From the archives. . . . I was 18 when I wrote these articles back in 1993 for The Elvis Beat, the fourth issue of an official Elvis Presley Fan Club newsletter that I started earlier that year. This edition was 11 pages long. [Read about the previous issue, The Elvis Beat #3.]
Elvis stamp breaks postal records
A week earlier, the world had counted down the seconds to midnight and the beginning of the new year. Now, they were counting down once again to 12 AM (Central Time) and the official release of the Elvis stamp in Memphis.
At Elvis Presley Plaza, across the street from Graceland, thousands of fans, who were already in line to purchase the stamp, loudly chanted the remaining seconds.
At midnight, a new day had dawned. It was finally January 8, the 58th anniversary of Elvis’ birth and the day that the Elvis stamp would go on sale.
As fans anxiously awaited their turns to purchase the stamp, a ceremony was taking place across the street at Graceland. 800 fans, community leaders, politicians, and the ever-present news media were gathered to watch.
US Postmaster General Marvin Runyon presented Graceland the original artwork of the Elvis stamp, which will go on display. Priscilla Presley then spoke to accept, on Lisa Marie and her children’s behalf, a special sheet of commemoratives the Postal Service traditionally gives to the family of a stamp honoree.
Priscilla said, in part, “Like all of you here tonight, I feel that if ever there was an entertainer who deserved to be honored with a stamp, unquestionably, it would be Elvis Presley. What he contributed to our music and our culture was enormous and is worthy of the greatest respect and appreciation. He was a brilliant artist and he was a good man.
“I want to thank all of you loyal fans and, of course, the US Postal Service for making this stamp possible. Thank you, Mr. Runyon, for these beautiful commemoratives for Lisa and her daughter, Danielle, and her new little son, Benjamin. Lisa was going to send a note of acknowledgment but, instead of sending an acknowledgment, I think maybe it might be better if she thanked you in person. So, I’m very happy to introduce to you, Lisa Presley Keough.” Priscilla stepped aside. There was a moment of stunned silence and then a roar of applause as Lisa Marie appeared for the first time ever to address her father’s fans.
She said, “I’m very honored. Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here to accept this for my father. It’s a great acknowledgment, and I really appreciate it. And I speak on behalf of him, my family, and myself. Thank you.” Although she seemed understandably nervous during her speech, she later appeared more at ease as she posed for pictures for the press, flashing a smile that was very reminiscent of Elvis.
After Lisa Marie’s speech, seven minutes of fireworks choreographed to Elvis’ recordings of “Return To Sender” and “An American Trilogy” lit up the sky over Graceland.
Later that day, Elvis fans who were unable to be in Memphis flocked to their local post offices to buy the stamp. At many post offices, Elvis imitators sang to fans as they waited in lines.
Normally, 150 million stamps are printed for a US commemorative stamp. Half a billion Elvis stamps were printed, easily breaking all previous records. Within a few days, most post offices around the nation were completely sold out of the stamps, making them the most successful in history. The Elvis stamp is to make one last appearance in June at post offices as part of a booklet featuring several other music stars.
The Elvis stamp will be returning to post offices in June as part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Music/Rhythm ‘n’ Blues stamp booklet. This Elvis stamp will be slightly different than the one issued in January. While the image of Elvis will remain the same, the new stamp will read “Elvis Presley” instead of just “Elvis” as it appeared on the original.
Also to be featured in the booklet are: Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Ritchie Valens, Otis Redding, Dinah Washington, and Clyde McPhatter.
McCartney sees both sides of issue
Paul McCartney, a former member of the Beatles who now has a successful solo career, appeared on a radio talk show in February during which he was asked about his feelings on bootleg recordings.
He replied that he had both positive and negative feelings towards them. Each time a bootleg is sold, it is as if the artist had went to work and not been paid, he stated.
On the other hand, McCartney said, “If I had been offered some sort of an Elvis Presley bootleg back in his early days, I probably would have snatched it right up since I was such a big, mad fan of his.”
New Elvis CDs released
A new Elvis compact disc series from RCA has begun. Each disc in the Elvis Double Features series contains two complete movie soundtracks. The first four to be released are: Kid Galahad/Girls! Girls! Girls!, Viva Las Vegas/Roustabout, It Happened At The World’s Fair/Fun In Acapulco, and Harum Scarum/Girl Happy.
Return to Sender…
After the release of the Elvis stamp in January, it appears that many Elvis fans spontaneously came up with the same idea. The US Postal Service noticed a significant increase in the number of letters which could not be delivered, and thus had to be marked “Return To Sender.” Elvis fans have been affixing the stamp to envelopes made out to phony addresses in order to receive a special, one-of-a-kind collectible when the letter was returned. “Return To Sender” was a number two hit for Elvis in 1962 and was written by Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott.
Here is a sample, fake address fans may want to use:
1835 Lonely Street
Nothingville, Kingrock 81677
Although not quite true to the lyrics of the song, my letter came back marked: “Returned to Sender. No such street. No such number. No such office.”
Considering how much I disliked the image that appeared on it, I sure spent a lot of time covering the Elvis stamp. As I have noted before, it seemed like such a huge deal back then.
Here are some vintage 1993 artifacts from my collection. There is actually a letter inside the “Return To Sender” envelope. I do not remember what I wrote in it, except that I think it was my first and only “fan letter” to Elvis. On the other hand, it would not surprise me if I opened it and found that it said something like, “Dear Future Self, I can’t believe you were stupid enough to open this letter. From, Your Past Self.” That is exactly the kind of thing I would do.
I devoted a full three pages of this issue to exposing some of the many flaws of Elvis And The Colonel: The Untold Story, an NBC TV movie that has faded so far into obscurity now that it is not even worth typing up my various tirades against it.
Also timed to coincide with the stamp release, the TNT cable network edited together all 13 episodes of the short-lived ABC TV series Elvis into a two-part Elvis: The Early Years mini-series. Three of the episodes had never aired on ABC. The series starred Michael St. Gerard as Elvis. My lengthy review, which was actually more of a plot synopsis, concluded, “Elvis: The Early Years is the best production ever about Elvis.” I no longer care to watch dramatizations of Elvis’ life, but as far as I know, that one remains the best. Unfortunately, it never had a DVD release.
I also reviewed four new CDs:
- Back In Memphis (“When compared to From Elvis In Memphis and the single releases, Back In Memphis is a disappointment”)
- Elvis In Person (“Although his subsequent live albums certainly deserve merit, none would exceed the magic of this album”)
- Love Letters From Elvis (“Love Letters From Elvis suffers from over powering instrumentation on many tracks”)
- Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden (“Listeners are taken on a journey back to 1972 to witness Elvis at his near best”)
All these years later, and I am still buying these same CDs in different forms. Here are my more recent views:
- Back In Memphis (“All in all, it makes for an uneven album that pales in comparison to From Elvis In Memphis“)
- Elvis In Person (“Considering the space restrictions of 1969, the twelve tracks that make up the original album are well-chosen”)
- Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden (“Crank up your sound system and maybe, just maybe, you can be transported back to June 10, 1972, and experience Elvis at the Garden”)
At least I am consistent, right?
Coming Soon: After much delay, the spotlight finally returns to King Creole, The Mystery Train Blog’s Elvis Movie of the
Quarter Year. I am looking forward to finally getting that series back on track. Until then, check out my new, old blog: Pastimescapes.