For reasons I cannot explain
There’s some part of me wants to see
Graceland – Paul Simon
When I first got back into music and playing drums I was immediately drawn to the blues.
I always had a love for laid back blues ever since I first heard “Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You” on Led Zeppelin III. That was one of the first albums I really sat down and listened to over and over again, dissecting every song and riff John Bonham played.
It wasn’t Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, etcetera, etcetera, but I was a white boy from rural south central Pennsylvania.
My mom and dad had bought me a portable cassette stereo player (early boom box) and Led Zeppelin III was one of the first cassettes I owned.
Finding that song I discovered the blues on an intrinsic level.
Later I would learn the roots of this song and most of rock and roll.
When I was about 12 or 13 B.B. King came to play at Valley View Park which was 2 miles from my home. Valley View was on old wooden covered outdoor stage and pavilion that had primarily regional and some national country and western acts. It flourished in the 50’s and 60’s but was defunct by the mid 70’s.
I remember seeing the posters for B.B. King’s show (wish I would have grabbed one of those) and wondering who is this black guy coming to this country and western venue. Wish I knew then what I knew now. You find out in life that you regret the things you didn’t do not the things you did.
What I’ve learn to love most about the blues is simplicity, so simple yet so difficult. It seemed to be a natural place to start after not playing for the last 25 years.
So I figured if I’m getting back into the blues I must make the pilgrimage to the Mecca of the blues, Memphis, Tennessee.
I’m not going to go over my whole trip but I want to write about what left the deepest impressions on me.
The big surprise of the trip was our visit to Graceland.
You’re in Memphis how can you not see Graceland.
I never was an Elvis fan when I was young but as I grew older I began to appreciate his life and music.
Pulling into the parking lot across the street from Graceland my first impression was this is a small amusement park. My next thought was a lot of people made a lot of money off of this man when he was alive and there are a lot more people making a lot more money off him now that he’s dead.
The deepest impressions came when we took the tour of the house. It wasn’t very impressive by today’s standards. People still refer to it as a mansion but to me it was just a big house from the sixties.
Elvis has always been portrayed by the media and his fans to be god like. So I was expecting him to have lived in a palace fit for a god, you know the Taj Mahal.
The house had that sixties/seventies feel to it and I liked that. It must remind me of my youth.
I thought it was a nice house for the time but certainly no palace of the gods.
Walking through the house and seeing the kitchen, the media room, and the jungle room with its green shag carpeting and hand carved furniture, I started to see Elvis as just a person, as someone I could of hooked up with in a band.
At one point on the tour you went into the back yard and there was Lisa Marie’s swing set. It was just like any other swing set, almost like the one I had as a kid just a little bigger.
I now saw Elvis as just a man, a man with some extraordinary talent but just a person, like you or me.
The other moment that stuck with me was when the tour took you through the building that had all of Elvis’s awards. At one point there was an RCA color console TV not much different from the one my grandparents had when I was very young.
The plaque said that RCA gave this TV to Elvis after selling 50 million records in 4 years.
The man sold the over 12 million records a year for 4 years and the best they could do is give him a TV set!
Again a lot of people made a lot of money off of this man.
Going to Graceland started out as just something to do while we were in Memphis. But of all the places we saw and visited it left me with the most lasting impression.
It made me look at Elvis as an artist and a man and less as a star.
It made me a bit of an Elvis fan.
© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.