Elvis Presley - Fanfare for the Common Man
PART I Throughout the '70s, right up until his death 20 years ago on August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley regularly performed Hank Williams' classic "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" at his sold-out arena shows. "I'd like to sing a song that's probably the saddest song I've ever heard," he'd say, and the screaming arena would suddenly turn hushed. James Burton would kick off the song by filtering its original acoustic and steel intro through his own soul-deep electric guitar riff, and then Elvis, his baritone quavering gently in tones sincere and stately, would deliver a version every bit as affecting as old Hank's. You would certainly never confuse the two renditions, but Presley's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" reminds, once again, that the king of rock 'n' roll was first, foremost and forever a country boy at heart. It's been commonplace for a long time now, when writing about Presley's influences, to remark almost entirely upon his fascination with R&B and the blues. After all, it was his intense attraction to such a culturally off-limits sound that (some say) sent him across the tracks into the poor, black section of Tupelo, Mississippi, known as Shakerag and that even had him driving (perhaps) across the Tennessee-Arkansas Bridge into West Memphis to check out Willie Mitchell at a place called Danny's. By appropriating the black music he heard blasting out of the smoky clubs down on Beale Street and flying over the air to him on the radio, Presley found his defining inspiration, the conventional wisdom explains. Because he made up his mind to seek out this music and to soak it up until it became his own, the version of rock 'n' roll we have today came into existence. This is all true enough. But one should never forget that Elvis was a country boy too -- not because of anything he chose, but simply because he was born to it. Country music was part of Presley's artistic sensibility and world view the way drawing breath is a part of life. He didn't have to discover it like some new and foreign land, hidden away in exotic juke joints and the thrilling jive of a cat disc jockey like Dewey Phillips. It was already there, just there, in his very bones from the get-go. We can easily imagine a young Elvis hearing in the music of black R&B artists the possibility of something he might one day become. But country music? It was simply the reality of who he already was, of who he'd always be, no matter what. That he didn't deny or reject his country roots is a signal fire drawing us to an equally essential part of his genius. Not that Elvis never dreamed of Something More. He was, after all, a country boy who idolized movie star Tony Curtis, who wanted very much to be a successful singer of Southern gospel like his heroes in the Statesmen Quartet and the Blackwood Brothers, who gravitated to the sounds of R&B shouters and crooners like Wynonie Harris and Roy Hamilton, and who couldn't get enough of pop and country crooners either (Bing Crosby, Eddy Arnold, Dean Martin). He borrowed pieces of his style from all of these artists: Curtis' swagger, Statesmen lead singer Jake Hess' unabashed emotionalism and sense of the dramatic (not to mention a good deal of his ballad phrasing), R&B's energy and rhythm and cool, Deano's mumbled, swallowed-word delivery -- but the common denominator was always that each of these sounds, and plenty more besides, were then filtered through the heart and mind of a country boy. And white country boys, at least in Presley's day, listened to country music. As would be the case with any boy who grew up poor (at times, desperately so), white and Southern in the two decades leading up to our century's midpoint, country music would have been playing everywhere Elvis turned, and he loved it. Country music was there in the Southern and country gospel standards that his mama Gladys would sing to him, and in the C&W tunes his daddy Vernon would hum around the house. It was in the hymns he would sing in Pentecostal churches come Sunday morning, in the country standards like "You Are My Sunshine" he would strum and play with friends before school most mornings, and it was in the crooning of the cowboy singers -- Ritter, Rogers and Autry -- he enjoyed at Tupelo's Strand theater on the weekends. It was there, too, in the way people with more means looked down their noses at him and his people, in the way he talked, in the clothes on his back, in the rumble in his belly. Later, it was in the All-Night Singings held at Memphis' Ellis Auditorium, where Elvis saw dynamic, emotive Southern gospel quartets like the Blackwoods and Stamps, Speers and Statesmen, praising the Lord and promising Something More. Like so many other Southern kids, Elvis listened to the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night with his folks, dreaming of one day standing center stage himself, just like Red Foley and Bill Monroe. Unlike so many kids with the same dream, though, he had ambition enough to get down to WELO and sing with local hillbilly star Mississippi Slim. And as a 10-year-old, this country boy, who everyone remembers as being achingly shy, somehow found the guts to get up and croon Foley's hoary paean to a dead doggie, "Old Shep", for second prize at a fair in downtown Tupelo -- and to sing it as sincerely as all get-out too, just the way Foley did. "Well, all of us kids thought that was so silly," childhood friend Laverne Farrar recalled in the Rose Clayton/Dick Heard book Elvis Up Close: In The Words Of Those Who Knew Him Best (Turner Publishing, 1994). "But now Elvis didn't smile or nothing. He sang it right out from his heart." Throughout his career, Elvis frequently chose to perform country songs that, judged by rock standards, would be nothing more than the worst kind of schmaltz. In 1956, for example, he recorded "Old Shep" (accompanying himself on piano), and in the '70s, "Snowbird." But more often than not, his performances of such songs communicated intense emotion simply because he sang them as sincerely as anyone ever had -- indeed, singing "right out from his heart." Others might hear country corn in this approach, but that possibility never even seemed to occur to Elvis. Raised on country & western and its oft-forgotten cousin, Southern gospel -- two repertoires he would draw upon throughout his career -- he instinctively understood the importance of being earnest and sincere. Elvis was a country boy. PART II: The Big Bang Presley's Sun sessions, and especially his breathless versions of "That's All Right" and Bill Monroe's 1941 country waltz "Blue Moon Of Kentucky," are the Big Bang of the rock 'n' roll universe. To the country music establishment, though, Elvis and the rock 'n' roll revolution he spearheaded must have sounded exactly like the end of the world. Distracting old-school country listeners away from his undeniable twang with heaping helpings of rhythm and bluesy shouting, the Hillbilly Cat was stealing away the youngest generations of country fans, changing the rules. What's more, he was doing it virtually overnight. Presley's double-sided single, "Baby Let's Play House" paired with the closer-to-"real"-country "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone", had climbed to #5 on the national country charts in the summer of 1955, busting the kid out beyond the regional fame his first three Sun singles had already won for him. But Elvis was just warming up. His next release, "I Forgot To Remember To Forget"/"Mystery Train", became Presley's first country #1 -- his first #1, period. Billboard named Elvis the Most Promising Country Artist of 1955. The kid couldn't be stopped. After Sam Phillips sold Presley's contract to RCA's country division for not much less than the price of a '97 Caddy, Elvis topped the country charts again in the spring of '56 -- this time for 17 weeks! -- with the lurching "Heartbreak Hotel", a bluesy stomp that was no more like ol' Hank than farming was like assembly-line work. By the end of the summer, Presley had three more C&W chart-toppers: "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You", "Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel". What was worse, to the minds of the Nashville music establishment anyway, was that he wasn't the only one scoring with this racket anymore. The first two-thirds of 1956 saw the emergence of a whole slew of rockin' white trash boys, exactly the kind of kids who just a few months earlier would've been trying to sing like Webb and Lefty. That year, Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Boppin' The Blues", Gene Vincent's "Be Bop A Lula", and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk The Line" (a two-sider with "Get Rhythm") all bumrushed airtime away from eventual country classics such as Kitty Wells' "Searching", the Louvin Brothers' "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby", Faron Young's "Sweet Dreams" and Ray Price's "Crazy Arms". It wasn't as if this new rockabilly was doing away with traditional country, though. After all, "Crazy Arms" had still managed to park itself at #1 for five months. No, this new music came off so threatening as much for how different it was -- well, more like how scary -- as for how popular it had become on the radio. Partly this was because it sounded so different. Presley's brand of country was city music, and it sounded like it. The fiddles and steel guitar of hits such as "Crazy Arms" were ditched in Presley's recordings, as were the pinched and nasal vocals. What was left, by comparison to the legends of C&W, just sounded like it was too damn free, like it didn't give one whit about any old thing. Hank Snow's boy Jimmie would soon tell his congregation that this rebellion was mainly in "the beat, the beat, the beat," and he ought to have known: After he'd failed as a country singer and before he took up with the Lord, Jimmie Rodgers Snow had taken a stab at rockabilly too. He wasn't alone. No less a mainstream country figure than Faron Young recorded "I'm Gonna Live Some Before I Die", a great (if unsuccessful) rockabilly number. Even hot young country talent George Jones, who worked with Elvis a few times on the Louisiana Hayride, had felt the need to nickname himself Thumper and record a couple of rockabilly sides. But pointing at differences in the sound doesn't really explain all the commotion. In fact, to the ears of modern listeners -- to whom, admittedly, the shock of the new is long gone -- the difference between most of the rockabilly records that charted at the time and many of the traditional country performances that they shared playlists with can often be tough to discern. Granted, "That's All Right" and "My Baby Left Me" (another of Presley's summer of '56 country hits), as well as any of the country singles from Perkins and Cash, were wilder and bluesier than contemporaneous Top-10 country hits such as Johnny Horton's "One Woman Man", Carl Smith's "You Are The One", and Marty Robbins' versions of "That's All Right" (which added fiddle but retained Presley's phrasing) and "Maybeline". But they're not that much wilder. Listening to the guitar solos on Presley's Sun recordings today, for example, we don't need to wonder whether Scotty Moore (who'd previously recorded for Sun in a C&W outfit called the Starlite Wranglers) was an admirer of country pickers Chet Atkins and Merle Travis. And Presley's voice, on early recordings of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", "Just Because", "I'll Never Let You Go", "I Love You Because", "Milk Cow Blues Boogie", "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine" and so many others, always overflows with the yearning and straight-up sincerity he'd admired in Southern gospel and country & western. Truth be told, the twangy rockabilly sound that broached the country charts in 1956 was fairly easily and quickly assimilated. Within a few years of Presley's first country chart-toppers, Bakersfield acts such as Wynn Stewart and Buck Owens (who had played rhythm guitar with Gene Vincent for a time) were already making music that was clearly influenced by rock 'n' roll, and Nashville was regularly producing rockabilly-inflected hits such as Jones' "White Lightning" and Horton's "I'm Coming Home". Just that quick, no one even batted an eye. Ironically, these rock-'n'-roll-inspired country hits, and many, many more just like them, are revered today as part of a movement back to traditional, hard-core country music. PART III: Highway to Hayride At the time, then, the revolution wasn't taking place on country radio; it was out on the road where you could see and hear and feel the way this sound was creating a whole new world, where you could eyeball firsthand the reactions that different segments of the country audience were having to this country boy now being hailed as the King Of Western Bop. Very early on, Elvis was being packaged on short swings through the South with country stars Slim Whitman and Billy Walker, and both men would return to Nashville on Monday morning, full of amazed stories about the polite kid with the funny name who was driving the girls nuts and becoming tougher to follow each night. This buzz, combined with the regional success of his earliest Sun singles, fairly quickly landed Elvis a spot on the Grand Ole Opry in the early fall of 1954, but the appearance didn't go well. Though he wasn't booed, the response from the largely adult Opry crowd had been little more than polite, a disappointing reaction that would repeat itself during Presley's first Louisiana Hayride appearance a couple weeks later, on Oct. 16. ("What in the world did I do wrong?" a worried Elvis asked backstage.) By the time Elvis returned for the evening's second show, however, the word must have spread through Shreveport that something special was up. Before he was done, the show had been stolen and the hall was filled with the pop, pop, pop of flash photography. "I had never seen them rush the stage like that", Hayride regular Merle Kilgore remembered in the Clayton/Heard Elvis Up Close book. "Not even for Hank Williams." Bedlam quickly became the rule on the road, with every city playing its part in the growing Presley drama. In Lubbock, Texas, Billy Walker remembered a female audience member who exposed herself to the country boy. In Orlando, Florida, Faron Young recalled passionate cries of "Get off the fucking stage! Bring Elvis back on!" directed at headliner Hank Snow after he attempted to follow Elvis; when the announcer tried to calm things down by explaining that those who really wanted to see Elvis could find him signing autographs out back, half the audience just left. "That was like ringing a fucking fire bell," Young recalled in Elvis Up Close. "I don't mean they left one at a time; I mean they left by goddamn droves." These wild reactions to Presley's music were probably even more troubling to the Nashville country music establishment than the music itself. They were shocked by the crazed reactions, and by the pinch those reactions soon began dealing to their wallets. Before long, Presley's teenage fans, who would show up early to buy up all the Louisiana Hayride tickets, were keeping the older fans from attending the show at all. Out on the tour circuit, traditional country artists couldn't follow the many Presley-inspired rockabilly fireballs much more easily than they could follow the kid himself, which made it all that much tougher for them to even find bookings in the first place. A classic generational culture clash was taking shape. At one 1955 show at Florida's Gator Bowl, screaming girls chased Elvis off the stage and back into a dressing room, tearing pieces of his clothes off and forcing him to climb up on top of a shower stall for safety. Also on the bill that night was country matriach Mother Maybelle Carter. PART IV: Rebel without rejection It was the attitude with which Elvis delivered his performances -- a sneer and a smirk balanced together on his lips, his leg trembling to the beat, the beat, the beat -- that caused all the hysteria so alarming to old-school country fans. It was that "Something More" that Elvis had heard in R&B (and had seen in the careers of Tony Curtis and Dean Martin and Bing Crosby, too) that all these country boys and girls were now identifying in Elvis, and they were racing after it, and away from country music and what it seemed to stand for, as if their very lives might depend upon it. Country music, so the cliche went, was about an acceptance of life's limitations, but rock 'n' roll was about rejecting those limitations altogether. Where country represented resignation, rock 'n' roll reached for freedom. Surely we can see today that such a dichotomy is reductionist; that it offers a superficial understanding of "freedom" is the least of its problems. But at the same time, we can understand how the teenage country youth who were Presley's original audience, a group standing at that tender age when life's limitations begin to first make themselves known most concretely, would rush desperately to an alternative, would feel the difference between country and rock in just such oversimplified ways. Like his fans, Elvis was certainly reaching for Something More in those early successes too, as he fumbled to discover his powers and to control them, to locate a bit more possibility in the world, a bit less pain. But he also never ran away from anything. Though he followed his dreams, he never failed to return to his down-home Mama. Although he was musically innovative, he was also deeply respectful of the country tradition he was helping to re-create. Even as he grew more worldly, he remained a country boy. You can hear these contradictions in his music and especially in his voice, from the earliest Sun recordings all the way up to the final concerts in the months before his death. To revise an old analogy, Elvis didn't just want to light out for the territory, a la Huck Finn; he wanted to keep in constant touch with the folks back home on the Mississippi too. Perhaps it was this desire to have it both ways, inchoate as it may have been, that as much as anything else explains why Elvis was the one crowned King rather than one of his many talented contemporaries. For example, Jerry Lee Lewis' rock 'n' roll (which was also strongly influenced by country music and which rivaled Presley's in popularity, for a time, on both the pop and country charts) does indeed sound like a rejection of limits, even a complete dismissal of them. His "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" is a defiant "Fuck You." Now, there can undoubtedly be something glorious and empowering in an impassioned and well-timed Fuck You. But such a stance can be naive too, and it can build new limitations. A Fuck You alone, no matter how beautifully or seductively it's delivered, does not remove limitation from the world. Presley's best work is altogether more profound. His greatest performances sound like a struggle for Something More, a kind of negotiation for just a little more space, by someone who is acutely aware of just how strong life's limits can be, someone who understands that grasping Something More will come with unexpected responsibilities and will require difficult trade-offs. This hard wisdom was perhaps more felt than understood by Elvis, but it's there in every note he sang, an ever-present but unspeakable awareness, even pride, that, by God, Elvis Presley is a country boy. PART V: Searching for a newer sound You've no doubt heard this one before: With Presley and the other rockabilly kids invading its turf, the country music establishment created the sweeter, more pop-influenced Nashville Sound in a three-pronged attack designed to broaden its audience in the pop field, to secure the more mature country audience it still had, and to beat back the young heathens. That is, the Nashville Sound was a reaction against Elvis. This cause-and-effect has been repeated as gospel for four decades now, but it doesn't really tell the whole truth. Though he should certainly be credited for forcing the country music industry to reposition itself in the late '50s, Elvis was not simply a catalyst for the stylistic reactions of others. In fact, he was one of the Nashville Sound's chief architects, as important to the style's development as any other single figure, perhaps even more important. Although it refers to a system and a means of production (and an era and a mystique too) as much as it denotes an actual sound, and though it was created accretively over many years rather than in one epiphanic flash, the Nashville Sound is generally considered to have dawned around 1957 or '58. Writer Colin Escott has proclaimed Jim Reeves' "Four Walls", recorded February 7, 1957, to be the first Nashville Sound record. Country historian Rich Kienzle calls "Gone", a Ferlin Husky hit recorded in November 1957, a recording that "may well have pointed the way to the Nashville Sound." Chet Atkins, the RCA-based producer and guitarist generally considered the Sound's primary artistic brainchild, points to another watershed moment: his production of Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me" in late 1957. But the country boy from Memphis may have beat them all. Though Presley's initial RCA recordings sought to re-create the slap-back sound Sam Phillips had captured at Sun, Elvis was already in the midst of creating new sounds for himself when he entered a New York studio on July 2, 1956. First that day he put down "Hound Dog", as explosive an example of rock 'n' roll as has ever been recorded (albeit a cut that took Elvis in a direction he would rarely pursue). But when he next turned to "Don't Be Cruel", the result was something that included all the defining characteristics of the Nashville Sound -- and that, just as importantly, had the unmistakably warm, relaxed feel of the Nashville Sound. It was all there: the spare instrumentation and restrained playing; the at-ease yet crisply defined production; the lead vocal and the bass way out front in the mix; the backing by the Jordanaires; the arrangements devised on the spot by the musicians; and, of course, no fiddle and no pedal steel. The result was a new kind of rock 'n' roll, a new kind of pop, and the beginnings of what, in the country boy's next RCA sessions in Nashville, would help create a new kind of country music too. A two-sided single, "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel" proceeded to top the pop, R&B and country charts. At Presley's next RCA sessions, on September 1-3, he immediately set to fine-tuning the new "Don't Be Cruel" sound -- the style he would stick with, more or less, at least until the mid-'60s -- and he did it with the most country-oriented batch of songs he'd had since back in his Sun days. "Playing For Keeps", a Top-10 country hit written by Stan Kessler (who'd written Presley's two most explicitly country numbers at Sun, "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" and "You're Right, I'm Left, She's Gone"), was a gorgeous ballad so completely within the archetypal Nashville Sound style that one can easily imagine Patsy Cline's or Jim Reeves' voice replacing Presley's over the rhythm track. The same could be said for many of the session's cuts. Another Top-10 country release, "Love Me", was a Lieber-and-Stoller-penned ballad that had been conceived as a Homer-and-Jethro-style sendup of country cliches. But Elvis sang it sincerely, straight out from his heart. He sang Foley's "Old Shep", Eddy Arnold's 1953 hit "How's The World Treating You", the country standard "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again", and all the rest in the same earnest fashion, usually backed by playing and production that, today, is easily recognizable as the Nashville Sound. Of course, Elvis did not invent the Nashville Sound all by his lonesome any more than he invented rock 'n' roll by himself. Many others played significant roles, among them Atkins, who was often behind the board on Presley's RCA sessions and who played guitar on his first; pianist Floyd Cramer, who had backed Presley at the Hayride, played on Presley's first RCA date and later became an Elvis studio staple; Don Robertson, who created the slip-note piano style Cramer made famous and who wrote many of Presley's most countrified early '60s offerings; guitarist Hank Garland, an Elvis studio fixture from the last pre-army session until his death in 1963; and the Jordanaires, who began as a Southern gospel quartet and became synonomous with both the Nashville Sound and Elvis Presley. (Not to mention producers such as Owen Bradley and Ken Nelson.) But Elvis was as vital to the Nashville Sound's creation as any of them. In fact, listening closely to Presley's 1956 RCA sessions can lead one to reasonably conclude that what Chet Atkins and the rest did was not to pop up country, but to country up "Don't Be Cruel". PART VI: Comeback to country Throughout the '50s and into the early '60s, Elvis continued to draw upon the country repertoire on a regular basis. In 1959, he took "A Fool Such As I", a 1953 hit for Hank Snow, all the way to #2 on the pop charts, and his albums of the period included country covers such as Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart", Faron Young's "Is It So Strange" and Ernest Tubb's "Blue Christmas". Additionally, his first gospel albums, 1957's Peace In The Valley and 1960's His Hand In Mine (both among the finest Nashville Sound recordings ever made), were overflowing with selections from both the Southern and country gospel traditions. For a country boy at heart, these songs -- many of them had been among his favorites since he'd been a boy in Mississippi -- no doubt spoke deeply to Elvis, providing him with a constant and immediate connection to his country-boy roots even as his fame was soaring to heights no one had previously imagined and that no solo performer since has even approached. It's surely no coincidence that the only time in his career Elvis didn't record country songs was during the mid-'60s, when he was swallowed up by increasingly bad movies and had stopped touring altogether, in the process losing the vital connection it provided him to his people. Tellingly, the mid-'60s also includes the only significant period Elvis was regularly absent from the country charts. To a significant degree, Presley's people were country people, so it makes sense that his return to the country charts, his return to creative control of his career, and his return to the country repertoire would all arrive together. Elvis had 80 singles, including ten #1 hits, on the country charts during his career, which according to Billboard makes him the 34th most successful charting country performer of all time. That's higher than Garth Brooks and Hank Thompson, higher than crossover specialists Kenny Rogers and Glen Campbell -- higher than Hank Williams, even. Much of this country chart action came in the later stages of his career, after the '68 Comeback Special and the incredible American Studios sessions in 1969. But before all that, in the fall of 1967, Elvis had already returned to his greatness by reclaiming his roots in the studio -- and he did it with country music. The steel-guitar-filled cover of Eddy Arnold's "Just Call Me Lonesome" from those sessions is country poured as straight as anything Elvis ever recorded, offering not even the sweet-voiced Jordanaires as a chaser. His delicate version of another Arnold hit, "You Don't Know Me", as well as a Marty Robbins-style "Singing Tree", are late-period Nashville Sound at its most gorgeous, and his reworking of "Too Much Monkey Business" has a twangy, front-porch vibe. When he returned to Memphis in 1969 for the American sessions that would produce the From Elvis In Memphis and Back In Memphis albums, he continued this country attack, laying down blistering, soulful versions of a string of country classics ("I'm Movin'On", "From A Jack To A King", "I'll Hold You In My Heart"), as well as perfect models of a just-emerging pop-and-soul-influenced brand of country ("In The Ghetto", Kentucky Rain", "Suspicious Minds", "Gentle On My Mind") that Elvis himself had helped to create. Besides returning him to the pop and country charts, these strongly country-inflected sessions at American resulted in art as powerful as any Elvis ever created. Elvis continued in this country vein for the rest of his career, though never more completely than on his great 1971 album, Elvis Country, recorded at Nashville's famed Studio B. On this album of nothing but country songs, some numbers are played as nearly straight-on country music (Monroe's "Little Cabin On The Hill", for example), others are fine examples of the new countrypolitan sound that was just then taking over the charts ("There Goes My Everything"), and still others (like his majestic, larger-than-life version of Ernest Tubb's "Tomorrow Never Comes") rock and twang to some place that maybe only Elvis could go -- a place where this country boy can reach for Something More even as he feels the world breathing down his neck. PART VII: Common people There's a telling concert moment captured on The Essential '70s Masters box. Without warning, Elvis starts into a poem: "As a guy said one time," Elvis begins, "he said, uh... You never stood in that man's shoes Or saw things through his eyes Or stood and watched with helpless hands While the heart inside you dies So help your brother along the way No matter where he starts For the same God that made you, made him too These men with broken hearts. It's Hank Williams' most famous Luke The Drifter recitation, and Elvis uses it to make a connection that's tough to pin down with mere words. "I'd like to sing a song along the same line," he continues, then tears into a rocking version of the Joe South soul-country classic, "Walk A Mile In My Shoes." It's a remarkable moment, a big-gesture rock 'n' roll performance that, like so much of Presley's finest work, feels like it's R&B and C&W in precisely equal measure. "Oh well I may be common people", he cries, "but I'm your brother. And when you strike out and try to hurt me, it's a-hurtin' you. Lord have mercy." Till the day he died just over 20 years ago, Elvis knew who he was and who his people were. And he never forgot. David Cantwell and his significant other, Doris Saltkill, have just bought an old home in Kansas City, Missouri. They plan to decorate the upstairs bathroom -- the one with the cool, Depression-era pink and black tile -- in an unironic Elvis motif.