Long Live The King

I never know when a teaching moment will show up. Today it happened when I looked in the fridge at lunchtime and noticed that we were out of jelly.

“How about PB and banana?” I asked the kids. “That was Elvis’ favorite sandwich.”

“Who’s Elvis?” they wanted to know. Which was a better response than the expected, “Yuck!”

So while I slapped together the ingredients, I told them. “Elvis was a singer. He was one of the most successful singers who ever lived. He brought the blues to rock and roll.”

“What are the blues?”

This question caused me to bust out in my own blues riff about being out of jelly and having to make peanut butter and banana sandwiches. They weren’t impressed.

“You don’t sound very sad,” my boy told me.

So then I did my best imitation of Big Mama Thornton singing Hound Dog. It’s sort of mid-tempo, and she’s disgusted with the guy she’s singing about. They seemed to like that one better.

“Elvis changed it like this,” I said, and I did my rendition of him. I’m two lines in before my girl starts dancing. So then I pulled out my laptop and we listened to the real Elvis. They forgot all about sandwiches and started rocking out to The King in the kitchen.

“Y’all have no idea how radical this music was. When Elvis first came out, this was the kind of music people listened to…” On my computer I pulled up a bunch of doo-wop and mid ’50s rock. We listened to it in all its chorale earnestness and sleepy tempo.

“This is really boring,” my girl said.

“Now Elvis.” I put Hound Dog back on, and they were rocking out again. We danced to All Shook Up, Jailhouse Rock, and Don’t Be Cruel. They wandered off to the living room when I put on a ballad, so I took that opportunity to finish assembling lunch. Afterward, we watched this YouTube of Elvis’ breakthrough performance on Milton Berle:

“Elvis looks like a scientist,” my boy said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“He’s wearing a white coat. He looks like he could do experiments when he’s not singing.”

I thought that was pretty funny.

As it turned out, the experimental sandwiches were kind of yucky. But we had fun.

Categories: The Kids


6 replies

  1. Do you realize that August 16th was the 33rd anniversary of his death? What coincidental timing for your post.
    He was 42 when he died. I was thinking about that this week because I am now 43. I have outlived the King.
    I consider his drug addiction and the end of his life such a tragedy and such a waste. Obviously, he accomplished so much more in his short life than I ever will. But I’m still alive and have a lot of life to still live and have a lot to look forward to. And all we can say about him is “rest in peace.”

  2. We were vacationing in San Francisco on August 16, 1977. Radios were playing Elvis songs everywhere we went. We finally asked someone why that was and learned that Elvis had died. We felt a true sense of loss, as he had revolutionized music for our “Boomer Generation”.

    Later on a family trip, we stopped by Memphis TN to visit Graceland and his grave — Elvis Aaron Presley — a twin, his brother stillborn. His logo (on the grave marker) was “TCB” with a lightening bolt through it. The “TCB” stood for “take care of business”, an ironic statement given his drug dependence and the fact that he totally trusted “The Colonel” for his business affairs. Of course with “The Colonel” getting 50% of everything, I guess he could trust him to make good business decisions.

    Hard to believe it’s been 33 years since he died. But, our kids were 1 and 3.5 years old then!

    • Almost 32 years later, on June 25, 2009, I was driving through Pasadena, CA when we heard on the radio that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, had died in L.A. Radios played MJ songs all over the place, and when we went out to Long Beach, a lone woman sat in her jeep crying and listening to his music. She was still there, still crying, still listening, when we left two hours later.

      I sort of get what it must have been like when Elvis died. And of course, Michael Jackson was Elvis’ posthumous son-in-law at one time.

  3. Did you fry the sandwiches? Perhaps that’s the key to their “greatness.”

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