Published Aug 12, 2022 by Rick Cundiff
Happy Elvis Week!
Yes, friends, it is once again the week in August dedicated to celebrating the life and commemorating the death of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley.
With thousands of fans flocking to Memphis for the occasion, Elvis Week is an enormous gathering of the faithful, not that different from the motorcycle riders who are thronging Sturgis, South Dakota this week as well.
One common thread (pun intended) is that both are perfect places to display custom patches. Whether you’re celebrating the King or the Road King, patches give you a way to express yourself.
Biker patches are nothing new, of course. They’re just about everywhere you look in Sturgis, on jackets and vests.
Yet Elvis patches have their own following. The true believers like to wear denim and leather, just like the bikers. And of course, when you’re at Elvis Week in Memphis, Elvis-wear is everywhere.
Then there’s the fact that Presley was a diehard motorcycle enthusiast, and especially a Harley-Davidson fan. He owned more than a dozen Harleys, and other brands as well. So there’s definitely a link between the King and the Road King.
There’s another consideration as well. Although Presley’s image was softened over the years by boy-next-door movie roles and a few questionable song choices, that’s not how he started out.
See, when he first hit the charts in the 1950s, Elvis was dangerous. No, probably not the polite young man from Tupelo himself. But his image was another story.
To the establishment of the time – read parents – Presley’s loud, raucous rock and roll music was a threat. This wasn’t Glenn Miller, baby. This was the sound of change – threatening change. It was the sound of a rebellious generation coming of age. And those hip swivels! Alarm bells clanged in parents’ heads around the nation.
Of course, that goes hand in hand with another development, one that started a few years earlier. Soldiers returning from World War II were buying motorcycles. The loud, flashy machines were a symbol of freedom.
And yet, to the establishment – read parents – they too, represented danger. Especially after the Hollister Riot of 1947, the outlaw biker image became a somewhat inaccurate representation of motorcycle riders everywhere. And what was many bikers’ ride of choice? Harley-Davidson.
Now neither Elvis nor Harley ever quite matched their fearsome image, but the die was cast. To the impressionable youth of America (and their parents), both represented something new, something wild, a revolution of sorts.
Elvis went on to greater fame, joined the Army, made lots of movies, staged a couple of comebacks. Along the way, Harley-Davidson became the only American motorcycle manufacturer, a position it held for 46 years.
Since his death in 1977, Presley’s Graceland estate has been the center of the universe for fans who gather every August for a celebration of all things Elvis. Similarly, Sturgis is a celebration of all things motorcycle. It’s somehow fitting that both are taking place at the same time.
And of course, as we said, custom patches go with both.