What Elvis Means To Me – by William Scarborough

Remembering Elvis

Much like any young boy growing up in a music town in the southern United States, I placed musicians on a very special pedestal. There were not icons, legends, or just great musicians, they were gods to a young believer. They were personal characters that reached out through their voice and told you, that you too can make it if I can make then you can too 

And no one was quite like Elvis. Sure, he was the handsome man that turned everything to gold but there was something about his delivery that screamed: “I will make it, I will be heard.” It matters very little what he said but how he said it. It was his rendition of Heartbreak Hotel, that fire in his voice required you to move and if you dare attempt to match his vocals, you were immediately placed on the edge of a cliff about to dive off a hundred feet into the water below. You have to commit if you’re going to sing those first lines of Heartbreak Hotel. 

Before I knew love in my own life, I knew the feeling that came along with love because of the melody of “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. I aspired to be a musician since day one. I grew up in juke joints and smoky bars is south Austin listening to the likes of “W.C. Clark”, “James Cotton” and the house band at Antone’s night club. I watched musicians whose lifeblood was rhythm and blues and once you’ve been in the room where the rhythm and feeling invoked by the blues is undeniable you know the power of music, hell you are almost required to share that experience again. I would go to these same bars when I was older and sit in the corner, close my eyes and absorb the soul in the room, it becomes a medicine a drug to you. I firmly believe that Elvis knew exactly the medicine that I am talking about and he had no choice but to learn the blues that he had experienced. I know this because of the soul and rhythm that his music started with, that only comes from true believers who were incepted at a young age with heavy hard thumping blues music. I don’t know where he first listened to blues but I know that after years of hard work and with a lot of luck he found a way to share that experience that is Southern culture. It comes from the hard-working blacks of the south that developed the blues. He just took it and ran with it. Its undeniable rhythm and soul that was marketable and with Elvis and Chuck Berry evolved into Rock and Roll and Pop culture. Elvis to me is another little boy that had ears and a heart that was listening intently to the music that connected to his suffering. He was a very lucky (or I would argue cursed) little boy that found a way to play and harvest that music beautifully and was thrust into the spotlight and became the start that burnt so bright and crashed so ungracefully. He is a reflection of American culture: something that can start so pure and so soulful but that can be so easily corrupted and exploited. 

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