It’s the 40th anniversary of the death of the king of rock ‘n roll. Elvis Presley died at his home in Memphis on August 16th, 1977, leaving millions of fans heartbroken, many still to this day.
I was just approaching 18 months old when the King abdicated, so what I know about Elvis has been gained from television, radio and playing catch up on some of his greatest hits. Plus, for many years, I’ve watched and listened in awe to the passion of Elvis fans at the annual Elvis Festival in Porthcawl, South Wales, which has always been a must-do outside broadcast for my old radio station, BBC Radio Wales.
But whether you’re a fan of the King or, like me, swotting up furiously to catch up, there are some great podcasts about Elvis ready for you to download and listen to.
To start, I’d recommend Pete Mitchell’s excellent podcast series This Day in Music, where you’ll find a two parter on the early life of Elvis, revolving around his time in the US army. Yes, that’s right, in 1958 Elvis was drafted into the army and served for two years as a regular soldier – can you imagine Bieber doing that? Mitchell’s documentary tells the story well and the production is both music and archive rich, giving it the edge over many of the podcasts here.
Meanwhile, Memphis newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, tells the story of how the media in Elvis’ hometown reported the news of his death, in the first of its series Eternal Fame: 40 Years Later. The star of the show is veteran disc jockey Rob Grayson, who was a rookie overnight presenter deputising on the afternoon show when the news broke. Not only did he have to navigate his way through a shift that would define his career, he later had to become an instant Elvis expert by doing a procession of interviews for radio stations across the world. Not bad for a 19 year old Beatles fan!
For an insider’s perspective on Elvis, check out a podcast series from 2012 called The Gospel Side of Elvis. The late Joe Moscheo, a member of gospel group The Imperials — who performed with the King between 1969 and 1971 — and author of a book of the same name, tells the tales of working with and knowing Elvis, and particularly his love of gospel music. Each of these episodes were built short, to the point and no doubt intended to sell books but they are beautifully crafted and well worth your ears for a morning’s commute.
Despite positioning itself as the place to get ‘the latest Elvis news and events happening here a Elvis Presley’s Graceland’, the Official Graceland Podcast hasn’t updated in a few months. But if you’re a fan of Elvis’ movie career, this is the place to come, with a bank of short, conventional, two header review show which do a decent job. But I was expecting a bit more, particularly in the run up to the anniversary.
So instead we turn to the hardcore fans. Online station, TCB Radio, run a fairly regular podcast service, full of ‘news you can use… produced by Elvis fan for Elvis fans’. TCB stands for Taking Care of Business, Elvis’ motto and the name of his rhythm band through the final years of his career. Of course, you’d have to be a fan to know that, but that’s the point – this is proper fanzone territory. Expect shout outs, events, giveaways and facts. The only complaint is that the episodes are broadcast first on Facebook Live and the podcast could do with a heft bit of post production to remove the visual bits. But if you want to experience what I used to see at the Porthcawl Elvis Festival, this is it.
Perhaps the most unusual and refreshing take comes from a Penaltybox Productions’ Elvis And, which sees an improv comedy group take key moments in the life of Elvis Aaron Presley and create comedy sketches around them. It’s very daft, and downright rude in places, but it’s very entertaining. Check out the episode on the Million Dollar Quartet, which is perhaps the most far-fetched take on the infamous and impromptu Sun Records Studios session you’ll ever hear.
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