Monday, July 11, 2011

Elvis and my Dad


About 1955 or so we began to catch wind of a new kind of music making it's way north from Tennessee. It was a hybrid of Hillbilly and R&B called Rock-N-Roll... or something like that.  I'd heard some of this music played on the juke box at a diner located near the AC Spark Plug Division of GM, where my dad worked at the time. 

What impressed me was seeing these guys of color walking up to the juke-box and playing 16 Tons.  Even I knew that Tennessee Ernie Ford was a country singer, what were these guys doing playing that record?  Then it hit me. It was the lyrics. Like the R&B songs, 16 Tons told a story. That's a lesson that I've never forgotten.

At any rate, sometime in 1956 as the family was watching Uncle Miltie, the damnedest thing happened.  Uncle Miltie introduced a singer named Elvis Presley, who proceeded to sing a song called “Hound Dog” and wiggle, shake, and hump his mike stand.  We all sat there with our mouths hanging open. My father was enraged.

“If you EVER bring home a record by that IDIOT I'll throw you out of the HOUSE!!”

My mom, ever the diplomat squeaked up quietly:

“Oh I don't know Bud, I don't think he sings so badly.”

My father's face turned purple, blue, then a shade of Puce which I'd never seen before or since. He stared at her as if she'd chomped on the forbidden apple, quietly stood up from the couch, and left the room.

I looked at Elvis.  What was that?  It was a glance, a facial expression... wait, there it was again! A cock-eyed grin, and a knowing look in his eyes.  I knew... he knew... and he knew that all of us teens and pre-teens knew. This whole thing was a joke!!!!

Shhhhh... don't tell the adults!

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