If Elvis Presley were still alive, he would be celebrating his 83rd birthday this Monday. Although we lost the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll 40 years ago, his music continues to stir the endearing spirits of his fans that carry on his legacy to this day.
One such fan, Victoria Crosby, of Glen Cove, has been listening to Presley’s music since she was 16. For over 20 years, she has honored the king in a very appropriate way — with a radio show.
Twice a year, Crosby occupies a recording booth at Nassau Community College’s WHPC radio station in Garden City. There, she records the “Elvis Tribute Show” live, retelling Presley’s life story through poetry and song.
Since 1994, she has been the Glen Cove’s poet laureate. She initially entered the realm of radio as a guest on the station’s show, “Oasis,” which she now hosts.
“I was reading some of my inspirational poetry, and the host, George Pressley, asked me to be his co-host,” Crosby said. After Pressley retired, the station manager asked Crosby to stay on and continue recording “Oasis.”
Her lifelong fascination for the King spawned a collection of poetry. Crosby’s book “Elvis: His Life in Rhyme” features a biography of poems that retell Presley’s life story in rhyming verse.
“That’s how the tribute show came about,” she said. “I intersperse the poems with the music, and it’s recorded live.”
The show is broadcasted twice a year, on Jan. 8, the day of Presley’s birth, and on Aug. 16, the day he died. Though the structure of each show is the same, they vary slightly in tone.
“When I do the introductory poem for the birthday show, there’s a poem I have called ‘Happy Birthday to the King,’ and we play ‘Let’s Have a Party,’ which is one of his old songs,” she said. “When it’s the tribute show for his death, I have a poem called ‘The Spirit of Elvis,’ and we play ‘Memories.’” The end of both shows is always the same, finishing with Presley’s “American Trilogy.”
The program runs for one hour, and intersperses Elvis music from the 1950s to the 1970s with Crosby’s poetry. The poems are read over a music bed, which is a recording of “Symphonic Elvis” by the Memphis Symphony of Elvis Music.
Last summer, Crosby visited Graceland for the 40th anniversary of Presley’s death. As she toured through the lush gardens and extravagant mansion of his estate, she was surprised to see the broad throes of fans. “The fan base is not necessarily women who would be Elvis’ age; it’s men, and women, and young people,” she said. “He’s not the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll for nothing.”
Presley’s longevity is due in large part to his “tremendous sex appeal” as a young “Hound Dog,” she says, but also because he was genuine and had a sense of humor. “He was a nice man, a generous man, and I think people can relate to his personality,” she said. “He was funny.”
“Fans learn [about him] through their parents, watching old television movies, through radio stations that play the oldies,” Crosby added. “There’s a bonding [between] all these people that came together, from all over the world — it’s incredible.”
She enjoys giving fellow Elvis fans a forum to tune back into time, and remember the King’s legacy. “Elvis touched people’s lives, and I want to do that also in the small way that I do it,” she said.
The Elvis Tribute Show can be heard on the air at 90.3 FM on Jan. 8 at 6 p.m.