How a Canadian DJ introduced Victoria to Elvis - before he was King.
Norm Pringle was a big-band man. He swung to Tommy Dorsey, bopped to Tex Beneke and swayed to Freddy Martin, back when the bandleader was introducing a sensational kid crooner by the name of Merv Griffin. Mr. Pringle played them all on his radio programs.
Then came a day when a disc arrived from a new artist with a sound that left the announcer baffled. "When we first got his records, we didn't know where to play him," Mr. Pringle said the other day. "I had a country show and a pop show. He played a guitar, so I put him on my country show."
Thus, the good listeners of Victoria got their aural introduction to a young man soon to become infamous for his physical gyrations.
Elvis Presley was not yet the King. He was Elvis the Pelvis, a truck driver from the South who was inexplicably sending the kids, especially girls, into a frenzy. In a few short months, he scored a handful of Top 10 hits.
Fifty years ago this month, the Presley tornado was lured to British Columbia, thanks to the pleadings of a red-haired, teenaged disc jockey. "When Red Robinson promoted Elvis to Vancouver," Mr. Pringle said, "I hopped on the bandwagon." He was already spinning new Elvis platters for the radio station CKDA, broadcasting from the basement of the Dominion Hotel.
He had made his own small contribution to the frenzy, booking the Capitol Theatre for the release of Loving You, Elvis' second movie. Only girls were invited to attend. The promotion was a smash. Mr. Pringle also hosted a weekly show called House Party on CHEK-TV, during which he had teenagers lip-synch to the latest hits. One of the regulars, a youngster named Jim Smith, could bump and grind in the Presley style, so Mr. Pringle handed him a guitar and told him to swivel while mouthing words already familiar to every teen.
The boy became known in the newspapers as "Victoria's EP," making him perhaps the first soldier in an army of Elvis impersonators. (These days, the Elvii prefer to be known as tribute artists.) Mr. Smith's minor rock 'n' roll career eventually gave way to a working life as a bus driver.
Elvis was monster. So, on Aug. 31, 1957, Mr. Pringle found himself leading two busloads of Elvis fans, aged from 12 to 86, to catch the concert of a lifetime. As it turned out, Mr. Pringle would get a rare glimpse of the King of Rock 'n' Roll in a brief, intimate moment. "He was a real charming guy. Pretty smart, too. He knew what to say. Had an answer for everything."
Speaking from his home in California's San Fernando Valley, Mr. Pringle can hardly believe the passage of time. He worked for 25 years in Hollywood as a push-button mixer and an audio engineer. In recent years, he has campaigned to raise money for a memorial garden for U.S. troops killed in action in Iraq.
The 84-year-old broadcaster still writes songs - one of his recent efforts is a campaign song for Hillary Clinton, although she has opted for a Celine Dion number.
Back in 1952, he had a local novelty hit with Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney.
2007/12/12 CrashNorm/The Globe - www.elvisinfonet.com / www.epgold.com