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August 28, 2016  -  The Telegraph  /  Elvis Express Radio
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Elvis worship is on the rise, according to a new book by Ted Harrison. Is it all a joke, or is Presley mania the future of Christianity? Andrew M Brown reports

I’ve visited Graceland twice and on both occasions what affected me were the homely details. I saw the Seventies toaster and microwave in the tiny kitchen. Elvis’s private jet, the
Lisa Marie, named after his daughter, is parked near the house; at the back of the plane is a double bed in which Elvis slept, presumably in a narcotised fug. The bed was spanned
by a very long seat-belt, with a golden buckle in the middle.

Ted Harrison, in his thorough examination of Elvis’s cultural afterlife, points out that the Presley family might never have had to open their home to the public if the King hadn’t died
in what was, by rock’n’roll standards, penury. He was down to his last million, largely through the avarice of Colonel Tom Parker, his long-time manager.

As soon as he heard of his sole client’s sudden death, Parker signed a hasty contract with Vernon Presley, Elvis’s rather hopeless father, boasting: “I owned 50 per cent of Elvis
while he was alive, and I own 50 per cent of him now he’s dead.”

A gambler, Parker was obsessed with what he called “now money”. A few years after Elvis’s death, he had bled the estate dry. Blanchard Tual, a clever lawyer appointed to look
after Lisa Marie’s interests, excoriated Parker for his “exorbitant” cut: “Those actions against the most popular American folk hero of the century are outrageous.”

It was Priscilla, Elvis’s ex-wife, who rode to the rescue, with what Harrison calls her “untutored flair” and “innate toughness”. Graceland was opened to the public (the ground floor,
not the upstairs where he had died in the bathroom). She seized control of Elvis’s image and reined in the flourishing trade in Love Me Tender Dog Chunks and Elvis Sweat (“Elvis
poured out his soul to you, so let his perspiration be your inspiration”). Images of Elvis that were disrespectful or showed him as overweight were banned (in 2010, though, a Potato
Head doll was permitted).

But the Presley family no longer owns Elvis. In 2013, Authentic Brands Group, one of a new breed of business that markets images, took over from Elvis Presley Enterprises.
Harrison, who is good on the business side, argues Elvis is “rising Phoenix-like from the flames of the old family business, fanned and fuelled by international capitalism”. Is Elvis
safe in their hands, or will the bottom line be their only concern?

In 2014, there were worrying rumours that Elvis’s two planes were to be moved away from Graceland to make room for shops or hotels. Fans protested and the aircraft are still
there. But perhaps soon you’ll be able to invite a virtual Elvis to your party. Scientists may one day make a bodysuit with emotion-stimulating sensors so that his fans can “feel Elvis
caressing and kissing them”.

August 16 next year will be the 40th anniversary of his death: in Memphis, they expect record numbers for the traditional candlelit procession of Elvis Week. In a big year, 70,000
visitors flock to Graceland’s meditation garden, where he is buried. There is a fountain, an eternal flame and a statue of Jesus with his arms outstretched.

Harrison first explored the religious aspects of the Elvis phenomenon in 1992 in Elvis People: The Cult of the King. He later wrote a novel about an Elvis clone. One of the ideas in
his new book is that “maybe, as formal Christianity declines, an improbable Elvis faith will fill some of the vacuum”.

Are there fans in any numbers who properly worship Elvis? Harrison points, as evidence, to the words of a fan’s offering at the graveside, which implicitly equates Elvis with Jesus
and Graceland’s meditation garden with the Garden of Gethsemane.

He talks to a psychiatrist claiming to have found “hundreds” of people who believe they communicate with Elvis psychically. He looks at shrines and Elvis churches, such as the
Presleytarian Church in Australia, with its tenets (“Don’t Be Cruel”; “Don’t Be a Hound Dog”).

Oddly, you’re never quite sure whether Harrison likes Elvis. His book invites comparison with Greil Marcus’s brilliant Dead Elvis: Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession (1991). Harrison
gives the impression that a passage in that book, about a macabre fantasy of eating pills from Elvis’s stomach, was written by Marcus, but Marcus was quoting the music critic
Lester Bangs. Marcus caught the spirit of Elvis better than anyone. The point, he wrote, is that Elvis is not comprehensible; certainly not with the standard reductive blather about
how he blended white country and black blues.

“You can listen to every proto-rockabilly singer… and what you hear in Elvis simply isn’t there. You can listen to Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams… it isn’t there. You can listen to
Elvis at the very beginning and it is there; you just can’t tell what it is.”

The Death and Resurrection of Elvis Presley is published by Reaktion at £16.
To order this book from the Telegraph for £13.99 plus  £1.99 p&p call 0844 871 1515 or visit the
Telegraph Bookshop

Elvis the new religion

Elvis the basis for future religion. I think that we are seeing a new religion emerging. Elvisism, Elvites, Presletarianism – something based around Elvis Presley.

The reason that its believed this is the many religious aspects of the Elvis story.

◾ born in humble circumstances and poverty.
◾ sole survivor of a twin birth that his father later claimed to recalling a strange light in the sky on the night of his birth
◾ escaped death again at age 5 from a tornado that ripped through Tupelo.
◾ He lived in Memphis along a mighty river and became known as The King, giving Pharaoh associations.
◾ He recorded his first music on Sun Records – and most religions have sun gods, gods of light
◾ He ushered in a great cultural change – broke racial barriers while heightening the generational gap and put overt sex at the cultural forefront
◾ His personal image was one of racial tolerance, generosity/charity
◾ The kisses, scarves and other items given out to the crowds during concerts is like having a blessing bestowed upon you
◾ He was surrounded by a core group of disciples (Memphis Mafia) who have split into camps and written conflicting books after Elvis’ death
◾ there are stories of him having visions, laying on hands healing,
◾ there’s been after death sightings of him in person, or just his image appearing as people see Jesus, Virgin Mary,  and other religious figures in wood grain or mineral patterns,  
  or on toasted bread products….
◾ Elvis’ image is reproduced in religious type paintings
◾ Impersonators or Tribute Artists are priests – even having special garments – Elvis’ stage wear and movie costumes.
◾ people make pilgrimages to Graceland – especially for the winter holiday (Jan 8) and the end of summer (Aug 16) holidays – which is already a weeklong festival
◾ The annual candlelight vigil are exhibiting a form of worship and ritual. As is the annual lighting of the Graceland holiday lights.
◾ people have special areas in their homes of their Elvis collections, serving as altar areas or even rooms in their homes  which act as temples.

what other religious elements do you see in the Elvis story, that future generations will reinterpret?