How a Tupelo Kid Became An Elvis Fan
Roy is a member of the Elvis Country Fan Club who conducts the Candlelight Vigil each year. Roy tells the story of his wife, Irene, and his journey to Graceland several times through out the years and how a Tupelo kid unexpectedly became an Elvis fan.
In the early days of my marriage to my wonderful wife Irene, I discovered she was an Elvis fan. She was a fan to the bone but quiet about it to me. She collected some Elvis memorabilia growing up; records, rings, photos etc. I, on the other hand was NOT an Elvis fan. I did not hate or dislike Elvis, I simply didn’t think much about Elvis. He was a fixture in the U.S. by this time (1968) and I heard a lot of his music being played by my older brother growing up. Yes, he thought he was Elvis in every way, like a lot of teenagers at that time.
My wife and I happened to be bowling one night in Savannah at a local alley and one of her friends pounced on the scene with a newspaper in hand. She ran up to my wife all giddy, like a little girl at Christmas. Soon after my wife was starting to get a little giddy herself and came running up to me with the newspaper in her hand. She snatched the paper open to show me a photo of you know who - ELVIS. This was not just a photo, it was an advertisement that Elvis would be performing “IN PERSON” in Jacksonville, Florida on April 16, 1972. OH HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY... Jacksonville was 150 miles from home. That meant a 300 mile drive if I went. Well, my first comment, once she opened the paper and said, “I want to go see Elvis” was: “In JACKSONVILLE????? Are you NUTS???? I’m not driving to Jacksonville to see Elvis. You must be crazy!!!"
(Irene in front of Graceland)
At the time, Elvis had just decided to stop making movies and to return to the live stage. Jacksonville was on that first tour and might have even been the first show. Well, after a bit of heehawing about it on my part and a few harsh looks from my wife, then the droopy sad-eyed face that always looked so pretty and smiling, I reluctantly gave in. We drove to Jacksonville with two friends without even a ticket to the show. I arrived at the ticket office with my beautiful young wife behind me and our two friends in tow to buy four tickets. You could tell from the bewildered look on the ladies face which was starting to crack at the edges, then into a sad looking smile, then almost into laughter.
Tickets she said? We are SOLD OUT. WHAT, sold out? How can that be, this place is huge. We just drove 150 miles and you tell me the show is sold out? Well, then the real sadness set in with my wife. It was the worst thing that could happen to a young Elvis fan (my wife) not to mention the waste of time I just endured driving her to see Elvis.
Just as we started to turn to leave the lady said to us, “We do have four seats left, but they are directly behind the stage at the top row and they have no seat backs.”
Well, at this point everyone else in my little group was ready to sit on a coke crate or stand if need be to see Elvis, so we bought the last 4 seats in the house and the SMILES started. My wife and her girlfriend were about to pass out.
Once inside and resting in our seats without backs, we noticed there was a few empty seats a few rows below us close to the rail. Could it be that someone purchased seats and did not show up for the show??? I wonder. Well, we bought the bad seats and knew that’s where we should sit. At this point in time, all the normal excitement of a live concert was taking place. People pouring into the building. Concessions sold all around and let’s not forget the Elvis programs, posters, photos, t shirts etc. Suddenly, the show starts. First the comedian comes on and does his show. Then the girl group came on and they do a show. By this time, I’m starting to think Elvis is not really here at all and we have really wasted “MY” time. Another break was taken and then the house lights go out. I’m thinking, what now??? HA, at this point, I know you are all saying to yourselves, I’m a real idiot for not knowing what was about to take place. Remember, NO ONE knew at this time since Elvis had just started this new gig and I’m thinking a lot of people were curious as to what was taking place. The band started playing, backup singers in place, people on edge all over the building. I’m thinking, are all these people including my wife and friends really getting all worked up just because Elvis is going to march out, prance around on stage a little and sing a few songs then leave. So what, he is probably the biggest stuck up person to ever hit the stage. I just KNEW Elvis would be a big prude that was so in love with himself he couldn’t see past the end of his own nose.
The show was finally under way. After all this time (wasted time for me) Elvis was on stage singing. Then he did something really strange. He started talking to the people in the audience. Laughing a little, joking with the band members and fans. He even turned around and looked up at the fans behind him. IMAGINE THAT. This man was actually interfacing with the fans. Well, by this time, we had moved down to the unused seats closer to the rail and got a better view. He continued to sing, had fun with his audience and he continued to turn around and sing to the fans behind him.
Now, I’m starting to think, he may not be so bad after all. He’s actually involving his audience and now he’s passing out souvenirs of some sort. Maybe a scarf? After what was probably approximately two hours, Elvis sang the last song and left the stage. I think some man came out and said something like “Elvis has left the building.” I don’t think it was Al Dvorin, but if I remember correctly, someone made that announcement. Our first thought was, Yeah, right, there’s no way Elvis has left the building this fast. He will return for a curtain call and probably sing another song or two. Nope. It was over.
When this concert came to an end and all the people left, I, Roy Bridges was an Elvis Fan and looked forward to hearing my wife say “Elvis is coming to Atlanta and I want to go.” Did I go? You bet I did. We only had the pleasure of seeing Elvis in concert three times, but wish we had seen him much more. After our first concert in Jacksonville, we saw him on June 30, 1973 in Atlanta Georgia, and for the last time on February 17, 1977 in Savannah Georgia.
My precious wife, Irene (who is also an Insider) has told me 100 times over the years that the first concert we went to was one of the most exciting times she can remember. She felt she could not share it with me because she thought I would laugh and make fun of her. She and her girlfriend both had to go the restroom after the show to express their excitement together. Actually she was sort of correct about that, except she didn’t know I had become an Elvis fan myself during that concert. I have done everything possible since that time to make sure Irene would never feel she had to hide her excitement about Elvis or anything else ever again. We made our first trip to Memphis on our 10th wedding anniversary on February 23, 1978. We returned again in August 1978 for the first anniversary of Elvis' passing and continue to come back each year to this day. We have met so many great friends from across the USA and all over the world because I took her to that first Elvis concert.
Thank you ELVIS for being a better man, better human being than I thought you would be. Thank you for being yourself. The young boy, the young man that was raised in the South under very poor and adverse conditions, yet never forgot that God placed a talent in you that took you to the top of the world. God blessed you with all a man could ever dream of yet you never forgot your humble beginnings and never failed to share your blessings with people everywhere you traveled. Your God-given blessings continue to blend into everyone that takes just a little time to look, listen, and learn about “the boy who dared to rock the world.”
THANK YOU IRENE for being my wonderful wife. For insisting I take you to this concert and finally for allowing me the chance to know that God has blessed me as much as he did Elvis, by placing you in my life.