April 19, 2014
The casual fan line seems to get a bit further from view each month, and I'm not sure exactly how I got here.
I know where it started. "The King of Rock 'N' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters" five-disc box set by Elvis Presley was released in 1992.
I have been a big fan of the Beatles since about 1985, and, after I tracked down about every release by them, I moved on to finding artists whom the Beatles liked.
RCA, the label that Elvis was on, had been all over the map with his catalog over the years. I read a few reviews of "The Complete 50's Masters," though, and I had to have it.
It's a fantastic box set and includes all of the Sun Records recordings that so many rock stars have pointed to as having a huge influence on them.
RCA released "From Nashville To Memphis: The Essential 60's Masters" in 1993, and I was more cautious about purchasing it. Elvis made the majority of his movies in the 1960s, most of which included some pretty awful soundtracks.
What pulled me in was that the set did not include tracks for movie soundtracks or TV broadcasts. I got it for a decent price and discovered, in pretty short order, that I enjoyed most of it.
"Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The Essential 70's Masters" box set came out in 1995, and the completist in me needed to own it. I would have all the Elvis I would ever need in those 15 discs.
Well, then I wanted to see some of his early films and ended up buying a few on VHS tapes.
Then I wanted to read a really good biography on Elvis, something that appreciated him but didn't deify the man or focus on his faults. I bought the two-volume biography by Peter Guralnick ("Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley" and "Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley"), which is well written, well researched and, to put it simply, definitive.
I went to Las Vegas with some friends about 10 years ago. I had to track down a statue of Elvis, then I needed to go to the Elvis-A-Rama Museum. Yes, I bought a pair of his replica 1970s sunglasses. I also found a cool T-shirt that has Elvis with the Las Vegas strip behind him.
You can see where all of this is going. I have 36 Elvis CD titles, which include (good heavens) nine box sets. RCA also has done an amazing job in recent years with deluxe editions (remastered editions and more chronologically based versions of out-of-print albums) of his music catalog. Yeah, I own five of those.
If you were to ask me my dream vacation, I'd have to say going to Memphis, Tenn., to tour the Sun Records Studio then to Graceland, neither of which I have done.
My wife asked me the other day what it is about Elvis that I like so much.
Well, it starts with those early Sun recordings. They were revolutionary. Younger people may scoff at that, but consider being in the South in the early- to mid-1950s and singing music by black artists, mixing it with gospel and country-western.
In the racially divided South, the music was considered dangerous on many levels.
Elvis developed his own style that, literally, changed music forever.
His rise to stardom is such an American dream kind of story. He grew up poor, was seen as a bit of an outcast and shy in high school and became one of the richest and most recognizable artists of all time. Stories like that provide people with a sense of hope.
He also got to places even he could not imagine, which helped provide some of the fuel for his downfall. He experienced fame that few people reach, which helped isolate him.
His manager worked him relentlessly for most of his career but also largely kept him from exploring himself artistically. Elvis never seemed to find lasting happiness offstage and developed a prescription drug habit that, ultimately, led to his death. So his story is a tragedy and a cautionary tale.
He's a fascinating artist and one of the best vocalists of all time.
What is it about him that has made me a fan? All of that.
I started out spending some time studying and listening to his music to find out what the big deal was and ended up a fanatic. I won't be the last one.
This is the opinion of music enthusiast Mick Hatten. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him at www.facebook.com/sctimesmick and on Twitter @MickHatten.