It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Part XXIII

It was Wednesday, January 16, 1985. But not just another day at work.

A few weeks back, I’d taken on an assignment on the Vogel show; look into the tape that “Major Bill Smith” of Fort Worth had sent usthat purported to show Elvis Presley was alive and well in 1981. The tape – a noisy cassette with lots of background noise – features a dead-ringer voice:

[singing]I will spend my whole life through
loving you, loving you.
Winter, summer, spring-time, too,
loving you, loving you…[singing stops]

I’m sorry…



I can’t go on.

I just heard that President Reagan…

…has been SHOT…

We booked “Major Bill” on January 8, Elvis’ birthday, to present his thesis. Predictably, he snuck in a plug for a new protege, “Kelli”, a rough-looking but well-endowed woman singing a version of “Last Kiss” that would have been at home at any karaoke night in Wyoming.


But I had another plan afoot. It involved justifying my English degree.

One of my favorite classes in college had been Linguistics – the study of language. One of the things I’d learned about had been voice spectroanalysis – then being researched for criminal prosecution (unsuccessfully, as it turned out). I remembered that one of the foremost practitioners was at the U of Minnesota.

Armed with a $50 talent fee and some gift certificates to a local restaurant, the Major Bill cassette and another with snippets of the real (?) Elvis saying similar words from one of his live albums, I went to the “U”. I met the professor involved (a charming woman who got the gag and jumped at the chance to publicize her program – especially for the $50 and the gift certificate). It’d take her about a week.

I the meantime, I re-booked Major Bill for January 16.

The day came; I got the Major on the line. Don got in the plug for the “Lovely Kelli”, and then played the Major’s tape.

Then, he introduced the professor. She explained her methodology; then, we played the tapes, one after the other.

“So, professor”, asked Don, as producer Dave Elvin cued “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (the dramatic theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) in the background, “when all is said and done, is this tape the real Elvis?”

“There is an 85% chance that the voice on the tape is not that of the real Elvis Presley”

And, I swear, the big final “DA DUMMMMM” of the them dropped right as the sentence finished. Dave Elvin always had the best timing of anyone in radio.

Major Bill sputtered. Don, Dave and I laughed so hard we almost wet ourselves. And for the first time, I got the feeling I might just belong in this racket.

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