Long live The King

The Covington News - - Opinion -

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.

Har­ris Black­wood

Colum­nist

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