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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 08:35 GMT
Elvis: Always on their minds
Elvis Presley performing in 1977, the year he died
By BBC News Online's Darryl Chamberlain

He would have been 65 on Saturday - and Elvis Presley's fans are determined to mark The King's big day in style.

Thousands are likely to descend on his former home at Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee, to pay their respects and celebrate the life of the performer, who died in August 1977, aged 42, from heart failure.

Presley was born on 8 January 1935 in East Tupelo, Mississippi, and 65 years and an estimated one billion record sales later, his adopted city of Memphis - the Presleys moved there when he was growing up - is ready to commemorate its most famous son.

Memphis' favourite son in 1956 - the year he made it big
Events being held at Graceland include a lunch for fan club bosses from all over the world, a party, a concert by a "virtual Elvis" and visits to his grave.

Estate spokesman Brett Guin expects a good turnout for the weekend's commemorations.

Although he does not expect the numbers to beat the estimated 35-40,000 who took part in the candlelight vigil held in 1997 to mark 20 years since his death, he is still predicting a big turnout.

"We always get a lot of people down. Some might have seen him perform, but a lot haven't and what's really amazing is that we're getting a lot of fans who weren't even around when he was alive."

Around 150 fans have made the trip from the UK to visit Graceland, but many will be marking the occasion at home.

Over a billion Elvis records have been sold worldwide
One of them is Edinburgh-based Linda Sayers. The treasurer of the Memphis Mafia club was converted to the Elvis cause when she married husband Paul, and she will be celebrating at the unlikely surroundings of Prestwick Airport, near Glasgow.

Prestwick is where The King touched down on British soil when he was being flown from Germany back to the US when he was being demobbed from military service in 1960.

The stopover was brief, but it was the only time Presley saw the UK - and fans will be keeping his memory alive with an Elvis party on Saturday.

Ms Sayers's own club has around 200 members, with 1,000 on its mailing list. Although recent years have seen the Elvis memory grow thanks to the upsurge in tribute performers, she is not keen to see people don sideburns and a jumpsuit to pay their respects.

"We don't encourage people to dress up - we think it's disrespectful," she says.

Paul Downie has organised the Prestwick party for five years now. Now 39, he grew up listening to Elvis, and he says this year's event - which will also mark 40 years since Elvis landed in Scotland - will have special significance.

Elvis... at Prestwick
The airport authorities were happy to host the nights, he says.

"They were really excited - they've opened up a bar called Graceland there, and they're really proud of their Elvis connection. Some of the staff come down to join in the nights."

Now he is preparing for his second visit to Graceland later this year. Although he says it was nowhere near what he expected it to be -"it's really quite humble" - he advises fans to go. "It's a good experience," he says.

Now he has made more contacts with Elvis fans all over the world, and within the Graceland organisation as well, he believes he will enjoy his second visit more.

Back at Graceland, Brett Guin - who has worked at the mansion for 12 years - enthuses about the time he saw Elvis play live. "It was in Memphis in 1974, and even now it is still the best concert I've ever seen".

Although a new generation is growing up having never known Elvis as a live performer, his value as an icon - both in emotional and financial terms - has never been greater.

See also:

10 Oct 99 | Americas
Elvis sale fetches millions
17 Aug 99 | Entertainment
Keeping the King's flame alive
12 Mar 99 | UK
Sid rocks Elvis empire
25 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Elvis virtually live in concert
16 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Fan gets Elvis response after 40 years
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