Spittal of Glenshee:
Rock and Roll Centre of the Universe?
Much has been written in this journal about the mountaineering connotations of well-known song lyrics, but little research has been undertaken into the links between Elvis Aaron Presley and the Scottish Highlands. This article will attempt to shed some light on the myth that the King's only visit to these shores took place during a few hours in the 1950s, en route to Germany for squaddie service. As much of the life of Elvis has been documented elsewhere, I will miss out the biographical details other than those of relevance to my argument, simply noting with regret the decline of a gifted musician and great actor whose idea of an appetising Big Mac shifted from the mightiest of Cairngorm summits to a small snack before breakfast.
Although somewhat sparse, there is limited evidence of Presley's secret sojourn in the Scottish Highlands. The most obvious example of this clandestine journey can be seen in the name of a hill north-west of the Spittal of Glenshee, Carn an Righ. As in Albionspeak Carn an Righ is simply "Rock of the King", we can see that this is clearly a reference to the "King of Rock'.
Further, the great man's recording of "Old Shep" is clearly a thinly disguised reference to an ancient Cheviot. As the hills of the United States are covered with conifers and thus devoid of sheep, we can only conclude that he of the blue suede shoes must have been singing about a Scottish hillwalking companion. The fact that in this song Presley has rejected the materialism of mankind for the companionship of an elderly ewe would suggest that he had acquired at an early age the much sought after ability to be at peace both with himself and with nature. Perhaps the only other person to fully understand the spiritual benefits of such an arrangement is TAC's own bagger supreme and hitherto unknown son of Elvis, Murdo.
That he of the gold suits enjoyed a deep knowledge of Scotland's history can be seen in his early recording of "Mystery Train". This particular song is an updating of a spooky little number first performed by the Brahan Seer at the Strathpeffer Folk Club some centuries ago. It has been argued elsewhere, however, that the Mystery Train is in fact the service between Glasgow and Fort Bill, the mystery being where to sling your rucksack, as once more than a half dozen passengers have embarked the luggage racks are invariably full.
It can be safely assumed that any secret visits to these shores must have been undertaken during the King's formative years, as it is unlikely that in later years he would have been able to squeeze his considerable bulk through the window of the Cobbler. Further, Elvis later insisted on never appearing in public unless clad in a white, sequined catsuit with flared legs. Although this attire showed a greater degree of subtlety and style than is usual amongst the dangling-from-crags comrhunity, it was hardly suitable for a day on the Scottish hills. Finally, the fact that Scotland does not have large natural deposits of amphetamine outside of the lowland areas of Mid Craigie, Pilton and Castlemilk would have acted as a disincentive, although we must accept that the Tyndrum Little Chef would have exerted a considerable pull on the crooner.
Unfortunately there remains a great deal of research to be undertaken into the King's travels in the Highlands, and many important questions still remain unresolved. Perhaps the most urgent question is where the "Blue Moon of Kentucky" took place. Why the crepe-soled one's hillwalking companion should be sans strides on a windswept mountain has been lost in the legends surrounding the great man, as have been the present whereabouts of japester Kenneth.
So in conclusion it can be said that Scotland's hills left a mark on the young Elvis which can be seen in a number of instances throughout his career. Although in later years the great man's head was more often than not in the fridge or in his GP's bag, his heart remained firmly in the Highlands.
Chuck A Boulder
TAC 19 Index