Matthew Ramsey Shares Why He Feels 'Spiritual Connection' To Elvis Presley

By Kelly Fisher

April 25, 2024

Photo: Getty Images

Matthew Ramsey has had a lifelong respect for Elvis Presley that runs so deep, he feels a “spiritual connection” to the late music legend.

Ramsey recently spoke about his appreciation for Presley and his music at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Downtown Nashville, Tennessee, where a new exhibit has opened commemorating the 70th anniversary since Presley’s one and only performance on the storied stage. The Old Dominion frontman narrates the limited attraction, titled “From Memphis to the Ryman.”

“Even as a child, I studied him. I watched videos, I read books, I found every song I could possibly find,” Ramsey said. “One of my favorites was a collection of early Sun Records recordings that included outtakes, and I would just listen over and over to the sound of this young, uncertain, shy Elvis continually and frustratingly f*** up the same song over and over again. And Sam Phillips saying ‘don’t get so damn close to the mic, Elvis.’ Just getting to hear that, and getting to hear his voice crack, and something about the nervous laughter of the King [of Rock n’ Roll] himself — I don’t know, it just made me feel like it was OK for me to not be perfect.

“I loved Elvis so much that I convinced myself that I had a spiritual connection to him. I really thought that,” Ramsey continued, sharing that the belief only got stronger when he noticed his daughters’s reactions to the King of Rock n’ Roll. “But then when leaned over to buckle my…second daughter into her car seat and I sang ‘Blue Moon’ …and she smiled at me for the very first time. Then I knew I did have a spiritual connection. Even a couple weeks before that, even being invited to this, my oldest daughter, completely unprompted, said ‘I think I have a spiritual connection to Elvis.’ I had never told her — or anyone — that I felt the same for much of my life. So, something about the Ramseys and the Presleys, we got a direct line!”

From Memphis to the Ryman,” unveiled this month, displays photos and memorabilia to tell the story of Presley’s first and only Grand Ole Opry performance on the Ryman stage on October 2, 1954. Presley only had two songs out at that time, and had only been making waves in the music industry for about three months prior to the performance. That moment of music history is renowned as one of the most talked-about moments in the legendary venue’s history, according to information shared by the Ryman as the exhibit was unveiled. The collection reflects on Presley’s performance with lead guitarist Scotty Moore and double bass player Bill Black. It’s held in a former staff conference room at the Ryman Auditorium, which will serve as a space for other rotating exhibits in the future. In a statement earlier this month, Gary Levy, General Manager of Ryman Auditorium, credited the Sam Phillips Family, Sam Phillips Recording Service, Graceland, Ramsey and Peter Guralnick with bringing hte story to life in the exhibit.

“When I was first approached at being the voice of this, my first thought was ‘yes,’ obviously, quickly followed by ‘really? A whole exhibit for one performance of one song?’ I kept that to myself,” Ramsey admitted. “But then I started to think about how impactful it must’ve been to have one encounter with Elvis Presley. There’s no doubt that you would remember it forever. That’s just how special he was. Then I started to think about the Ryman — something else I happen to have a spiritual connection to — and how special this place is, and how no matter if you’re an artist or an audience member, you remember your time here. and then I started to think about the sound of Elvis’ feet shuffling across the hardwood floor, and imagined him walking toward the wings, having just played ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ on the Ryman Auditorium stage. On the way to being all that he was going to be. The one and only played the one and only one time only.

“I am honored to stand here and be a small part of this exhibit,” Ramsey said, inviting others to “be a part of an amazing moment in music history. To quote the King, ‘thank you very much.’”

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Elvis and Brenda Lee at the Ryman (1957)
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Hank Snow posed with Elvis Presley. Elvis is wearing a tux. This is the night that Elvis went backstage to visit his friends at the Grand Ole Opry. December 21, 1957 -- the day after he got his draft notice. He did not perform that night; only went on sta
Photo: Les Leverett Collection, alphabe
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Elvis and Johnny Cash at the Ryman (1957)
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