Long live The King
In everyone’s life, there are bound to be several “ where were you” moments. I’m talking about the remembering time and place when you first heard news that would eventually be etched into history.
I remember the night that a bulletin flashed on television telling us that Dr. Martin Luther King had been shot in Memphis. Later, a second bulletin informed us that he had died.
On a June morning later that year, the kid’s show I normally watched was replaced by coverage of the shooting of Robert F. Kennedy, who at the time was still clinging to life.
Momma was quite upset a few days later when they buried him at night at Arlington National Cemetery. She thought burying folks was a daytime only event.
It was 30 years ago this week, when I was the afternoon host on WKUN, the radio station in Monroe. We didn’t have a wire service teletype, so the only source of news was the UPI radio network, which we carried at the top of the hour.
The 5 p. m. newscast carried the first word that Elvis
The 5 p.m. newscast carried the first word that Elvis Presley, The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, had died in Memphis.
Presley, The King of Rock ‘ n’ Roll, had died in Memphis.
The station’s older record library belonged to the son of one of the owners and he kept it under lock and key. We had about four Elvis singles and a gospel album that were not locked up.
So, like many radio stations across the country, I launched an all- Elvis tribute format, which didn’t go to far with a total of 15 or 20 songs.
A fellow announcer, a guy named Rob Watson, who wasn’t much older than me, came in and we talked on the air about our memories of Elvis. That didn’t last long either.
Thank goodness the station signed off at sundown.
But in the 30 years since that date, I’ve developed a greater appreciation of Elvis.
I’ve visited Graceland and the little shotgun house in Tupelo, Miss., where Elvis lived as a boy.
The late Hovie Lister, one of the great gospel pianists, was a friend of mine. On the day Elvis died, Hovie and his wife were flying to St. Simons Island. When they landed, they were told to meet the agent for a message. The call was from J. D. Sum- ner, who told him Elvis had died and to get back on the plane and head for Memphis.
One day, years later, Hovie sat down at a piano and played the songs from Elvis’ funeral. The songs included “ How Great Thou Art,” “ He Touched Me” and “ Sweet, Sweet Spirit.” It was just the two of us and his great style of playing gave me a very personal glimpse of The King’s final rites.
Another friend, Hugh “ Baby” Jarrett was a member of The Jordanaires, who backed up Elvis during his debut on “ The Ed Sullivan Show.” In the old videotapes, Hugh is always over Elvis’ left shoulder.
He told me great stories about improvising the “ dowahs,” “ oohs,” hand claps and finger snaps as they learned new material. Hugh also appeared with Elvis in the 1957 motion picture, “ Loving You.”
Hugh also talked about how shy and awkward Elvis was in those early days.
The boy of 17 sitting behind the radio controls may not have had much insight into the life of Elvis Aron Presley, but the 47- year- old man who writes this column is a real fan of The King after spending a little time with a couple of folks who knew him well.
Long live The King.