Copyright, The Republic, Columbus
COLUMBUS, ind. — Bryan Hutson acknowledged that he perhaps had never been quite that nervous.
Sure, the Columbus resident from 1991 to 1995 had sung at the heralded Graceland before, during Elvis Week festivities featuring gospel groups and more. And he had performed before much larger crowds — 36,000 at the Georgia Dome in 1998 — than the estimated 5,000 gathered Sunday morning in Memphis, Tennessee.
But this — this was different. This was to honor Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of Elvis, at her memorial service that included other singers such as Alannis Morissette and Axl Rose. And Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla, Lisa Marie’s mother, was in the crowd on the Graceland lawn.
“This will definitely be in my top five memories, for sure,” said Hutson, 53, who lives in Batesville with wife Yvonne, his partner in their full-time Rescue Me Ministries.
The longtime southern gospel performer served as a last-minute, lead vocalist fill-in for the legendary Blackwood Brothers, long affiliated with Elvis, a huge gospel music devotee, through the years. The original group sang at Elvis’ mother’s funeral, and a newer version of the ensemble sang at Elvis’ memorial.
Hutson, who has performed with a mix of groups, has been friends with The Blackwood Brothers for years.
“They’re a great bunch of guys,” Hutson said.
The group called Hutson, their first choice, on Wednesday, after they were contacted on Tuesday by Elvis Presley Enterprises for the memorial. Their regular lead singer, Jonathan Mattingly, has a previous engagement that he could not cancel. Friday afternoon, after rescheduling his and his wife’s own weekend dates, he was packed and on the road for the seven-and-a-half drive to Memphis to honor the daughter of one of his favorite singers.
“I realize that she’s the daughter of probably the most famous entertainer who’s ever lived,” Hutson said. “I was definitely a fan of her Dad. And I was a fan of hers, too.”
The foursome sang two songs just before the closing of the service: “Sweet Sweet Spirit,” which Elvis included in every concert, and “How Great Thou Art,” which Elvis recorded for one of his Grammy Awards.
“All of us had sung that one many times,” Hutson said, “but never together. So we rehearsed it about five times at the (Saturday) sound check.”
For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.