King still rocking for residents on 80th birthday birthday
Published 12:01 am Wednesday, January 7, 2015
The King of Rock and Roll would have been blowing out 80 candles on his cake this week, and several local residents will take a moment to celebrate the man who changed the music industry forever.
Elvis Aaron Presley was born Jan. 8, 1935, in Tupelo, and by 1954 was already working on changing music history with a ferocious blend of rockabilly music and showmanship on the stage.
Presley’s success quickly spread throughout the country, and the Miss-Lou was not overlooked.
Natchez native Roger McCranie first started listening to the music of Elvis when McCranie was 5 years old thanks to his neighbor Fay Hancock.
Hancock, who was wheelchair bound by cerebral palsy, would play Elvis’ records as McCranie danced around her, enthralled by the pace and rhythm of the music.
“You had to like something he did because he did a little bit of everything,” McCranie said. “It all started for me in that house with Fay, but that’s not where it stopped.
“All these years, he’s always been with me.”
McCranie had plans to see Elvis in 1977 when The King was slated to play shows in the Monroe, La., and Jackson area.
McCranie missed one show because something came up at home, but was planning on catching the next show.
But McCranie wouldn’t get that chance.
“I was planning on going to his show the next week, and I was coming back from the coast when I heard on the radio that he had died,” McCranie said. “I just couldn’t believe it.
“I thought it was a hoax at first, but of course it turned out to be true.”
During the 1980s and 1990s, McCranie traveled around the country doing Elvis tribute shows.
At one time, he was even considered one of the top 10 Elvis impersonators in international competitions.
“In my words, he was the greatest singer that has ever lived,” McCranie said. “He changed the world, and I was just proud to be able to continue his legacy by playing his music.”
When McCranie turned 42 — the same age The King was when he died — he hung up his Elvis gear and took up a career as a hair stylist in Natchez.
After his break from performing, McCranie got back in the swing of things when he started performing during the Gene King Band’s monthly Opry-style showcase at the Arcade Theater in Ferriday.
Now every third Saturday at the Roger McCranie and Friends Variety Music Show, McCranie takes to the stage to perform a variety of music selections — including a number of Elvis hits.
“I don’t impersonate him anymore, but I do about 20 Elvis songs during the performance,” McCranie said. “People don’t come to hear me, they come because it’s Elvis’ music.”
And even though Elvis died nearly 38 years go, McCranie said he knows The King is still around.
“In a way, it’s almost like he’s still here with me sometimes,” McCranie said. “It may be a high note that I don’t know I can reach and then suddenly I can.
“It’s like he’s there helping me out.”
Natchez resident Donald Shupe vividly remembers hearing his first Elvis song, “That’s Alright Mama.”
“I remember hearing this voice singing that song and just thinking, ‘My gosh,’” Shupe said. “It played over and over that night, and it was just incredible.
“He did so much of the old country stuff, but then made rock and roll out of it that he was really able to capture everyone with his music.”
Shupe continued listening to Elvis as the performer kept churning out rock and blues hits. But it was when Elvis began creating gospel tracks in the late 1960s that Shupe became truly impressed.
“He was always a charmer, but when he got into the gospel I think that’s where he captivated the minds and hearts of so many people,” Shupe said. “When he sang ‘How Great Thou Art’… it touched me.”
Shupe said he doesn’t believe there will ever be another musician and performer to reach the levels of Elvis Presley.
“He’s going to live on this side through the memories of people who knew him and even through the people just now hearing him (who) will carry on his name,” Shupe said. “I believe he’ll live forever through his music.”