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Graceland 2000: Open House To The World

September 11, 2000 | Other
Saturday night was not over with the finish of "That's The Way It Is." It was getting close to 10:00 p.m. and Brandon had made plans for him and Timmy to play at "The Crossings", he to play his blue guitar and Timmy to play his snare drums. I had spent a lot of time down on Beale last year on a Saturday night so it was okay that we weren't staying. Beale Street is one of those streets that one must walk in their lifetime if one appreciates music and American culture. The colors, the sounds emanating from the blues clubs, and the thousands of people crowded into this short stretch of history leave images in your mind that will stay with you. We took the time to walk down the street, and the energy in the air transcended the crowds. Beale. This was where a still anonymous young man who had moved to Memphis as a teenager had hung out, some 50 years ago, before his own music would far transcend these boundaries.

The next few hours would be spent listening to Brandon and Timmy play Elvis tunes there by the cement wall by the parking lot at "The Crossings. They couldn't get on center stage so we improvised, and soon folks started to gather. It was just two guys, a snare drum, a blue guitar, and Elvis tunes. It wasn't long before they were joined by a young 20 year-old boy who bore a striking resemblance to, well, a certain young truck driver who had been from the area. This young man sang "Blue Moon" with a lilting voice that resonated so familiar in the warm night air, and when he spoke the voice that came from his throat was uncanny. He was only 20 years old. There it was again. A phenomenon that had struck me the year before and had stayed with me. I was finding it recurring again this year and had recently discovered that this phenomenon of young people becoming fans was far more pervasive than I had imagined possible. I'm 38 and used to think I was one of the younger Elvis fans. No. Wrong again. I'm astonished at the number of younger fans and their passion for Elvis Presley, a man who was no longer even alive when many of them had been born. It does my heart good to see that the torch has been passed.

This young man was one of those not even born when Elvis passed away 23 years ago, yet, from what his mother told me, he knows the lyrics to every song Elvis Presley ever recorded and sounds like him too. Wears his hair like him as well, only it remains a natural brown. For now.

After playing and singing and jamming, with Brandon and Timmy playing a few favorites like "Lying In Your Loving Arms Again," "Help Me Make It Through The Night," and "The Grass Won't Pay No Mind," it was time to call it a night. Brandon drove me back to the motel, telling me the story of his grandmother, her old record player, and the 45 record single of "Moody Blue" that would prove to be a milestone in Brandon's young life. It's a story I would like to share here. Every fan has a story about how they came into the whole "Elvis thing." Brandon's story isn't unusual or extraordinary. What is unusual is the circumstance of age in this day and age.

He told me about how his ears had been blessed with the sound of Elvis Presley from being exposed to his music through his Grandmother's record collection at a very young age. Brandon, whom I had assumed was in his 40's after reading some of his posts on a newsgroup, was only 23 and had been born less than a year before Elvis died. He came to know Elvis after the King was gone and credits his grandmother with having given him that gift. When Grandma passed away in 1988 when he was a teenager, he inherited her old records. The truth of the matter was that he had already permanently borrowed her "Aloha From Hawaii" record album years earlier when he was a mere child and had played it to death. Clean near wore it out, but keeps it dear to this day, scratches and pops and all. He has since collected better conditioned 33 LP's, but hers were the ones he learned from, he told me as he drove.
He remembers one record in particular that his grandmother owned and kept very close to her heart. It was the "Moody Blue" single, 45 RPM, that she told her grandson was Elvis' last record. Up until he was about 5 in 1981, he didn't know what "last" meant in that context, really. Once he did comprehend, he understood, even as a small child, just how important that record was.

When she passed on and he inherited her collection, he found that one record was missing. The old "Moody Blue" 45. He didn't have a clue as to where it was, and after a short time he lost interest in his search. He was about 13 at the time and got to thinking it might be uncool to like Elvis.

As the 1990's came along and the years passed, his grandfather became ill. He's since gotten better, but during the time he was sick, he told his young grandson that he wanted him to have the old stereo Grandma used to listen to. It's an old console stereo. Brandon was smiling as he described it. An old console with a radio, an 8-Track player and a turntable. That old 8-Track and radio still work to this day, he told me proudly. The turntable would, too, he assured me, if it had a new needle. He took that old console home with him just this last year. When he opened the lid he found that there were a few records still left on the turntable. They were left there, it appeared, just as his grandmother had left them 12 years before.

With the look of man who had just discovered a long lost, buried treasure, Brandon recalled the moment he will never forget.

"As I began to pull the records up, one by one, my memory went back to the days when I was a child. I could still hear the beautiful piano playing of Floyd Kramer. I could hear the crooning of Tom Jones. And then -- at the very bottom of the stack, waiting for me like a long lost brother -- there it was. The "Moody Blue" old 45, sitting there in perfect condition! It was like my grandmother placed it there on purpose, knowing full well that I was not mature enough at 13 to take care of such a prized possession. She left it there for me to find it when I was ready."

That record, Brandon told me, still sits at the bottom of the turntable. He's shown it to his mom and his best friend Timmy.

"I don't see any reason to take it out of there. I will get it framed someday, but right now it's at home, at the bottom of my grandmother's old record player."

We pulled into the parking lot of the "Travelodge" where I was staying and said our good-byes. 23 years old, I remember thinking to myself. You couldn't make this young man, even in this day and age, trade that quarter century old record for gold.

My archaic faith in the youth of today was renewed at that moment, and it was a nice feeling. Our paths wouldn't be crossing again this trip, but I know it won't be long before we see each other again in Memphis. Brandon is one of those "Elvis people" that becomes a friend, a new, happy experience that has just recently begun manifesting itself in my life.
My first day in Memphis had been perfect. The next few days would each contain their own highlights, lessons, stories, and moments to treasure.

Sunday was spent leisurely. I knew that Monday and Tuesday would be very full days, from dawn to night, so I wanted Sunday to be mellow. I would be meeting fellow fan Margie from Canada and her husband Lance and was looking forward to it. I was back at Graceland Plaza about mid morning. "The Dempseys" weren't playing here today. "The Imperials," Elvis back-up gospel group from the early 70's would be playing and singing at "Elvis Presley's Memphis" restaurant down on Beale for three brunch shows. This would be something I would miss, given my schedule and finances, having already realized that even 4 1/2 days was not enough time to do all that I wanted and that I couldn't always afford to do it all. Still, the day would turn out special. Although I've been through the house before in years past, I had already deci
jessy wrote on August 08, 2006
What a wonderfull story...I now for sure now, I am going back to Graceland!