The present King of Thailand, HRM Bhumibol, as many people know is an accomplished musician and composer. The King is very fond of jazz music. King Rama IX has his own jazz band called Au Sau Wan Sok. They have played with such greats as Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman and James Moody. However perhaps the greatest moment in the history of music and the King is when Rama IX visited a film set in Hollywood and met the other King, Elvis Presley.
It was the tenth year of his reign and the young King was only 32 years old at the time. He went on a tour of the states with his wife, Queen Sirikit. The year was 1960. Elvis had just returned from his overseas military posting in Germany. Although still in the army he was now free to continue his showbiz career. In the picture you see Elvis is wearing army fatigues. He is slim and good-looking. He is on the set of the movie G.I. Blues. The tie-in with Elvis’s military service was too good for Hollywood to miss.
The King and Queen looked charmed with the King. Elvis looks completely at home with the royal pair, who look slightly reserved in comparison.
I like this moment in history. Elvis was beloved by millions of people. He still is. And King Bhumibol has been dubbed ‘The Great’. He is the longest serving monarch in the world, and seen by Thai people as one of their best ever Kings. Like Elvis, King Rama IX is truly loved and cherished in a way that few other monarchs are.
Today, Elvis mania in Bangkok and the rest of the world is stronger than ever. In Bangkok there are many Thai and foreign Elvis impersonators. Some are doing it for the money, and some for the thrill of pretending to be Elvis.
The following clip is Jaruek Viriyakit at the Tivoli Coffee Shop, Asia Hotel. He’s not very good it has to be said. The point is that Elvis culture is surprisingly good at entering different cultures, just indeed as Elvis himself was good at making foreign guests feel at ease.