This is the first in a five-part series on Elvis Presley.

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Tink’s jaw tightened to signal his determination. It tensed so much that it started to twitch.

This you must first know to understand this story: Tink is unusually reasonable. This is what makes him a valuable showrunner on network and cable television shows. But when he chooses to be unreasonable with me, it is always about something unusually ridiculous.

When he said “no,” I laughed. I thought it was a joke.

“I’m serious,” he said firmly with steel in his eyes.

I turned from the kitchen sink, picked up a towel and dried my hands, still chuckling. “You’re teasin’ me.”

“I am not. Since I moved to the South, I have gone places with you that, in my wildest dreams, I never could have imaged. I have seen the Smokey and Bandit car at the Country Music Hall of Fame, watched a fight break out at a Jamey Johnson show who, by the way, I had never heard of; been to the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, ridden the roller coaster at Dollywood, taken a riverboat cruise up the Mississippi and attended baptizings in mountain rivers.” He stopped. “And, I admit I have enjoyed it all. But this, I am not doing.”

“Tink.” I said it in a cajoling tone.

He shook his head. “I am not going to Graceland.” He paused for a moment. “I draw the line at Elvis.”

I was taken aback. Who draws the line at Elvis Presley, Southern icon, greatest rock and roll star of all time? The only person to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame and Gospel Music Hall of Fame? Who does that?

The first album I ever owned was an Elvis gospel album that I played over and over. I was no more than 5. To this day, whenever at church, we sing “We’ll Understand It by and by,” I think of Elvis. Whenever life is perplexing and I think of the words to that song, I remember Elvis.

Always, I have loved Elvis Presley. I consider Graceland, his beloved home, to be a national treasure and it’s recognized as such.

This went on for several months. Tink reiterated, from time to time, how he would never go to Graceland.

Every couple of weeks, I’d begin a story with, “When we go to Graceland…”

Unfailingly, Tink would shake his head, interrupting with, “I am NOT going to Graceland.” 

How could this be? Even Yankees appreciate Elvis. Like Dolly Parton, he had a charming humility that captivated folks. Tink, as a teenager, listened to serious rock music of groups I have heard of but couldn’t name one song. Until he moved to the rural South, after 30 years in Los Angeles, he had never listened to country music (with the exception of Johnny Cash and, of course, Cash is always the exception) or Southern gospel music. Now, he’s a big fan of all.

One day, we had a little dust-up over something minor. Neither of us remembers what but it was something like cleaning out the dryer lint. In a few minutes, Tink came down the stairs with a sheepish look. “Baby, I’m sorry.” He smiled sweetly. “And, I’ll go to Graceland with you.”

My eyes widened. “Over that? You’ll go to Graceland over THAT?”

He nodded. From that moment on, he remained steadfast to his word and never ventured near reneging.

We went to Memphis and Graceland. Again, again, again and again. We went to Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo. Tink grew to admire Elvis’s triumph from poverty to popularity.

He became a fan and now listens almost exclusively to the Elvis channel on satellite radio. He can name 15 Elvis songs in less than a minute (His favorite is “If I Can Dream”).

This story begins a series on Elvis. May you enjoy the journey as much as we have.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Let Me Tell You Something.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.

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