If you were 20 years old in 1977 and you loved Elvis, you were a little out of step with your peers. I was a little out of step, because I loved Elvis.
When I was a very little girl, we lived in a Wyoming town that was so small, it had one street and 2 alleys. Not a lot of television and not many folks in town had one, so my mom had the radio on all day long. (When I got married in 1977, my husband was amazed at all the really old songs, from the 40’s and 50’s, that I knew the lyrics to.) On Saturday nights, we went next door to my grandma and grandpa’s house and watched Lawrence Welk. And they had a bathtub in their house.
So, I grew up listening to Elvis because my mom loved Elvis and we had radio. He was born just 4 years after my mother which was I’m sure, part of the connection for her.
The Elvis that we loved was innocent, charming and handsome. The truth about Elvis wasn’t always those qualities and weren’t known to the public until mostly after his death. In fact, just like all the rest of us, he was a flawed human being. But his failings can be forgiven by those of us who were his fans, because of his great talent and big heart.
Elvis was bigger than life. He dressed like it, lived and was treated like it and he died like it – far too young and in horrific health, due entirely to drug abuse and addiction. It’s hard to believe that his cousin only got $18,000 for a front page National Enquirer photo of the dead Elvis. Even Presley’s girlfriend at the time of his death, Ginger Alden, made a deal with the tabloid for her story.
I was in the bathtub on August 16th, 1977 when I heard on the television that Elvis was dead. I was a newly married college student and had just that day gotten a job at the college.
Just like for millions of others, it was stunningly sad news for me.
I’ll never forget the morning of September 11, 2001 and nothing compares to that. The assassination of JFK is only a vague memory for me (I was only 6) and I remember very well the night that John Lennon was murdered in 1980. That news came over the wire at the newspaper where my young husband was the sports editor. He was devastated by it. I remember vividly the moon walk and seeing Neil Armstrong dismount those stairs on the lunar module, in 1969.
The moment I heard that Elvis was dead, will always be one of those sad “remember where you were” events for me.