Elvis Goes Back To Germany
I’m sitting in a basement bedroom in a Munich apartment building with two female colleagues and a musician named Markus Rill I met on the internet a few months before. There’s a picture of Elvis on the wall above the musician as he sits on a bed and plays a song called The Kid From Tupelo. His style is Americana singer-songwriter – there’s no way you’d know he is native German by listening to him sing. He plays the guitar beautifully and sings that he’s been to Mississippi and to Graceland to a guy (me) who was raised in a little town right between Tupelo and Graceland. The song is about the latter-day Elvis, and it makes me remember being 15 years old, standing in the living room of one of my best friends watching reports of Elvis’s death on a Memphis television station. My friend was the son of a Southern Baptist preacher. His mom was crying as she chastised me for suggesting that Elvis probably died because of drugs. “You will not talk bad about Elvis Presley in this house,” she said. Then, possibly realizing the irony of this scene, she gave us a short history of Elvis’s forays into gospel music as we listened to the television announcer drone on about the death of The King.
The evening was one of those things people talk about doing but rarely follow through on. I was in Munich meeting with clients and had a free night. I had gotten to know Markus through Twitter and we had made a tentative plan to meet for dinner. My co-workers are my friends, too, and they have gone to concerts and bar shows with me on other trips, so I invited them along, with the caveat that I really didn’t know this guy at all and, unlike a concert or a bar show, it might be a little harder to disengage if the evening didn’t turn out well. They were game for it, so we had a taxi drop us in front of Markus’s address and walked with him to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
Dinner went well. Markus is a delightful person – he’s a true soul who has followed his art with passion while working hard to support his young family. As we concluded the meal, Markus offered to play a song or two for us, which was fine with me. My earlier hesitation about meeting an “internet friend” had faded. As we walked back to Markus’s place, I could tell that while my female colleagues had been charmed by him at dinner they were reluctant to go back to his apartment. I tried to suggest that it was a bit late. He had told us that he had a young child at home with his wife, so I tried that as an excuse for passing on continuing the evening back at his place. “We don’t want to wake your daughter.” Markus assured us that wasn’t a problem and really wouldn’t take no for an answer.
So we get to the apartment house. It’s typical European, with an iron gate and a courtyard. We enter through the iron gate and follow Markus across the courtyard. He takes some steps leading down and about the time he gets to the bottom of the stairs and is unlocking the door, he turns and says to one of the women, “Welcome to my dungeon.” She looks back at me with a not-amused look. We walk in to find a sparsely furnished room with some musical equipment in the middle of the floor, a table and chairs, a bed and some books. This is obviously not Markus’s apartment, there’s no kid, no wife and no other rooms that I can see. The women look at me like what have you gotten us into here?! We laugh a bit nervously as we look around. Markus is about to say something when all of the sudden the door opens and another guy enters. They begin talking in German and gesturing. It is at this point that I think, maybe no more internet friends. The women are freaked and seem to be thinking of making a break for it.
Of course the story is that the guy who entered the room is a musician friend of Markus’s who uses this room as a crash pad when he is in Munich. Markus uses it as his retreat at other times, and the guy had just hit town that day. All the talk and gesturing was Markus explaining who we were and asking that he give us a few minutes so that he could play some songs for us. The guy leaves, Markus explains all of this and we sit down while he plays several songs, including The Kid From Tupelo. Markus is a great performer and has the women re-charmed by the time he puts the guitar in its case.
Fast forward a few months and I’m sitting here in Jackson, Mississippi with copy of Markus’s new CD, Wild, Blue & True, in my hands. He was nice enough to send a copy in the mail – I just got it a couple days ago. I think it was officially issued yesterday, and I know from Twitter that Markus has done CD release parties and is enjoying playing these new songs with his band. I like the CD. It has a wide range of songs from this German Americana artist. The Kid From Tupelo is one of my favorites, but all the songs are good. I’m glad I get to be one of the first on this side of the Atlantic to listen to this fine recording.
[You can check out Markus Rill several ways. Here’s his wikipedia bio, which is very interesting. Here’s a link to his website, which has an imbedded version of The Kid From Tupelo available for your viewing. His tumblr page is here with a streaming version of the entire CD. You can also follow Markus on Twitter @markusrill.]
Mando Lines is on Twitter @mando_lines