"I can't remember if I cried . . .
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died."
- Don McLean's "American Pie," 1971, 1972.
The first 20 customers to walk into Discount Records yesterday were Elvis Presley fans, and they crowded into the Connecticut Avenue store looking for anything - ANYTHING - recorded by the King.
And at National Airport, more than 20 of his women fans turned National Airpirt, more than 20 of his women fans turned hysterical, sobbing and screaming in panic, when the flight they were trying to catch to Memphis to view Presley's body was delayed for most of the afternoon.
Presley's death Tuesday left area rock 'n roll lovers stunned and, in many cases, grief-stricken. They were in record stores all over town trying to buy his albums and reminiscing freely about the special moments they felt they had shared with a legend.
"I came in at 11 a.m. today, just an hour after we opened, and 90 per cent of our Elvis stock was gone," said an amazed Marty Schaffer, records specialist at Record & Tape Ltd on L Street NW. "We're down to our most borderline labels and a music book/biography of him."
While most record shops reported customer interest in either old Elvis records or in his new album "Moody Blue," Larry Flack of Soul Shack, on G Street NW, said most of the people coming into his store were eager to buy Presley's gospel songs.
Two others Connecticut Avenue record shops, Gary's and Orpheus Discount Records, had each sold out their Elvis stock by early yesterday morning and were frantically ordering more albums.
"I called (distributors) immediately after I found out he had died," said Steve Whealton, a Discount Records employee. "I expected this to happen, and we wanted to get plenty of records on hand."
Barbara Crosby, who lives in Fairfax county, came into the store and headed straight for the Elvis stacks hoping to buy a "Greatest Hits" album. It was sold out.
"He's just always been there, and now . . . " her voice trailed off. She said she and her husband had many of his older records but had been disappointed when they saw him in concert last year at the Capital Centre. She left the store with two other early Elvis albums, but vowed to continue her serach for his "Greatest Hits" release.
Whealton recalled seeing Presley at a show in Las Vegas "before he started putting on weight, and I was impressed with the way he dealt with the audience."
Only 12 when Presley first gained popularity, Whealton said he did not consider himself a great Elvis fan in the beginning.
"But he had this wierd interraction with these women (at the Las Vegas show)," Whealton recalled, "and he had this thing with the scarves that was very strange and special. . . he'd got it down to an art."
When he saw Presley in Las Vegas, Whealton said he could only get a seat far in back of the stage because so many women fans paid to see both shows each night.
"He was putting out an unbelievable amount of energy (during the show)," Whealton said. "Of course, he was paid an unbelievable amount of money."
The loyalty of the women fans was very much in evidence yesterday at National Airport when some of them thought they were stranded there.
The scene at American Airlines Gate 9 was close to pandemonium as passengers waiting for the departure of Flight 289 to Memphis screamed tearfully at airline personnel to "do something, anything" to get them to Presley's hometown in time to view his body.
Family and friends of Presley had scheduled a two-hour viewing of the body at the Graceland mansion, the singer's estate. When the Memphis flight was late, the anxious women roamed en masse through the airport corridors trying to arrange charter flights with other airlines.
"Elvis has been a part of our life since 1955," sobbed Grace Lane, who had boarded the flight in Philadelphia with her husband, Leonard. "He's like a member of the family. He's not an entertainer. He's a friend."
Mrs. Lane said she had seen Presley in 167 shows around in country. "I don't have any children, and the only reason I work is so I acn go around the country to see Elvis' concerts," she said.
Informed later that the viewing of Presley's body had been extended in Memphis indefinitely, she rejoiced that "If someone was listening to us, it must have been God."
Tricia Warren, 23, of Baltimore, called Presley "the only musician I've never really loved."
And Wanda Seitler, 26, of Frederick, said she loved Presley "so much, and this is the last thing we can do for him."
The women said they were not part of any organized group of Elvis fans but had met when each bought seats on the same flight to Memphis.
One Presley fan said she had tickets for three of his recent concerts that were cancelled and was keeping them as mementos. "I could get my money back, but I want my tickets," she said. "It's hard to understand, but I want my tickets."
Radio stations in the area were particularly quick to respond to Presley's death. Some hurriedly prepared special documentaries of the Elvis era, but most just began playing pecial documents of the Elvis era, but most just playing a lot of his records.
A few stations planned a nonstop Elvis weekend to include his music and tidbits about his life.
The Cerberus Theater in Georgetown, readied midnight showings of the Presley movie, "That's the Way It Is" for this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The K-B Baronet West planned a similar schedule for the documentary, "Elvis on Tour."
"Love Me Tender," the film that launched Presley to movie stardom, was expected to be playing at some area theaters by next weekend.
A Gaithersburg woman who called The Washington Post yesterday placed a memorial ad dedicated "To Our Beloved Elvis."
Another woman complained that she had once owned a huge collection of original Elvis Presley 45s but had foolishly given most of them away to Junior Village some time ago. Now a Rolling Stone fan, she said she is willing to part with the rest of the Presley 45s - if the price is right.
But it was clear yesterday that the Elvis phenomenon had been renewed for nearly everyone by his death.
Laura Nogan, another Discount Records employee, said she was in a bar Tuesday night when the Irish band there began playing and signing the Elvis classic, "Don't Be Cruel."
"And this guy just jumped up and started shouting," Nogan recalled yesterday, "'The King is dead.'"