A group of writers from Asean on a reporting excursion of Pluralism and Religious Freedom in US took a visit to Elvis Presley’s Graceland. The tour emphasized the influence of Elvis’ religious beliefs on his early singing career. When he was in his teenage years, he had worn bright, loud clothes and sported long sideburns. The king of rock and roll was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, and died on August 18, 1977.
During the tour on Graceland, one had constantly reminded that Elvis started by singing every Sunday in church. In 1951, some years before he became a rock ‘n’ roll sensation, he attended youth organization at the “First Assembly of God” (a church in Memphis’ McLemore Avenue) “He came in late,” said Blackwood, Stamps (one of the popular Blackwood Brother Quartet). Stamps, the only 2nd baritone in the 63-year history of the Southern gospel’s renowned quartet, became the best friend of Elvis when they were sixteen and high-school mates in Memphis.
“When he comes in class, everyone would stare at Elvis because he dressed a bit different. His hair was different too. Elvis had long side-burns, and he wore second-hand clothes, loud and bright, white shoes, and a red coat,” Blackwood recalled.
Elvis’ family lived in a simple wooden shack located at the poorest area of Tupelo. His father Vernon later moved them to Memphis. Despite the poverty they were experiencing, Gladys, his mother ensured that Elvis would not turn to crime for them to survive. In 1958 when he was on leave from the US Army, he was strolling on his beloved Graceland home. He had bought the isolated house of Memphis to run away from public attention.
Elvis’ decision to create a record at Sun Studios in Memphis for his mother’s birthday was a turning point in his life and it popularized rock ‘n’ roll forever. He paved the way for other performers to sing and present the Afro-American music. As one went through Elvis’ beloved Graceland home, the audiotape tour restated that gospel music was Elvis favorite music.
The old folks at Memphis remembered the early days when the legendry singer strummed his guitar to the blues with the Afro-American singers. Blues song was borne out of hardship and slavery. This music became a form of therapy in the midst of painful experience. The king of rock ‘n’ roll sought relief by singing these blues music as it expressed pain and love from the human heart.
The Graceland tour as well exposed that Elvis warmed-up for his recording sessions with gospel music, and when not, he was always at his home playing his favorite hymns on piano.
During his lifetime, he completed 3 gospel albums: “Hand in Mine” during the 1960, “How Great Thou Art” in 1967 which won the Grammy award for the best sacred performance and “He Touched Me” in 1971. These albums, along with many inspirational tracks of his live performances, are enclosed in the two CD set called the “Amazing Grace.” The collection had not only given spotlight to the remarkable talents of Elvis, but as well served as an opening to the various styles of Southern gospel.