September 23, 2015 Edition

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Showing the unveiled Elvis Presley Forever stamp at Friday's ceremony are (from left): Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp: David Camp, Arkansas district manager for the U.S. Postal Service; Author Ivor Davis; and U.S. Sen. John Boozman.
TD Photo ~ John Bland

Stamp dedication ceremony
connects Elvis to the Beatles

John Bland

A special stamp-dedication ceremony was held Friday morning in Walnut Ridge to celebrate the release of the Elvis Presley Forever stamp. The ceremony, which kicked off the 2015 Beatles at the Ridge Festival, was the first dedication of the stamp in Arkansas.

The dedication was fittingly held at the Guitar Walk in Cavenaugh Park, adjacent to Hwy. 67B. In 2009, the Arkansas Legislature voted to designate Hwy. 67 through part of Northeast Arkansas as the Rock 'n' Roll Highway, commemorating the rock performers of the 1950s and '60s, including Elvis, who traveled and performed in the area. The Guitar Walk pays tribute to those performers.

Over 100 people attended the Elvis stamp ceremony, which featured remarks by U.S. Senator John Boozman; Author Ivor Davis, Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp, as well as Chuck Hamilton and David Camp of the U.S. Postal Service. Also on the program were Lauren Richmond, who sang the "National Anthem," and Rev. Jeanne Williams, who gave the invocation.

Sen. Boozman told the audience that he saw Elvis perform in both Memphis and Pine Bluff, and he asked for a show of hands from others who had seen Elvis perform. Several hands went up.

He praised Walnut Ridge for honoring the area's musical heritage. "The music of that day shaped the generation that we are a part of and continues to shape the generation of today," Boozman said.

"Walnut Ridge is honored to have this event in town, not only to recognize early rockers, but to recognize Elvis and the music that led to the Beatles," said Mayor Snapp.

Ivor Davis, author of "The Beatles and Me on Tour," was the keynote speaker. Davis is a former reporter from England who traveled with the Beatles on their U.S. tours. Davis gave praise to Mayor Snapp, saying, "Charles has put the 'snap, crackle and pop' into the Beatles at the Ridge."

Davis wasn't with the Beatles when they landed in Walnut Ridge on their U.S. tour on Sept. 18, 1964, but he joined them in Walnut Ridge two days later for their flight to New York City.

Davis said the Beatles had no idea where they were when they landed and departed from Walnut Ridge. "If they knew they were at the Ridge (so close to Graceland in Memphis), they would have wanted to meet Elvis in 1964.

Instead, it was another year before the Beatles would get to meet Elvis, and Ivor Davis was the only journalist present with the Beatles when they did meet Presley in 1965.

After the ceremony, Davis autographed copies of his book, and the Postal Service sold the first cancellation of the Elvis Forever commemorative stamps.

Scott Whitmire, acting postmaster in Walnut Ridge, explained how the event came about. "I received a call in late July from our district office in Little Rock inquiring about the possibility of Walnut Ridge hosting the event due to Elvis' connection with the Rock-n-Roll Highway and his being included in Cavanaugh Park's Guitar Walk."

"I immediately put them in touch with Mayor Snapp, who enthusiastically agreed to help coordinate and promote the event," Whitmire said. "USPS District personnel visited the site with Mayor Snapp and myself in late August to finalize plans for the Sept. 18 dedication."

Whitmire said that the event was published in the national Postal Bulletin, and stamp collectors from across the country have 60 days from the Sept. 18 event date to order the special cancellation from the Walnut Ridge Post Office. "We've already received some of those requests in the mail," he added.

While Friday's event was the first dedication of the stamp in Arkansas, the Elvis Presley Forever Stamp was originally issued on Aug. 12, when a national ceremony was held by the U.S. Postal Service in Memphis.

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