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Memphis Flyer Where Were You?

Memphians remember where they were when they heard that Elvis had died.

AUGUST 11, 1997: Ask those who were old enough to remember where they were when John F. Kennedy died and more than often not you'll get a lucid, stuck-in-time tale. Now, ask the same question about Elvis, as we did certain local luminaries, and, well, mostly you get nice, normal answers such as, "I was in the car and I heard it on the radio" or an oft-heard "I don't remember." One local wag simple said, "I was on the toilet." There were those, however, who had funny or sweet or just strange memories to share. Read on:

I was leaving WMPS radio, taking Riverside Drive to I-240 to play golf at McKellar Park. As I left 240 to I-55 South, I passed an ambulance going north. When I re-created the time, I realized that the ambulance was taking Elvis to Baptist Memorial.

After nine holes of golf, my son and I went to the clubhouse for a lemonade. The assistant pro Willie Spain -- Spain hadn't talked to me for three years because he didn't like something I had written -- said, "Too bad about Elvis, ain't it?" -- Bill E. Burk, reporter for the Memphis Press-Scimitar, who used to cover Elvis Presley

I was filming the TV show On Our Own when I heard about it at rehearsal. Actress Bess Armstrong was also in the show. Just last year, Bess told me that she remembered that I had cried when I heard and that Bess, at age 22, had laughed at me for crying and how she's been sorry all these years for her youthful thoughtlessness and that Bess gets it now. -- from a statement from actress Dixie Carter

We were getting ready to play some Foosball and the Press-Scimitar arrived with the story. In honor of The King, we got higher than a green-eyed bat's ass. -- John "Bad Dog" McCormack, WEGR Rock-103 dee-jay, who says that days after this event, he "lied for 10 minutes" to the audience of the Phil Donahue show about what was going on in Memphis

I remember it like I remember where I was when I heard JFK had been shot. I had just gotten off the tennis court at Wimbleton Racquet Club. I walked upstairs and somebody said, Have you heard the news Elvis is dead? It was in the afternoon; I guess he died in the middle of the night. I guess they kept it a secret all day until afternoon, until after lunch, because something tells me I didn't hear about it until the afternoon. I remember going up to the house [Graceland] with the other thousands upon thousands of people and what a spooky experience that was, because you just felt that somebody was gone that should have been there. -- Kevin Kane, president of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau

I was 7 years old in 1977 and my family went to St. Louis for summer vacation. On August 16th, we were watching the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium. I left our seats to go buy a batter's helmet but got lost on the way back. Like a good little second-grader, I went up to a security guard, who took me up to the announcer's booth. Over the public-address system they paged my mom. While we waited for mom to arrive, the men in the booth gave me ice cream and asked me where I was from. When I told them, they asked me if I had heard about Elvis. They gestured to a small television on a table and I recall seeing the image of an ambulance driving through the gates of Graceland. As soon as my (very peeved) mom showed up, I told her that Elvis was dead. She was shocked, and we stayed a few minutes so she could find out what was going on. I had no idea who Elvis was; I just knew that everyone else seemed to think he was important. What did I care? I had my batter's helmet and a free ice-cream cone to boot. -- Mark Jordan, Flyer staff writer

I was at home in Rossville, Tennessee, when my mom called and told me about it. She listened to talk radio and apparently that's where it broke first. And then my phone rang solidly for the next three days. Everybody in the music business that knew anybody in Memphis -- this happened to everybody I know -- called them because it was unbelievable in the first place; people first wanted verification. And then I think they just wanted to be connected to Memphis. It think they wanted to feel that telephone connection. It kind of freaked me out at first. But then I realized everybody I knew was going to call, and they did. The whole area around Graceland felt very strange for about six months. It was at least that long before I could drive down [Highway] 51. -- Jim Dickinson, record producer

I was walking into the TV station where a fire had earlier gutted the newsroom, and the station manager said, "We hear bad things coming out of Graceland, can you call your friend George Klein and see if you can confirm?" I spent the rest of the afternoon answering phone calls from all over the world. -- Dave Brown, WMC Channel 5 weatherman

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