Besides growing up with Elvis music, we had several things in common. Elvis and I studied American Kenpo under the late Grandmaster Ed Parker.
The King was a Black Belt under Ed Parker, as well as his bodyguards like Red & Sonny West who traveled with him. I spent an afternoon with Sonny and he gave me insight into Elvis inner circle. The black guitar Elvis played while on tour was adorned with Parker’s IKKA patch, a trademark of his Kenpo system. I would come to know Parker, and receive a 5th degree black belt under him as well.
Ed Parker, a full blood Hawaiian, and me, Choctaw discussed similarities of our two cultures, their spirituality and deep devotion to family. Both cultures held elders in high esteem, cooked and prepared meals to honor Mother Earth, and wore elaborate celebration costumes.
Parker related a conversation he had with Elvis, while spending time at the singer’s home in Memphis. Elvis had confessed to being ashamed he was part Indian. It was not uncommon for a young boy who grew up in the south to be part Indian. If a family had Indian blood, it was not talked about. In reality, most were ashamed to admit it. After a long discussion, Parker convinced Elvis being part Indian was something very special. From that day forward, Elvis spoke proudly about his Indian heritage. Soon after, Elvis began wearing elaborate jumpsuits like ‘the Old Indian’ adorned with American Indian designs in concert and is one of my favorites.
In 2018, I began preforming one hour shows at Assisted living & Seniors Centers in Orange County. I’m near the age of their clients and preform uptempo Elvis songs they like. It’s a privilege to sing his music.
“Music is the common language and inspires us all to forge on when the rain and wind is in our face”….Adrian IronHorse Roman is a Native Veteran