"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 sideman a friend worthy of the King

Doc Lawrence, Special to East Memphis Appeal, January 30, 2005

Recently, I traveled north of Atlanta to visit my dear friend, Hugh Jarrett. Beyond being a great human, Hugh is living history, one of the last real contacts with Elvis. Hugh, as a member of the legendary Jordanaires, Elvis's phenomenal background singers and to this day the finest assemblage of male voices I've heard in popular music, performed live with the King throughout America almost from the beginning.

His relationship with his legacy remains as strong as a non-family member could have. Billboard magazine measured the top 100 selling records in history. Elvis had nine and Hugh is on six of those. Hugh was in movies with Elvis, on the stages of Vegas, the "Ed Sullivan Show," "Steve Allen" and the historic RCA recording sessions in New York and Los Angeles that transformed popular music on every continent to this day. I didn't visit Hugh because of Elvis, although that was what originally brought us together when I did a feature on him in 1999.

It remains as my favorite piece and I am proud that it was at least one reason this wonderful man with the gorgeous bass voice was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame last September. That was after his induction into others. "We had fun, worked very hard and maybe did something no one else has done," Jarrett told me. Modest to a fault, I have to pry memories from him. But I knew a few year's back that his relationship to Elvis survived fame, fortune and death when he told me that he emceed the big Elvis celebration in Memphis in 1997.

His walls are covered with photographs from movies, stages everywhere, singing with the King, who more often than not was sitting at a nearby piano playing gospel songs and singing along with the Jordanaires during breaks from filming. It is an incredibly moving experience to be in this environment with a man who was smack dab in the middle of a force that shook me and the whole world.

For a few hours, I was away from a world of tragedy, war and natural disaster. I returned to my childhood in Atlanta when on two occasions, one at the historic Fox Theater, I saw the King. My son Stephen was with me, a musician himself and a young man with an admirably open mind. He was as fascinated as I was and asked as many questions. Hugh Jarrett loves to answer questions almost as much as we loved asking them. Did the police in some cities really get upset with Elvis's dancing on the stage, we inquired.

"He never did anything wrong! That was silly. He was having fun, the kids loved him and boy, could he dance," replied Jarrett, almost outraged. It was like the King was in the room with us. Rev. Howard Finster, the immortal folk artist buried not too far from Jarrett's North Georgia home, painted Elvis over the years and I have one of Elvis as a farm boy with coveralls, a straw hat and angel wings.

Finster never had visions of Elvis in any other form and told me during a conversation on his porch that while Elvis was dead, his soul hadn't come completely to rest. He said Elvis hadn't finished God's mission. All this came to mind while talking and laughing with Hugh Jarrett. My best trip last year for feature writing was the great visit to Memphis.

(Spotlight/Article, Source: East Memphis Appeal)









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Elvis Odd Spot (updated 13 Jan 2005)