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He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Sun Dec 30, 2012 7:52 am

Marcus was never so absolutely clear on the point as he is here. I thoroughly agree with him. I think he moved away from this position to an extent in the next ten years, or somehow was more harsh in his judgment of Elvis's ongoing legacy. In other words, he held him accountable for everything he did NOT do, for the reasons below. (It being ten years on again, perhaps he has a different take on it. But the main point he makes below, is still the point. Elvis did what he did because he wanted to do it, and he knew what he was doing.)

Marcus says, with absolute certainty that Elvis Presley was not an "unself-conscious artist." He's ALWAYS called that, and Marcus addresses it here directly, and hints at the reasons why people have wanted to believe that. He says "we" - includes himself. I like that.

I believe this was the truth then, and it's the truth now. And will always be the truth.

Listen carefully to what he says about what Elvis "meant" to do, what he "wanted" to do, how he did it "willfully." A lot of people today, people who only know the sketch of Elvis, perhaps a caricature or a straw-man, cannot see this. He addresses this, too, here. It's brief (and he's not often brief), and on the money.

Over to you.

phpBB [video]



rjm

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Sun Dec 30, 2012 10:35 pm

Marcus was one of the first to make clear, even as far back as 1975's Mystery Train, that Presley's work in the 1950s was willful rather than spontaneous. Since then he has expanded on this idea, the notion that Elvis knew what he was doing. When one listens carefully to Presley's unique "life story" monologues, on stage at the International in 1969, his own words underscore Marcus' point. Did Elvis imagine in 1955-1956 he would change society and culture? No. He was, you know, just having a good time.

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Mon Dec 31, 2012 12:56 am

I'm no expert at all, but I think the labels and expectations for Elvis came part and parcel with his popularity and were sometimes at odds with his personal goals. Perhaps Elvis always knew what he wanted to achieve but the hoops he had to jump through weren't always the ones he felt comfortable with and in the end the achievements weren't always the ones that he expected, but they were the ones that set the bar for the generation he inspired...

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:46 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Marcus was one of the first to make clear, even as far back as 1975's Mystery Train, that Presley's work in the 1950s was willful rather than spontaneous. Since then he has expanded on this idea, the notion that Elvis knew what he was doing. When one listens carefully to Presley's unique "life story" monologues, on stage at the International in 1969, his own words underscore Marcus' point.


drjohncarpenter wrote:Did Elvis imagine in 1955-1956 he would change society and culture? No. He was, you know, just having a good time.


Which is exactly what is usually said: the "you know" is what Marcus calls the "taken for granted," and that Marcus is speaking to. That's "the veil" he's talking about. In 1956, especially, he was NOT having the "good time" he thought he and his fans had the right to have. (Which mirrored the lack of rights to a "good time" or just a good life, that many in that time did not have the right to have. The day he graduated high school, he didn't have that right, clearly, that kids from other high schools had. The right to be optimistic about the future. If ever a picture was worth a thousand words. So, yeah, you can either accept that there are few possibilities for certain people - people like you, or try - somehow, to change it. Which is what he did in is own ways. It's what his "That's All Right (Mama)" sounds like - he's "leavin' town now baby, leavin' town for sure!" Which leads DIRECTLY to these words, by a young boy who'd one day soon grab a guitar after seeing Elvis Presley on television: "Baby this town rips the bones from your back/Its a death trap, it's a suicide rap/We gotta get out while were young/`cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run" - some more detail, but exactly the same story.)

"They had me singing to a dog, in a tuxedo . . ." He was still holding stuff in about other things that happened earlier on: "I got drafted and shafted and everything else." He even addressed it back in '56, and not just in the music, or performance. There is his answer to Hy Gardener's "Have you learned anything from the criticism?" Elvis: "No, I haven't." Whoa. When confronted with one of the most virulent, mean-spirited attacks, by one Herb Rowe (or "Rau"), of the Miami Herald, who wrote that his fans were all "idiots who should be slapped in the mouth," Elvis responded: "well, he's an idiot." (Another time, he just said that he'd rather not say what he could say, implying the use of stronger language.) And then there was the time a reporter called him a "Holy Roller." (TV Guide interview with Paul Wilder, August 6, 1956). He tries to stay polite, but the guy keeps at him, and his anger builds, until he speaks in an outraged voice at people attempting to malign "my religion."

And that's some of it. Some of what was "veil"ed.

So, there's plenty that was out there to back up what Marcus felt like he had to say. He really shouldn't have had to say it, but he did.

rjm
P.S. -- Interesting how, back in the day, when people wrote books like Marcus wrote, no one needed "smileys" to get what a writer was saying, even if it included a wink, a nod, or a knowing "you know." Nowadays, it's expected. We're all getting lazy, or Twitterized. Just a general observation on the difference in expectations.
Last edited by rjm on Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:35 am, edited 2 times in total.

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:11 am

I have believed for a long time that Elvis knew what he was doing in the 50's. He was flashing a big middle finger at the status quo, at Jim Crow, and at society in general.

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:20 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Marcus was one of the first to make clear, even as far back as 1975's Mystery Train, that Presley's work in the 1950s was willful rather than spontaneous. Since then he has expanded on this idea, the notion that Elvis knew what he was doing. When one listens carefully to Presley's unique "life story" monologues, on stage at the International in 1969, his own words underscore Marcus' point. Did Elvis imagine in 1955-1956 he would change society and culture? No. He was, you know, just having a good time.


In those monologues, he always says, "People were going 'Is he. Is he?' And I was going 'Am I? Am I?'"

I have always taken that to mean people were wondering "Is he black?". Is that the general consensus?

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:36 am

dhornjr1 wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Marcus was one of the first to make clear, even as far back as 1975's Mystery Train, that Presley's work in the 1950s was willful rather than spontaneous. Since then he has expanded on this idea, the notion that Elvis knew what he was doing. When one listens carefully to Presley's unique "life story" monologues, on stage at the International in 1969, his own words underscore Marcus' point. Did Elvis imagine in 1955-1956 he would change society and culture? No. He was, you know, just having a good time.


In those monologues, he always says, "People were going 'Is he. Is he?' And I was going 'Am I? Am I?'"

I have always taken that to mean people were wondering "Is he black?". Is that the general consensus?


Yes. I've never heard it interpreted ANY other way, by anyone.

rjm

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:12 am

rjm wrote:
dhornjr1 wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Marcus was one of the first to make clear, even as far back as 1975's Mystery Train, that Presley's work in the 1950s was willful rather than spontaneous. Since then he has expanded on this idea, the notion that Elvis knew what he was doing. When one listens carefully to Presley's unique "life story" monologues, on stage at the International in 1969, his own words underscore Marcus' point. Did Elvis imagine in 1955-1956 he would change society and culture? No. He was, you know, just having a good time.


In those monologues, he always says, "People were going 'Is he. Is he?' And I was going 'Am I? Am I?'"

I have always taken that to mean people were wondering "Is he black?". Is that the general consensus?


Yes. I've never heard it interpreted ANY other way, by anyone.

rjm


You know, you hear these stories about Elvis attending the Mid-South Fair on "Colored Night" and frequenting Beale Street and going to black churches. He was crossing the color line and doing things that could get him arrested in the South. It's amazing how he has been turned into a racist over the years.

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:56 am

dhornjr1 wrote:
rjm wrote:
dhornjr1 wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Marcus was one of the first to make clear, even as far back as 1975's Mystery Train, that Presley's work in the 1950s was willful rather than spontaneous. Since then he has expanded on this idea, the notion that Elvis knew what he was doing. When one listens carefully to Presley's unique "life story" monologues, on stage at the International in 1969, his own words underscore Marcus' point. Did Elvis imagine in 1955-1956 he would change society and culture? No. He was, you know, just having a good time.


In those monologues, he always says, "People were going 'Is he. Is he?' And I was going 'Am I? Am I?'"

I have always taken that to mean people were wondering "Is he black?". Is that the general consensus?


Yes. I've never heard it interpreted ANY other way, by anyone.

rjm


You know, you hear these stories about Elvis attending the Mid-South Fair on "Colored Night" and frequenting Beale Street and going to black churches. He was crossing the color line and doing things that could get him arrested in the South. It's amazing how he has been turned into a racist over the years.


Yes, he did a series of things that were actually not legal at the time. He was legally "permitted" on Beale Street, and at Rev. Brewster's church, but he was NOT supposed to be in the fairgrounds on Juneteenth, 1956. (Nor was he supposed to be at the Goodwill Review at the end of '56, and '57; no other white person who was not working for the station was there, to my knowledge - certainly no performers. And he took the stage at the end of the first one, and triggered a mob scene of crazed teenage girls. Black girls chasing after a white boy. A very weird inversion of southern mores.) And in 1960, after attending the Holiday On Ice's "normal" shows (the ones for whites), he also went on the night that was not for whites. Did he keep a low profile? It seems, on that night, he climbed up on the conductor's tower, and in front of a large audience of all-black Memphians, briefly conducted the orchestra. This happened just at the outset of the sit-ins, which began in Tennessee. (Over on the other side of the state.)

There are photos from the fairgrounds "incident." Elvis took a photographer with him that night. Remember, it was "colored night." Not day. From the photos, Elvis got into the park not long before sundown, and decided to try to stay. He lived in Memphis long enough to know what "Tuesday night" meant for Fairgrounds attendance. And it was June 19th, the most important celebration on the African-American calendar. It was a night to party! (A shame it's been overtaken by "Kwanzaa" - a "new" holiday invented by a Cal St. Long Beach professor in 1966.) He was apparently run off, judging by the photograph. The black people were made to stand back behind either a cop or a guard, and Elvis has a terrified expression on his face, as he looks for where to run. Apparently, someone noticed his lack of melanin, and called out an alert. The people have this stunned, bewildered expression on their faces - as though they were all thinking "what does that crazy white boy think he's doing?" When he got home, he had the photographer still with him, and he sure looks like the Cat that ate the canary, as he carries the stuffed animal he won. Totally pleased with himself.

And this is maybe WHY he got "turned into a racist." The magazine that published that totally unsubstantiated "rumor" - which they claimed they "heard" on Beale St. from some anonymous person was the white-owned Sepia. Elvis interview with the much more influential Jet, in attempt to set the record straight, probably only amplified it. (He also sent out an "open telegram" regarding this and other rumors that started swirling around him, none of which were true. "God created everybody equal." White southerners were NOT supposed to say such things in 1957! That's about the "worst" thing you could say in those days: "God created everybody equal." Where did he ever get such an idea? That was an extreme statement at the time, although it seems like nothing today.) And after his death, the rumor really got legs.

And there's more, actually, dealing with the Mississippi Sovereignty Committee, which had a roster of Mississippi-born celebrity-informers, who were expected to inform on other celebrities. One of these people was Mary Ann Mobley, who often sang at their "dinners" in Los Angeles. They consisted of the White Citizen's Councils, joined together, with the support of the Mississippi power structure, including the governor. They tried to recruit Elvis, but he never got involved in any of their activities, ever. Anything else they may have tried to do -- well, it's not sourced well-enough. (There is a report of some of their people, along with Mobley, having an on-set meeting with Elvis, and warning him about who he should, and should not associate with. But, as I said, it's not sourced well enough, so it may not have happened. Go through all the books on The Colonel, and you'll find it. It's not in Nash. There are two other books.) Their actual files, recently liberated, are heavily redacted. One odd thing they kept trying to do was find a very young actor named Eddie Hodges. They never could contact him. He was in LALLAL - the delivery boy.

So, it's not hard to see how and why the rumor kept up its strength. "Divide and conquer" works very well, indeed!

rjm

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:34 am

rjm wrote:
dhornjr1 wrote:
rjm wrote:
dhornjr1 wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Marcus was one of the first to make clear, even as far back as 1975's Mystery Train, that Presley's work in the 1950s was willful rather than spontaneous. Since then he has expanded on this idea, the notion that Elvis knew what he was doing. When one listens carefully to Presley's unique "life story" monologues, on stage at the International in 1969, his own words underscore Marcus' point. Did Elvis imagine in 1955-1956 he would change society and culture? No. He was, you know, just having a good time.


In those monologues, he always says, "People were going 'Is he. Is he?' And I was going 'Am I? Am I?'"

I have always taken that to mean people were wondering "Is he black?". Is that the general consensus?


Yes. I've never heard it interpreted ANY other way, by anyone.

rjm


You know, you hear these stories about Elvis attending the Mid-South Fair on "Colored Night" and frequenting Beale Street and going to black churches. He was crossing the color line and doing things that could get him arrested in the South. It's amazing how he has been turned into a racist over the years.


Yes, he did a series of things that were actually not legal at the time. He was legally "permitted" on Beale Street, and at Rev. Brewster's church, but he was NOT supposed to be in the fairgrounds on Juneteenth, 1956. (Nor was he supposed to be at the Goodwill Review at the end of '56, and '57; no other white person who was not working for the station was there, to my knowledge - certainly no performers. And he took the stage at the end of the first one, and triggered a mob scene of crazed teenage girls. Black girls chasing after a white boy. A very weird inversion of southern mores.) And in 1960, after attending the Holiday On Ice's "normal" shows (the ones for whites), he also went on the night that was not for whites. Did he keep a low profile? It seems, on that night, he climbed up on the conductor's tower, and in front of a large audience of all-black Memphians, briefly conducted the orchestra. This happened just at the outset of the sit-ins, which began in Tennessee. (Over on the other side of the state.)

There are photos from the fairgrounds "incident." Elvis took a photographer with him that night. Remember, it was "colored night." Not day. From the photos, Elvis got into the park not long before sundown, and decided to try to stay. He lived in Memphis long enough to know what "Tuesday night" meant for Fairgrounds attendance. And it was June 19th, the most important celebration on the African-American calendar. It was a night to party! (A shame it's been overtaken by "Kwanzaa" - a "new" holiday invented by a Cal St. Long Beach professor in 1966.) He was apparently run off, judging by the photograph. The black people were made to stand back behind either a cop or a guard, and Elvis has a terrified expression on his face, as he looks for where to run. Apparently, someone noticed his lack of melanin, and called out an alert. The people have this stunned, bewildered expression on their faces - as though they were all thinking "what does that crazy white boy think he's doing?" When he got home, he had the photographer still with him, and he sure looks like the Cat that ate the canary, as he carries the stuffed animal he won. Totally pleased with himself.

And this is maybe WHY he got "turned into a racist." The magazine that published that totally unsubstantiated "rumor" - which they claimed they "heard" on Beale St. from some anonymous person was the white-owned Sepia. Elvis interview with the much more influential Jet, in attempt to set the record straight, probably only amplified it. (He also sent out an "open telegram" regarding this and other rumors that started swirling around him, none of which were true. "God created everybody equal." White southerners were NOT supposed to say such things in 1957! That's about the "worst" thing you could say in those days: "God created everybody equal." Where did he ever get such an idea? That was an extreme statement at the time, although it seems like nothing today.) And after his death, the rumor really got legs.

And there's more, actually, dealing with the Mississippi Sovereignty Committee, which had a roster of Mississippi-born celebrity-informers, who were expected to inform on other celebrities. One of these people was Mary Ann Mobley, who often sang at their "dinners" in Los Angeles. They consisted of the White Citizen's Councils, joined together, with the support of the Mississippi power structure, including the governor. They tried to recruit Elvis, but he never got involved in any of their activities, ever. Anything else they may have tried to do -- well, it's not sourced well-enough. (There is a report of some of their people, along with Mobley, having an on-set meeting with Elvis, and warning him about who he should, and should not associate with. But, as I said, it's not sourced well enough, so it may not have happened. Go through all the books on The Colonel, and you'll find it. It's not in Nash. There are two other books.) Their actual files, recently liberated, are heavily redacted. One odd thing they kept trying to do was find a very young actor named Eddie Hodges. They never could contact him. He was in LALLAL - the delivery boy.

So, it's not hard to see how and why the rumor kept up its strength. "Divide and conquer" works very well, indeed!

rjm


That's good stuff. I'd like to see those pictures.

I had no idea Mary Ann Mobley was a part of that crap. That's unfortunate.

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Mon Dec 31, 2012 8:24 am

dhornjr1 wrote:
rjm wrote:
dhornjr1 wrote:
rjm wrote:
dhornjr1 wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Marcus was one of the first to make clear, even as far back as 1975's Mystery Train, that Presley's work in the 1950s was willful rather than spontaneous. Since then he has expanded on this idea, the notion that Elvis knew what he was doing. When one listens carefully to Presley's unique "life story" monologues, on stage at the International in 1969, his own words underscore Marcus' point. Did Elvis imagine in 1955-1956 he would change society and culture? No. He was, you know, just having a good time.


In those monologues, he always says, "People were going 'Is he. Is he?' And I was going 'Am I? Am I?'"

I have always taken that to mean people were wondering "Is he black?". Is that the general consensus?


Yes. I've never heard it interpreted ANY other way, by anyone.

rjm


You know, you hear these stories about Elvis attending the Mid-South Fair on "Colored Night" and frequenting Beale Street and going to black churches. He was crossing the color line and doing things that could get him arrested in the South. It's amazing how he has been turned into a racist over the years.


Yes, he did a series of things that were actually not legal at the time. He was legally "permitted" on Beale Street, and at Rev. Brewster's church, but he was NOT supposed to be in the fairgrounds on Juneteenth, 1956. (Nor was he supposed to be at the Goodwill Review at the end of '56, and '57; no other white person who was not working for the station was there, to my knowledge - certainly no performers. And he took the stage at the end of the first one, and triggered a mob scene of crazed teenage girls. Black girls chasing after a white boy. A very weird inversion of southern mores.) And in 1960, after attending the Holiday On Ice's "normal" shows (the ones for whites), he also went on the night that was not for whites. Did he keep a low profile? It seems, on that night, he climbed up on the conductor's tower, and in front of a large audience of all-black Memphians, briefly conducted the orchestra. This happened just at the outset of the sit-ins, which began in Tennessee. (Over on the other side of the state.)

There are photos from the fairgrounds "incident." Elvis took a photographer with him that night. Remember, it was "colored night." Not day. From the photos, Elvis got into the park not long before sundown, and decided to try to stay. He lived in Memphis long enough to know what "Tuesday night" meant for Fairgrounds attendance. And it was June 19th, the most important celebration on the African-American calendar. It was a night to party! (A shame it's been overtaken by "Kwanzaa" - a "new" holiday invented by a Cal St. Long Beach professor in 1966.) He was apparently run off, judging by the photograph. The black people were made to stand back behind either a cop or a guard, and Elvis has a terrified expression on his face, as he looks for where to run. Apparently, someone noticed his lack of melanin, and called out an alert. The people have this stunned, bewildered expression on their faces - as though they were all thinking "what does that crazy white boy think he's doing?" When he got home, he had the photographer still with him, and he sure looks like the Cat that ate the canary, as he carries the stuffed animal he won. Totally pleased with himself.

And this is maybe WHY he got "turned into a racist." The magazine that published that totally unsubstantiated "rumor" - which they claimed they "heard" on Beale St. from some anonymous person was the white-owned Sepia. Elvis interview with the much more influential Jet, in attempt to set the record straight, probably only amplified it. (He also sent out an "open telegram" regarding this and other rumors that started swirling around him, none of which were true. "God created everybody equal." White southerners were NOT supposed to say such things in 1957! That's about the "worst" thing you could say in those days: "God created everybody equal." Where did he ever get such an idea? That was an extreme statement at the time, although it seems like nothing today.) And after his death, the rumor really got legs.

And there's more, actually, dealing with the Mississippi Sovereignty Committee, which had a roster of Mississippi-born celebrity-informers, who were expected to inform on other celebrities. One of these people was Mary Ann Mobley, who often sang at their "dinners" in Los Angeles. They consisted of the White Citizen's Councils, joined together, with the support of the Mississippi power structure, including the governor. They tried to recruit Elvis, but he never got involved in any of their activities, ever. Anything else they may have tried to do -- well, it's not sourced well-enough. (There is a report of some of their people, along with Mobley, having an on-set meeting with Elvis, and warning him about who he should, and should not associate with. But, as I said, it's not sourced well enough, so it may not have happened. Go through all the books on The Colonel, and you'll find it. It's not in Nash. There are two other books.) Their actual files, recently liberated, are heavily redacted. One odd thing they kept trying to do was find a very young actor named Eddie Hodges. They never could contact him. He was in LALLAL - the delivery boy.

So, it's not hard to see how and why the rumor kept up its strength. "Divide and conquer" works very well, indeed!

rjm


That's good stuff. I'd like to see those pictures.

I had no idea Mary Ann Mobley was a part of that crap. That's unfortunate.


This thread has only the one picture, where Elvis seems to be running, and it was, at that point, "an incident." (Which the white mainstream newspapers did NOT cover. It was in the black papers - and they waited before publishing the info. They talked about it near Christmas, around the time of the Goodwill Review. I guess they were concerned for his safety. In the main piece that was published, it said that he "cracked the segregation codes." (I think they wrote "codes." And they said "cracked" which is an interesting choice of words. If he had "broken" them, Tuesdays and every night of the week would have been integrated, but that didn't happen, of course. One person can start something, but others have to finish it. No one else seemed interested, black or white, just yet, with this odd set-up of having a "designated night." These were dangerous times, and it was in the deep south. Seriously.) But there are other photos from that night, including one in a restaurant (where some girl extorted him for bumping into her or something). The whole evening was documented, as much as it was possible, I guess, because HE took a photographer.

http://www.elvis-collectors.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=68998

And this was the thread where the "Juneteenth" connection first appeared. I was relatively new here at the time. So, I got a little excited at the photograph(s).
(Also, the only computer I had access to at that time was a little keyboard Kindle from 2010. I had no access to broadband, no functioning sound card on my Win98 machine, which was dying rapidly, and the other computer's hard disk was toast. All I had was the little Kindle (which then gave you free 3G: I didn't know what that was, or how it even connected to the Internet, but it did). Text and black & white photos, only. Not a "real" browser. But it worked all the way up through November of 2011!!! Just totally, totally hooked on FECC, with no moving pictures! No IPads or smartphones, or tablets, or anything before November. Just a little Kindle. So, if the writing is strange, that's because it was very difficult. And I'd never belonged to this kind of forum before, either. I had only known Usenet and a couple listservs.)

http://www.elvis-collectors.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=43106&hilit=Juneteenth#p896918


rjm
P.S. -- It's downright weird talking about this while listening to the new Back In Memphis FTD, with Elvis having returned to recording in North Memphis, his hometown ravaged by necessary change . . . and, sadly, death. As everyone knows, during "Stranger In My Own Hometown," he shouts out, just blocks away from the murder that past April, "blow yo' brains out, man!" As some kind of catharsis, perhaps. Very weird, indeed.

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:15 pm

Great post, rjm! Happy New Year!

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:19 pm

Thanks for those links, man. Great stuff.

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Wed Jan 02, 2013 5:17 am

rjm wrote:He was apparently run off, judging by the photograph. The black people were made to stand back behind either a cop or a guard, and Elvis has a terrified expression on his face, as he looks for where to run. Apparently, someone noticed his lack of melanin, and called out an alert. The people have this stunned, bewildered expression on their faces - as though they were all thinking "what does that crazy white boy think he's doing?"


You could be reading too much into the photo. Does he really look terrified? Is he running? Or does he have a ball in his left hand and maybe has just thrown another as part of a fairground game? Are the onlookers stunned or are those who aren't looking at the camera simply looking past Elvis to see whether he hits the objects he is aiming at?

Image

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Wed Jan 02, 2013 5:38 am

Bingo!

He's throwing a ball to knock over bottles (or something) and people are watching.

The analogy of Elvis running from a crowd is absurd. You WERE joking, right?

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Wed Jan 02, 2013 10:56 am

HoneyTalkNelson wrote:Bingo!

He's throwing a ball to knock over bottles (or something) and people are watching.

The analogy of Elvis running from a crowd is absurd. You WERE joking, right?


No. The photo was a total shock; I had no idea he brought a photographer! I mean, I don't know what was going on, but he's all mussed up, his coat and shirt are open but for a button (there are two variations on the photo, and they give a different impression of where the people are - a guard is cropped out of the above version), and his eyes are real big, and he's sorta twisted, and he seemed to be pointing to someone else. I didn't know if he was running from a crowd, or just running out of the place. It seemed like he was on the move.

Ok. It's a ball! Kinda like that better. But he did look . . . different. Guess he really wanted to win something! LOL!

rjm

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:11 pm

TJ wrote:
rjm wrote:He was apparently run off, judging by the photograph. The black people were made to stand back behind either a cop or a guard, and Elvis has a terrified expression on his face, as he looks for where to run. Apparently, someone noticed his lack of melanin, and called out an alert. The people have this stunned, bewildered expression on their faces - as though they were all thinking "what does that crazy white boy think he's doing?"


You could be reading too much into the photo. Does he really look terrified? Is he running? Or does he have a ball in his left hand and maybe has just thrown another as part of a fairground game? Are the onlookers stunned or are those who aren't looking at the camera simply looking past Elvis to see whether he hits the objects he is aiming at?


Although I agree that rjm's description is fanciful, it is without question that the photo is more than someone out on a date, trying to win a stuffed teddy bear by knocking over some milk bottles. Elvis chose to flout Memphis' segregation protocol by attending the Fairgrounds Amusement Park during "coloured night."

Of the many known photos from this evening out with Barbara Hearn, the one TJ posted is most significant. The crowd is there to check out the local boy who gave an explosive performance of Big Mama Thornton's #1 R&B hit, "Hound Dog," on the Milton Berle TV show exactly two weeks before. And he is also the singer whose song "Heartbreak Hotel" is #7 on Billboard's R&B chart this week, along with "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" and "My Baby Left Me" at #10, an "unprecedented stunt, for an essentially c.&w. artist" according to the magazine's R&B guru, Bill Simon.


Billboard Jun 16 1956 p43.JPG
Billboard, June 16, 1956


In fact, a less-cropped version I found is better, as it shows a white policeman keeping order while Elvis joins in the celebration of "Juneteenth."


560619_Elvis on Juneteenth_less cropped.JPG
Elvis at Memphis Fairgrounds, Tuesday, June 19, 1956


What is "Juneteenth"?


Juneteenth

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States honoring African American heritage by commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. State of Texas in 1865. Celebrated on June 19, the term is a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, and is recognized as a state holiday in 37 states of the United States.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth


Juneteenth Celebration | The History of the Juneteenth Celebration

Perhaps the three most significant documents in U.S. history that exemplify America’s passion for freedom are the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Emancipation Proclamation. Although each has maintained its rightful place in the annals of American history, only the Bill of Rights and the Constitution have identifiable dates and cultural festivities. Each year, America celebrates the Fourth of July, Constitution Day and Flag Day, all of which have developed into an expression and ceremony of appreciation by the American People with special events emphasizing the historical importance of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Emancipation Proclamation, which is particularly significant to African Americans, has not until recently received its rightful day of national appreciation. With the resurgence of the African American community’s celebration of Juneteenth, America is growing in its awareness and appreciation of this highly meaningful document.

The celebration of Juneteenth is not only a showcase event of the African American community’s positive contributions to the American way of life, but it also makes a statement for all Americans that the United States is truly the “Land of the Free.” Juneteenth is an expression and extension of American freedom and, like the Fourth of July, a time for all Americans to celebrate our independence, human rights, civil rights and freedom.

http://juneteenth.azurewebsites.net/?p=81



Did coincidence play a part in Elvis going to the Fairgrounds that Tuesday evening?

No way.

Read more -->
Memphis, Tn., June 19, 1956
http://www.brian56.dk/560619.htm
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Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:31 pm

Elvis does appear to have a ball in his left hand, and looks to be throwing with his right as everyone seems to be looking in the same direction as Elvis.

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:44 am

promiseland wrote:Elvis does appear to have a ball in his left hand, and looks to be throwing with his right as everyone seems to be looking in the same direction as Elvis.


Most are looking at the photographer or Elvis, but it is clear that rjm's observation was quite fanciful.

But really, no harm done in regards to the big picture.

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:56 am

promiseland wrote:Elvis does appear to have a ball in his left hand, and looks to be throwing with his right as everyone seems to be looking in the same direction as Elvis.


They certainly aren't chasing him that's for sure.Not with hands in their pockets and smiles on their faces.It really is a great picture.The Policeman looks pretty relaxed too,perhaps an eaier shift than he thought it might have been!

norrie

Re: He Wanted To: Greil Marcus

Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:55 pm

It WAS fanciful, or really, considering the context, not rational - to think that they did anything in response. If they had kicked up any fuss over it, that could have turned a "stunt" (the irony in the chart review is cool) into much more than they wanted. This was in the aftermath of Montgomery, of course. So discretion was clearly the better part of valor.

I do wonder why the Memphis World waited 'till the end of the year to print what happened. Or why, perhaps, some of those present that night didn't get "any ideas" from it - to perhaps do something of their own, in an organized manner, about this odd policy. It wasn't only the Fairgrounds. It was the zoo, other events. I saw a photo of a sign posted on a day at the zoo, just for black children, around that time. It was accepted. The sign alerted whites that that this regulation would be "enforced," whatever that meant.

But with a celebrity? That would have been madness. For whatever reason, he wanted a photographer. (I sure wish Elvis had lived to an age where he might have been comfortable talking about such things from his past. The '70s were much too close in time. Ah, well.)

rjm