Young Bob Discovers The Gateway to Popular Music
For as long as I can recall the radio was always tuned into the Top 40
play list in our house.
The first artist I recall hearing was Leapy Lee singing his, "Little Arrows".
My history books indicate the year was 1966.
Not a bad musical memory for being all of three years old at the time.
I recall hearing Elvis' Suspicious Minds in 1969.
Wearing down the batteries of my parents portable cassette player listening to Jerry Hopkins first edition of the "The Elvis Presley Story" aired on radio in 1971.
Seeing Aloha From Hawaii on a black and white, blurry television screen in 1973.
Where do all the years go?
The summer of 1977 was the time I will always recall with fond memories.
I always say during those discussions that the best times are now but, if I could return in a time machine I would set the device on the year 1977.
1977 was, is and always will be the greatest musical summer for me.I was a skinny, near 6 foot, scrawny, 14 year old.
Experiencing my first summer job:
I peeled potatoes. That's right. My bony arms and hands lifted 50 lb sacks of potatoes into these massive iron machines which literally scraped the skins off each potato. I
would peer through this open gap at the very top of the machine and upon seeing the white's of their (potato) eyes (sorry folks, I couldn't repress the silly humor) I would lift this heavy latch and the potatoes would fly out into
a heavy plastic garbage bin. I then lifted the bin to a large sink which overflowed with cold water to maintain the freshness of the potatos. I repeated this task each day for 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday of each week.
Delivery trucks (lorries) would arrive each morning following at 7 am and this precious cargo would be loaded and delivered to the Mess Hall kitchens where the cooks would
prepare the potatoes for consumption by some 1500 young Army Cadets.
This was a military camp training ground and my father was a soldier in the Canadian Army during this time.
After the very first day I could not lift my arms up for the strain on my muscles.
I grew strong and I knew the effort would pay great dividends.
My hourly pay was $4.27 per hour (approximately £2.00 for my British readers)
My earnings that very first summer provided the opportunity to purchase furniture for my bedroom which included a desk which featured a world map lamenated onto the
surface. I always searched for one place in particular in the United States on this map as subsequent events would prove.
During these 1977 hot summer days my father and I would travel after our work day to the campsite where we lived for the summer.
I enjoyed the sand, sun, and swimming in the lake near our campsite.
We arrived at our camp site as usual one hot August afternoon.
The time was 4:00 pm and my mother called from our camping trailer to ask, "Guess who died this morning?"
I still feel a slight cool chill when I recall the moment.
My mother and I really didn't share a lot of conversation about music but, soon I would discover we both shared similiar tastes.
I think back now to how strange that day seemed for me when I realise I did not have a radio playing at my work station.
My response was a plain, "no I had not heard the news....."
Then my mother mentioned a name that would influence my musical interests for the next three decades.
"Elvis Presley died this morning at his house...."
Again, hindsight is 20/20 as they say, I surprised myself considering my response to the news.
I recall asking myself: what will the world be like without Elvis?
I did not have a strong interest in Elvis' music or any particular artist for that matter.
I guess at that moment I failed to recall my hours of enjoyment listening to the Elvis Presley story on cassette back during the summer of 1971. And the glimpse of Aloha
From Hawaii back in 1973. We were enjoying a summer full of sun, sand and swimming then too. Camping was the family outing each year for 10 summers.
Then my mother did something which would seal my fate and chart my musical journey forever.
She offered one of those "Movie Mirror" (gossip-column-type) magazines which were published in the USA and were available on newstands in Canada too during this time period.
I was not previously aware that she bought or read these magazines.
My interest peaked when, on this day, August 16, 1977 I was holding in my teenage hands, the very first magazine featuring
pictures of the 1970s era Elvis Presley.
I saw his trademark sideburns for the very first time.
His trademark style shoulder length hair for the very first time.
His unique style of clothing.
The prescription sun glasses he wore during the period.
I was sitting there at the camp site in silence as I absorbed every detail.
Well, people, now I find myself grinning a big smile when I consider in retrospect the hundreds of images I have seen and the countless number of books I have read since
then about Memphis' most famous resident.
I am sure many of our readers can relate a similiar experience and are the proud owners of a virtual 'Elvis library' of books.
On August 23, 1977 I explained to my mother that when we return home to the city after our summer holidays I pledged to collect every single item my meagre budget would
You might say I jumped onto the Elvis popular bandwagon.
I never wanted to jump off and I must admit that 14 year old still exists in my heart, at least musically, to this very day.
I searched for everything I possibly could about my newly discovered number one interest.
I recall my mother saying, "Ok, Robert."
She or I did not realise than and how could we have known, I would enjoy the journey to Memphis one day. Meet many people at Elvis conventions and befriend one individual
who was an audience member for Elvis In Concert on the evening of December 31, 1975, April 22, 1977and June 25, 1977. And collect so many Elvis records (in fact, in 1978, my father asked me if I thought I had enough Elvis LPs in my
collection? - when at that moment I owned 15 of them. You can guess my single word response to his question.)
Today I enjoy surfing this virtual landscape commonly known as the World Wide Web and I am still amazed and amused too when I type Elvis Presley in the search engine and the
number of hits that result.
Now I am enjoying sharing a contribution with all of you.
I am jumping ahead in time too quickly because I fondly (and dare I say, embarrassingly) recall that special Sunday evening in Canada, October 3, 1977 when CBS aired the one
hour edited film, "Elvis In Concert" which all of us know now featured footage from Elvis' final road tours.
At the very moment CBS aired the special, I was in the bath when I heard my youngest brother who was 6 years old at the time exclaim from the living room down the hall from
the bath room to my mother, "MOM LOOK, ELVIS IS COMING ON TV!!!"
But, I will share that anecdote another time...
Thank you Jordan and Elvis friends for reading my memories.
Best wishes for continued success
P.S. Thanks to you too, my dear friend Elvis, where ever you may be in that great cosmic unknown universe of ours.