Rock Me Lord
The sight of the full assembled band onstage—all multicolored and dancing with glitter and sparkle in the stage lights—was a spiffy enough sight even without Elvis’s presence, but once he stepped out in front of them, they became like one living organism behind him, growing and contracting to maximize his effect, blending the style of Vegas with the substance of Nashville. The Boss loved his band with all of the enthusiasm that a little boy would have for a wonderful toy, and you would see it in his face—that sense of fun and power—when he would be sliding into an uptempo number that put together all of the components. His rhythm section was always keyed on his every move, and with one swipe of his hand or quick cut of his hips he would drop everyone onstage right into overdrive. Tutt would be crashing ahead furiously, the guitars would be wailing, and the Stamps and Sweets would turn up a grand, multilayered AAAAAH! in perfect harmony, then a syncopated DOOOOP! right before the horn section kicked in like a crisp slap in the face. At that moment you could again see Elvis most in his element, perfectly at harmony with himself and his world, when everything in his life would intersect for a brief musical interlude and create an energy so boundless and vital that he could gather it in the palm of his hand and hurl it out at his audience like a thunderbolt before suddenly ending it with one vicious thrust of his fist.
Ups and Downs
After being up for several days or at the end of days’ traveling and performance, Elvis would take something powerful and slide away from the pressure. Moment by moment, as the drug worked through his bloodstream and pelted his nervous system and nestled, finally, in his brain, with his cares dissolved and his problems benumbed and neutralized, his body would descend like a Boeing 707 coming in for a smooth landing after being caught in turbulence, until it was finally prone, and a rosy, warm euphoria circled his head. Within the room, surrounded by music and a large television screen, his eyelids would look like they were weighted down with lead, but he would keep them open for that one last glimpse of the TV, one last bite of food, or just to crack that last joke before succumbing to the drug and slipping thankfully, like a child, into the oblivion of sleep.
Then, depending on whose night duty it was or if there was a woman with him that night, a familiar figure would watch over him until the morning, covering him, making sure that no harm befell him, and that nothing disturbed his precious sleep.
Mother And Child Reunion
Dee Presley was picked up by limousine and driven through the streets of Whitehaven toward Graceland with trepidation in her heart. From almost the moment of the announcement of Elvis’s death, the press tried to get to her, and the previous twenty-four hours has been rough. She dreaded the thought of seeing Elvis in a coffin and was beset with worries about Vernon. But as with everyone else, the true feelings and the effects of that day would only make themselves felt in the months to come.
Walking through the foyer she turned right, into the music room and living room where Elvis was laid out. Ricky and his friend Robyn Moye, David and his wife Angela, and Billy and his wife Diana met her at the door and accompanied her toward the casket, which was in front of the rows of gold folding chairs set up for the service. The casket glistened in the afternoon light and she felt dizzy and weak-kneed as she approached it. She noticed the Beaulieus off to the right and the Aldens off the left, but as soon as she caught sight of Elvis’s face, she could see nothing else—struck, as she was, by how strangely swollen it seemed, and by the beatific expression.
For those who knew Elvis Presley during his life and attended his funeral, the uniform impression was that an aura of peace seemed to surround him in death, of that sublime release he had sought in life that now seemed spread out over him pleasantly, the way night befalls a countryside in summertime after a day of hot, blanching sunshine. In his face, at least, there wasn’t a trace of the tempest that had been his life.