Elvis is perhaps the most popular Rock ''n'' Roll legend in America. It
seems that his every move was recorded by someone. Kevin Quain brings together
a collection of articles and stories about Elvis Presley that present various
perspectives regarding the realities and myths of Elvis. To simply state that
Elvis was a poor white-boy from the south who liked to sing, would be correct,
but the Elvis phenomenon is much more complicated. Quain realizes that no one
person can clearly define what it was about Elvis that created such an impact
on our culture. Therefore, he divided Elvis into six themes and supported them
with previously written material.
Mythical Elvis which is a compilation of articles that appeared in the
popular press. I initially thought that this would be chronologically written -
from the beginning of his career to his death. While reading Pete Cooke''s
article, I''ve Seen Elvis and He''s Alive and Well (82), I was amused to
be reminded that Elvis had a life after death right here in Kalamazoo. Quain''s introduction of the
article explains that this is the first of the "Elvis is Alive"
genre. Louise Welling saw him after his death twice - once at Felpausch Grocery and
again at Burger King. The other articles range from his emergence as a star and
the controversy he created, his death and his reincarnation. The mythical Elvis
really makes you wonder how one man can mean so much to so many people.
Southern Elvis reveals how southern culture played a role in the creation
of Elvis. It is not surprising that the authors in this section referred to W.
J. Cash''s book, The Mind of the South, since Elvis fits so perfectly. He
possessed many of the characteristics that Cash describes. The evangelical
religious upbringing which includes his love of Jesus, bible reading, Gospel
singing and body shaking became part of his personal life as well as his stage
life. Cash wrote of an aristocratic notion which Linda Ray Pratt (97) applies
to Elvis by stating that "He was the sharecropper’s son in the big house,
and it always showed". Despite his breaking racial barriers with his
music, there may be an element of white supremacy. Van K. White (137) claims
that Elvis revealed his prejudices against Catholics, Jews and Blacks to his
inner circle and black performers objected to his racial remarks. His loyalty
to the south and it''s people can be clearly seen in his dedication to his
family, friends, employees and above all Graceland.
Southern culture was so embedded in Elvis; it is easy to see him as a good
ole-boy who never changed.
interesting feature of this book is that it contains very opposing viewpoints.
Determining which is the accurate account is very difficult, if not impossible.
The articles by Stanley Booth and Albert Goldman both discuss Elvis'' drug use
the night he died, but their findings are very different. Booth claims that
according to the autopsy report there was no evidence of drug abuse and that
Elvis'' physician, Dr. Nick had not over prescribed drugs for Elvis (184).
Goldman, on the other hand, claims that a pathologist at Bio-Science Laboratory
found 14 different drugs in Elvis'' system at the time of death (245). Both seem to have credible sources. It must
have been a confusing time for Elvis fans.
audience certainly is a major factor in the creation of Elvis and in
perpetuating the myths. The last article, Elvis Bound by W. P. Kinsella
certainly gives a unique (or maybe not so unique) view of an Elvis fanatic. It
is a humorous story of a man whose wife, Tyler Presley,Elvis.
Her mother was a huge Elvis fan and led her to believe that Elvis was her
father, but she knows it is not true. They have three children; the daughters
are named Priscilla and Lisa Marie. They are Elvis fans too. The husband feels
like he is competing with Elvis because every time they have sex, he finds that
she is looking at a life-size poster of Elvis. It is a funny story, but there
is still a touch of realism there.
phenomenon took American culture by storm and appears to be permanently
entrenched. In fact as I was writing this, one of his Christmas songs played on
the radio. I don''t really like Elvis, but I knew all the words!