Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Other Day The Music Died

Elvis Presley died thirty years ago today, of a heart attack brought on by years of heavy drug use. He was 42 years old.

In the summer of 1977, I was an intern at the public television station in Huntington, West Virginia. The only available short term housing was in the dorms of Marshall University, where the station was located. So as a kid who commuted all five years at the University of Cincinnati, I still managed to experience "real" college life -- sort of. Fortunately, more often than not, I didn't have roommates.

But I made some great friends while I was there, some of them musicians. Among them was a bluegrass and country artist named "Smiley" Joe Baisden. A native a place in West Virginia called "Ranger Ridge," he was once a backup musician for Mel Tillis, and in 1975 nearly had a hit with a tune that some other recording artist got first, or so I was told. When I knew Joe, he was a student at MU, and we spent evenings and weekends playing for ourselves or for parties off campus. The day that Elvis died, we were on his front porch doing a medley of Elvis tunes, and other rockabilly favorites.

I miss Smiley Joe to this day. In an era when so-called "country artists" have never spent a moment behind the plow, he was no imitation, but the genuine article, a genuine human being, a gentleman. The closest I ever got to Elvis.

Roman Miscellany has a few Catholic Elvis moments. One of them is right here.

It would appear that "Elvis" is a legitimate baptismal name: "There really was a Celtic saint called St Elvis, who was a bishop of the Irish See of Munster and may even have baptised St David, Patron of Wales..."

[UPDATE: Gary North has offered his thoughts on Elvis as an entrepreneurial phenomenon, both five years ago, as well as today.]

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