"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)






Elvis junkie 'hypnotized' for 50 years

The first time Mary Settle heard Elvis Presley sing on the radio, she was, as Elvis once put it, "All Shook Up."

The 13-year-old from Rogers, Ark., had never heard a singer like Elvis before -- a powerful, soulful voice who brought a raw, emotive power to soon-to-be classic songs like "That's All Right," "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and "Good Rockin' Tonight."

This was the summer of 1954, when Elvis recorded his first songs at Sun Records in Memphis. Long before he was anointed the "king of rock 'n' roll" and made his first television appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show," the former truck driver from Tupelo, Miss., performed at small clubs and concert halls in the South, including nearby Little Rock.

Settle begged her mother to let her attend a concert, but her mother refused. Elvis already was notorious for his hip-swinging gyrations, and Settle's mother wasn't about to let her sweet, innocent daughter "watch something from the devil," Settle said.

"It broke my heart, but my mom's words did not stop me from listening to him," said Settle, now 62 and living in rural Assaria. "I baby-sat and bought every record and album that hit the stores. I loved him the first time I heard him sing, and I love him just as much today."

Settle has remained a loyal Elvis fan for 50 years and has devoted a small bedroom at her home to Elvis memorabilia. This includes posters, books, movies, framed photographs, bedspreads, pillows, lamps, purses, a life-size cardboard cutout and a model reproduction of Graceland, Elvis' Memphis home.

A group of Salina-area Elvis fans was formed four months ago. Members gather at a restaurant decorated in a 1950s motif that includes a hip-swiveling Elvis in the front window. So far, there only are six members, all women, but Settle is convinced there are many more fans in the area.

This January's gathering was especially important to Settle -- on Jan. 8, Elvis, who died in 1977 at age 42, would have turned 70. "I think if Elvis were alive today, he'd still be singing and his voice would still be beautiful," said Settle, who paid tribute to the king by decorating several tables with balloons, birthday napkins and a homemade coconut cake.

"While Elvis' mother was alive, she made him a coconut cake every day," Settle said.

Although Settle is a dedicated fan, she didn't seriously start collecting Elvis memorabilia until about 12 years ago. She said she wanted to remind her children and grandchildren how important Elvis was to American culture.

"I didn't want the younger kids to forget about him," she said. "When Elvis came, everyone was listening to singers like Perry Como. Elvis was new and different -- he meant rebellion. He was something we kids needed at the time."

She first started ordering Elvis memorabilia from a catalog published through Graceland. It wasn't long before her collection began to spiral out of control. "I finally decided to put everything in the one room," Settle said.

"My husband is indulgent of my Elvis collection. If he wasn't, I'd just leave and take everything with me!"

Other Elvis items in the room include several foot-high dolls, portraying both the young black-leather-jacketed Elvis and the white jumpsuited Vegas Elvis; paintings of Elvis; an Elvis clock shaped like a guitar; Elvis for President bumper stickers; and an Elvis Christmas stocking.

Settle said that while the room was just for show, "every once in a while I'll sleep in here if my husband starts snoring," she said. Elvis has been gone for nearly 30 years now, but true fans like Settle are helping keep his memory, and his cultural importance, alive. It's the least they can do, Settle said, for what Elvis has given to them.

"He hypnotized all of us back then, and we haven't snapped out of it yet," she said. "I'm still lonesome for Elvis Presley."

(News, Source: The Wichita Eagle, 22 Jan 2005)









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Elvis Odd Spot (updated 13 Jan 2005)