In the early spring of 1976, my Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State) journalism professor Jeff Henderson, asked his class on the second floor of Old Main to write down the names of two people we would like to interview if we could.
When he called on me to reveal my answers, embarrassingly, I said “Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood.”
Spontaneously, my classmates laughed. Their answers were reasonable…and safe: the police chief, fire marshal, county commissioner, etc. But Jeff held his hand up and looked me seriously straight in the eyes and asked, “Why don’t you?”
WHY DON’T YOU?
“Look, Jack. You just came back from winning Investigative Reporter of the Year Award out of every university in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Association,” he smirked, then grinned. “So, my question to you is—why don’t you?”
I thought of scores of reasons why I couldn’t. Jeff’s question would have profound impact the rest of my life. So, why don’t I? Within eight months, I interviewed both Presley and Eastwood.
I traveled to Memphis during Spring Break with one mission in mind: To do the impossible by interviewing Elvis.
Just a few days after my arrival, staying at a nearby (from Graceland) Howard Johnson’s, I was called in by a local radio station to be interviewed myself because there was much buzz (was that even a word, other than the sound a bee makes, in ’76?) about Elvis.
It was recently announced he’d be performing in his hometown later that summer. Months away and thousands of fans had been camped out for two days in line to buy tickets.
The day before, I drove by the Mid-South Colosseum and was astonished. People were in tents, sleeping bags, lawn chairs and on blankets waiting. Although it was hot and humid, they were happy.
Through the years I’ve found dedicated Elvis fans to be among the happiest people on the planet. Their camaraderie expands beyond man-made limiting boundaries such as race, politics, religion and sex. Generally, they’re united.
Two nights before, I gained quick notoriety among Memphis fans for gaining the “impossible dream.” I scored an interview with Elvis Presley!
As a young journalism student from then Southwest Texas State, I did my homework. The stars were aligned:
🔹Local fans were not swarming around Graceland,
🔹It was a time sandwiched between Elvis’ mother Gladys’ birthday week (reasoned he may leave to visit her gravesite) and Mother’s Day. Yes, it was a long shot, but I was giving it all I could.
🔹With donuts, coffee and burgers from the Hickory Log cafe, I befriended Elvis’ cousin Harold Loyd and other Graceland gate security guards at night…and Uncle Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge and others during the day in between naps (Elvis was a night owl, so I had to be).
🔹The big card up my sleeve was the ace in the hole: I was President of the Texas Chapter of the official Elvis Presley Graceland Fan Club.
Invited to the radio station because of the spike in interest of the upcoming concerts and me landing the interview, the DJ began asking questions in rapid fire.
I answered them as fast as he spit them out, but when he paused for a commercial break, I defaulted to my normal mode of operation–to engage in conversation rather than his Q&A approach.
He started taking live listener calls. It was compelling enough that he kept me on air for over an hour.
I was psyched, of course, but somehow all this excitement calmed my youthful ego. I was very thankful for meeting Elvis, but especially grateful for his kindness. When you hear or read how nice he was to fans, believe me, it was very genuine kindness.
Shaking the hand of the man my parents, my sister Bobbi and I would see on the giant screens of the Trail or Mission Drive-In theaters, watch on TV, or read about in magazines and newspapers, was a surreal and humbling experience.
Meeting Elvis taught me much, including the value of doing homework, being prepared, investigation and a more engaging approach to interviewing.
Most of all, it taught me to never let self-imposed obstacles get in the way of my dreams.
Photos of Dodie and me taken at Graceland, SUN Studio, on June 24, 25 2020.
The following August, I was able to meet Elvis briefly backstage at Hemisfair Arena in San Antonio to present him some official honorary documents from the City, Bexar County and a Texas-shaped award from fans across the state.
Two of my favorite journalism classmates under Jeff Henderson, Janis Johnson and Vicky Highsaw, joined me on the front row center section for the Elvis concert.
Photos taken from front row, center at Elvis Presley’s August 18, 1976 concert.
Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, their families and cohorts remind many patriotic citizens today of Paul Cantrell and his political machine.
In Athens, Tennessee, the seat of McMinn County, was once upon a time, the headquarters of Sheriff Cantrell, the unscrupulous boss of a corrupt Democratic machine which stretched from Tennessee to Washington, DC.
When so many of the husbands, fathers, uncles, sons and cousins left for duty during the Second World War, Cantrell kicked his corruption into high gear.
🔹On the books, Cantrell drew salaries of nearly sixty thousand dollars per year over his first six years that were worth over $715,000 in today’s dollars.
🔹He was also appointed superintendent of the county workhouse (which didn’t even exist) for an additional two thousand dollars annually. a time when the median Tennessee home was worth less than two thousand dollars and the starting salary for enlisted men was fifty dollars per month.
🔹Despite the strict rationing for millions of patriotic citizens, Cantrell’s “lieutenants” and “enforcers” had plenty of cars, tires, and fuel.
🔹Reminiscent of Bill Clinton and Jeffrey Epstein, or Joe Biden and Judge Emmett Sullivan, Cantrell and company had their own whorehouses, not to mention illegal casinos, and speakeasies, to play in and take in thousands of dollars per month in protection money.
🔹Like Congress and the Senate today protecting their beloved kickback schemes from Ukraine, by 1946, Cantrell had dozens of county employees on the payrolls to provide cover for their vast money laundering operations.
🔹By August 1, 1946, citizens had enough. The boys who went to fight in World War II returned home as men, brave veterans.
🔹While the “roosters” were gone saving the world from tyranny, the “fox” made certain the elections were rigged, much like 2020.
🔹McMinn County ballot boxes remained in Democratic offices. Cantrell’s deputies were the “election officers,” some of whom went down in history as “brutal killers with the blood of innocent civilians on their hands. Other local thugs and felons were on hand to further inculcate the climate of fear, including a man who murdered his own father and, five months after the election, murdered his sister-in-law, an expectant mother, and an infant child.”
🔹Like the patriots of January 6, 2021, some of McMinn County voters were imprisoned to prevent them from voting.
🔹Similar to the fake news of Big Media today, the message went out to older voters that their pensions would be held up unless they voted “the right way.”
🔹When a Republican election judge, a disabled veteran of World War I, tried to view the ballot count, he was dragged into the corridor and beaten, leaving him paralyzed.
🔹Another man who attempted to observe the ballot count was pistol-whipped, and one gunman fired at a poll worker who tried to leave the courthouse.
🔹Citizens petitioned the Department of Justice for relief, knowing that local and State officials would not take any action against the machine.
🔹Like the DOJ of 2022, the 1946 Department of Justice took no to little action and downplayed any evidence.
🔹Judges then, as now, dismissed evidence and lawsuits that did make it into courts. Of course, judges, DAs, senators and congressmen were associated with the machine. In one case, the judge not only dismissed most of the charges but fined the men one penny for the charges that stuck.
🔹The machine awarded Cantrell by having him “elected” to the Tennessee Senate. Pat Mansfield replaced him as Sheriff.
🔹Stories started to spread that widows and daughters of some deceased military heroes were forced into prostitutuon.
🔹Surviving veterans returned home to a community of horror.
🔹Near the end of September, 1944, Earl Ford, a returned Navy Seabee, was shot and killed by one of Mansfeld’s thugs, George Spurling.
🔹Not long after Ford was killed, Bill White returned from his tour of duty. Bill’s father, Edd, a veteran of the First World War, told his son a story:
He walked five miles a day to work at the power station on Railroad Avenue. He carried his lunch in a brown paper bag and a pint of milk from Mayfield’s Dairy. While walking past the jail on his way home he saw four deputies stare at him, get in a car, and start the engine. As he walked past the courthouse, the car was in the middle of the street, following him. He lowered his head and kept walking. He walked past the bus station and they were right alongside him. Edd picked up the pace. They accelerated. He didn’t know what they wanted with him or why. But he knew it wasn’t good. He panicked and started running to his house. The car pulled in front of him and slammed on its brakes. Four deputies jumped out with clubs in their hands. He was arrested and taken to jail. Now it was time to figure out a reason. The deputies took his milk bottle out of the bag and passed it around, taking a sniff. “Smells funny,” they agreed. The deputies who protected the roadhouses and honky-tonks and lined their pockets with kickbacks from bootleggers and pimps decided the remnant of Edd White’s milk was alcohol. He was fined $16.05, several days’ pay.
“It was a big surprise,” Bill described about returning home from the war, and “everything, everything, everything you’ve been told you’re supposed to be fighting for wasn’t there.” There were “liquor houses, whorehouses, gambling joints all over the county,” protected by “a bunch of thugs wearing guns and badges.”
Sounding very familiar to Americans today, Cantrell back then decided he was returning to Athens to “run” for Sheriff, Mansfield would be his handpicked successor to “run” for the State Senate seat.
🔹The veterans could stand no more. It was time to take action. They were told to keep away from the polls and to not even think about running for office, the veterans began organizing anyway.
🔹They prepared in secrecy to put a ticket together. They called it the “Ex-Serviceman’s Cleanup Ticket for McMinn County.”
🔹The local Republican Party endorsed them. One party official summed it up:
“We are involved in a conflict with desperate enemies who have sought to subject us to tyranny and oppression…We feel a deep sense of obligation and now seek in measure to repay…Young men who have fought against oppression abroad will continue that fight for honesty and decency at home.”
🔹Bill White finally told the group they were being naïve, arguing that they had to organize a fighting bunch:
“Listen. Do you think they’re going to let you win this election? Those people been taking these elections for years with a bunch of armed thugs. If you never got the guts enough to stand up and fight fire with fire, you ain’t gonna win.”
An Athens minister preached to his congregation:
“If you do not vote as your conscience dictates, then you have sold your citizenship and do not deserve to be citizens. It is the responsibility of each and every person to preserve our most cherished possession, liberty, or forever lose it.”
🔹Armed deputies “guarded” each polling place, and reports of election fraud poured in to GI headquarters almost immediately.
🔹One veteran reported, “They already started knocking our boys in the head and putting them in jail. They’re taking this thing…This thing’ lost.”
🔹A deputy beat and shot a sixty-year-old who insisted he was going to vote as he tried to enter a polling place.
🔹Another deputy brutally beat an election judge, a veteran who protested the shameful voter fraud he witnessed.
🔹One writer indicated “there were twelve ballot boxes: one in the jail, another inside a heavily defended courthouse, a third barricaded in the Dixie Café, a fourth in the vault in the Cantrell Bank Building, and poll watchers had been ejected at two other locations.”
🔹Inside the courthouse, deputies held a handful of GI poll watchers hostage, two of them wounded.
🔹Bill White and some of the team of GI veterans took these courthouse “deputies” for a drive out in the country were they marched them into the woods, made them take off their clothes, and tied them to trees. Some were whipped with a hickory stick.
🔹Leaving the naked and whipped deputies tied to the trees, White and team returned to town. White told his fellow patriots:
Well! Here you are! After three or four years of fighting for your country. You survived it all. You came back. And what did you come back to? A free country? You came back to Athens, Tennessee, in McMin!n County, that’s run by a bunch of outlaws. They’ve got hired gunmen all over this county right now at this minute. What for? One purpose. To scare you so bad you won’t dare stand up for the rights you’ve been bleeding and dying for. Some of your mothers and some of your sisters are afraid to walk down the streets to the polling places. Lots of men, too! Because they know what happens. A car drives by in the night and shoots out your windows. If that doesn’t scare you enough, they’ll set fire to your house or your barn. They’ll beat up members of your family and put them in jail. For no reason! Is that the kind of freedom you were supposed to be fighting for? Do you know what your rights are supposed to be? How many rights have you got left? None! Not even the right to vote in a free election. When you lose that, you’ve lost everything. And you are damned well going to lose it unless you fight and fight the only way they understand. Fire with fire! We’ve got to make this an honest election because we promised the people that if they voted it would be an honest election. And it’s going to be. But only if we see that it is. We are going to have to run these organized criminals out of town, and we can do it if we stick together. Are you afraid of them? Why, I could take a banana stalk and run every one of these potbellied draft dodgers across Depot Hill. Get the hell out of here and get something to shoot with. And come back as fast as you can.
Bill White, 1946
🔹The veterans returned with an arsenal of pistols, rifles, shotguns, squirrel guns, and European souvenirs like a German Mauser. It wasn’t enough.
🔹A group of them raided the nearby National Guard armory, where they found revolvers, a Thompson submachine gun, an array of .30-caliber M1917 rifles, and plenty of ammunition.
🔹Sheriff deputies gathered at the jail, where the ballot boxes had been taken.
🔹 White remembered how they had sworn to defend America against all of her enemies. Later, he explained that “if it was worth going over there and risking your life, laying it down, it was worth it here, too. So, we decided to fight.”
🔹The veterans formed a line on a hillside across from the jail and demanded that the machine men bring out the ballot boxes. From the jail, someone yelled, “You’re going to have to come get them.”
🔹A gun battle commenced and the vets climbed to rooftops, strategically surrounding the jail.
🔹 Other veterans fired from behind walls and parked cars. They shot out the transformer that supplied the jail. The deputies could even see their ammo which had mostly been used up.
🔹More deputies from both Monroe and Polk Counties arrived with a plan to kill Knox Henry, the veteran candidate for Sheriff.
🔹After receiving news that the National Guard had been mobilized, the veterans asked White what they should do. He replied immediately, vowing, “We’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to keep shooting here until we get those ballot boxes and get those people out of there.”
🔹Some of the veterans went and returned with an enormous stockpile of dynamite in the old county barn that the county used to clear roads and blast stumps and stones.
🔹They began tossing dynamite in increasing amounts at the jail, aiming closer and closer with each throw, finally promising that the next would be through the window.
🔹The deputized political machine men, outgunned and out of ammunition, surrendered with their hands held straight up as they walked out.
🔹The patriots searched the deputies for weapons and marched them from the jail to the courthouse in a column led by Bill White.
🔹White’s men gathered all deputies fancy late model cars so citizens could see them turn them over, douse them with gasoline, and set aflame.
🔹The veterans delivered a statement to a local radio station:
“The GI election officials went to the polls unarmed to have a fair election, as Pat Mansfield promised. They were met with blackjacks and pistols. Several GI officials were beaten and the ballot boxes were moved to the jail. The GI supporters went to the jail to get these ballot boxes and were met by gunfire. The GI candidates had promised that the votes would be counted as cast. They had no choice but to meet fire with fire. In the precincts where the GI candidates were allowed watchers, they led by three-to-one majorities. The GIs are elected and will serve as your county officials beginning September 1, 1946.”
The GIs continued by:
🔹Halting their planned aerial attack at a nearby airstrip in which they had planned to drop bombs over the jail.
🔹Raided all of the gambling dens, seized the slot machines and destroyed the equipment.
🔹Knox Henry was sworn in as Sheriff and declared:
“We have accomplished what we started out to do. We’ve broken the grip of the political machine that has ruled McMinn County for ten years without regard as to the wishes of the people in how their government was to be run. When I say we, I mean the other GIs on the nonpartisan cleanup ticket and the citizens of McMinn County who helped us win the battle.”
“We regret that the gunfight at the jail had to happen…Our only alternative was to use force…there will be no trouble of this kind at the next election. Any person who can qualify for an office may run with the full assurance of an honest election and the people will have nothing to fear when they go to the polls on Election Day.”
🔹Knox needed a whole new team of deputies, and pinned a star on Bill White. Almost immediately, they carried out raids on the moonshiners and bootleggers who had enjoyed the protection of the eliminated machine.
Soon, a Commonwealth editorial read:
“Since, after all, our American nation was founded by virtue of revolution, and since such revered figures as Jefferson evidently thought that revolution had valuable tonic effects on the body politic, it would be a trifle hypocritical for Americans to raise their hands in horror at these goings-on in the shadow of the Great Smokies.”
These brave patriots of Athens, Tennessee, fought and won the only successful armed insurrection in the United States since the War of Independence….so far.
Here is a delicious recipe inspired by our roadtrip through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Jack was enthusiastic about stopping by Dollywood along the way. It is a beautiful area.
When you’ve been working 9 to 5, you need a treat that will lift your spirits. Dolly Parton Pie is the world-famous singer’s favorite, a walnut pie with a rich, sweet filling you can enjoy whenever you get the Mule Skinner Blues!
Buttery, crunchy, and melodic, Dolly Parton Pie is just what you need most when it’s time to tuck into dessert. You’ll fall in love with it on the first bite!
• 1 (9-inch) fold-out pie crust, thawed
• 3 eggs
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 3/4 cup light corn syrup
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
• 4 tablespoons butter, melted
• whipped cream, optional, to taste, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a 9-inch pie pan with the unrolled crust, cutting off any overhang.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a hand mixer.
Add the sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt gradually to the beaten eggs, mixing to combine.
Add the melted butter and mix until thoroughly combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell.
Add the walnuts, spreading them evenly throughout the mixture.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees F.
Bake for 45 minutes, adding a collar of foil around the crust after 30 minutes.
The Wit, Wisdom and Mistakes of the Legendary American Performer
In 1964, when his recording of “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” (about the tragic end suffered by a Native American hero of World War II) received an initially lukewarm reception at radio, Cash took out a full-page ad in Billboard demanding of programmers, “Where are your guts?”
On January 13, 1968, Cash recorded his masterly live album At Folsom Prison, from which came a new #1 hit version of “Folsom Prison Blues.” This album and the follow-up 1969 live recording At San Quentin pushed his career to new heights. Taken from the San Quentin album, “A Boy Named Sue” (#1 country, #2 pop) became his biggest-selling single and the Country Music Association Single of the Year (1969). Cash was also voted the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year for 1969.
From 1969 through 1971, Cash hosted a prime time network television variety show that showcased his status as a national icon while featuring an eclectic mix of guest performers. A live cut from this show, “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (written by Kris Kristofferson), was a #1 country hit. Increasingly, Cash recorded and featured on his television show the work of new songwriters drawn to country from folk and rock music backgrounds.
Cash died in 2003. Two years later his life became the subject of a biographical film, Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. Phoenix and Witherspoon both won Academy Awards for their performances. American V: A Hundred Highways (2006) and American VI: Ain’t No Grave (2010), further strengthened Cash’s reputation as a cultural hero.
“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 1968, many years after they first met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, legendary singer Johnny Cash proposed to June Carter on stage during a performance in front of an audience of 7,000 in London, Ontario. June urged him to keep singing, but Johnny refused to continue the show until he received an answer.
June said yes and the couple married on March 1, 1968, in Franklin, Kentucky.
Through thick and thin, they were married until June’s death in 2003. Johnny dedicated his final live performance to her, and passed away within four months after her.
The results of a British poll designated a note, written to June by Johnny, as the “Greatest Love Letter of All Time.”
Here is the letter in its entirety:
Happy Birthday Princess,We get old and get use to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.
But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me.You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much. Happy Birthday Princess.
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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.
Johnny Cash started a massive ring of fire on June 27th of 1965. It was in California’s Los Padres National Forest.
According to Cash’s FBI file acquired via the Freedom of Information Act, the music icon said his camper shot sparks out of its faulty exhaust system after getting stuck along the side of the road. Cash tried to gun the engine and accidentally lit the forest ablaze.
Cash’s nephew, Damon Fielder, was on the fishing trip with Cash when the fire started. According to his story, Uncle John was just drunk and allowed their campfire to get out of control. The blaze burned 508 acres of forest, spread across three mountains, and 49 of the area’s 53 California condors disappeared.
After feigning illness to avoid a court date, the “Ring of Fire” singer eventually paid a fine of $82,001 in damages.
🔹Throughout his career, Cash would often perform in prisons and recorded two live albums during those performances — Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison in 1968 and Johnny Cash at San Quentin in 1969.
🔹Cash was actually arrested seven times total for charges including reckless driving, drug use and public drunkenness, though he never spent more than a few nights in jail.
🔹One of his arrests was for picking flowers in Starkville, Mississippi, when he drunkenly took flowers from someone’s yard at 2 a.m. At the Starkville jail, he kicked the door so hard he broke his toe and later recorded a song about the experience.
🔹In 1981, Cash was attacked by his pet ostrich, Waldo. The big bird left him with five broken ribs and internal bleeding. The attack happened on the grounds of the exotic animal park Cash had established behind the House of Cash offices in Tennessee.
🔹In his book Cash: The Autobiograph, the musician wrote that Waldo was “not happy” to see him one day and that he swiped at the animal with a stick to show him who was boss.
“I missed,” Cash wrote. “He wasn’t there. He was in the air, and a split second later he was on his way down again, with that big toe of his, larger than my size-thirteen shoe, extended toward my stomach. He made contact — I’m sure there was never any question he wouldn’t — and frankly, I got off lightly. All he did was break my two lower ribs and rip my stomach open down to my belt, If the belt hadn’t been good and strong, with a solid belt buckle, he’d have spilled my guts exactly the way he meant to. As it was, he knocked me over onto my back and I broke three more ribs on a rock — but I had sense enough to keep swinging the stick, so he didn’t get to finish me. I scored a good hit on one of his legs, and he ran off.”
In the history of music, Johnny Cash definitely is one of the best-known names in the industry.
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.
We stopped by Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee back in 2020 knowing it is one of the most-visited attractions in that area. Although it was open, we elected not to go in because of limitations due from the pandemic.
It is definitely on our bucket list to go back to what looks to be a world-class theme park. We heard from locals that we made a good decision at the time, but “come back again because they are always making good improvements and introducing something new.”
For 2022, Dollywood officially opened to the general public on March 12th, with season passholders getting a sneak peak on March 11. Dolly Parton was there, her first time at the park since 2019, to greet everyone back.
Dollywood didn’t waste much time with planning exciting updates with a a variety of projects. Here are some of the changes and additions:
🔹The Emporium, a very popular shop with visitors, was updated aesthetically.
🔹Victoria’s Pizza received a kitchen renovation to improve efficiency and help with visitors getting meals faster. An enlarged seating area has also improved the dining experience.
One change that will really benefit the guest experience are the wider walkways and more space for guests to spread out. Congestion has always been a struggle at Dollywood, but now the park is taking steps toward improvement! The park is creating wider walkways and better utilizing spaces throughout the park. Recently crews removed an old mine tunnel near the tracks for the Dollywood Express. This creates more space for visitors to walk, or stop and watch as the train rolls by.
The Flower & Food Festival has quickly become a fan-favorite festival at Dollywood. Now they have expanded it with new iconic Mosaiculture displays that visitors will love, and hundreds of thousands of blooms throughout the park. The culinary team has created a menu full of items that highlights the tastes of spring in the Smokie Mountains.
Another popular festival is the Summer Celebration. In 2022, Dollywood is expanding the Summer Nights drone and fireworks show with even more drones. The show features hundreds of drones flying high above the park, telling a story with 3D animations and a symphony of light.
Hoot Owl Hollow
Hoot Owl Hollow is a new area coming to life for Dollywood’s Harvest Festival. It’s located in Craftsman’s Valley and features a number of owl-themed displays in the park and suspended in the trees. The festival has thousands of carved pumpkins, performances from talented artists and Great Pumpkin LumiNights
Dollywood is introducing a brand new season pass structure (Silver, Gold and Diamond) that provides more for guests.
Here’s what to expect with the passes:
🔹Silver – With the Silver Season Pass, visitors get unlimited entries to Dollywood during the 2022 season, 2 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets and a $5 discount on single day tickets. Adult Silver Passes are priced at $149.
🔹Gold – The Gold Season Pass includes access to all-new Golden Hours and Events, unlimited visits to the park, 4 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets, a $10 discount on single day tickets, free parking, and 15% off select food and merchandise. Adult Gold Passes are $204.
🔹Diamond – With the Diamond Season Pass, visitors receive access to Golden Hours and Events, unlimited visits to Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country, free parking, 20% off select food and merchandise, 6 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets and a $15 discount on single day tickets. These passes are priced at $314 for adults.