Nonetheless, it still makes for unpersuasive history and fails to help us to understand the significance of Elvis and the whole biracial rock-and-roll phenomenon that intersected with the dawn of the modern civil rights movement.
Nat Williams, the dean of black announcers on WDIA, had immediately recognised this symbolic linkage.
Instead, it stressed Presley’s forthright championing of black musicians as part of a narrative that saw many positives in growing young white interest in African American-based musical styles.
While there has never been any necessary or simple correlation between white love of black music and racially progressive politics, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many black commentators, musicians and fans viewed the emergence of a biracial market for rock and roll music performed by black and white singers as a portent of, maybe even a vehicle for, better race relations.
At the Goodwill Ball, Williams had pondered the enthusiasm of black audiences for Elvis, "when they hardly let out a squeak over B B King, a Memphis cullud boy”.
Williams speculated that this might “reflect a basic integration in attitude and aspiration,” in the black community. The piebald charts and radio playlists of the late 1950s and early 1960s, like black admiration for young Elvis, belonged to a particular moment of rising black activism and cautious optimism about the prospects for widespread, meaningful and enduring changes in the pattern of US race relations.In 1956, Presley was introduced to 9,000 black Memphians at radio station WDIA’s Goodwill Ball.The crowd, waiting to see B B King and Ray Charles, went wild when Elvis appeared and police had to rescue the singer from overenthusiastic black fans.The video is a defense of the company — directed at "haters" who have criticized Black Girl Travel for encouraging black women to date men in other countries."The heart of what we do is about empowering African-American women with options," says Fleacé Weaver, founder of Black Girl Travel, in the clip."I have done a lot of research and talked to a lot of women in this country, and what I'm hearing is: You can't find dates, you can't find mates, you can't find husbands."Weaver, a statuesque black woman flanked by two chic employees on either side, is all long lithe limbs and wavy hair. "What you gotta do is open your mind." Weaver's not alone in her exhortation to black American women.It lies buried beneath simplistic parables of white expropriation and exploitation of black culture in which Elvis has become emblematic of centuries of uncompensated and unacknowledged white appropriation of black cultural ingenuity and labour.There is enormous moral power to this perspective and, to be sure, plenty of evidence of just such exploitation and theft.On black-oriented radio stations, black DJs routinely programmed Presley and other white rock and rollers such as Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers alongside Bo Diddley, Little Richard, James Brown, Ruth Brown and Ray Charles because they knew their young black core audience liked those artists.The late civil rights leader Julian Bond recalled singing an Elvis song at an ice-breaker event at Atlanta’s prestigious black Morehouse College in 1957: “Three friends of mine and I sang ‘Teddy Bear’…and I remember thinking it not at all remarkable that we would sing this Elvis Presley song.At that time, the black press proudly pointed out the critical influence of black blues, rhythm-and-blues and gospel music on Presley’s style – not to chastise him for cultural appropriation, but to applaud his impeccable taste at a time when black music was routinely denied mainstream radio and television airtime and often denigrated as immoral and barbaric.“Presley makes no secret of his respect for the negroes, nor of their influence on his singing.