Elvis and the Birth of My Love of Music

Photo © Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc

I can still see it. I can still FEEL it and smell it. I was standing over a little record player and watching the record turn as the needle moved over and landed. The scratchy sound before the music starts…and then there it was: “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog…” followed by 2 minutes and 18 seconds of pure-bliss rock ‘n’ roll. Clapping, drums, electric guitar, and that voice, that attitude.

I just know I played it over and over and over and over and it never got old. I think I was about 5. I danced. I shook my little butt. I sang. I clapped along.

And then I was at Grandma’s house for a few days. I’m not sure why they’d left me there, but one of my favorite pictures from my childhood is of me snuggled in her arms because I didn’t want to leave. One of the reasons I didn’t want to leave was that we watched TV together, and we watched Girl Happy, the 1965 Elvis “beach party” movie. Yes, the seeds were planted and it all goes crazy from there.

I know I’m not the only one who has strong feelings for Elvis. He’s become everything from a cliché to an icon of tackiness that people love to laugh at, which is a terrible shame because there is nothing about his primal talent and his beauty in those early days that deserves to be laughed at. What happened to him after that is a great American tragedy.

I have a British son-in-law who likes to give the Brits credit for everything throughout history. We often argue about the role of the Beatles. I was never a Beatles fan. Still change the channel every time they come on (sorry!). But Elvis came first. Elvis was born out of the Black American South. The Beatles wouldn’t exist without Elvis.

Anyway, from Elvis my love of music progressed rapidly. Just the other week I was showing my youngest daughters my 45s case—swirly, psychedelic hot-pink cardboard with a little brass closure and a matching gold plastic handle. “THIS,” I said to them in all seriousness “was the iPod of my childhood.” It’s filled with a veritable wonderland of the songs important to my childhood: “Puff the Magic Dragon,” by Peter Paul and Mary; “Love the One You’re With,” by Stephen Stills; “Vincent,” by Don McLean; “Blowing in the Wind”…sung by Stevie Wonder??? (I don’t think I discovered Dylan until a bit later); “School’s Out,” by Alice Cooper; “The Birds and The Bees,” by Jewel Akens; “Clair,” by Gilbert O’Sullivan.

And then there it is, the missing link of history: The 1976 recording of “Blinded By the Light,” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band…written by…Bruce Springsteen! Ahhh, it all makes sense now. It was 1976 when, at age 14, I “borrowed” the car and drove to Laneco to buy my first LP: Jackson Browne’s The Pretender. I’d never heard of him before, but the title and picture called out to me. And I haven’t looked back since.

It all goes back to Elvis. As research for writing this blog I went online to look at the video of Elvis singing “Hound Dog.” (My 6-year-old came in and was mesmerized. She asked me to play it again, but first she had to run and get her plastic “electric” guitar shaped like a hound dog! And so, the tradition continues….)

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2 Responses to Elvis and the Birth of My Love of Music

  1. Renee says:

    Going back just a week bit further, Maria…. I remember my very first 45, bought with babysitting money no doubt: Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. And we had one of those circa 1970 ipod cases, too!
    And suffice it to say I would not have survived adolescence without Janis Ian.

  2. Mullein says:

    I wasn’t really aware of Elvis till “The Ghetto” was on popular AM radio. I had discovered Dylan, The Doors, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Simon and Garfunkel. I, too, bought Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender” for precisely the same reason you did – because of the album cover. I discovered Townes Van Zandt in the same way: I was pulled in by the cover for his “Late Great TVZ” LP. And Don McClean – that American Pie album was awesome, wasn’t it! At the time I really liked his “Crossroads” song, tho I listened to the entire album over and over… Today, it amazes me that our albums took up so much space (mine filled 4 orange crates) – and now all that music fits on my classic I-Pod, with room to spare… :)

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