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Paying homage to the king who adbicated his crown.

Byline: By Denis Kilcommons

Today at precisely 5pm, 50 Elvis Presley impersonators will sing That's All Right from a double-decker open top bus outside the Elvisly Yours shop in London's Baker Street.

In Memphis it will be 11am, the exact time and date when Elvis cut his first record at the Sun Studios 50 years ago. Fans and music radio stations around the world are celebrating this as the golden jubilee of the birth of rock and roll.

That recording of That's All Right is one of several classic Sun tracks that include Good Rockin' Tonight, I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine and Mystery Train. When he made it, he was 19 and driving a delivery truck and studying at night to be an electrician. He shared the studio with other hopeful singers, like Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash.

But while he became popular in the small towns in the South, radio stations in most of the country refused to play his records because of prejudice - they thought he was black.

It was two years before Elvis switched record labels to RCA and got his first national hit with Heartbreak Hotel. He made his first TV appearance, swivelled his hips and the legend was born.

Ah yes. I remember it well. We all wanted to be Elvis, including Cliff Richard who cultivated a snear that made him look like a puppy chewing a nettle.

Elvis made great records and lousy records. One or two films that were pretty good and a lot that were rubbish. It is arguable that his manager Colonel Tom Parker stifled his natural talent to turn him into a cabaret artist who mimmicked what he had been. Elvis became the ultimate Elvis impersonator.

He had amazing charisma, a great voice and was the fulcrum for the creation of rock and roll. He was the King who abdicated his crown when he reduced his talent to fit Las Vegas.

Twenty three years after he cut his first record, he died on August 16, 1977. Ironically, he's now been famous longer dead than alive and earned more money posthumously than he ever did in life.

If he hadn't succumbed to a diet of cheeseburgers, peanut butter and pills, he would now be 69, which is about as old as Rod Stewart looks. But did he die?

There are as many conspiracy theories about him as there are about Roswell and flying saucers. In fact, there is a minority belief that he was an alien/captured by aliens/or programmed by aliens to subvert the world. If the latter was the case, then aliens have a great sense of rhythm.

Elvis had many reasons to fake his death, claim theorists.

He had lost $10 million in a business deal with a Mafia connected mob about whom he had given evidence to the FBI and his life was in danger. He was a prisoner of fame and was concerned about the safety of his wife and daughter. So, he arranged his own demise.

That's why his coffin was so heavy at his funeral: it contained an air conditioning unit to ensure the waxed effigy didn't melt.

Although he was officially dead, he couldn't stop performing and became an Elvis impersonator (again) called Orion who wore a mask. There's more, but I think you get the drift.

As he got older, he became bloated and his talent diminished but fans will always remember him in his early days, vibrant, handsome and with a voice to send shivers down the spine.

Tonight I'll stage my own anniversary celebration and play a couple of LPs: the original Sun recordings he made before he became showbiz and a rare bootleg Sun output that RCA tried to ban, that has Elvis jamming with Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison in that downtown Memphis studio 50 years ago before they were famous at the birth of rock and roll.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jul 5, 2004
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