Tuesday, July 05, 2005

rex on presley

rex and elvis
I have a connection to Elvis. Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Studios and the man credited for discovering Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Presley, is my third cousin. I never met the guy, but I have seen him in enough family photos to believe the relatives who talk about him. If you’ve seen him you will notice that he always had a batshit crazy look in his eye. All interviews I’ve seen back up this assumption. There are many on that side of the family like him, but few have played pivotal roles in music history.

Everybody knows cousin Sam for his role in early rock music, but I would prefer that a bigger deal be made out of his being the first white southern studio owner to record Howlin Wolf, B.B. King, Little Walter, and other blues notables who briefly made Memphis their home before moving on to Chicago. This was a big deal in the 1950s, and it would seem a more fitting legacy than being known as the man who sold Elvis. Make a note of it.

Now, let it be known that Rex L. Camino has nothing but love for the Elvis. I think he had a great voice, great taste in song selection, and that he even held his own on screen with the great Walter Matthau in King Creole. I always stop at the Elvis flicks when channel-surfing and stop the radio on “Suspicious Minds” when scanning the dial. He seemed like a great guy and I have nothing against him.

That having been said, I consider him obscenely overrated. I would much rather hear Big Momma Thornton belt out “Hound Dog”, Bill Monroe do “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, and Ray Charles’ version of “I got a Woman”. I think I would rather hear the original version of any song Elvis recorded. I think that Louis Armstrong and any number of other artists are more deserving of the “Artist of the 20th Century” moniker. I also think that Ray Charles did a far better job of combining rock, gospel, and country. I would prefer to hear the voice of Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett any day. I would have rather gone to the house of Al Green.

Editor’s Note: If you do not currently listen to Al Green on a regular basis your life is unfulfilled. You are not living up to your full potential and I pity you. Make that change today, friends. Leave your computers, forsake your employment, and go forth this very moment to purchase anything by Al Green. That is what’s important. I’ll still be here rambling when you get back.

I found that Graceland reminded me of a tombstone I saw once at a cemetery back in Alabama. It marked the grave of a high school student who died in a car wreck and it featured a huge marble engraving of the monster truck “Bigfoot”. A picture of the deceased was posted beneath. He sported a mullet and a pair of large-framed eyeglasses, as was the fashion at the time and place of his demise in mid-eighties smalltown Alabama. I felt sorry for the guy because I knew countless passersby would think him a goofy redneck bastard. He could’ve been the coolest kid in school at the time, but he would never be able to outgrow an awkward phase for both him and the state of fashion.

Elvis was the coolest kid in school, but his house is the domicile of a goofy redneck bastard. It has been left just as the archaeologists discovered it in 1977 and I think that the king would’ve hated this. You are told on the tour that he was constantly redecorating and that many of the rooms had their final redecorations just before his death, making the current Graceland the house of the fat, lethargic, and jumpsuit clad karate kicking Elvis that belted out “In the Ghetto” with a straight face. This is the same guy who wore a cape into the Oval Office to accept an ironic special commission into the DEA and shake hands with Nixon. This was a man going through a bad phase, not a timeless cultural icon. This was a man who tragically died on the toilet at a low point in America’s fashion and design history.

Which reminds me of my second gripe about Graceland: the fact that the upstairs—the very place where he spent his final days in a very Howard Hughes-like existence—is off limits. All I wanted to see was the toilet; it wasn’t too much to ask. The rumor goes that he was reading Tom Robbins’ Another Roadside Attraction at the very moment of expiration. I brought along my paperback copy and got all geared up for a good sitting. There could be no greater Elvis experience, and it would certainly be worth ten times the twenty-seven bucks one shells out to tour the house. Until Elvis Presley Enterprises remedies this grave error I cannot recommend the tour.

This is just one man’s opinion. Go to Graceland if you love Elvis or have a fascination with his celebrity. My dad has a friend who actually goes every two weeks to take the tour and has probably spent more time in the house than Elvis. I have been to his house to see the panorama of velvet paintings in his den. I can guarantee you that he was not laughing when he put them up. Not even he has been near the toilet. Graceland exists for him, and I hope he does not stumble upon this and come to kick my ass.

When he dies, please be kind when passing his tombstone.


Anonymous ciaobella said...

I have a connection to Elvis too! Ever hear of Ms. Jill of the infamous She Said What Blog?

5:43 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

I have indeed. I saw the mention of Presley blood in the Opry post but did not find any further details to outline a connection to the king. Do tell.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous ciaobella said...

Unfortunately, it's top secret information. You'll have to take that one up with Jill...unless you still talk to Elvis.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

May I just say that I would give my right shoe to be related to Sam Phillips? Or married to Stone Phillips, either one.

4:20 PM  

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