Thursday, 12 December 2013

An alphabetical Elvis advent calendar . . .

L is for Leg Wiggle


The Leg Wiggle Controversy was a phrase first used by Ron Rosenbaum in a cover story for the New York Sunday Times magazine on 24 September 1995. It was about Elvisiana and Elvisianics — in other words, is Elvis a new religion? The Leg Wiggle Controversy focuses on the significance of Elvis’ hip and thigh gyrations — sexual or spiritual? 

In the academic corner stands Vernon Chadwick, Director of the International Conference on Elvis Presley organised by the University of Mississippi’s Centre For The Study Of Southern Culture (1966’s event was subtitled Then Sings My Soul: Elvis And The Sacred South). Chadwick is an English professor with a modern English professor’s way with words — he famously described Elvis as an ‘assembler of clothing signifiers’. And as a good Mississippian he disdains what he sees as a Yankee distortion of the history and meaning of Elvis’ hip movements. He wrote: ‘With astonishing cultural illiteracy, New York critics of the 1950s mistook Elvis Presley’s leg-shaking Rock ‘n’ Roll as an obscene striptease, when in fact his moves stemmed from the provincial subworlds of Southern Gospel, Country and Blues that combined spiritual exaltation with bodily release.’ That is: it was the Lord’s will moving Elvis’ pelvis.

In the other corner of the Leg Wiggle Controversy was the Rev Howard Finster, an ‘apocalyptic Folk artist’ and self-proclaimed ‘man of visions’. He too thought Elvis’ pelvis was a gift from God but he believed it to have been an explicitly erotic gift. ‘Elvis was sent by God to revive sex, to stimulate sex and nature.’ The Rev Finster says he learned this during a visit from Elvis the angel.


Tomorrow Minnie Mae, the Presley that outlasted Elvis

The book Essential Elvis, new edition, published December 2013. Link on left of page

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