March 1992: The Elvis Beat #1

And now, one from the archives. I first started writing about Elvis back in 1992. Thirty years ago now, I began an official fan club whose sole purpose was to allow me to write an Elvis newsletter. Not wanting to compete with any existing clubs in my area, I named mine “The Elvis Beat: International Elvis Presley Fan Club.”

The “International” part reflected the lofty ambitions of 16-year-old me. Though The Elvis Beat never obtained any members from outside of the United States, I see The Mystery Train Elvis Blog as a realization of the dream to connect with fellow Elvis fans from all over the world.

I published the newsletter sporadically over the next five years. Most of the time, I printed a master copy using a PC and an ink jet printer. Early issues included literal cut and paste jobs on the paper to include photos, as I did not have a scanner. Then, I would have copies made. Unfortunately, my original master copies have disappeared, but I still have my archive of newsletter copies.

At first, I charged a nominal fee to join, but I soon made it free with the request that members send postage stamps if they could to offset some of the costs. To their credit, most members did send stamps. Still, I would have been in trouble had membership ever exploded much beyond 50 at any given time.

Eventually, I decided to end the club, mostly because I was unable to keep any kind of schedule going on the newsletter. Soon after releasing the last issue in 1997, I began to learn how to create web pages. My first web site would be devoted not to Elvis, though, but to Star Trek.


The Elvis Beat #1 (Cover)

The Elvis Beat #1 (Cover)

Elvis stamp unveiled

On February 24, at the Las Vegas Hilton in Nevada, the dream of millions of Elvis fans finally became reality. United States Postmaster General Anthony Frank, along with Milton Berle and Barbara Eden, officially unveiled two possible versions of an Elvis Presley stamp, one of which will become an official U.S. postage stamp.

The two stamp finalists were chosen from more than 50 entries, according to Frank. One is a circa-1950’s Elvis and the other is circa-1970’s. The public will be given the opportunity to select their favorite through the use of five million ballot cards which will be available at post offices in the month of April. The ballot cards must be mailed with the appropriate postage.

The winning stamp is expected to be announced in May at Graceland, and will be issued in 1993 as the first in a series of American music legends expected to be issued over several years. “He broke new ground,” said Frank, who went on to say that Elvis was the obvious choice to begin the series.

Elvis fans have been lobbying for this recognition for years. Pat Geiger of Vermont began the “Elvis Presley Postage Stamp Campaign” in 1983, and thought that having the stamp passed would be a “simple thing.” In 1987, the first year Elvis became eligible, she quickly found that it wouldn’t be that easy. But after the initial rejections, Elvis is finally to be honored six years later than she had planned.

The Elvis fans have won, and now it is up to the general public to pick their favorite Elvis.


Now (2022)

Elvis Stamp Official Ballot (1992)

Elvis Stamp Official Ballot (United States Postal Service, 1992; from Tygrrius’ collection)

It’s amusing for me to remember how seriously I took the whole Elvis stamp business. If it were taking place now, I would probably only give a brief mention here of the stamp.

Not long before the release of this first issue, I even wrote a “letter to the editor” that appeared in both of our local newspapers in which I defended the 1973 stamp design against typically vicious media portrayals of it as “fat” and “old.” No need to get into that here, because if there’s one thing Elvis fans can agree on is that he was not overweight or old in Aloha From Hawaii.

After releasing this newsletter, I can remember going to the post office the first day the stamp ballots became available. I grabbed three of them: One to vote and two to keep. You see, I considered it wrong to vote more than once. Remember, this was serious business. Turns out, I should have used all three ballots, as my choice was beaten rather handily. But that’s a topic for the next issue!


Then

Back to 1992, here’s a look at some of the other content from that first issue.

In A Flash (page 2): Covered three additional news stories (“That’s The Way It Is and Elvis On Tour outtakes to be released,” “Graceland is named a national historical landmark,” and “Five disc set to be released for fifteenth anniversary”).

Editor’s Corner: (page 3): Included a brief welcome to the first issue and a re-print of my defense of the 1973 stamp.

Walk a mile in his shoes (page 4): Speaking of things I find funny that I cared about back then, I devoted two whole pages to reviewing various portrayals of Elvis in movies or TV shows, ranging from 1979’s Elvis, starring Kurt Russell, up to the 1990 Elvis TV series, starring Michael St. Gerard (with lots of mostly bad ones in between). If you are curious, I determined Gerard as being the best of the lot. I pretty much stay away from these kinds of movies now, but I’d probably still pick Gerard as the best. We’ll see if Austin Butler can deliver the goods in the upcoming ELVIS movie.

Reader’s Comments and Memories (page 6): I wanted The Elvis Beat to be interactive and inclusive, so this page consisted of me begging for people to send content.

Elvis Super Trivia Challenge (page 7): Twenty questions, with the answers printed upside down at the bottom of the page (probably another literal cut and paste job to achieve the upside down text, but I honestly don’t remember). Questions ranged from, “What song is played at the conclusion of ELVIS (1968 TV Special)?” to “Which LP albums did Elvis record in the ‘Jungle Room’ at Graceland?”

The 1956 Albums (page 8): This was a word search containing the songs from the albums Elvis Presley and Elvis. It was a nod towards the types of content I had seen in other Elvis newsletters at the time. I soon dropped this concept.

In Dreams Of Yesterday…1971 (page 9): I could think of no better way to conclude the first issue of The Elvis Beat than to include Elvis’ entire acceptance speech for being recognized as one of the ten outstanding young men of 1970 by the national Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees). I still find his words from that moment inspiring:

“Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to thank the Jaycees for electing me as one of the Outstanding Young Men.

When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream that I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times.

These gentlemen over here, it is these type people who care, who are dedicated. You realize that it is […] possible that they might be building the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s not too far-fetched from reality.

I’d like to say that I learned very early in life that:

‘Without a song, the day would never end,
Without a song, a man ain’t got a friend,
Without a song, the road would never bend,
Without a song.’

So I keep singing a song. Goodbye. Thank you.”

[Originally Published March 3, 2012; revised March 24, 2022]

Happy Elvis Day 2012

Elvis rehearsing in 1970

Today is the 77th anniversary of the birth of Elvis Presley. Celebrate it well!

* * *

Time sure does fly. It was back to work last week, and now it will be back to school this week. If all goes well, this should be my last semester. Though I have enjoyed the experience, it will be nice to have the time back to do other things – such as write.

I did manage to find some time to read during my winter break, including one book about Elvis that I hope to review soon.

I have also started the process of cleaning out a spare bedroom, and I found something fun in there yesterday – an archive of newsletters that I created for an official Elvis fan club that I ran from 1992-1997. I was 16-years-old when I started that fan club on January 8, 1992.

As I’ve said before, the “club” was really just an excuse to create a newsletter about Elvis. That means I’ve now been writing about him for twenty years, unbelievable.

I released the first issue of that newsletter in March 1992, so I’m planning to share some of that content with you beginning in March of this year. It is funny to see how my writing and opinions have changed (or not) since that time.

* * *

Have a fantastic Elvis Day, everyone!

Elvis – thanks for the music.

“It’s the music and not the value of the collection that counts”

Thomas over at the Elvis Today blog has a real talent for summing up the experience of being an Elvis fan. In today’s post, “The Truth About Me,” he reflects on when he first became a fan, including a reprint of an article he wrote 21 years ago for a Swedish Elvis fan club.

“During the years me and my other brother have built a record collection that we’re proud [of],” he wrote in 1990. “Not because it includes a lot of valuable editions, but because we think we own most of the stuff released officially by Elvis, and to us it’s the music and not the value of the collection that counts.”

In the end, the music is all that really matters. Whether you are listening on vinyl records, MP3s, cassette tapes, CDs, or even 8-tracks, Elvis is still there. His music is what brings us all together. His music is our shared experience. And no matter what classless jokes or baseless claims people want to lob at him, Elvis always wins in the end because his music pounds through all of that noise and demands to be heard.

“The image is one thing, and a human being is another,” Elvis said in 1972. “It’s very hard to live up to an image.” While the image of Elvis has morphed over the years, the underlying truth of his statement remains. Like Thomas says, you don’t need an expensive collection to explore the music and go beyond the image.

After all, a scratched-up record of seemingly no value can in fact be priceless.

The Elvis Adventure Is Just Beginning

Elvis Presley in 1968

Elvis Presley in 1968

Have you ever noticed that the first post on a new blog is almost always boring? Let’s get the mundane one out of the way.

Welcome to The Mystery Train, an Elvis Presley blog. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting an Elvis blog for about two years now. In the meantime, I’ve been using sporadic posts on my mostly sci-fi blog as an outlet for writing about Elvis. In addition, I’ve guest blogged over at Elvis Today and ElvisBlog.

In fact, it was a recent post by Elvis Today’s Thomas that encouraged me to finally take the plunge and start an all Elvis blog of my own. Though I will no doubt decrease the number of posts about Elvis on my sci-fi blog, I will continue being available for guest stints on other Elvis blogs.

I actually started writing about Elvis nearly twenty years ago. From 1992 to 1997, I was the president of an official Elvis Presley fan club. I’m not sure how many there are now, but there were about 450 official clubs back then. Mine was only a “club” in the loosest sense of the term, though.

At its peak, my Elvis fan club had maybe fifty concurrent members. During all of those years, we never held a single meeting! In reality, the club existed solely as an excuse for me to create and write a quarterly newsletter about Elvis (kids, we had to use an archaic delivery system back then – consisting of items called “paper,” “envelopes,” and “postage stamps”).

I was 16 when I started that club, certainly one of the younger fan club presidents at that particular time. It was not exactly popular for 16-year-olds to like Elvis back then. While I may have been young, I had grown up listening to Elvis and had a lot to say about him.

These days, I am rapidly (and I do mean rapidly) approaching 35. All those years have gone by, yet Elvis is still there providing the soundtrack to my life – and I still have a lot to say about him. That’s why I’m here.

As for you, hold on tight, this train’s leaving the station! Enjoy your ride.