The King is gone, but he’s certainly not forgotten — especially in Memphis, where the city is gearing up for Elvis Week, the annual pilgrimage of fans marking the loss of a cultural icon.
This year’s Elvis Presley activities kick off Tuesday, Aug. 10, when an Elvis tribute artist (that’s a euphemism for Elvis impersonator) re-creates one of Presley’s first noteworthy concerts at a venue formerly known as the Overton Park Shell. It all wraps up Aug. 16 — the anniversary of Elvis’ 1977 death — with a concert at Graceland Mansion.
In between those bookends is a wealth of panel discussions, movie screenings and even a 5k run and walk. Naomi Judd’s husband, Larry Strickland, will take part in a performance during one event as a member of the Stamps Quartet. He was a part of the vocal group when it toured with Elvis during the 1970s.
One other highlight will likely be an Aug. 12 Back In Memphis show that brings together a number of artists and musicians with strong ties to the city and the King. Slated for that performance are:
• Cowboy Jack Clement: Noted for his work as a producer with Charley Pride and Johnny Cash, he was the engineer for the 1956 Million Dollar Quartet session that captured Elvis with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
• Billy Burnette: The Memphis-born guitarist — a co-writer of the George Strait hit “River Of Love” — is a former member of Fleetwood Mac. His father, Dorsey Burnette, was one of the linchpins of rockabilly.
• Billy Swan: A former security guard at Graceland, he earned a million-seller with his 1974 hit “I Can Help,” which Elvis covered the following year.
• Jerry Carrigan: A very successful session drummer in Nashville, he played on a number of Elvis’ recordings, including “Burning Love” and “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.”
• Reggie Young: Part of a group of Memphis session regulars in the late-1960s, he found prominence in Nashville as a session guitarist beginning in the ‘70s. His work with Elvis included “In The Ghetto,” “Kentucky Rain” and “Suspicious Minds.”
• Mike Leech: Mike joined Reggie as a member of the Memphis Boys, who did much of their work at Chips Moman’s American Sound Studio. Before he backed Willie Nelson, Barbara Mandrell or Merle Haggard, Mike played on the Elvis hits “Suspicious Minds,” “Don’t Cry Daddy” and “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.”
• Shane Keister: A prominent Nashville arranger and keyboard player for such acts as Dan Seals and Ronnie Milsap, Shane is making his first Elvis Week appearance. He contributed to the last two hits during Elvis’ life: “Moody Blue” and “Way Down.”
Part of the proceeds from the Back In Memphis show will help support Myrna Smith. A member of the Sweet Inspirations vocal group, who toured with Elvis during the ‘70s, she became ill during a European Elvis In Concert Tour this year and was hospitalized for three weeks in London. She eventually returned to Los Angeles, where she’s on dialysis and recovering from a stroke.
Fans who can’t get to Memphis can still find ways to celebrate the King. For starters, Heritage Auction Galleries is taking bids here on a ton of memorabilia, though the asking price is pretty steep. A telephone table from his former home on Audobon Drive carries a minimum bid of $7,500, a diamond TCB necklace starts at $16,000 and the contract that moved him from Sun Records to RCA begins at $75,000.
In Nashville, the Country Music Hall of Fame is opening a spotlight exhibit, “Loving You: Elvis Presley,” Aug. 6 with a bathrobe and wristwatch that Elvis used. One other way to remember him is to see the movie Elvis On Tour, filmed in numerous cities during 1972. It’s being shown for one night only on screens across the U.S., tonight at 7 p.m. local time. Go here to find the nearest theater.