was recording just across the street from this (Majestic) theater recording his first ever songs’, he revealed.

King was talking about how, on the corner of Houston and St. Mary’s streets in San Antonio, at the Gunter Hotel, Johnson changed the music world forever. King grew up listening to the 16 songs Johnson recorded in the Gunter and ‘that had a lot to do with where I am today’.

‘Johnson came from the same dirt Elvis and so many of us did’, King submitted. ‘It was the world of sharecropping, and to survive that hard work bending over all day long, there would be plenty of singing. Elvis’ momma and daddy did their share of it – both the picking and the singing. It was called survival. It was called life. It was just as important to us as water. It was as important to those of us who had it in our souls as the water’.

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‘The other big influence was Jimmy Rodgers’, King said. ‘Some people want to say he was the Father of Country Music, but like Elvis, he was more than that. He was a big influence on not just me. I used to listen to my aunt’s records of Jimmy Rodgers and that was a real treat. I liked that ‘Mississippi Delta Blues’ and to listen to him yodel’.

‘I never did yodel’, King laughed. ‘But Jimmy Rodgers could sure yodel. He was very good at it. But yes, he influenced more than country music, he influenced Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters as much as he did Merle Haggard or Willie Nelson. See, Elvis did that too, but only much wider. Elvis influenced everybody’s music and it was for the good of all of us’.

‘Now, where did Jimmy Rodgers learn his music from’, King asked, before he gave the answer. ‘He learned it working alongside the black railroad workers and hobos. Elvis lived and played with black children back in (Tupelo) Mississippi. He told me that when he was just a baby and his mama had to work, he was cared for sometimes by his grandmamma, but mostly by a neighbor black lady’.

Rodgers turned out to be the first superstar in the country music field. Born in 1897, his mother died when he was barely seven years old. He spent his childhood residing with several relatives in southwest Alabama and southeast Mississippi. His father found him a job working for the railroad as a water boy for the railroad and Rodgers soon fit in among the rail workers and hobos. He enjoyed listening to gandy dancers, African American workers, who would sing hymns and work songs daily. He learned to pick a guitar from some of them.

‘People today will say things about Elvis they just don’t know about’, King commented. ‘They want to say this is black music, this is white music, this is country music. But when Elvis came along all that was suddenly washed down the drain’.

Elvis Presley and B.B. King backstage at the WDIA Goodwill Revue at Ellis Auditorium on December 7, 1956.
Elvis supported African-American
functions in Memphis despite local ordinances against it.


Elvis Presley & B.B. King backstage at the WDIA Goodwill Revue.

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“Before Elvis we had Little Black Sambo, separate black restrooms and water fountains, and colored events that kept us away from the whites,” King noted as he mention that Presley would attend events especially designated just for African-Americans.

In June 1956, Presley ignored Memphis’s segregation ordinances by attending ‘colored night’ at the local fairgrounds amusement park.

The following December, King was there as Presley opened up almost unbreakable racial barriers by attending and supporting the segregated WDIA black radio station’s annual fund-raising event for ‘needy Negro children’ at Memphis’ Ellis Auditorium.

King wrote in his autobiography that he ‘liked Elvis. I saw him as a fellow Mississippian. I was impressed by his sincerity. When he came to the Goodwill Review (the event WDIA fund raisers of 1956 and 1957), he did himself proud’.

‘The Goodwill Revues were important’, he wrote. ‘The entire black community turned out. All the DJs carried on, putting on skits and presenting good music’.

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‘When Elvis appeared (in 1956) he was already a big, big star’, King continued. ‘Remember this was the fifties so for a young white boy to show up in an all-black function took guts’.

‘I believe he was showing his roots and he seemed proud of those roots. After the show he made a pint of posing for pictures with metreating me like royalty’, King recalled. ‘He’d tell people I was one of his influences. I doubt whether that’s true but I like hearing Elvis give Memphis credit for his musical upbringing’.

In 1957, Elvis was being accused of singing “Devil’s Music and Rock n’ Roll should not be allowed in” Jersey City, New Jersey. A local minister, Rev. Milton Perry, counseled with the African American community and city officials. He did the research.

Perry solicited the opinions of African Americans and Caucasian (from) Memphis, on the subject of Elvis Presley.

“I found,” he concluded, “than an overwhelming majority of people who know him speak of this boy as a boy who practices humility and a love for racial harmony.

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 and wherever they approach him.”

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‘Back in ’72, Elvis helped me get a good gig at the Hilton Hotel while he was playing in the big theater’, King acknowledged in 2010. ‘He put in a call for me and I worked in the lounge to standing room only. Elvis fans came in different colors but their love of good music was all the same. They were always a good audience’.

‘Many nights I’d go upstairs after we finished our sets and go up to his suite’, King confessed. ‘I’d play Lucille (his guitar) and sing with Elvis, or we’d take turns. It was his way of relaxing’.

‘I’ll tell you a secret’, King winked and laughed. ‘We were the original Blues Brothers because that man knew more blues songs that most in the business – and after some nights it felt like we sang everyone one of them. But my point is, that when we were hanging out in the Hilton in the 70s, Elvis had not lost his respect, his ‘yes sir,’ his love for all fields of music. And I liked that’.

At the same time ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ was climbing the charts in March 1956, Billboard magazine featured an article called, ‘Barriers Being Swept Away in C&W, Pop and R&B Fields. ‘Hard and fast cleavages between the country and western, pop, and rhythm and blues fields are rapidly breaking down’, writer Paul Ackerman penned. ‘Perhaps the most interesting example of the breakdown of categories, however, is the current overlapping of the country, rhythm and blues fields … The outstanding example of this type of performer today is Elvis Presley, recently with Sun Records and now on the Victor label’.

When Sam Philips, as Sun Records, released a Presley record, he made sure each bop/rock/pop song had a country tune on the flip side to appeal to both type of listeners. RCA took this innovation even further by marketing Presley in Country, Rhythm and Blues, and Pop fields. By May of 1956, Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ became the first ‘Double-Triple Crown’ in Billboard history.

In his autobiography, King said he held no grudges because ‘Elvis didn’t steal any music from anyone. He just had his own interpretation of the music he’d grown up on, same is true for everyone. I think Elvis had integrity’.

“If anyone says Elvis Presley was a racist’, charged B.B. King in the 2010 interview. ‘Then they don’t know a thing about Elvis Presley or music history.”

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