Elvis Week is winding down in Memphis, Tennessee. And fans who made the pilgrimage to Graceland to pay their respects to the King of rock ’n’ roll on the 40th anniversary of his death were met with some changes.
At Tuesday’s (April 15) candlelight vigil, Elvis Presley Enterprises implemented a $28.75 admission to view his grave where in years past such access was free. The admission did include access to the new $45 million entertainment complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, which is part of a $140 million expansion on Elvis Presley Boulevard that includes a new 450-room hotel.
According to Time, some fans who have attended Elvis Week for years at Graceland were unhappy with the changes, but others took them in stride (officials expected the vigil to draw up to 50,000 people). By the time the line started going up the hill, Elvis Presley Boulevard was packed with fans most of the way down the stone wall encompassing the King’s former home and final resting place.
Before the procession began, Presley’s former wife, Priscilla Presley, and their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, thanked the crowd for their love and dedication.
Any musician should be so lucky to garner such a loyal following as Presley’s. A highlight of Elvis Week in Memphis is the sold-out Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, which draws hundreds of competitors dressed in their finest Presley garb with ducktail hair, scarves and rings on every finger.
Actor Drake Milligan, who played Presley on CMT’s Sun Records, became an instant Presley fan when he saw his first tribute performer at around age 7.
“My family was eating at a restaurant when we saw my first Elvis impersonator by total accident,” he told CMT.com in February. “I had heard some Elvis songs on the radio. During Christmastime, they’d play ’Blue Christmas,’ and I knew I liked his songs, but I didn’t know who it was singing them. I just knew I liked them. … I started reading, watching and just picking up everything I could about him.”
Then there are fans who take their love of the King to religious extremes and have shrines dedicated to his memory that take up whole rooms. The late Paul MacLeod saw Presley perform live 120 times and loving the King was his life’s work.
MacLeod ran his former home, Graceland Too in Holly Springs, Mississippi, as a 24-hour museum, and it housed arguably the world’s biggest collection of Presley memorabilia. The pièce de résistance was the electric chair on the back porch possibly in honor of Presley’s 1957 movie Jailhouse Rock.
In July 2014, MacLeod shot and killed a man on the front porch of Graceland Too, and two days later, he had a heart attack and died on that same porch. The contents of Graceland Too were sold at auction in 2015.
Then there are the fanatics who think Presley still walks among the living. Had he not died in Memphis on Aug. 16, 1977, Jan. 8 would have been his 82nd birthday.
Presley and his music changed the world, and his legacy lives on in the work he left behind. This summer, Legacy and RCA released a three-disc box set and digital collection A Boy From Tupelo — the Complete 1953-1955 Recordings, which is the most comprehensive collection of early Presley music ever assembled.
Among the songs are every known Sun Records master and outtake, including “My Happiness,” “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” “I’ll Never Stand In Your Way” and “It Wouldn’t Be the Same (Without You),” which were the first songs Presley paid money to record before signing with Sun. The collection also includes every live performance and radio recording known to exist from that period.