By MICHELE MARCOTTE, The Daily Sentinel
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Norman Johnson can describe his first encounter with Elvis Presley to a 'T.'
It was a Wednesday afternoon in 1955, and Elvis, a little "scruffy and awkward," stood near an "old beat up Buick" with his two band members Scotty Moore and Bill Black at the Gladewater venue, Mint Club. As the three young men unloaded the equipment they planned to use later that night at their show, Johnson, then 14, offered to assist.
Norman Johnson poses with an Elvis Presley cutout as he describes the first time he met 'The King.'Norman Johnson poses with an Elvis Presley cutout as he describes the first time he met 'The King.'
Norman Johnson's autobiography 'The Kid and the King.' It is currently available at Hastings for $30. Contributed Photo
"(Elvis) said, 'Kid, grab that box right there in the trunk,'" Johnson said Thursday from his Elvis-memorabilia-clad home.
When he asked Elvis what the box contained, Johnson got a welcome surprise, as it was filled with the trio's first batch of promotional photographs.
Johnson immediately asked Elvis if he could have one, but still being a struggling musician on the road, Elvis replied, "I really hate to have to charge you, but I have to pay for the picture."
Johnson said he understood and paid Elvis 25 cents for the black and white glossy that he believes was the first promotional photograph Elvis signed. He still has the photo, and keeps a framed copy above his desk at home.
While Johnson, a performer himself, was unable to attend that evening's performance — being too young to get into the Mint Club — he went on to see Elvis many more times in venues across East Texas and western Louisiana, many of which are documented in his recent autobiography "The Kid and the King."
"The Kid and the King" takes readers on a journey through East Texas' musical history, and documents the early careers of some of country music's most illustrious performers of the 1940s, '50s and '60s, as well as, the performance career of the "kid" — the name the King of Rock 'n' Roll gave Johnson on their first encounter.
The kid performed across the Ark-La-Tex region, often mirroring the moves and styles he witnessed Elvis do.
"When I found out girls liked Elvis so much, (I thought) well, what if I tried to do Elvis," he said. "So, I (did covers) of a couple songs and the girls just loved it."
Johnson coins himself as the first Elvis impersonator, and at a special book signing on Nov. 15, he will do his impersonation for the first time in 54 years.
The book signing, scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. at Hastings, will be different than any other signing Nacogdoches has experienced, Johnson said.
The event will include a handful of special guests, including Casey Monahan, director of the Texas Music Office for the Office of the Governor, Elvis impersonator Asa Landrey and a surprise visitor who was mentioned in the book. There will also be a Q & A session with Johnson, an Elvis trivia quiz for prizes and the official chamber of commerce ribbon cutting ceremony for Johnson's company, A Lill Nacogdoches Company.
"The Kid and the King" is currently available at Hastings for $30, and includes a 78-minute oral history with Johnson and Danny Merrell, an East Texas radio host.Click or more information on the book signing or Johnson's autobiography