The Best Elvis Song Elvis Never Recorded

david carroll BeaverDamUSA.comWe have some terrific oldies radio stations in Chattanooga.  A couple of them specialize in hits from the 1960s-80s era, and a few others feature classic top-40 songs as well.  This morning one of them played Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” which according to legend, lead singer Freddie Mercury wrote in the bathtub.  (I’ve had million dollar ideas in the shower too, but they seem to swirl down the drain).  His bandmates say it took him all of ten minutes.  He had to dry off quickly, grab his guitar and get the notes down before he forgot them.

It became a huge hit in England in late 1979, and a few months later some US stations got a hold of it, forcing Queen’s record company to release it here in the states.  By that time, the band had become famous here for intricate harmonies, multi-layered vocal tracks and bizarre lyrics, so its management was concerned that Queen fans in America would be turned off by the song’s retro sound.

But within weeks, the song zoomed to number one on the charts (the band’s first ever), and it was one of my most requested songs on the KZ-106 morning shift.  Then, and now, some people think it’s an Elvis Presley song.  In 1980, some people swore to me that Queen had re-recorded one of Elvis’ old songs.  Remember this was pre-Internet, you couldn’t look this stuff up.  I’d say, I know a lot of Elvis songs, and I’ve never heard this one.  “Oh it wasn’t a hit,” they’d say, “but Freddie Mercury must have found it on an old Elvis album.”

Truth is, Queen recorded it in the style of Elvis’ early rockabilly days, and even filmed a video that most of us never saw; MTV wouldn’t come along until a year or two later.  Elvis and his fellow 1950s Sun Records artists (Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash) influenced many young British musicians of the 60s and 70s, and this was Freddie Mercury’s way of paying tribute to the masters.  In the last years of Elvis’ life, most of his recordings were ballads and country-flavored songs, and the closest he came to his old rockin’ sound was “Burning Love” in 1972, five years before his death.  We’ll never know how the King would have sounded performing “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” but I’ve always believed he would have nailed it, in his prime anyway.  So sit back and enjoy this video.  I think it’s one of the best-produced, best-performed records of the rock-and-roll era, and despite the band’s fears, it actually expanded their fan base worldwide.  Ready Freddie?

 

I Feel Good; I Knew That I Would

david carroll BeaverDamUSA.comNot too long ago, I walked out of my allergist’s office, and realized, “I feel good.”   Now, why waste valuable Internet space on my (knock on wood) good health?  Because I’ve made four lifestyle changes that have made me feel better than I did years ago.  Who knows, there may be someone reading this who wants to feel better, and maybe I can help.  I’m no doctor, but I have stayed in a Holiday Inn Express, and my first two initials are D.R.  Close enough.

1)  I finally went to the allergist.  Ever since I was in my twenties, I sneezed a lot.  I have vivid memories of spring softball games, with my beloved KZ-106 Foul Tips, sneezing my brains out.  My wife Cindy would suggest I see someone about it, but in typical male fashion, I’d blow it off (pun intended).  I remember telling her, “It’s no big deal, I sneeze every day of the year.”

True, but it got to the point that I was miserable, just downright sick every May.  The tree and grass pollen overwhelmed me.  Then in October the leaves would fall, and my misery level would rise again.  Twice a year, for several weeks at a time, I’d trudge on to work, on radio and TV, stuffed up and sore-throated.  It was just part of life, I thought.  About four years ago, I had the “scratch test” done, the allergies were identified, and the weekly shots in the arm began.  Soon they were bi-weekly, and now they’re monthly.  Easily the best doctor’s visit I ever made.  Relief was immediate.  This was a life-changer.

2)  I finally went to the dermatologist.  Being of fair skin and English/Irish descent, the sun is not my friend.  No one told me this when I was a teen, sunbathing constantly in a futile effort to look as good as my bronzed friends.  No one said anything about it when I was playing softball on blistering weekend afternoons, with no “protection.”  I kept thinking that painful beet-red burn would magically peel into a skin tone somewhere between Bob Barker and George Hamilton.  No such luck.  The only thing it turns into is melanoma.  About ten years ago, a good dermatologist looked first into my family history, then deeply into my skin and laid down the law.  “Hey Knucklehead,” he may well have said.  “You shouldn’t even get the mail without smearing SPF 55 sunscreen over your exposed skin.”  Done!  Much of the damage was inflicted long ago, and it never goes away.  But at least I’ve fended off any new damage in recent years.

3)  I finally started getting an annual physical exam.  A good friend and former boss of mine scared me to death when he was about 40, and I was in my 20s.  He was telling the tale of the prostate exam portion of getting a physical, and made it sound like torture.

I never forgot that, and adopted (again) the stubborn male philosophy of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  My dad was among many who would say, “If you go to the doctor when you’re not sick, they’ll find something wrong with you anyway.”  So unless I was deathly ill with a stomach virus or something, I stayed out of doctors’ offices.  Finally, I gave in to spousal pressure, and made the annual date with the doctor.  No excuses.  That uncomfortable little exam I had so dreaded wasn’t so bad after all.  It only lasts a few seconds.  And the good doctor has monitored my once-high cholesterol levels, and introduced me to the wonderful world of colonoscopies.

(That reminds me of a story.  My first colonoscopy was about 7 years ago.  During one of my many visits to the bathroom the night before the procedure, I looked at the bottle of liquid laxative I was chugging.  It was called “GoLitely.”  On the floor was a bottle of bathroom cleanser, labeled “KaBoom.”  I remember thinking “KaBoom” would have been a more appropriate name for the laxative.)

4)  I finally visited a sleep center.  Throughout our marriage, Cindy often expressed amazement I was still alive each morning, after enduring sleepless nights of my high-decibel snoring, the rattle frequently interrupted by me gasping for breath.  Of course, I had no idea this was happening.  All I knew was, I would awaken bone-tired, like I had worked in a cotton field all night.  I would often lumber out of the bed wondering why I was so achy and exhausted.  Eventually I’d snap out of it, but mornings were not pleasant.  I endured a sleep test, with all the sticky electrodes and uncomfortable gear making it darn near impossible to sleep.  But evidently, the doctor acquired enough data and video evidence to prove that I had sleep apnea.  The solution:  that lovely C-PAP device that covers your nose, keeping your airways open.

nixon 007

(My kids nicknamed the device “Nixon.”  I have no idea why, but the name stuck.  A salute to our 37th president.)  The happy ending:  almost immediately, I slept better, stopped snoring, and have since felt great when I wake up each day.  Another life-changer!

Nothing I’ve written here is revolutionary, or considered a recent medical breakthrough.  Certainly, I’ve been blessed to work for a good employer with a health insurance plan that allows me to make regular doctor visits and undergo these treatments.  I wish everyone could do the same with no hassle or financial worries.  But if anyone reads this, and is able and willing to get their allergies under control, regular physical exams (and if appropriate, colonoscopies), skin cancer screening or sleep apnea testing, it might make their life better too.   As for me, 20-30 years ago, there was no TV news guy on the Internet passing along these little self-improvement tips.  If there had been, I would’ve been singing this song a long time ago:

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Tales of a Teenage Disc Jockey

david carroll BeaverDamUSA.comI can’t tell you how many times people have said, “Why don’t you share some stories of your early, wacky days as a teenage disc jockey? I can’t tell you, because that hasn’t happened.  But if it had, I’d start with this one:

At the ripe age of 19, I was doing the afternoon show at WFLI in Chattanooga.  I had been the weekend DJ at WEPG in South Pittsburg during my teen years, and had perfected the art of doing the “transmitter meter readings” far in advance. According to that important-looking paper on the clipboard, the FCC required hourly meter readings.  But, since the scary old FCC inspector had not yet paid me a visit, I didn’t worry about it.  I would take a quick glance at the meters early in my four-hour shift, and write down all the numbers in advance so I wouldn’t be bothered with it again.  I could then get back to the serious business of playing K.C. and the Sunshine Band songs, and talking to girls on the phone.

Besides, I didn’t know what those numbers meant anyway.  Back then, a deejay could pursue either of two types of FCC radio licenses.  A first-class license was for smart guys, the engineers.  They usually had to go to school and take special courses in order to pass the test.  The lesser third-class license required memorization (or cramming) of facts and figures that were easily learned, and quickly forgotten.  Passing that test enabled teenagers who had never changed a light bulb to suddenly take control of a radio station.  Meet Mr. Third-Class.

wgowdavidcI didn’t like to spend a lot of time near the transmitter.  It was a monstrous, scary contraption with ominous red buttons, giant switches that looked like they could shut power off to the entire city, and “Caution!” signs everywhere.  Each day, depending on the time of day I was working, I had to increase, or lower the power from 50,000 watts to 1,000 watts.  I had no qualifications or interest for this task.  I merely followed the step-by-step directions each day, and hoped for the best.  I would know I had raised the power correctly when the folks who lived the near the station in Tiftonia would call to complain that they were hearing us on their toaster, their bedsprings, their telephones and their tooth fillings.

wfli-transmitter

One fine afternoon, I started my shift at 2:00, took that long, 10-second stroll over to the read the meters, and wrote ‘em down for 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00.  As usual, I varied the numbers a bit, so that it looked like the 4:00 readings were slightly different from the 3:00 readings, and so on.  That way, if anyone ever really looked at those numbers a day or two later, they’d think I had actually been doing my job in a competent manner. At about 2:55, the station owner, Billy Benns paid a rare visit to the control room, accompanied by his companion, a large dog named King.  It was a Friday, and Mr. Benns, who was known to be somewhat cranky, was especially irritated on Fridays when he had to sign all those paychecks.  Mr. Benns, who had built that transmitter when he put WFLI on the air 15 years earlier, was an engineering genius.  Among the deejays, Mr. Benns was respected, and feared.  Mostly feared.

wfli-benns

He put on his glasses, found the clipboard and looked at the transmitter log, studying it intensely.  I tried to stay cool, tapping my feet and swaying to the beat of “Rock the Boat.”  But I knew I was busted.  He put down the clipboard and said, “Uh…Mr. Carroll.”  (He addressed all of us kid deejays formally, which I found very flattering.)  “Do you have a crystal ball?  Can you predict the future?”

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Using my well-honed ad-libbing skills, I mumbled, “Uh, sir, well I uh, you know, it’s funny you should ask…”  Before I could continue sputtering, he asked, “How do you know what the meters will read at 4:00?  At 5:00? That’s several hours from now, Mr. Carroll!”  I’m sure I had a really clever comeback all ready to go, but he continued.

“You know the FCC could shut us down for this, right Mr. Carroll?   And you, sir, would be out of a job.  Now don’t let this happen again.” I was about to pledge my newly found devotion to hourly meter reading when he grabbed the door, turned around and said, “And start playing more Elvis!  Let’s go, King.”

“Yes sir, Mr. Benns.”  He walked out, and I cued up “Burning Love.”

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