Saturday, May 18, 2013

Elvis the Red

Germany always has these odd Americans who show up, and become part of the German culture.

So this is the story of the 'red Elvis'.

Once upon a time...there was a guy who was destined to be the "second" Elvis...which may be a shock to some of you. Dean Reed, was his name. He was born in 1938, in Colorado....and moved around the western part of the US on numerous occasions.

Eventually, at 18, he wound up at the University of Colorado and showed talent as a musician. He made one record...."Once Again", for Imperial Records.

Dean felt he would get a big contract....but nothing came out of this.

Eventually....he got a minor contract with Capital Records (1958) and they wanted to make him into a teen he made some decent songs and launched a minor career. He even appeared on some TV programs in minor roles.

His career wasn't going Dean took off to Argentina on a tour....and found that his career was burning hot there. He even exceeded Elvis there. He made several albums, movies, and had a TV show of his own in Buenos Aires. Somewhere along the way....Dean started to see things in a left-slant fashion. He started to talk on poverty, and government mismanagement. He even got to the point of being anti-US and performing shows in poor neighborhoods and prisons (kinda like Johnny Cash in a way).

So his popularity grew the point that the official political machine of Argentina decided that Dean wasn't helpful to them anymore and more of a pain. So in 1966....he got kicked out.

Luckily for Dean, he ended up in Rome....doing some TV commercials and cheap western movies. Dean branched out a bit, and got in good with the socialist crowd of Rome....and started tours of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. They loved Dean because he was so pure socialist.

Around 1973, Dean moved to East Germany and was set to become the only living legend rock star of the nation. They needed one bad, and his act was perfect. Dean actually got hired on and started to write and perform in various films....which all were set to great socialist values. He even branded himself a Marxist.....than that stupid title of communist....just to be different.

All along the way, Dean would talk clearly negative on US politics but always held of a great love for America....with a few songs made for his love of the old country. Amazingly enough....he never renounced his US citizenship and actually filed tax returns while living in the East Germany.

Somewhere along the line in 1986....the 60 Minutes crowd showed and did a interview with Dean. Dean was all hot to defend the Berlin Wall, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and talked on and on about negatives of American policy. It was a great moment for Dean. After the show aired the interview...Dean got huge amounts of hate mail from the US. A lot of folks branded him a traitor....but some went past that and insisted that he was a mediocre performer who would have never gotten this far in the US.

Dean died six weeks later at his home in East Berlin. To be was a accidental drowning...although some have suggested that after the letters came in and accused him of being mediocre....he was consuming a fair amount of booze. His family even hinted of this being a state-sponsored killing by the US government. The best guess is that Dean probably grasped the meaning of the term mediocre and it bothered him greatly.

So that is the story of the Red Elvis and his tragic (mediocre) end. A lot of eastern Germans today, still remember the guy....because he was the only true rock star of their era...and they can't believe that no one in the west has ever heard of the guy. Its kinda funny in way, but tragic in another. But it American kid can make something of himself, even in Argentina or East Germany....even with mediocre talent.

That's true Americana.

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