From Elvis in His Canon

Eric Wolfson on his favorite Elvis albums Elvis has always had a precarious place in the rock and roll canon. Despite his massive influence, Elvis is usually left off those “Greatest Albums” lists, dismissed as a relic from the supposedly trivial era before the Beatles arrived. (Never mind that the Beatles would have never existed without Elvis.) And he is not alone. The same is true for his ’50s peers, as albums like Chuck Berry Is on Top, Jerry Lee Lewis’s Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, Here’s Little Richard,…

From Elvis in the White House

Eric Wolfson on Elvis, the man who admired Nixon, and Elvis, the American brand On June 9, 1972, Elvis held a press conference about his upcoming shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City. By this point, Elvis had already begun his Vegas tenure and was largely viewed as part of the establishment. Midway through, a female reporter asked him what he thought of war protesters and whether he would accept being drafted today. Elvis responds, “Honey, I’d just—I’d just—sooner keep my own personal views about that to myself…

The Legend of the Bad Man Stagger Lee

Santi Elijah Holley on the history of murder ballads In a saloon in St. Louis, Missouri, an African American man named Billy Lyons was shot dead by an African American man named Lee Shelton, also known as “Stagger Lee,” following a dispute over a Stetson hat. This murder was otherwise unremarkable—it was one of five murders in St. Louis on that Christmas night in 1895—but the cold-bloodedness of Shelton’s killing and the callousness with he walked away from Lyon’s prone body quickly spread by word-of-mouth, with each successive narrator creating…