Elvis fans flock to Graceland

2011-08-16 07:18

Memphis, Tennessee – Thousands of Elvis Presley fans from across the world, some wearing his trademark outfits and thick sideburns, made their way to his Graceland estate for a candlelight vigil ahead of the 34th anniversary of the singer’s death.

Droves of fans trek each year to Memphis to remember Elvis, who died on August 16, 1977. The vigil was the main draw of Elvis Week, and some waited hours outside the stately mansion for the procession set to start.

Devotees like 60-year-old Joe Makowski, who claims he saw Elvis in concert 81 times, lined up for hours along Graceland’s outer brick wall.

Makowski and his girlfriend, Pamela Hembree, were among the first in line. A New Jersey native who owns four of Elvis’ concert-worn scarves and has attended several vigils, he said it was time to introduce Hembree to the Elvis Week experience honouring the life and career of the rock ‘n roll star.

“I get to meet new fans and meet new people, so that’s why I line up here early in the day,” said Makowski, who went to Las Vegas twice a year between 1971 and 1976 to see Elvis perform. “The biggest thing I get out of it is seeing the young fans that weren’t even born until years after he passed away.”

Makowski said he admires Elvis because of his singing and performing prowess, of course, but also for what he called the singer’s overall “coolness”.

“He helped me break out of my shell because I was kind of a shy kid,” said Makowski, an actor who now lives in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Those present yesterday included visitors from Japan, England, Germany and other countries. Some fans wore full Elvis outfits, others just his trademark sunglasses or sideburns.

Temperatures were in the low 30 degrees Celsius much of the day, sharply down from the suffocating 38-degree Celsius heat that greeted Elvis fans last August.

About 30 000 people were expected, but nothing near the 75 000-strong crowd that’s expected to flock to Graceland next year for the 35th anniversary of the singer’s death.

The yearly vigil began when some Elvis fans travelled to Graceland the year after Elvis’ death. It grew into an organised event in 1982.

This year, fans have something else to commemorate. It was 55 years ago – 1956 – when the first two Elvis albums were released. That year alone, Elvis sold 10 million singles and 800 000 LPs.

Glenys Sites said she still remembers watching Elvis perform Love Me Tender for the first time. “He’s got everything – stage presence, charisma; he was sexy, great voice,” Sites said. “There’s never been anybody like him. I don’t think he’ll ever die.”

Sites met her current husband on a visit from Yorkshire, England, to Memphis two years ago for Elvis Week. They met on Beale Street, the famous Memphis tourist drag.

Sites, who lives with her husband in Southaven, Mississippi, said he wouldn’t come and sit outside in the heat all day for the vigil to start.

“He thinks I’m crazy, but I’m an Elvis fan,” she said.

Many still remember where they were when they found out the singer was dead.

Elvis fan Debbie Moller says she was seated on her couch when her sister called that August day in 1977. She didn’t believe her sister at first, so she turned on the radio.

“I was bawling non-stop,” said Moller, who makes Elvis T-shirts and is now attending her 15th vigil.

Like many who make the walk up the hill and see the Elvis gravesite and those of his parents, Moller expects to get emotional.

“I cry,” said Moller, “the songs they play make you think back to what you were doing they day he died.”

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.