Chris Johnson

Ah, napping in the Pontiac while mom gleefully waits in line to buy Elvis tickets

Elvis Presley is seen in this 1964 portrait.
Elvis Presley is seen in this 1964 portrait. AP

My mother is a baby boomer who grew up loving Elvis. Chances are if you’re anywhere near my age, your mother probably loved Elvis, too. That’s one of the reasons it was difficult to get tickets to see the man in concerts when he was significantly more alive than he is today.

Hence, one of my prominent memories from the 1970s is the time I got stuck in a sewer in front of our church. No, wait. Wrong memory. Oh yeah, it’s the memory of napping in our Pontiac with my dad as my mom stood in a line of Elvis fans that wrapped around the Macon Coliseum. They were all hoping to purchase tickets at the box office windows for his 1977 concert there, not long before he died.

If you’re much younger than I am, then you may be wondering: (1) Is Elvis really dead? Because I’m pretty sure I saw him in June on a roller coaster in Vegas marrying my cousin Ernie, and (2) why didn’t my mom just buy tickets online from Ticketmaster or StubHub?

To answer the first question, no he’s not dead. As for the second question, there’s a chance that my mom’s lack of online savvy might result in her accidentally buying tickets for Elvis Costello in Reykjavik. Besides, 1977 was way before Al Gore invented the internet.

In fact, I remember having to buy tickets the old-fashioned way myself. My first concert was the infamous Beastie Boys show in Columbus’ old Municipal Auditorium with opening acts Murphy’s Law and Fishbone back in 1987. A junior in high school, I drove for over an hour with a friend through a rough thunderstorm all the way to Columbus and just walked up and bought tickets at the gate and was able to stand right at the front of the stage. My ears are still ringing.

That was before I mellowed a bit and became a Parrothead. I’ve been to nine shows (No. 10 will be in April) but in the 1990s it wasn’t easy to score Jimmy Buffett tickets because they sold out in just a few minutes. Toward the end of the decade, the best chance was to go to a Ticketmaster outlet and stand in a line only slightly smaller than those for Elvis tickets in 1977.

I went to the Publix on Bradley Park Drive in Columbus more than once to buy Buffett tickets for his Atlanta shows and failed every single time. I never got there early enough. Other Parrotheads would arrive an hour or more before they went on sale and just stood around waiting for their moment.

Still somewhat of a Parrothead newbie at that point, I didn’t realize that Buffett fans who dress so crazy for his pre-concert tailgating festivities also dressed similarly for the ticket-buying experience. The front of Publix was filled with middle-aged folks wearing Hawaiian shirts, leis and even hats with parrots on them. (Not real parrots, mind you. Those are in the poultry section near the cornish hens.)

The poor young folks bagging groceries and working the registers up front would keep looking around as if they feared they were under attack from some sort of middle-aged tropical zombie caravan. When their managers explained to them that we were Jimmy Buffett fans, they replied either “Who’s Jimmy Buffett?” or “Oh, sorry.”

As much as I hate much of what the internet and smart phones have done to our society, I do love some things about them — like being able to check sports scores, the weather and getting news that outlets like CNN and Fox News can’t fit into their perpetual punditry models. I’m also very glad I don’t have to stand in a line to get concert tickets ever again.

Unless Elvis tours again, that is. Some say he may be too old — or too dead — to tour, but in recent years I’ve seen long-timers like Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Rod Stewart, and they all put on great shows. Perhaps they could mention outlets like Ticketmaster and StubHub to Elvis. Otherwise, I’ll have my wife stand in line for tickets while I take a nap in the car … again.

See Chris Johnson’s related blog post “Dodging snowflakes with Jimmy Buffett” at KudzuKid.com.

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