(This is the fourth installment in a five part series on Elvis Presley and Graceland.)
As I was picking up our Graceland passes, I was charmed to see a small boy dressed in a white, silver-studded Elvis jumpsuit, step up, with his parents, to the window beside me.
Attached to the jumpsuit was a cape identical to those Elvis favored for stage performances and he wore similar Elvis sunglasses.
“You are the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” I said, bending down to talk.
He smiled and held out his cape with his fingertips as Elvis was known to do. I laughed. “What’s your name?”
“Leonitus,” he replied. “I’m six.”
Leonitus and his parents had traveled from Asheville, NC to take a VIP tour of Graceland. The boy, his parents explained, listens to Elvis nonstop — he knows every word to his favorite song — “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” — and is obsessed with the King of Rock and Roll.
“I LOVE ELVIS!” he announced emphatically.
“That’s incredible,” I said to Tink as we walked away. “Elvis has been dead for over 40 years yet he is still gaining new fans.”
Our next stop was the Sirius Radio Elvis Channel which broadcasts from a studio across the street from Graceland, in the plaza where museums, shops, and eateries are located. We had prearranged the visit through the accommodating publicity folks for Graceland.
Tink and I are avid listeners of Sirius Channel 19 which plays Elvis music exclusively as well as snippets from his interviews and shows and discussions with people who knew Elvis and fans who wish they had.
One of the most enthusiastic air personalities is a man who goes simply by Argo. He is a lifelong Memphian and Elvis fan who, in these days of dwindling opportunities for radio personalities, has found the perfect job: talking about Elvis via satellite and playing his music a few hours daily in a studio that is a short drive from his home in Hernando, MS.
“I am so fortunate,” he says with a look of true appreciation. Argo is a large man with a large personality who normally wears a newspaper boy hat. On the day that Tink and I visited the studio, his three sons, on school holiday vacation, were hanging out in the studio with their dad. Anderson, 12; Houston, 8 and Garrett Hayes, 6, are all well-mannered and courteous.
“Is it fun to have a dad on the Elvis Channel?” I asked.
“It’s amazing,” replied Anderson the oldest. “It makes me very proud.”
“Do you have a favorite Elvis song?” I asked Garrett Hayes.
“’Jailhouse Rock’,” he immediately replied.
Because Argo is on during the day, he and Robb Walker are the two we hear mostly on the channel. Their trivia knowledge is plentiful and their enthusiasm boundless.
“Elvis recorded over 700 songs so that gives me the opportunity to constantly adjust the songs that I play and weave together,” he explains, further noting that, over the years, he has learned so many good things about Elvis that it is easy to focus on the positive and to put those stories out there.
“Thanks to Elvis, I got the opportunity to visit the Middle East in 2016. There is a big Elvis Presley fan club in Quatar so they flew me over to talk about Elvis.”
An Elvis Fan Club in Quatar? The more I learn about his fervent fan base, the more amazed I am.
“It’s always a pleasure to have Priscilla and Lisa Marie on the show because they’re so nice. Lisa Marie is very shy.”
“Of all the Elvis stories you know, do you have a favorite?” I asked.
He laughed, nodding his head. “He bought his mama a pink Cadillac because that was her favorite color.” He paused. “And she didn’t know how to drive.”
A six-year-old dressed like him, a fan club in Quatar and a 24-hour channel dedicated to his music… Elvis Presley is a bigger star than ever.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Let Me Tell You Something.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.]