directed by David Leonard, Kultur/White Star Video, 76 minutes .
In honor of the King’s sixtieth birthday this year, the filmmaker David Leonard presents a quirky compilation of interviews with people who knew Elvis Presley growing up, worshipers who wish they did, and fellow musicians and critics who debate his legacy. Leonard, a Memphis native, spent three years sampling that city’s views of its most famous son. The result is a low-budget history that gains momentum through the quality and diversity of its interviews. “He was crazy about his mother,” says Elvis’s childhood barber, who recalls how the boy warned him away from his sideburns. Marilyn Barnes remembers that Elvis hid in a corner with his guitar at high school parties and would play only if people pretended not to listen; his first drummer, D. J. Fontana, says that by the time Presley was nineteen, “we had to watch his arms, his legs,” he performed so wildly. What transformed the shy mama’s boy into the bold performer? One acquaintance credits worship at a “Holy Rollers” church, while a Memphis photographer calls it all a sexual ploy that worked like “gasoline on a fire.” Mojo Nixon, whose songs include the hit “Elvis Is Everywhere,” claims Presley’s first appearance on Ed Sullivan wiped out “2000 years of Judeo-Christian” restraint.
Toward the end of the film the “World’s Number One Elvis Fans” appear. Paul and Elvis McLeod, father and son, run “Graceland Too” outside Memphis, where they give tours and monitor the media twenty-four hours a day for references to their idol. The house boasts an impressive “Stairway to Elvis” and the white sequined jump suits they plan to wear when they’re buried and go to meet the King.