Elvis fans flock to Memphis


Summary

Many are making the 176-kilometre trek from Memphis, Tennessee, where the King of Rock 'n' Roll enjoyed his fame and fortune in a white-columned estate called Graceland, to Tupelo, the northeast Mississippi city where Elvis and a stillborn twin, Jesse, were born on January 8, 1935, in a tiny shotgun shack built by their father.

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VIDEO: Elvis remembered

A couple from Melbourne are among the tens of thousands of fans gathering in Memphis.

Coral Johnson, 63, and her husband, Francis, were taking a tour of Elvis' private jet, the Lisa Marie, after flying in from Melbourne earlier in the week.

"We're having an absolute ball," Ms Johnson said of the trip the couple planned for over a year. "I'm afraid of flying, but I knew that this was the 30th anniversary and I had to come."

A striking number of the most dedicated returnees in Memphis are carrying passports and international flight tickets along with their VIP passes for Graceland tours.

"The first time I came here, it was like a dream. I could hardly see through my tears," said Toshiko Okada, who has made the trip from Japan six times to mark either the January anniversary of Elvis' birth or his August death.

Although Presley never toured overseas during his career, many of his most ardent fans remain in Europe and Asia and hundreds have come to Graceland for Elvis Week – a string of events organised by his estate.

Lesley Stewart, president of an Elvis fan club in Scotland, came to Graceland with a group of fellow fans in kilts and tartan to celebrate both Elvis and a friend's wedding at the chapel on the mansion's grounds.

"She's an Elvis fan but she also wanted a full Scottish wedding with as many of the men in kilts as possible," Stewart said of the bride-to-be from Edinburgh.

Boon for local economy

Even from beyond the grave Elvis still generates plenty of money for the tourist trade in Mississippi.

Fans from Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and from other US states are spending their hard-earned money on T-shirts, coffee mugs, salt and pepper shakers, refrigerator magnets and other trinkets.

They are also filling hotel rooms and are spending money on meals, rental cars and petrol, giving a significant boost to the area's economy.

Fans will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in Tupelo and at area hotels and stores this week, predicted Dick Guyton, executive director of the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation, which operates the birthplace, museum, gift shop, park and memorial chapel in the town.

The more lucrative earnings are in Memphis. Last year, Graceland took in $US27 million ($A32.41 million) in revenue, and the overall

Elvis business brings in more than $US40 million ($A48.02 million) a year for CKX Inc, the New York-based company that controls most Elvis enterprises.

About 3,000 people went to Tupelo this past Saturday for an annual Fan Appreciation Day, and Guyton predicted the visitor totals could reach 5,000 by Friday.

"We do see a lot of men with long black hair and sideburns," Mr Guyton said.

Steve Martin, spokesman for the tourism division of the Mississippi Development Authority, said the state figures two people travelling for three days will spend roughly $US750 ($A900.31).

Plus, he said Elvis fans might travel through the Mississippi Delta to visit other significant musical sites.

"We would have a crossover with the Elvis fans in terms of blues music," Mr Martin said. "If they're that close to the birthplace of the blues, they might go other places, too."

Presley, widely credited with revolutionising popular music and re-defining the power of international celebrity, died on August 16, 1977.

Up to 50,000 fans are expected to pay their respects tonight in a candlelight vigil in which visitors will stream into Graceland and pass Presley's grave site.


Many are making the 176-kilometre trek from Memphis, Tennessee, where the King of Rock 'n' Roll enjoyed his fame and fortune in a white-columned estate called Graceland, to Tupelo, the northeast Mississippi city where Elvis and a stillborn twin, Jesse, were born on January 8, 1935, in a tiny shotgun shack built by their father.

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VIDEO: Elvis remembered

A couple from Melbourne are among the tens of thousands of fans gathering in Memphis.

Coral Johnson, 63, and her husband, Francis, were taking a tour of Elvis' private jet, the Lisa Marie, after flying in from Melbourne earlier in the week.

"We're having an absolute ball," Ms Johnson said of the trip the couple planned for over a year. "I'm afraid of flying, but I knew that this was the 30th anniversary and I had to come."

A striking number of the most dedicated returnees in Memphis are carrying passports and international flight tickets along with their VIP passes for Graceland tours.

"The first time I came here, it was like a dream. I could hardly see through my tears," said Toshiko Okada, who has made the trip from Japan six times to mark either the January anniversary of Elvis' birth or his August death.

Although Presley never toured overseas during his career, many of his most ardent fans remain in Europe and Asia and hundreds have come to Graceland for Elvis Week – a string of events organised by his estate.

Lesley Stewart, president of an Elvis fan club in Scotland, came to Graceland with a group of fellow fans in kilts and tartan to celebrate both Elvis and a friend's wedding at the chapel on the mansion's grounds.

"She's an Elvis fan but she also wanted a full Scottish wedding with as many of the men in kilts as possible," Stewart said of the bride-to-be from Edinburgh.

Boon for local economy

Even from beyond the grave Elvis still generates plenty of money for the tourist trade in Mississippi.

Fans from Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and from other US states are spending their hard-earned money on T-shirts, coffee mugs, salt and pepper shakers, refrigerator magnets and other trinkets.

They are also filling hotel rooms and are spending money on meals, rental cars and petrol, giving a significant boost to the area's economy.

Fans will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in Tupelo and at area hotels and stores this week, predicted Dick Guyton, executive director of the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation, which operates the birthplace, museum, gift shop, park and memorial chapel in the town.

The more lucrative earnings are in Memphis. Last year, Graceland took in $US27 million ($A32.41 million) in revenue, and the overall

Elvis business brings in more than $US40 million ($A48.02 million) a year for CKX Inc, the New York-based company that controls most Elvis enterprises.

About 3,000 people went to Tupelo this past Saturday for an annual Fan Appreciation Day, and Guyton predicted the visitor totals could reach 5,000 by Friday.

"We do see a lot of men with long black hair and sideburns," Mr Guyton said.

Steve Martin, spokesman for the tourism division of the Mississippi Development Authority, said the state figures two people travelling for three days will spend roughly $US750 ($A900.31).

Plus, he said Elvis fans might travel through the Mississippi Delta to visit other significant musical sites.

"We would have a crossover with the Elvis fans in terms of blues music," Mr Martin said. "If they're that close to the birthplace of the blues, they might go other places, too."

Presley, widely credited with revolutionising popular music and re-defining the power of international celebrity, died on August 16, 1977.

Up to 50,000 fans are expected to pay their respects tonight in a candlelight vigil in which visitors will stream into Graceland and pass Presley's grave site.