Fans flock to worship Elvis

We can't get enough of the burger King.

The King of Rock and Roll may be dead, but his British subjects remain faithful. And in August over 1,000 UK Elvis fans will be heading to Graceland, the Presley home in Memphis, Tennessee, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their idol's death.

Most of them may be middle-aged - teachers, accountants, policemen or grandmothers - but two decades on they can't let go of their obsession with the man who put rock on the map.

No matter that the King had grown monstrously fat when on 17 August 1977, at the age of 43, he toppled from his Graceland throne (he had a heart attack in the loo brought on by his diet of burger buns and fried peanut- butter and banana sandwiches.) For the 20,000 members of The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain, he will be forever young and slim, with his sneer, kiss curl and swivelling hips. House? Garage? Techno? Drum 'n' Bass? Forget it. Give us the rockers: Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Heartbreak Hotel, Don't be Cruel. Give us the ballads: Are You Lonesome Tonight? His Latest Flame, It's Now or Never, Suspicious Minds. We accept no substitute.

"It's going to be wonderful," says Eileen Weston, 55, of London, a fan for 40 years and a member of nine of the UK fan club's branches. "Elvis is just one marvellous human being and I know his spirit is going to be with us all in Memphis."

On their pounds 1,600 trip the fans will visit the annual conference, this year entitled, "Elvis 20/20: Past and Future", take riverboat cruises, visit Elvis's school, karate studio and recording studios, gather for a candlelit vigil, and attend a concert at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. In total, more than 100,000 fans from all over the world are expected.

White jump suits will be dry-cleaned, blue suede shoes dusted down and the waists of poodle skirts let out in preparation for what is purported to be the biggest event in the history of Elvis fandom. "The concert is going to be the biggest reunion of musicians that worked with Elvis ever," says Todd Morgan, of the Elvis Estate, Memphis. "And Elvis himself will be singing - through the use of video technology and dramatic production, of course."

Julie Mundy, the UK fan club president, has commandeered 20 buses, booked five hotels and arranged four Hawaii blue weddings for the three-week tour to Memphis, Los Angeles and Hawaii. "It's going to be a very emotional visit this year," she says. "I've cried at the Graceland gates myself before but this year is going to be quite something."

For those UK fans who cannot afford the trip to America there is always Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, where the annual Elvis Party Week will take place at the Havens Golden Sands Resort. Alternatively, there will be a night of live music at the Equinox Ballroom at The Empire, Leicester Square, London, where Alvin Stardust, Darrel Higham from Elvis The Musical, and Elvis's girlfriend from the Fifties will be appearing.

The spirit of Elvis lives on, and the hiccoughing and crooning of the King will be heard across the nation as branches arrange their own discos, barbecues and parties on 17 August.

According to Bill Burk, publisher of the internationally-distributed magazine Elvis World, British fans are the most enthusiastic in the world. "You can spot them a mile away. They're the only ones that walk everywhere over here [Memphis], they're white as sheets and they don't stop talking about Elvis."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent