Blog Reader Comments Reveal
Conflicting Emotions About Elvis

Although it’s never overwhelming, a steady flow of feedback from readers of Elvis History Blog arrives in my inbox almost daily. Since I feel that those readers who take the time to share their comments deserve a response, a set aside some time each week to send replies. About half of all the comments I receive ask about the value of some Elvis collectible. My response to all of them is identical and brief—“I’m not a collector of Elvis memorabilia, and so know nothing about the value of such items. I suggest you put your item up for auction on eBay and see what response you get.”

Comments on the content of present and past blogs, however, deserve a more thoughtful response. As the seventh year of Elvis History Blog comes to a close, I’d like to share some of the interesting comments readers have sent in 2014, along with my replies. We’ll start with the kind of feedback that motivates any blogger to keep going.

From Jeanne:

“I cannot tell you how much I've been enjoying your blog. I discovered it a couple of weeks ago and I've been reading it daily ever since. There's so much to get caught up on.

My husband and I have a Facebook page titled, Pompadour: A Tribute to Tribute Artists, with almost 5,000 followers on it. I’ve been sharing a few things a day from your blog.

My husband and I are both big Elvis fans, but we think a lot like you do. We don't put Elvis on a pedestal. We know he was flawed and all too human. It's so refreshing to come across someone with your kind of point of view because it's few and far between.  Anyway, I could go on and on. I'll be looking forward to new blogs, but in the meantime I'll be catching up on everything you've written since 2008. “

My response to Jeanne:

I thanked Jeanne for her kind comments. As she noted, however, many Elvis fans tend to get annoyed, even angry at times, on reading any commentary they perceive as critical of Elvis. The feedback I received from Lester recently is an example.

From Lester:

“I just looked at your list of least favorite Elvis songs. Why would anyone rake those songs over the coals? Why would you bad mouth the Jordanaires? How many Elvis movie songs did you like? What are your top 10 favorite Elvis songs? I don't usually write to anyone on the Internet, but I decided to this time.”

My response to Lester:

Why did I rake these songs over the coals? Well, I'm sure all Elvis fans have some songs of his that they don't enjoy listening to, and maybe even wish he hadn't recorded. I just listed some of them, in my opinion. And I suspected it would stir up some controversy and comments. And I was right about that. Of the nearly 300 articles that I've written about Elvis and posted on this site, I've gotten more feedback on the "10 worst songs" one than any other. Obviously that topic caught your interest and led you to read it. And then you felt so strongly about it that you contacted me, something you noted that you seldom do.

I corresponded with Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires for five years prior to his death, so I would never criticize the Jordanaires. I just think that with "Blue Christmas" they chose a background sound that detracted from and overpowered Elvis's voice. On that particular recording, they would have better served Elvis by staying further in the shadows.

In asking about how many soundtrack songs I like, I suppose that you were implying that the worst of Elvis's recordings would be found in that group. That's certainly true, but as I pointed out in the introduction to my "10 worst songs" article, I considered only Elvis pop recordings that DJs might have considered playing on the radio. No DJ was ever going to play Elvis's "Old MacDonald" or "A Dog's Life," just to name a couple, so I disregarded them when making my list. Of course, there were many great soundtrack songs, like "Can't Help Falling in Love," "Return to Sender," and “Bossa Nova Baby.”

If you look at the "Elvis Music" section on my website, you'll see many articles that honor Elvis's music. As for my favorite top 10 Elvis songs, that's hard to narrow down. Over the years my top 10 has changed many times. Right now it would include, "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again," "A Fool Such As I," "Such a Night," "It's Now or Never," "I Got Lucky," "In the Ghetto," "Promised Land," "Don't Be Cruel," "They Remind Me Too Much of You," and "His Latest Flame."

Due to a high profile incident involving a professional football player, the subject of domestic abuse of women is much in the news these days. Recently I received a request from Julie (named changed on her request), who was troubled after reading about an incident during which Elvis threw a pool cut at a woman visiting his home in California.

From Julie:

“I've been a fan for about year now, read a lot about him on the net, bought 3 photo books and about 150 songs and 6 movies. I know he was no angel and no saint, but the story about him throwing a pool cue at a girl just hit me hard.  Today, I stopped listening to his music and stopped watching his movies.

My question is, how do I bypass that upset feeling? I could swallow his hitting of men, death threats against Mike Stone and his ex-bodyguards, shooting stuff, but hitting a girl and not apologize—it hurts. I’ve heard differing stories, like bodyguards saying she was courteous and just trying to leave the party, while others have claimed she was breaking things in the house and was insulting to him.  Either way, he should never have hit a girl.

I still want to be fan, but how can I get over this?  BTW, I'm a little younger than his daughter, so when he died I was still little. I have no recollection of anything regarding how massive he was.  I just became a fan last year. Thanks. Would appreciate very much a response.”

My response to Julie:

Your comments about the conflicting feelings you have toward Elvis Presley are natural. You're really asking: ‘Is it possible to separate one's feelings about Elvis the entertainer from Elvis the human being?’ We've all done things in our private lives of which we're ashamed, and we've also all done things of which we're proud. Most of us try to keep the former actions private. Elvis was able to do that while he was alive, but after his death, his personal life, including all the good and bad things he did, were exposed to the world.

I became an Elvis fan in 1962 when I was 13 years old. Until his death in 1977, I believed the myth that he was a perfect person, both in his professional and private lives. Like you, I felt betrayed when his many failings were exposed by those who were closest to him. However, I've come to understand that in his private life Elvis was neither all good nor all bad. In other words, he was a human being.

He was very kind to many people, some who were total strangers to him. On the other hand, he had a temper that he was unable to control at times, and he surrounded himself with people who would not question his actions. For some reason, Elvis was a person who found it very difficult to say, "I'm sorry." Instead, he would try to show his regret by giving money or gifts to those he had wronged, or he would ask the guys he employed to deal with the fall out.

And his fans bear some responsibility for his faults. Imagine trying to live up to the expectations of people who continually tell you they love you and believe you are the most perfect person on earth.

However, I found that knowing Elvis's faults as a person did not keep me from appreciating him as an entertainer. I still love listening to his music and watching some of his movies. He was a unique, multi-talented performer. I can't excuse Elvis for committing acts such as the one that particularly concerns you, but neither can I deny his great musical talent and the enjoyment it has given me throughout most of my life. I hope that you can find a way appreciate Elvis the entertainer while allowing for his personal weaknesses. It sounds like you're looking for a way to do that.

Many Elvis fans tend to blame Colonel Parker for all the things that went wrong in Elvis’s life. In several of my past blogs, I’ve defended Parker and argued that Elvis has to bear responsibility for all that happened in his life, both the good and the bad. The following from Rick is representative of the occasional message I receive insisting that the Colonel abused Elvis.

From Rick:

“I have been a Elvis fan since I was little. I think Colonel Parker should have been fired. No manager gets fifty percent of their client’s wages, plus bonuses. He just conned and used Elvis for his own personal gain.”

My response to Rick:

I agree with you. Colonel Parker never should have been allowed to take 50 percent of Elvis's income, and he should have been fired. However, keep in mind that the Colonel did not con Elvis. His dealings with Elvis were always conducted openly and legally. Elvis signed his name willingly to the contract that gave Parker 50 percent, and Elvis could have fired him at any time. So who gets the most blame—the guy who asked for too much or the guy who gave it to him? The Colonel was short on ethics, to be sure, but Elvis was equally short on backbone in their relationship.

I enjoy reading and responding to reader feedback on Elvis History Blog. If you are so inclined in 2015, please take the time to let me know how you feel about any article you find on the site.  | Alan Hanson (December 2014)

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