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INSIDE THE LIVES OF THE ELVIS IN ESSEX FAN CLUB MEMBERS
December 30,  2017   -   Essex Live  /  Elvis Express Radio
Queuing for eight hours to see his grave and owning 2,000 albums: Inside the lives of the Elvis in Essex fan club members.

"It was blisteringly hot, people were fainting."

When you’re prepared to line up for eight hours in 90 degree heat to see a singer’s grave 40 years after his death you know you’re a true fan.
Mike Davis and David Wade from the Elvis in Essex fan club, based mostly in Chelmsford, took 300 people from the UK to do just that this summer.

It was the 40 year anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death on August 16, when he died prematurely in 1977 at the age of just 42.
Fans made the trip to Memphis to visit his grave and spend time in the newly-constructed The Guest House – a hotel dedicated to the star and his worshippers.
The club is one of the few British fan clubs which is officially recognised by Elvis’ estate, Graceland, so people come from all over the south east to be part of it.

“People were fainting in the crowds,” Mike said.

“The people from Graceland were bringing out bottles of water for the fans. It was so hot. The police department blocked off the freeway outside Graceland for the day to allow for
all the fans, it was like shutting off part of the M25. There is no other singer alive or dead who you would do that for.”

Mike is the president of the Elvis in Essex fan club and has been almost a lifelong fan of the man himself.

He had the idea of starting the club after he spent several years taking his family to Elvis events in London and decided to start his own.

The very first meeting of Elvis in Essex was in Mike’s house where he lived in South Woodham Ferrers at the time.

Just seven people turned up, but on the third meeting 50 people arrived in his lounge – and then it mushroomed.

“My house was bursting with Elvis fans all listening to the music and dancing,” he remembered. “It was brilliant but it became clear we had to hire somewhere. Our first meeting in a
room above a shop fell flat when the owners realised they didn’t have a license to dance on the premises, so once again I shipped everyone back to my house.”

The group grew from there and it currently has more than 100 permanent members, but hundreds more attend its events each year.

“The people from Graceland were bringing out bottles of water for the fans. It was so hot. The police department blocked off the freeway outside Graceland for the day to allow for
all the fans, it was like shutting off part of the M25. There is no other singer alive or dead who you would do that for.”

Mike is the president of the Elvis in Essex fan club and has been almost a lifelong fan of the man himself.

He had the idea of starting the club after he spent several years taking his family to Elvis events in London and decided to start his own.

The very first meeting of Elvis in Essex was in Mike’s house where he lived in South Woodham Ferrers at the time.

Just seven people turned up, but on the third meeting 50 people arrived in his lounge – and then it mushroomed.

“My house was bursting with Elvis fans all listening to the music and dancing,” he remembered. “It was brilliant but it became clear we had to hire somewhere. Our first meeting in a
room above a shop fell flat when the owners realised they didn’t have a license to dance on the premises, so once again I shipped everyone back to my house.”

The group grew from there and it currently has more than 100 permanent members, but hundreds more attend its events each year.

There are monthly meetings of the Elvis in Essex fan club, usually at The Compasses pub in Chelmsford, and many organised trips to Elvis concerts, exhibitions and to the States.
The biggest event they attend is the annual trip to the Elvis Festival in Great Yarmouth where more than 2,000 fans gather each year to listen to Elvis, dance to Elvis and talk about
Elvis.

There are discos seven nights a week and you’d be hard pushed to find a song played that wasn’t by the King of Rock n Roll.

One thing you will never find at an Elvis in Essex event is a dreaded ‘ETA’. Elvis Tribute Acts are frowned upon and the members have no time for them.

“A lot of them are just embarrassing,” Mike said. “That’s not our Elvis and that is not how we want to remember him. There are a few good ones but it’s not what we’re about. In other
countries, you couldn’t have an Elvis fan club without the tribute acts but not in the UK. Just give the Brits his music and a bar and we are happy.”

On that note, Elvis in Essex fans do not dress up as their idol either. “Some people are disappointed when they come to our meetings and find we are not all wearing jumpsuits,”
Mike admitted. “That’s not who we are, I will probably wear an Elvis t shirt but that’s it.”

One person most of the Essex club members do adore though is Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ only wife.

Despite their divorce in 1973, the pair remained good friends and Priscilla now helps manage his estate and legacy.

“We largely have Priscilla to thank for what the Elvis industry is today,” Mike said. “The best Elvis events in recent years have been her idea, including the Elvis in Concert dates at
the O2 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the many exhibitions. I have met Priscilla three or four times and she is lovely and has time for everybody. She will sign
autographs and stop to talk to the fans, she is quite serene and unassuming.

“There are some of the women fans who will say ‘how could she have left my Elvis?’ – fans sometimes view him personally – but it was a difficult situation and a different time.”
When Mike talks about listening to his favourite Elvis tracks in the car, he will occasionally say out loud ‘How on earth did you hit that note Elvis?’

But trying to pin down a big Elvis fan’s favourite song of the King’s is a tricky matter. When pushed, Mike said he might be able to narrow it down to a top 30. He can pinpoint his
favourite era though which is the gospel songs.

“I absolutely love songs like 'Where Did They Go Lord?' and 'Where No One Stands Alone',” Mike said. “I still feel my whole body get goosebumps when I hear that one.”

As Elvis’ music career spanned three decades, it opens up a huge potential record collection. Mike has around 700 Elvis albums but he knows other fans who have closer to 2,000.
It doesn’t seem possible but it turns out that aside from the official albums that Elvis made, the hardcore fans literally collect every recording that anyone has ever made of Elvis
singing – both in the studio and live performances.

Over the years, his record company RCA, has also released scores of studio recordings which didn’t make the final cut.

“When Elvis recorded an album, he might have done 10 different recordings, and RCA would have chosen one to release,” Mike said.

“Well we want to hear the other nine. There are hundreds and hundreds of bootleg recordings. In one year, he might have done 100 shows, and on each date he would have had
different interactions with the audience, sung different songs and made different jokes. We want to hear every one, Elvis had a great sense of humour.”

One thing that Mike and his fellow fan club members are insistent on is how unique Elvis is.

“When we went to Graceland this year, there were 40,000 people there,” Mike said. “Graceland is the second most visited building in the States, second only to the White House.

"Elvis has had three albums in the charts over the last two years. The man died 40 years ago, who else could have done this? No other singer comes close.”

So the big question is – what is it about Elvis Presley that makes him stand head and shoulders above other artists?

“At the end of the day, I think it comes down to his voice,” Mike said.

“Right up until his death, he kept that voice. If you watch his last ever concert, yes his appearance had changed, he had put on weight, but his voice was superb, people forget that.

People wonder how those around him allowed him to deteriorate. Well I am friends with Dick Grob – who was head of Elvis’ security – and he told me once ‘You never said no to
Elvis Presley’. He had the world at his feet and even he didn’t understand why.

“You can’t compare Elvis Presley to anyone else. You can’t help but wonder if his career was fate. He was an amazing man who led an amazing life and his voice is unparalleled. My
love of Elvis has been life-changing for me, my wife loved him, my two daughters love him. He’s bought me great joy and companionship.

"There will never be anyone like him."


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