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Barry Smith: Elvis interruptus

Barry Smith

The first concert I ever saw was an Elvis impersonator.

I was about 11 years old at the time, and the real Elvis was still freshly dead. I suspect that, in some circles, having witnessed this first wave of post-Elvis impersonations would give me bragging rights equivalent to, say, having seen Hendrix at Monterey. Or the Ramones at CBGB’s. However, I sincerely hope never to find myself in such circles.

The venue was perfect – the east bank of the Mississippi River levee, the ultimate redneck amphitheater. The stage was a river barge anchored just offshore. The opening act was Chubby Checker, which is not really relevant to the story except that it was fun watching drunk people trying to do the Twist on a slanted surface. This was further complicated by the constant stream of empty Miller Pony bottles rolling underfoot, making their way toward the river.

The concert wasn’t exactly a pivotal moment in my life, as I didn’t really care that much about Elvis. However, the one moment that I remember, a nonmusical moment, has stuck with me all these years.

During the concert, someone from backstage – the manager, perhaps? Who knows? – came up and whispered something into “Elvis’s” ear, right in the middle of a song. I realize now that this isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary, but at the time I wondered what was so pressing that it couldn’t at least wait until the end of the song, if not the end of the concert. In fact, I’m still wondering, enough to make a list:

POSSIBLE THINGS THAT THE MYSTERY MAN COULD HAVE WHISPERED TO “ELVIS”:

* You do realize that the original lyric is “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound DOG,” right?

* Don’t get me wrong, here … your Tai Chi moves are impressive. But I seem to recall that Elvis was a little bit more into Kung Fu.

* Your jumpsuit is unzipped.

* Traditionally, Elvis threw his scarf into the crowd, not his shoes.

* I’m pretty sure Elvis never said, “Let’s tear the roof off this mother%$#! place!” Plus, it’s an outdoor concert, so there is no roof. Love your energy, though.

* 53 across, “moves like a dragonfly,” five-letter word, starts with “p.” Any ideas?

* Not to bring you down or anything, but let’s do a quick reality check here: you’re standing on a river barge anchored off the levee in Greenville, Mississippi, pretending to be a dead man in an embarrassing phase of his career. Those people out there have no concept of suspended disbelief, they’re just so drunk that they’d think my cat was Elvis if I held her up and made her throw little sweaty towels into the crowd. I don’t know why, but I just thought you should know that before your encore.

* Do you know any reggae songs?

* There are some large, serious-looking men backstage who want to discuss Elvis’s role in stealing the Black man’s music. When your set is done, I suggest you take your chances with the fierce current and jump in the mighty Mississippi rather than return to your dressing room.

* So, this guy walks into a bar…

* I love you.

* I never thought I’d say this to anyone, but you’re actually too fat to successfully pull off Elvis.

* Are you available for weddings?

* Sorry to interrupt but … um … I forgot what I was going to say. Hang on, it’ll come to me. Mmmm … wait a minute. Nope. Lost it. Tell you what, we’ll talk later.

* Hey, what’s the capital of Rhodesia?

* There’s a green Buick LeSabre in the parking lot with its lights on. Could you announce that before the next song? Also, warn people to stay away from the brown cotton candy.

Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at http://www.Irrelativity.com


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