[ReviewAZON asin=”B001EPJTMK” display=”inlinepost”]Memphis (Tennessee), Jan 5 (DPA) The 1970s are alive and well at the white villa on Elvis Presley Boulevard in the Blues city of Memphis that has come to symbolise the life of the King of Rock `n Roll who would have been 75 on Jan 8.
Elvis himself still seems to live here at Graceland, where hundreds of thousands of fans flock each year to remember Elvis and where it’s hard to imagine the old man he would be today.
Graceland was where Presley died in 1977 at just 42, alone and addicted to prescription drugs. Since that day, time has stood still here. The kitsch has a distinct ’70s vibe — �bright fabrics, velvet, mirrors, crystal chandeliers.
On his birth and death anniversaries some 50,000 fans normally gather in a candlelight procession on the grounds. House tours and Elvis souvenirs earn Elvis Presley Enterprises some $30 million annually. While his estate earned a total of $55 million in the past year from all his work and the estate, making his the fourth-highest earning deceased celebrity, according to a list by Forbes magazine.
Elvis as a 75-year-old is nearly unimaginable. Perhaps he would be a fat man with thin white hair, like many of his childhood friends from Tupelo, Mississippi.
One of those friends, Sam Bell, an African American, recalls how he and Elvis were inseparable as children, even in the racially segregated American South. Sam and Elvis would go in separate entrances for blacks and white in the cinema.
“As soon as the lights went out, Elvis climbed over the railing to sit by me. Elvis would carry around a broom and play like it was a guitar,” Bell remembers with a laugh.
At a talent show at a fair, Elvis had his first public performance when he was in the fifth grade. He stood on a chair to reach the microphone and sang a heart-rending ballad about a dog who had died. But it was a rueful performance and he was beaten by another local person, Shirley Jones.
Jones’ clearest memory of Elvis was that he dumped her best friend with a handwritten note to pursue another girl.
Sara Ann Patterson is one of the most famous “Elvis Girls” from Tupelo. She was never his girlfriend, but is a woman with an unforgettable memory – she was kissed by the King. At 15, she got backstage at a concert in Tupelo and received a hug and a kiss from the superstar.
“It was simply outrageous,” remembers Patterson, now 68. “My heart nearly stopped, I was envied by all my female classmates and got fan mail from around the world.”
She wore the clothes she had on at the concert until they fell apart.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B000QUUD60″ display=”inlinepost”]In 1948, Elvis sang a goodbye song to Tupelo’s Milam Junior High School with his $7 guitar and moved with his family 120 kms northeast to Memphis.
In the basement of the family’s new apartment, the young Elvis practised his singing and guitar playing. As a student at LC Humes High School, his passion for music of all kinds began to grow. Gospel music from the city’s churches and the wild blues in the clubs of Memphis’ famous Beale Street captured his imagination.
Elvis visited nightly gospel singalongs in Ellis Auditorium, where he saw the passionate movements of the black singers and was impacted by the spirituality and athleticism of the church music. Gospel would always remain his favourite style.
In 1953, Elvis earned his high school diploma and got a job as a truck driver. Just weeks later, the 18-year-old walked into Sun Records with 4 dollars in his pocket to record a ballad. He hoped it would allow him to meet legendary producer Sam Phillips, who had given blues greats like BB King and Chester Burnette their start.
Instead, Elvis met with the secretary Marion Keisker. “Who do you sound like?” she asked. “I sing like nobody,” he said in a now famous exchange.
Keisker was impressed, but her boss Phillips was not convinced. He invited Elvis a year later to a studio session, when he was in need of a singer. That session, in which Elvis let his nervousness show through, was not particularly successful. Only after the band took a break around midnight did Elvis lose his shyness, grab the microphone and let loose an old blues song. He had his first hit – “That’s All Right”.
On the local radio station the song was played the next evening 14 times, and the phones didn’t stop ringing – the listeners loved it. But no one could believe that it was a white singer.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B000I0QKGA” display=”inlinepost”]Within just two years Elvis was a superstar. He outraged sensibilities with his sexy hip swings and “black” musical style, singing his way into the hearts of millions of girls, appearing in films and on television. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was born.
The fascination remains even decades later. Pilgrims are again expected at Graceland from around the world for his birthday. They will bring flowers, memorials and teddy bears to the grave of their idol.
“I gave the Elvis cult a maximum three or four years after his death,” said friend George Klein.
But looking at the hype still surrounding Graceland, it is clear that Elvis still lives at 75.
By Tina Eck