The King had dozens upon dozens of hits to his credit and, even after his death, his catalogue has continued to outsell many others on an annual basis. Some argue that he just might be the highest-selling performer in history.
Elvis Presley was born on Jan. 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Miss. He moved to Memphis as a teen and soaked in the South’s potpourri of music including gospel, blues, country and more.
Every year on his birth date, Elvis’s legion of fans gather around the world to commemorate the musician’s immense talent. Presley’s Graceland Estate is naturally the epicentre for celebrations, holding a multi-day event that pores over details from his life in music, movies and more.
The Times & Transcript recently chatted with Moncton resident Thane Dunn. If anyone in Metro could be considered an expert on all things Elvis, Thane fits the bill.
The winner of the World’s Largest Elvis Tribute Artist Competition and the World’s Largest Elvis Gospel Competition, Thane’s tour with his backing band The Cadillac Kings have become a winter ritual in Atlantic Canada. His next Metro Moncton performance is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26, at Casino New Brunswick.
Asked why he believes that Elvis’s popularity has continued for more than 58 years since the release of his debut single ‘That’s All Right,’ Thane believes the answer is a relatively simple one.
‘I believe that, first and foremost, Elvis was the complete package,’ he says. ‘His voice was incredibly unique and he had the movie star looks before he was a movie star. Elvis exuded charisma in everything that he did. There was magic about him that most entertainers just didn’t have.
‘Whether you are a fan of his music, his movies or his live show, people loved Elvis. I think that his popularity has sustained itself because for so many people, listening to his music brings people back to simpler and sometimes happier times in their lives. He is the kind of musician who has a song for any mood or any occasion you need. He touched on so many different styles of music. He might have been known as the King of Rock and Roll, but nothing stopped him from getting up in front of 20,000 people and singing ‘How Great Thou Art.’ ‘
Thane says that while many of the outlandish details of Elvis’s life have become fodder for legend over the past 50 years, he says that a visit to Graceland could show anyone that Elvis offered people so much more than what he is generally given credit for.
‘I believe that Graceland was a couple of different things to Elvis,’ Thane says. ‘When he purchased it, it was a big sign that he had ‘made it.’ When you go into Graceland today, you are given a glimpse into so many facets of his life that people just aren’t that aware of.
‘Every award he won is there, of course, but so is every cheque that he wrote to charity. Elvis came from hard times and was very generous in giving back. I remember seeing one cheque that he had donated to a charity one Christmas Eve to the tune of a half million dollars. He was the kind of artist that never forgot where he came from and was more than happy to help others when he could. So many entertainers these days are so much about themselves. Elvis was more about what he could do for others.’
Arguably one of the biggest reasons that Elvis’s popularity has endured was his remarkable way of connecting with the common man. Thane says that during the course of many conversations that he has had with people who were close to Elvis, they all say the same thing: He was more interested in talking to the guy sweeping the floor at the bank rather than the bank manager.
‘There was a real human side to Elvis that many weren’t privy to or aware of,’ Thane says. ‘Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with a photographer who had taken pictures at 48 different Elvis concerts in 1972. He said there was one night that while Elvis was on his way out of the building, he stopped to talk to a man who was mopping the floors. He asked the worker if he has heard the show and if he had liked the show. It is those touches of kindness that just don’t tend to get reported.’
If Elvis were still alive, he would mark his 78th birthday on Jan. 8. Of course, by today’s standards, 78 is an age where many remain active in their communities and with their families. It was not to be that way for Elvis who, around the time of his passing and due to his immense fame, associated with no more than 20 people on a regular basis.
‘From what I understand, the only satisfaction that Elvis got was to be on stage in front of an audience,’ Thane says. ‘Looking at hundreds of hours of live footage, you can see that there is nobody that could handle an audience the way that Elvis could.’
Article published in the January 8, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript