Oops, I did it again! I forgot about the significance of this date in pop culture history. I will postpone my thoughts on Don Imus’ litigation situation until Monday.
Today (August 13, 2007) marks the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. I know where I was when I heard the news: at the studios of radio stations WATH-AM and WXTQ-FM in Athens, Ohio. I was getting ready to do my 6:00-9:00 pm adult contemporary music show when the bells on the Associated Press wire went DING-DING-DING. This was sometime between 3:30-4:00 pm. WATH’s afternoon jock Tyler Wold, whose handle was, “The World Famous Ty Richards.”, broke the news to our listeners. Ty was also WATH’s program director. He suggested that I put together a three-hour tribute show to “The King” that night.
Honestly, that was the last thing I wanted to do. Although I liked some of his songs, I wasn’t a big fan. I grew up with the British Invasion, Motown, and surfer music, and later migrated to psychedlic and progressive rock. Not to mention that I’d have to work like a dog for two hours to put this together! But, sometimes you’ve got to seize the moment. I got help from some of the other staff members, pulling Elvis records out of the library and highlighting facts from the trivia books that were stashed in the music library.
When the 6:00 news ended, I basically winged it. I stayed away from the obvious maudlin cliches (“It was a tragic death”) and before I knew it, the clock struck 9:00 and the station signed off the air, as it’s daytime-only license required.
I got about twenty phone calls during the show. A few days later, I got a hand-written note from an elderly lady listener, Veda Ketchum, who thanked me for doing the show. Radio people asserted back then that for every phone call or letter you got, there were hundreds more listeners who felt the same way. They just didn’t have the time or notion to tell you. I took that for what it was worth and felt content that I made some people happy in their time of despair. To many of those fans, it was like they lost a family member. The experience of doing that show did not convert me to an Elvis fan, but it did give me an appreciation for what an icon he is.
Tomorrow: Oh, Wow, Man…Don’t (Inhale) Forget The Other Big Anniversary!