Happy Birthday, Elvis! Priscilla Presley, fans gather to celebrate the King

by 24britishtvJan. 8, 2022, 8 p.m. 17
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Fans, friends and notable guests gathered on Graceland’s front lawn early Saturday morning to cut a massive cake fit for a King, in celebration of what would have been Elvis Presley’s 87th birthday.

The event honoring Presley — who died Aug. 16, 1977 — marked the official launch of what is expected to be a major year of Elvis activity. In addition to the 45th anniversary of Presley’s passing, 2022 also marks the 65th anniversary of his purchase of the Graceland property and the 40th anniversary of Graceland opening as a public attraction.

Jack Soden, longtime CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises, began the proceedings jokingly noting that, “Jan. 8 is always the coldest day in Memphis.”

The frigid temperatures did not stop several hundred fans — including a group of international Elvis acolytes who’ve returned to Graceland — from gathering for a ceremonial cake cutting and to sing "Happy Birthday" to Elvis.

The birthday ceremony was just one of numerous events held as part of the annual Elvis Birthday weekend at Graceland. Festivities on Saturday included panels and discussions on Elvis' life and career, and a concert celebrating his music from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

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The featured guest for the weekend was Presley’s former wife, Priscilla Presley, who flew in from California to attend. “I am so surprised how many people are here,” said Presley to the bundled-up, early-morning crowd. “On the plane I was thinking, ‘What if nobody shows up?’ But I know Elvis fans will always show up.”

Presley added that it was “bittersweet for me to be here in front of Graceland. It’s been 45 years. I still can’t believe it,” she said. “Can’t believe that he’s gone. But I still think he’s here. His spirit is here.”

Presley recalled Elvis as a showman and entertainer, who had an image that was larger than life, but also as a deeply private and loving person. “To know the humanity of that man,” she noted, “his humanity was very touching and very true. I’ve never met anyone like him.”

Noting the 45 years since his passing, Presley praised the singer’s fans for keeping his music and legend going. “[Elvis] was meant to be here for a purpose. And I know that he’d be thrilled to see all the fans he still has,” she said. “Never did he think he would be so popular as he is today. I am still in awe that you’re still here supporting him. We’re all here to keep his legacy alive and that’s not going to stop.”

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To that end, Elvis Presley Enterprises and Graceland have ambitious plans to mark what they’re calling “Elvis 45” in 2022.

Graceland plans to open four new exhibits during the year. This will include “Rock On,” a pop-up guitar exhibit in partnership with Gibson Guitars that launches later this month. In May, the “Elvis: Dressed to Rock” exhibit will open, featuring jumpsuits and Elvis’ stage wear from 1969 to 1977. In June, “Graceland: Welcome to My World” will mark the 40th anniversary of Graceland opening to the public. “Dear Elvis,” an exhibit honoring Elvis’ fans, will open in August.

Other plans include perennial events like the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Weekend in March, the Graceland Performing Arts Camp in June, Elvis Week 2022 in August, the Holiday Lighting Weekend in November, and Christmas Tours in December. Other one-offs include a planned Valentine’s Day event, a “Jailhouse Rock Party” in April, and a Memphis Music Weekend in September, among other programming.

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