August 16, 1977
We were visiting my mother’s sister and her family in Alexandria, Louisiana. Visits to Alec were always full of laughter (mostly my mother and Aunt Pat and their distinct, cackling laughter that rang from one end of Eola Dr. to the other), kids putting on awesomely wonderful “variety” shows (complete with costumes and Chord Organ solos), trips to Valentine Lake, begging my Uncle Huey to play his old, out of tune, upright, honky tonk piano for us (Don’t Get Around Much Anymore to me is “Huey’s Theme.”) jumping on their trampoline or practicing cartwheels on Cousin Kim’s ultra cool balance beam in the backyard, trips to the Dairy Queen, and 8 year old Sista being subjected to many taunts being the youngest kid, especially regarding their cross-the-street-neighbor, David.
Those cousins and sister of mine knew how to get little Sista’s dander up by saying David was my boyfriend. Nothing would piss me off more. I would come in the house if David was in the yard and go back out when he left. I remember one time them saying “Sharon, he’s gone home…you can come out now”, only to find the ultra creepy David hiding under my Uncle Huey’s rocking chair and me screaming and crying and going back in the house. They were so mean to Little Sista. Gosh, but those are some of my most treasured memories (not Creepy David). Alec is not exactly what you call a “Happenin’” town, but, it goes to show, it doesn’t matter where you are, but, who is there that matters. Wonderful memories.
It was Creepy David we were looking at out the front window of Pat & Huey’s that hot, August day. I don’t remember exactly what he was doing, but, it was something that warranted the Collie and Duncan Kids to watch and laugh at him.
All of a sudden, my mother, who was putting her makeup on in the bathroom (oh lordy, the production my mother’s beauty routine was then and is to this day), she hollered “OH NO!!!” I can remember as clear as it were yesterday, all of us at once saying “What?” Even more so, the sound of her voice saying “Elvis died!!!” and the gasps that went up from all us kids. There’s no way this could be. I remember the rest of that day, all of us piled in Kim and Kelly’s room, really, in shock. Kim had a picture of Elvis on her wall. No way the beautiful Elvis was gone.
At 8, I didn’t really totally grasp how signifigant a day it was but I can remember the sadness we all felt. Talking back and forth. I wish I had a video of all us kids talking. I’d love to hear what we said.
One of the things I remember feeling so heavy about was the fact that Elvis had a daughter right about my age and how devastating it must’ve been for her. I think that weighed on me the most then. I can remember looking through my Aunt Pat’s vast collection of Elvis albums that day. The one that got me the most was the album cover for “How Great Thou Art” and on the back is a picture of Elvis in what looks to be like one of the suits he wore in “Speedway” and noticing what gigantic pores he had. Hmm. Funny the things you remember. I can also remember listening to the “Live From Elvis Presley Blvd” album on their old stereo, which had come out not long before, and Elvis singing “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” made me want to cry, but, I didn’t want anybody to think I was weird for crying.
It was the first event I can remember in my lifetime where everybody can remember where they were, what they were doing when they heard the news. It was huge. It had an impact of some sort on just about everybody in my world and on me personally.
I’ve written before about my numerous trips and memories of going to Graceland through the years. I haven’t been since me and Mr. Smiff’s honeymoon. I would love to take my kids there. They would dig it.
I’ve mentioned how my dad had a small part in the beginning of Elvis’ career. In March, 1955, Dad booked Elvis at his club in Houston. I think maybe 100 people showed up. Someone had the bright idea to record the show and it is now said to be the very first live recording of Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ. Up until that time, Elvis had not been seen much west of the Mississippi. You can go here and hear part of an interview done with my Dad about this show. I’m not sure when it was done, but, judging by the sound of his voice, I’d say it was the mid to late 80′s. Two things crack me up about this…one, he’s listed as “Bill” Collie and two, Dad telling of how before that show, he had gotten some mail (this was in the days listeners mailed requests to their dj’s) but it was nothing that spectacular. It was a small role in his career, but, most definitely an important step in Elvis’ journey. I’m pretty proud of that and my 15 year old son (who has a love and appreciation for the roots of rock and roll) is extremely proud.
It’s hard to imagine how a poor kid from Tupelo, Mississippi, could come along and change the world with the curl of his lip, the swivel of his hips, but, mostly, with his voice. It’s really unreal. I wish he could’ve hung around a little longer, but, glad he stayed as long as he did.
God bless Elvis.