Elvis Is Still Alive…Kind of

When the church my father was pastoring gave us our first stereo, I was thrilled! Excited!

Sometime previously, I’d started listening to a radio station that played pop music–something I wouldn’t have heard at home otherwise because my parents were big on classical music (on public radio, probably)–and never missed listening to the top thirty countdown on Sunday afternoons.

So, with the gift of the stereo, I was all set to buy some of my favorite 45s. Thanks to a timely birthday party, I had five dollars to spend at an actual record shop. Yes, I bought Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater” and the Everly Brothers’ “Bird Dog,” but I HAD to have Elvis’s “Hard-Headed Woman,” which I still remember so fondly I refer to it on the first page of Do I Ever, one of my quirky romantic novels.

That wasn’t the last of Elvis’s records I bought over the years.

I was no longer much of a fan at the time of his death forty-one years ago however; I preferred his older songs. Honestly, I was probably badly disillusioned at the condition he’d ended up in and at the circumstances of his death.

But several things started working on my mind–and on my point of view. I had a couple of Elvis’s greatest hits albums, and I enjoyed listening to them occasionally.

But I also had at least an in-law relationship with Stan Kesler, who wrote Elvis’s first nationally popular song, “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.” He’s the father of one of my wife’s sisters-in-law, and he’s just the nicest ninety-year-old you could ever hope to meet in spite of bad health, poor vision, and equally poor hearing. And he’d worked at Sun Studio, where Elvis got his start.

How could I possibly not at least have some interest in Elvis because of Stan?

I’d heard the tale years earlier from a co-worker, Sharon, who used to live in Memphis and babysit for a local songwriter. She sent me this reminder of the circumstances a few years ago:

” I met Elvis when I was babysitting for one of his song writers, Stan Kesler (I Forgot to Remember to Forget), in the late 1950’s. He came to the door dressed in all black with the collar of his shirt flipped up and hair in his eyes. He wanted to pick up some music Stan had for him. I made him stand on the front porch while I called Stan to verify, also to get my ‘senses’ back. Elvis was so impressed that I made him stay on the porch that he invited me to dinner at Graceland. I was picked up in a pink Cadillac. After dinner, we looked at photo albums in the music room.”

Sharon’s encounter with Elvis–even her original telling of the story–occurred years before Stan Kesler became an “in-law in-law.” But the fact Sharon had babysat one of my wife’s sisters-in-law made Elvis seem even more down-to-earth than I’d thought previously.

We just got back from vacationing in Memphis, and I bit the bullet–I HAD to see Graceland while we were there and possibly get a fresh understanding of why people are still so crazy about Elvis.

Walking through that mansion and learning about the various things about it that make it so special made me realize that perhaps Elvis hadn’t simply been trying to spend as much money as he could. He put himself into every aspect of his home.

No wonder I couldn’t help feeling a sense of Elvis-ness in every room.

I know Elvis isn’t really still alive, but since he appeared to have been a sincere Christian in spite of the fact that his life didn’t always show it (he’s probably entertaining folks in Heaven right now), I’ve come to appreciate how much more he was and continues to be, even in death, than I’d ever realized.

I have to concede that maybe he is still alive…kind of.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

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It’s a Small World After All

I doubt that many people who’ve been to Disneyland or Disney World left without having their fill of the song “It’s a Small World After All.” Personally, I’m still sick of it!

But that doesn’t mean I’m not conscious of “small world coincidences.” Let me share a few I know about.

Karen was one of the young ladies in the Baptist Student Union at Frostburg State College (now University). That’s in western Maryland, if you’re not familiar with it. I graduated in 1968. In 1984, when we moved to Richmond, Virginia, we joined the church Karen’s father had once pastored.

Okay, that wasn’t a huge “small world” illustration. Let me try again.

One Black Friday while I was still working at Target, I’d been stuck in Electronics; I’d never worked that area before. Let me tell you–that’s a busy place on Black Friday! One customer looked at my name tag, which only said, “Roger.” Then she asked, “Is your last name Bruner?”

Lo and behold, she was a former English student of mine from two hundred miles away and more than thirty years after I taught her.

And do you know what was really weird? She recognized me by my voice!

I used to have a good friend in Australia. At that time she was working for an American company that did business in Oz. She told me about a friend she had in America and one she had in South Africa. Somehow she learned that those two people were friends with one another–and it had nothing to do with their friendships with her.

That was pretty wild, wasn’t it?

Then there’s the lady I used to work with. This was at least twenty or twenty-five years ago. She told the story of baby sitting at the home of a song writer in Memphis when the doorbell rang. The song writer was getting ready to go out, so this lady answered the door, only to be facing Elvis face-to-face.

She was so shocked that she closed the door and went to find the song writer, who assured her it was okay to let Elvis in. He was so pleased at being treated like a regular person that he invited the baby sitter to a meal at Graceland. That was before he’d fixed it up as much as he did later.

He sent a limo to pick her up, and after the meal they sat in the entertainment room looking through old photo albums.

In 2003 I married Kathleen. Several years later I learned that one of her sisters-in-law was one of the kids being baby sat that evening while her dad–song writer, musician, and recording engineer Stan Kesler–went out.

Stan is still alive, but in poor health. I feel blessed to have met him.

Do you have a “small world” experience you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

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I Forgot to Remember to Forget

Stan Kesler, the father of one of my wife’s sister-in-laws, worked as an engineer at Sun Studios in Memphis at the beginning of Elvis’s career. But Stan was also a song writer, and he co-wrote several of Elvis’s early songs, including “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” and “You’re Right, I’m Left, She’s Gone.”


We all have regrets. It’s a side-effect of being human. The problem with regrets is our inability to let go of some of them. When we “forget to remember to forget.”

God is always willing to forgive us for our sins when we turn to Him in true repentance, but that doesn’t mean we’re automatically able to forgive ourselves. And even when we do, those memories often come back to haunt us at the least expected times and in the most troubling ways.

God can help us deal with that, but it requires a great deal of prayer time and close fellowship with Him.

Fortunately, not all of our regrets are of equal importance.

I was thinking recently about the time I learned to drive and the first few months after I got my license. And even one more recent time. These are some of my “smaller” regrets:

  • While practicing my driving, I accelerated too much and backed all the way across the street and several feet into somebody’s yard. But why regret? That could’ve been much worse.
  • Why, oh why did I have to learn to drive using a stick shift in a small city that had a number of steep hills, many of them with traffic lights or stop signs at the top? Hmm. But at least I had a friend who was willing to teach me to drive, using his new car. And I never put one ding in it.
  • When I inherited my first car, it had power brakes. I wasn’t used to them, and a group of fellow teachers had a good time laughing at me when I was trying to make my way out of a parking lot. Okay, I suppose laughter didn’t do any permanent damage.
  • I was making a two hundred mile drive as a new driver, and the snow got so bad that snow tires were legally required. But I didn’t have any. At one point I pulled off to the side of the road, but when I pulled out again, I misjudged the speed of a coming bus. Fortunately, the collision was so mild that it only broke one tail light cover. Regrettable? Yes, but I learned an important lesson about driving in snow.
  • I was driving my daughter to college–an eight hundred-plus mile trip–and thought I was smart enough to maintain the posted speed limit in spite of the rain. When the car spun off the road, it went barreling straight across a VERY wide grassy median strip almost to the side with oncoming traffic. But I was able to drive back across and get on the highway again with no more damage than a greater fear than I’d probably ever felt before. A greater fear and a change of driving habits.

Some regrets are more serious than others, but those that taught me a lesson are worth remembering. They’re just not worth fretting about as if I could go back and change anything.

I thank God daily for His love and mercy. And for helping me to put worthless regrets even further out of my mind.

What about you? Do you have regrets that linger like a ghost on your shoulder? Or have you learned–perhaps with God’s help–to put everything in its proper perspective? Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

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Small World?

If you didn’t like my post about Stan Kesler on Sunday, you’ll probably want to pass on this post. But if you like this one and missed the one about Stan, you’ll definitely want to go back and read it. (That’s the one about “My Favorite In-Law-In-Law”.)

Some years ago I worked—but not closely—with a lady in another department. Her name was Sharon.

I’ll never forget the story I heard her tell.

Sharon was living in Memphis and working as a babysitter for a song writer. She didn’t say who.

One evening she’d come over to babysit. While the song writer was getting ready to go out, somebody rang the doorbell, and Sharon went to answer the door.

Can you imagine her shock when she realized Elvis was standing on the other side of the door? He was dressed in all black with the collar of his shirt flipped up and hair in his eyes.  He’d come to pick up some music .  She made him stand on the front porch while she called her employer to verify that and to get her senses back.  Elvis was so impressed that she’d made him stay on the porch that he invited her to dinner at Graceland.  She was picked up in a pink Cadillac.  After dinner, they looked at photo albums in the music room.

What a special memory.

When I first heard that story, I didn’t hear  the details. But when I met Stan Kesler, I couldn’t help thinking about that story. It never occurred to me that he might have been that song writer, and I didn’t think to ask him. That would have made for a very small world, wouldn’t it?

Today I received confirmation that Stan Kesler, my favorite in-law-in-law, WAS that song writer.

Now I truly believe in this being a small world–and not just because of the Internet.


Do you have a favorite “small world” story? We’d love to hear it. Just leave a comment.

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,


My Favorite In-Law-In-Law

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When a guy gets married—I suppose this is true for women as well—he doesn’t necessarily know as much about the family he’s marrying into as he thinks he does.

No, this isn’t a negative story about my in-laws. I love and respect my mother-in-law and father-in-law as if they were my own parents—most of the time, anyhow—and Kathleen’s brothers and their families are pretty cool characters, too. No complaints.

But the family member I didn’t expect to become interested in is one step removed from being my in-law. That’s why I’m referring to him as an in-law-in-law. He’s the father of one of my wife’s sister-in-laws.

Before I tell you about him, I need to explain something. I’ve met a few well-known people in my life. I shook Spiro Agnew’s hand before he became vice president and got into so much trouble. I shook Paul Ryan’s hand, too, and commend him for not getting into any trouble after not becoming vice president.

But entertainers are higher on my interest list than politicians. One of my favorite people is a comedian and actor named Torry Martin. You’ve never heard of him? Hang on. You probably will eventually. I know him ever so slightly, although I’m not sure whether he knows he knows me or not.

Anyhow, famous people fascinate me.

And the most fascinating famous person I’ve ever met turned out to be that in-law-in-law you’ve been wondering if I’d ever get around to finishing my story about. Especially since he’s not famous in the usual way.

Drum roll, please. Let me introduce you to Stan Kesler. Google him, and you’ll find out far more than I can tell you in a single post. And go visit Sun Studios in Memphis if you want to get a real feel for his accomplishments.

He wrote or co-authored some of Elvis’s earliest hits, including his first gold record, “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.” At least one of Stan’s gold records is on display at Graceland. He has two more at home.

Even though I lost interest in Elvis when he started doing movies, Stan’s accomplishments fascinate me. The fact that he engineered a couple of Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs’ records is pretty interesting, too—even though I couldn’t stand “Woolly Bully.”

And he played bass on one of Jerry Lee Lewis’s hits—a song I actually used to own a 45 rpm recording of. Sure, they mixed the bass so low in the recording you can barely hear it, but it’s there nonetheless.

I met Stan at a special anniversary celebration for my parents-in-law. Didn’t really get to talk to him much then. Just enough to know I really wanted to talk to him more. Especially since he’s an older fellow and in poor health.

My mom-in-law was kind enough to invite him for lunch one time when Kathleen and I came to Memphis for a visit. I shared a few of my original songs with him. Despite his deafness—or maybe because of it—he said I played better than some of the guitarists he’d worked with over the years. My! Somebody grab my feet and bring me down to earth again.

I doubt that I’ll ever get to visit with Stan again. Not in this life, anyhow. But I’ll never forget him—or quit talking about him. Who wants to talk about Spiro Agnew or Paul Ryan when he can talk about Stan Kesler?

By the way, there’s a great article about Stan in a recent edition of Memphis’s Commercial Appeal newspaper. One of the pictures at the top of this post is of the beginning section.


Who’s the best-known person you’ve ever met? Leave a comment and let us know, please.

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,