During the past week, I stopped to visit Bill Rawson, owner of the Long Branch Furniture store at 3153 Lake Shore Blvd. West.
A previous post about Bill, with a link to a video, is entitled:
I was out for a walk and stopped for a chat. For many years, I used to walk by the store but never stopped to chat, because I didn’t know Bill Rawson at the time. He was just a guy that I used to see sitting in front of his store all the time, hanging out with his friends. I had no idea what he was about.
Then I got introduced to him, some years ago, and have often spoken with him in the years that followed. I was introduced to him during a Jane’s Walk that I helped to organize quite some time ago. Getting to meet people is one of the benefits of organizing things like Jane’s Walks.
On Sundays, Bill Rawson often closes his store so he and his buddies can spend the day at the horse races.
One of my favourite stories, of many that Bill has shared with me over the years, was of the time – I think it was in the 1930s or thereabouts – when his infant brother was in a crib on the front porch of their house north of Lake Shore Blvd. West.
On a memorable occasion, a horse sauntered up to the house, and stuck its nose right into the crib, to take a close look at the baby. Years later, Bill’s younger brother would ask Bill to tell him the story one more time.
On my recent visit to the Long Branch Furniture store, I was wandering around the store taking pictures, when our conversation turned to Elvis at which point Bill showed me several Elvis books he has on sale. One of them is entitled Elvis in Art (1987) by Roger G. Taylor.
The concept of a book that focuses on artwork that deals with Elvis appealed to me. I borrowed the book so I could scan some pictures and texts from it.
My preferred contact with the legacy of Elvis is through the CDs that I play on my car stereo. Just listening to Elvis in the car is more than enough for me, but it was fun to have a look at the book of illustrations and quotations.
The book has many quotes, but no citations of sources. I don’t know to what extent the texts are accurate quotations of what people have said. If there’s no citation of sources then one can ask why the citations are lacking. For my own part, I prefer to cite sources, and to cite the evidence.
For this post, I’ve chosen a few texts and images to share, from the book that I’ve recently borrowed from Bill Rawson.
Music on car stereo
The quotes, however accurate they may or may not be, tell me what I need to know about Elvis, to the extent that texts about Elvis have meaning or relevance to me . I like how he made his start. I like how he had an impact on the history of music. I like the fact that his appropriation of Black music is acknowledged, and recognized.
First big appearance
‘I was on the show (at Overton Park, Memphis) as an extra added single . . . and I came out on stage and I was scared stiff. My first big appearance, in front of an audience. And I came out and I was doin’ a fast tune, uh, one of my first records, and everybody was hollerin’ and I didn’t know what they was hollerin’ at. Everybody was screamin’ and everything, and I came off stage and my manager told me they were hollerin’ because I was wigglin’. Well I went back out for an encore and I kinda did a little more and the more I did, the wilder they went.’ – Elvis Presley
Comments from some fellow musicians
‘Before there was Elvis, there was nothing.’ – John Lennon
‘People like myself, Mick Jagger and the others only really followed in his footsteps.’ – Rod Stewart
‘What he did was a part of history.’ – Bing Crosby
‘None of us could have made it without Elvis.’ – Buddy Holly
Blacks didn’t have the air-waves
‘Blacks didn’t have the air-waves Elvis had. He delivered what he obtained beautifully.’ – Chuck Berry
‘He was an integrator. Elvis was a blessing. They wouldn’t let Black music through. He opened the door for Black music.’ – Little Richard
‘He was white, but he sang Black. It wasn’t socially acceptable for white kids to buy Black records at the time. Elvis filled a void.’ – Chet Atkins
‘Elvis is the greatest Blues singer in the world today.’ – Joe Cocker
‘Even today he don’t seem growed up to me. I still see that little tow-head riding the trike we gave him when he was three round and round the kitchen.
‘Lots of parents don’t let their children know when things are troubling them. I don’t believe in that. Elvis would hear us worrying about our debts, being out of work and sickness and so on. He would say,”Don’t you worry none, when I grow up, I’m going to buy you a fine house and pay everything you owe at the grocery store and get two Cadillacs – one for you and Daddy and one for me.” Little as he was, the way he’d look up at me, holding onto my skirt – you know, I’d believe him.’
– Gladys Presley
An Oct. 28, 2015 CBC article is entitled: “Andy Warhol TIFF show explores artist’s obsession with stars, fame: Highlights include Warhol’s own memorabilia plus his videos, screen prints, photos.”