Saturday, 14 December 2013

An alphabetical advent calendar of Elvis . . . 

N is for Norse

Old Norse is the language which gave us the word ‘Elvis’ — meaning ‘all wise’. Well, maybe. 

The first actual Elvis was Irish. The name is an anglicised version of Ailbe, a 6th century bishop and saint. St Ailbe is still a big name in the Irish Catholic world. He is one of the four men who brought Christ to Ireland — and so one of those responsible for turning the place into the land of saints and scholars. His feast day is September 12.

There is a Welsh connection, too. St Ailbe (Elvis) baptised David, founder of the Welsh church. Which is why, in Pembrokeshire — about as far west as you can go in Wales without actually being in America — there is a tiny village called Saint Elvis, with a church in ruins. 

There is also a St Elvis farm and a shrine to St Elvis. At least, it is said there is  but I've not been able to find an image of it. Nor have I ever been to St Elvis but I have found it on the map . . .

Tomorrow O is for the King's dying words

Friday, 13 December 2013

An alphabetical advent calendar of Elvis

M is for Minnie Mae Presley
Minnie Mae was Elvis’ paternal grandmother. She was born on 17 June, 1890 and died on 8 May, 1980. That means she outlived both her son Vernon and her grandson, whose birth she attended. Hers is the one of the four gold and black gravestones in the Meditation Garden in the grounds of Graceland. (Actually, there are four and a quarter gravestones if you count the mini one for Elvis’ stillborn twin, Jesse Garon.)

Tomorrow The link between Elvis and an ancient European language

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

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

K is for Kalamazoo


The first place Elvis was spotted after he died was Kalamazoo, a small city in south West Michigan. According to the Weekly World News, that is. The American tabloid reported the sighting by 50-year-old ‘mother of five’ Louise Welling, non-Elvis fan and wife of a car assembly worker. She saw him twice, first in a grocery store, then, with her daughter and grandson, outside a Burger King restaurant. Having eaten, Elvis ‘put on a pair of dark glasses, got into a small, light blue car and took off real fast.’ Mrs Welling then added: ‘Other people have seen him, but they are afraid to say anything.’

Tomorrow The Leg Wiggle Controversy

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

J is for June Juanico

June Juanico was a woman Elvis Presley nearly married — they dated for most of 1956. Four decades later, she published a sweet memoir Elvis: In The Twilight Of Memory. The night before I interviewed her about it, I got talking to a man named Bayard in a bar in Oxford, Mississippi. A student at the university, born to wealth in Memphis, Bayard told me his aunt had dated Elvis. Doubtful, I asked him for how long. ‘One night,’ he said. Why only one night? ‘She didn’t enjoy the experience.’ Why? ‘White trash,’ said Bayard.

I repeated this exchange to June over coffee at the Casino restaurant in Biloxi on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, where she was working as a meeter and greeter. She was a good-looking woman, then 59, with a raucous smoker’s laugh and a Mickey Mouse watch. She peered at me over half-moon glasses. ‘He was not white trash,’ she said, firmly. 

I asked her what people did when people they found out she dated Elvis. Mostly, she told me, they asked two questions: Can I touch you? and Did you sleep with Elvis? 

‘I tell
em: yes to the first, no to the second,’ said June. 

Those who read her book will discover that her answer to the second question is both disingenuous and dependent on a definition of ‘sleep with’ as synonymous only with ‘have full penetrative sex with’. For more details, see the section in Essential Elvis on his last great Leiber and Stoller song Don’t.

Tomorrow Ascension Day in Kalamazoo

Monday, 9 December 2013

I is for the first person singular

‘I’ suggests two questions about Elvis.

One like all Mama’s boys and all pop stars, Elvis was strikingly self-centred, but exactly how self-centred was he? 


Two is there an objective psychometric tool that could be used to measure this?
I reckon there is: a simple mathematical calculation which I will call the Solipsism Index™. First take the total number of songs recorded, divide it by the sum of titles including a first person singular pronoun then express the result as a percentage. 

So, according to The Elvis Encyclopaedia, the King recorded 657 different songs. Of these, 61 start with the first person singular and 30 more include it elsewhere in the title. A further 80 feature the first person accusative, genitive or dative. This gives a total of 171. (Five songs, by the way, include more than one first-person word. One features ‘me’ twice.) 

Performing the psychometric analysis on this data gives a figure of 26 per cent. Thus, Elvis’ Solipsism Index™ is 0.26. In other words, Elvis was just over one quarter self-centred. By comparison, Frank Sinatra’s Solipsism Index™ is 0.28.

Tomorrow One degree of Elvis. I kiss a woman who had (almost) sex with the king

Sunday, 8 December 2013

H is for Harrelson

Woody Harrelson, actor and Elvis fan. His life story sounds like it just climbed out of a Jerry Lee Lewis song. It’s possible that there is very little character acting in his portrayals of a (very) simple country boy in the TV sitcom Cheers or a sleaze-pit of a pornographer in The People Vs Larry Flynt. He was the son of a bible-bashing Presbyterian mother and father who was a Texan good ol’ boy turned contract killer and received two life sentences in 1979. 

Woody’s first acting role was the Elvis impression he used to impress his classmates at school. Like Jerry Lee himself, Harrelson went for a dual career path — studying theology and chasing women. At one time, he reckoned he was racking up three women a day. ‘I was like a kid in a candy store.’ Like Elvis, he later found solace in the spiritual, doing yoga eight hours a day. 

Another actor, Eddie Murphy, is an even bigger Elvis fan. But, for an obvious reason, it’s unlikely he’ll be playing Elvis in any biopic. Mr Murphy is from New York, you see.

Tomorrow Elvis and I