Is he in the building?
by John Gettings
Although almost four decades have passed since his death on August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley's popularity shows no signs of fading.
In fact, the only things fading for Presley, who would have turned 80 years old in 2015, are some of those sequin jumpsuits he used to wear in the early 1970s.
Forever a pop icon—and quite possibly the man responsible for creating America's pop culture in the first place—Presley is rocking and rolling his way through a third generation of fans.
Attendance at the annual festival centered in and around his Graceland estate in Memphis, Tenn., reached a peak in 1997. The 20th anniversary of Presley's death saw an estimated 70,000 people take part in Elvis lectures, memorabilia auctions, special movie screenings, music listening parties, and a reverent nighttime candlelight vigil at his grave site, which is adjacent to his former mansion. His 75th birthday in 2010 was celebrated with a new exhibit at Graceland that chronicles Elvis's life and featured his iconic costumes and wardrobe, an Elvis-themed cruise, a ceremony hosted by Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley, and several other events that brought tens of thousands of fans to Graceland.
Graceland, the home he purchased in 1957 for $100,000, welcomes over 600,000 visitors a year, making it the second most visited private residence behind only the White House. Graceland easily outdraws the historic homes of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King Jr.
Of those visitors, more than half are under the age of 35, a sign that the end of the King's reign is still nowhere in sight.
International Man of Discography
Tabulating record sales is a tricky business, but according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the organization entrusted with that job in the United States, nobody has come close to unseating Presley as the top-selling artist of all time.
BMG/RCA, Presley's record company since 1955, and the RIAA have been trying to total his foreign record sales for years. But finding exact sales figures in other countries has been difficult. After just scratching the surface of their research in 1992, they awarded the Presley estate a plaque retroactively recognizing that of his 1 billion record units sold to date, over 400 million were bought outside of the U.S.
Elvis's international success is amazing when you consider that, except for a handful of movie soundtrack songs, he never recorded in another language, and, except for five shows in three Canadian cities in 1957, he never performed a note outside of the U.S.
Huge International Fan Base
Fans from around the world are still all shook up by the world's first rock star. Fan clubs in countries like Australia, Norway, and Turkey have remained active and have reportedly contributed more than $1.4 million to charity over the last decade.
Even former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who proudly admits he shares the same birthday with Elvis (Jan. 8), is a huge fan. Koizumi visited Graceland in June 2006 with President Bush and sang " Want You, I Need You, I Love You" for those gathered. The former leader of the Asian superpower lists "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You," "Hawaiian Wedding Song," and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as his favorite Presley tunes.
Presley's Legacy and the Internet: A Match Made in Heaven
Long after the ice caps melt and the Earth crashes into the Sun, it's a sure bet that there will still be plenty of Elvis merchandise available online, 24 hours a day.
From mugs and clocks to velvet art and leather jackets, sites like Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. and Elvis77.com are terrific for browsing Elvis novelties. Plus he's one of only a dozen musicians/rock groups to have his own category on eBay.
For those interested in learning more about Presley and his fascination with law enforcement, spend time poring over the FBI's files on Elvis. At The Oracle of Elvis you can play a game similar to the Kevin Bacon Game, only with Elvis as the center of your searching universe.
And if you're not sure what it is you're looking for, then the search engine Elvisfind.com should be your starting point.
Whether it's online or in Memphis, on record charts or in other countries, Presley still has the same problem he had after many of his remarkable live shows.
Nobody is letting him "leave the building."