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Knowing the King, at last...

"I can't believe we're doing this."

That was my wife's comment on a beautiful May day as we walked from the parking lot at Elvis Presley's Graceland to catch the shuttle bus to the mansion in Memphis.

Elvis appeared on the music scene when we were young parents occupied with trying to raise a family of two children _ a family that would grow by three more as Elvis became bigger than life.

But we were too busy, or too unaware, to realize a musical phenomenon had appeared in our midst. We listened, sort of, but mostly we ignored him, or tried to, or made scoffing remarks about "Elvis the Pelvis."

My one bow to his eminence came in 1964 when I agreed to take my oldest daughter to see Elvis in the film Viva Las Vegas on her 12th birthday. My wife says I told her I slept through the film; I don't remember that I did, but I don't remember anything about the movie, so perhaps she is right.

My daughter, however, says she still remembers the thrill of going to the big downtown theater with me to see the man who was to become known in the music world as The King. It's nice to know that I did at least one thing right in those parenting years.

Now, 30 years later, my wife and I have been Elvis-enlightened.

The tour of Graceland opened our eyes to those years in which the world of popular music was transformed from the pop we had grown up with to the rock that was to grab and hold the world's attention for years to come.

As we walked through Graceland and listened via earphones to the Elvis Presley story and heard him belt out some of the songs for which he remains famous even today, we realized that we had, perhaps involuntarily, closed ourselves off to an era in which music had undergone such a great change.

We can't, of course, relive those years, but through tapes and CDs we can hear some of that music that we had shut out of our lives, and some of it we can even appreciate.

As we walked out of the mansion and passed the graves of Elvis and his parents, we did our mea culpa, and my wife, speaking for both of us, said, "I'm so ashamed."

You can write to Jay Horning c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, 33731.