I sat there for two hours last Sunday might, mesmerized as NBC brought to television one of the best music programs I have ever seen. It was a 50th anniversary show of the 1968 comeback special of a leather-clad Elvis Presley.

Hosted by Blake Shelton and including contemporary singers Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, Darius Rucker and others such as 77-year-old Mac Davis who all sang Presley songs. it was a a delight, something that surprised me because I didn't think the show would work well with today's singers doing Presley's songs of 50 and 60 years ago.

 Instead, I sat still for two hours, didn't switch channels as I usually do, and watched as the songs of The King came alive, live shots sometimes interspersed with footage of Elvis singing the same song in 1968. It was must-see television for someone who grew up with Elvis as he changed the world of music forever..

It was the fall of 1956 and there I was, 120 miles from home, a 13-year-old freshman at a Lutheran high school in Mankato. Along came this girl, daughter of a good friend of my father's, both of them Lutheran pastors. We had never met but soon began a girl friend-boy friend thing that probably surprised us both.

And then, horror of horrors (at least that's what my male friends, who chided me mercilessly, thought), she asked me to take her to the State Theater to see Presley's  movie "Love Me Tender." It was unmanly, my friends said, to go to an Elvis Presley move.

 I had spent the summer of 1956 listening on the radio to the monster two-sided hit by Elvis of "Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel." I liked his music, although I wasn't sure if I was ready for an Elvis Presley movie.

 But, perhaps to appease a newfound girlfriend, I went. I was one of the few males there as the females in the theater screamed out their devotion to this new, wild singer. And when the character Elvis was playing died at the end of the movie, there were some tears shed. Me? I was glad to get out of there.

 I tried to sneak back into the dormitory afterwards but became the subject of derision for going to that movie. Little did I, or my friends, know that it was the beginning of a scintillating career that all of us, male and female, would follow religiously for many years to come. As time went on, going to an Elvis movie became almost a must. He was the musical leader of our generation.

As I watched the special last Sunday night, I was hoping that the younger people of today would be drawn into the show with contemporary singers belting out the music of Elvis. I would never have thought I'd like Carrie Underwood doing an Elvis song - but she was great. So was Darius Rucker, So was Jennifer Lopez. And Mac Davis, a contemporary of Elvis who was also an accomplished song writer, was magnificent. Host Blake Shelton was outstanding.

I wanted the kids of today to understand what a talent he was. Yes, he was a rock 'n' roll genius. But his ballads, especially as he got older and became a better singer, were great. And gospel music? There was nobody like Elvis back then when it came to gospel music, something that was a big part of his youth in Mississippi.

 As I watched I was struck by the number of songs he did, and the different kinds of songs he recorded. You had "Blue Suede Shoes," "Can't Help Falling in Love," "Suspicious Minds," "One Night" and Mac Davis doing a great version of "Memories," a song he wrote for Elvis. The list goes on and on.

 Close to 40 years later in the '90s after I had watched  "Love Me Tender," I found myself in an old bar in Cleveland on a night I attended a Cleveland Indians game in the last year of Municipal Stadium. It was a great little place with lots of black and white pictures on the walls of former stars of the Indians and the Cleveland Browns, both teams playing in the huge, huge stadium sometimes called The Mistake By The Lake in its latter years.

It was height of the karaoke craze and, perhaps buoyed by a couple beers, I took a challenge from a Cleveland fan who urged me to go up to the microphone. "Well, can YOU sing?" he asked after I was a bit critical of a person who sang but really couldn't really.  I answered that if singing in a college choir, having a lead role in an operetta, and doing a solo at a spring banquet in college counted, then, yes, I could sing. "Then get up there," he said. "I'll buy you a couple beers if you do."

There I was in Cleveland, far away from home, and no one would know. So I went up and sang, got some applause, and sat down. My new friend came through with a cold beer, promised me another, and asked if I knew any Elvis songs. I said that I did. He asked if I knew the words to "Can't Help Falling In Love" and I said I knew most of them. "Get up there and sing it with me," he said. I answered that I would if I could try to do the harmony and he did the melody. He agreed, we did the song, and sat down to applause for two guys who had grown up listening to Elvis Presley in the '50s and '60s.

 Those two Elvis memories came back to me Sunday night as I watched that special, thinking back to his appearance on the Ed Sullivan show when some parents wouldn't let their daughters watch because of the gyrating as he sang. And then, finally, the cameras not showing him from the waist down. And his troubles with drugs through the years. And, finally his early death in 1977 after he had performed in the Twin Cities that summer, a concert I put off attending by saying I'd attend his next one. There never was another one.

Somewhere in my stack of Beta video tapes there is one of the 1973 "Aloha From Hawaii" television special when Elvis was on a downward slide from the 1968 special that had vaulted him back into national prominence after he virtually disappeared as the Beatles and others took over the spotlight. Watching that special Sunday night made me think about digging it out to watch again. But I reconsidered, choosing instead to remember him as he appeared in the final seconds of that show on Sunday.

"Good night, everybody," he said in 1968. "I hope you had a good time."

We did. He was something special.

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SPORTS SHORTS

The Princeton boys hockey team had a challenging schedule this season. I checked after Thursday night's win over Sauk Rapids and found that there were still seven teams left in section playoffs that had been on the schedule, and a couple Tiger opponents lost in overtime on Thursday. Buffalo (17-6-3) shut out out St. Michael 4-0 with its 10th shutout of the season. Breck, Marshall and Hutchinson are among other opponents still alive . . . I attended Minnesota's 84-63 win over Indiana at Williams Arena last Saturday as the Gophers put on an offensive show, led by Jordan Murphy. It was great to be back in Williams Arena, despite the new white floor, and fun to watch the team make three-pointers for a change. The team is good enough at times to be in the NCAA tournament but it's iffy right now with a tough schedule remaining. They're an up-and-down team that has some good wins but maybe not enough . . . Attended the Princeton-Monticello boys basketball game and watched Princeton go on a 34-19 run, after trailing 19-12 six minutes into the game, to take a 46-38 halftime lead in a 91-79 win. There wasn't too much defense in that game but Princeton again showed its ability to put up points in a hurry, getting 46 points in one half and 45 in the other.  The Tigers, 20-3 after a 87-71 win over St. Francis last night (Thursday), have 2 games over 100, six over 90 and seven over 80. They've averaged 64 in their three losses. Princeton is ranked No. 5 in Class AAA, dropping one spot after its loss to Hibbing last week. 

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SPORTS MEMORIES

Feb. 25, 1959 - Russ Gerdin scored 23 in a 72-60 loss to Isle and then had 24 in a 72-42 win over St. Francis. Carl Knutson scored 12 in each game.  

Feb. 26, 1964 - Princeton beat Cambridge 58-48 to end the regular season at 16-2. The team got its 15th straight win with a 58-33 victory over Onamia to open District 16 play as Paul Jensen had 16 and John White 12 . . . Steve Meixell made it to the state wrestling meet as a 120-pounder. 

Feb. 26 1969 -  Princeton beat Pine City 71-63 as Jim Rajala scored 18 and Mark Jacobs 16, while John Priess had 15 points and 20 rebounds in only 22 minutes. Jerry Bergeron scored 19 in a 63-59 loss to Elk River . . . Bob Backlund won the state 191-pound title for Iowa junior colleges while wrestling for Waldorf Junior College. 

Feb. 28, 1974 - Princeton beat Milaca 74-64 as Dave Mingo had 21, Mike Solheim 17 and Buzz Johnson 14, and finished the regular season 16-2 with a 55-39 win over Foley as the same three players scored 15, 14 and 10.

March 1, 1979Paul Schmidt advanced to the state wrestling meet by finishing second at 112 pounds in the region meet . . . Princeton upset No. 1 seed St. Francis in subregion basketball, 53-52, as Bernie Sanborn had 15, Greg Dery 14 and Steve Kapsner 11. Then the team lost to Cambridge, 53-38.

March 2, 1984 - Princeton was 14-3 after a loss to St. Francis and a 63-49 win over Foley in which Brian Dorr had 18 points, 6 assists and 4 steals, Nathan Murphy 13 points and 13 rebounds, Tom Blomberg 13 points and Jeff Johnson 12 . . . Freshman Melanie Heinen won the Region 7AA vault competition to advance to the state gymnastics meet.

March 2, 1989 - Princeton beat Cloquet 51-41 for the first-ever Region 7AA quarterfinal win for a PHS girls basketball team . . . North Branch made of 11 three-point tries in the first half and then hung on for a 58-51 win over Princeton in a subregion game as Eric Bjurman scored 15, Mark Angstman 13 and Paul Sather 12.

March 3, 1994 - Joe Clemensen retired after 30 years of coaching boys and girls gymnastics in Princeton . . . Joleen Schira scored 8.95 in floor exercise at the state gymnastics meet . . . A relay team and Mark Knapp and Robert Bonkowske qualified for the state swim meet . . . Jeremy Werner's streak of 20 straight wins ended but he still qualified for the state wrestling meet. 

March 4,, 1999 - Heavyweight Adrian Lindgren, who had more than 40 pins the past two seasons, qualified for state wrestling by placing second in the section meet . . . Chris Anderson was seeded first in two events for the Section 2A swim meet.

March 5, 2004 -  Phil Meinert qualified for the state wrestling tournament as a section runner-up. With 38 wins, Meinert had the most ever by a PHS wrestler . . . The girls basketball team (13-13) lost to Foley 66-61 as Tessa Gronli scored 22 and Angie Haehn 16. 

Feb. 26, 2009 -  The boys hockey team upset St. Francis (18-5) 9-3 in a section play-in game as Sawyer Springman and Ryan Grove each scored two goals . . .  The girls basketball team beat Rogers 56-46 behind Mariah Clarin (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Katie Loberg (19 points, 14 rebounds 3 blocks). 

Feb. 27, 2014 - Jake Pramann, Cole Warren and Billy McClay qualified for the state wrestling tournament. Pramann and Warren winning section titles . . .  Nicholas Johnson advanced to the state swim meet in three events, winning two individual events . . . The hockey team beat Legacy Christian 6-0 in the first round of the playoffs as Tyler McAlpine scored twice. 

Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the Princeton area for 51 years.

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