The best part of book signings is meeting Elvis fans and hearing their stories. It’s easy to identify a true fan because when they start to talk about Elvis their faces light up and their voices take on a bright, upbeat tone. Here are a couple of stories I heard at two signings we had for Graceland Express this past weekend.
The Great Motorcycle Chase. Judy, a longtime Elvis fan, told how she and her mother parked outside the closed gates of Graceland Mansion one afternoon, hoping Elvis might appear. Hours and hour passed with no sign of Elvis. It got darker and darker. Her mother was tired and wanted to leave because she needed a bathroom break. Each time her mother suggested leaving, Judy pleaded that they should stay “just a little longer.” Finally, at nearly midnight, the gates swung open and Elvis came roaring down the drive on his motorcycle.
“He was with Ginger [Alden] at that time and she was on back of the motorcycle,” Judy recalls. “He saw me standing there and waved to me and I freaked, absolutely froze. Just seeing him in person was so astonishing I couldn’t think for a minute.”
As soon as the motorcycle passed, Judy jumped back into her car. “With Mother clinging to the dashboard, I tore off after him through the streets of Memphis, but finally lost him in traffic.”
Judy concluded her story with a laugh, “I can’t believe I did all that to my own mother.”
Elvis Turns on the Brits. Colin, whose lovely precise British syllables make him a delight to listen to, came into the room where I was signing Graceland Express singing in Elvis style, “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas.” He told how as an eleven-year-old in England he was listening to recordings of various American artists with some friends. “There was some Dean Martin and Andy Williams and a couple of others who were popular in the states. Then, all of a sudden, Elvis was singing ‘Hound Dog.’ In that very moment I knew I’d heard something truly great. Music was never the same after that—Elvis absolutely transformed the music world.”
Colin went on to tell how popular Elvis still is in Great Britain. “We’ve got fan clubs all over,” he said, “anywhere from Sussex to Kent to Yorkshire.”
Going Mad Over Elvis. One of my favorite stories comes from Pat who told me that as a teenager she was a “total Elvis fan.” “I had his face on my poodle skirt, I had Elvis bangles on my bracelet and a big Elvis poster on the wall where I’d see it last thing at night and first thing when I woke in the morning.”
“I got tickets to one of his concerts and I was so excited I couldn’t sleep,” she said. “The day of the concert I had my hair especially done, hoping he’d see me but the crowd was huge and he didn’t notice.”
“When I heard he was going to be on the Ed Sullivan show, I couldn’t wait. Then there he was on the screen and I was so excited I lay down on the living room floor and screamed at the top of my lungs. When my mother saw that she thought I’d gone made and sent me to a psychiatrist. The doctor talked to me for a few minutes then told my mother, ‘She’s not mad…she’s just a teenager.’”
Letters to Elvis. A friend told me a very sweet Elvis story about a fan in Los Angeles who keeps meticulous scrapbooks of every news story about Elvis along with concert tickets and other mementos. Each year after Elvis’s death the woman writes a letter to him, telling him about her own life as well as what is going on the world. When her husband died, she wrote Elvis a letter telling him that her husband was on his way to heaven and the she hoped Elvis would be there to greet him when he arrived.