Larry Donn's Rockabilly Days - Elvis Religion

Rockabilly Days

LARRY DONN writes for Now Dig This

'Parade', the magazine that comes with the Sunday newspaper, usually has little of interest to me, but I always scan through it to see if anything jumps out. This time, it was the name Elvis. At first I thought they were referring to my Uncle Elvis, but as I began reading, I realised it was Elvis Presley, instead. The small article was about "the best Elvis websites". I thought a website was that corner of my workshop where spiders keep building them, but apparently, I am behind the times. Now, it seems, spiders are building webs in computers.

The story mentioned a website called "Disgraceland" (, and says it may be "the largest collection of web links to Elvis sites". The proprietor of Disgraceland is a fellow who calls himself "Tim-Elvis", and it features a budgie (parakeet) Elvis impersonator called "Friz-Elvis", and "The Elvae Room", a collection of autographed photographs of Elvis impersonators.

There is also a site for people who think they've seen Elvis to report sightings and read others' sightings ( (Now surely that last address should be - Ed.)

The most interesting site to me is "The First Presbyterian Church Of Elvis, The Divine" ( I'd like to know more about this one, as many of us have long maintained that one day Elvis will be a religion. I may have mentioned before that I had included in a book I've been working on a chapter in which the hero gets captured by a band of Elvis-worshipping savages whose village is on the ruins of Graceland after the Great War in the distant future. They intend to sacrifice him to Elvis until they find out that he knows all the words to the Holy Songs and can actually play the Sacred Guitar. I eventually removed that chapter from the story, as it seemed to be too drastic a departure from the main story line. Perhaps one day I'll make a complete story out of the new chapter.

The idea of Elvis-worship is not new, as you will see from the following piece I wrote on January 12th 1960, modelled after the Bible's 23rd Psalm. Of course it wasn't a serious work, as I had no intention of worshipping Elvis, although I was a devoted fan by that time, but I'm sure there are some who consider it blasphemy or some similar relgious offence.

Elvis is my shepherd; I shall not listen to Ricky Nelson. He maketh me to sing to strange people; he leadeth me before the wild children; he restoreth my faith in the teenagers of America; he leadeth me in the paths of recording stars for my name's sake. Yae, though I wiggle through the hall of the shadow of Beethoven, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy guitar and thy records comfort me. Thou preparest a recording session for me in the presence of the big wheels from RCA; thou anointest my hips with wiggle; surely, teenagers and talent scouts will follow me all the days of my life and I shall be covered in gold records forever. Amen.

What would one do at an Elvis worship service? Sing Elvis songs certainly, and pray to Elvis, I suppose, though I can't imagine what one would pray for, as Elvis wasn't in the business of forgiving sins. I'm sure of one thing, he would drop his bowl of poi and fall out of his hammock if he thought people were worshipping him like a god. On the other hand, if he knew it was all in jest, he might have a good laugh about it. I really don't think any of the so-called Elvis worshippers have any delusions that they're actually involved in a serious religion, but it will happen sooner or later, if the world lasts long enough.

BIG WORDS I try to keep my stories on an intelluctal level between Albert Einstine and Ignorant Donkey. Using big words and abstract phrases cuts into that group of readers who don't know what they mean. If you had to use a dictionary to read my stories, you might not be reading them very much, thereby missing out on all the great wisdom and household hints contained herein. My goal is to communicate information, opinions, ideas and other thoughts, and any word that hinders effective and complete communication by its unfamiliarity is contrary to my purpose. If a writer's readers can't understand what he writes, they won't be readers for very long, unless they are literary masochists or psychologists. Personally I don't spend my otherwise valuable time thinking up this stuff to have you turn the page because you can't understand it, so I resist whatever urge I might get to become grandiloquently verbose. Hypermagnitudinal verbosity can make one's opinions inscrutably enigmatic, and inscrutably enigmatic opinions aren't worth a Hoover (the water-retention facility in the state of Arizona, not the rug-sucker).

Big words take up too much space in the brain. If you don't fill it with words that are unnecessary for communication with people of reasonable inteligence and education, you'll have more room for the things that really matter in life, like favourite song lyrics, including all the words to '99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall' and 'Honey Bun', women's phone numbers, matching the month and year with NDT back issue numbers, the number of Elvis imitators in the world (which keeps going up) (sadly - Ed.), the words to every Jerry Lee Lewis song, your name, your address, your age... (no, cancel that last one... since I hit 27, I don't think about age anymore)... remembering your wife / husband / girlfriend / boyfriend's name after a few cold ones while he / she / it is out of town, remembering to post your subscription cheque to NDT, and remembering my address in case you ever get an extra Hawaiian cruise ticket (Bono, Arkansas 72416).

So, you may be assured that I will, in the future dissertations of my ruminations, try to avoid literary loquaciousness and sententiousness (though it will be tough), and eschew amplitudinous and magniloquent verbiage, as well as keeping a rein on my copiousness and diffusiveness. I hope that makes you feel better. My brain hurts.

UNLESS YOU'RE A NICE PERSON... I long ago stopped being awed by stars. I learned that from Carl Perkins in '59 when we shared dressing rooms (stock rooms in nightclubs, with cases of beer to sit on). He put his pants on just like I did, though we didn't wear the same style underwear, and he also occasionally revealed some of his worries and problems in our conversations - enough to tell me that, aside from his fame, he was just like a regular, non-famous person, and quite a friendly one, too. Record stars are just people who happened to write and/or record a song that caught the public's fancy, and to Carl, everybody was a star.

Everybody has talents... things they can do well. For some, it's music, for others, sculpture or painting, or it could be a knack for mathematics or some branch of science or cooking, and the list goes on. But talent is far down the list from the really imporant things. I really like Scotty Moore's guitar playing on the early Elvis records, and he deserved far more credit than he got, but what I like most about him is that he is a nice guy. Every time I've seen him in the last ten years, he's had a big smile and a friendly greeting. Talents are fun and they make other people happy, but the most important things are friendliness, courtesy, kindness, compassion, honesty, patience and fairness, among others.

I don't care how famous you get or how much money you make, or even if you get elected King of the World, you won't get my vote unless you're a nice person. I'm not impressed by your diamond rings, gold bracelets and Rolls Royces, but I am impressed by your smile, your courtesy, your willingness to help when someone is in trouble or just needs an extra hand, your compassion for those who are poor, ill, and mentally and physically impaired (it could have been you, and some day it might be), and your unwillingness to do anything that might hurt someone else. If everybody in the world adopted these qualities, crime and hunger would stop, we could fire most of the policemen, disease would take a drop, and wars would become extinct. Don't expect this to happen next week. Maybe the week after...

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