Elvis Week 2002 – the 25th Anniversary was my first Elvis Week, and I had just moved to Memphis the day before Elvis Week started. This was before social media and digital cameras, so I don’t have any photos or videos to share – but lots of stories.
Saturday August 10, 2002 I went to my first ever Elvis Week event – a parade on Beale Street in honor of Elvis Presley with Sam Phillips as the Grand Marshall. It was called “Elvis Presley 25th Anniversary Celebration of Life Parade,” and it was the first event of Elvis Week 2002. I will never forget seeing Sam Phillips on that Sun Studio float riding down Beale Street. I was just SO excited to see Sam Phillips the day after I moved to Memphis. Talk about a welcoming! After the parade, I hung out for a bit in front of the big screen playing Elvis concerts and videos. The remix of “A Little Less Conversation” was just released and used in the Nike World Cup commercial, so people were really excited. It was a fun time!
Sunday August 11th I attended my very first Memphis Mafia Reunion at Alfred’s on Beale, and had the BEST time! This is an annual tradition organized by George Klein with dinner and then a panel discussion by Elvis’ friends. I was seated with other folks I did not know at a table in the back for dinner. Then the manager moved us up front, like right next to the stage up front for the show. In attendance were Memphis Mafia members George Klein, Jerry Schilling (my personal favorite!), Joe Esposito, as well as DJ Fontana (Elvis’ drummer in the 1950s), Marian Cocke (Elvis’ nurse), Myrna Smith (of The Sweet Inspirations who toured with Elvis), T.G. Sheppard (singer) and a few others. For over two hours, they shared stories about their time with Elvis and answered questions. It was amazing!
Monday August 12th I started out with a tour of Humes High School (a junior high school now), Elvis’ high school. We saw a classroom of Elvis’, the auditorium where Elvis performed in a talent show and a memorabilia room. Then I went to a memorabilia show where I bought five amazing black and white original photographs of Elvis (they are hanging on my wall today 15 years later). I had lunch at Marlowe’s and then went to the Fan Club Festival. I bought the original TV Guide from 1956 – the first time Elvis was on the cover. Next I went to the Sun Studio Block Party and then over to the Overton Park Shell where Elvis first performed.
(Tuesday through Thursday I did not attend any Elvis Week events. I had literally just moved to Memphis, so I had to get my TN license and tags and unpack before I started my new job at The Peabody. I didn’t go to the candlelight vigil because … well I can’t really remember why because it’s not in my journal, but I feel like it may have been raining plus I was apprehensive about the crowds – luckily I’ve gotten over that.)
Friday August 16th – the 25th Anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. This was an amazing day! I went to the Memorial Service that George Klein’s organizes every year at the University of Memphis. Speakers included Sam Phillips, Red West, Charlie Hodge, Larry Geller, Elvis’ dentist and of course George Klein. I will never forget Red West breaking down and crying while talking about Elvis. And it was unreal to listen to THE Sam Phillips talk – he had an amazing voice. (I did video most of this but it is on a vhs tape.)
That night was the 25th Anniversary concert at the Pyramid. My seat was up on the side close to the stage, but far enough on the side I could sort of see back stage. This is a concert with Elvis singing on the huge video screen while his band from the 1970s played live on stage. Priscilla opened the show with a short speech. The first act was Elvis’ songs from the 1950s, songs from his movies and gospel songs. Priscilla again opened the second act with a short speech. Then Lisa Marie appeared on stage, and I about lost it. She introduced her song she wrote for her dad “Nobody Noticed It.” It was off her first album To Whom It May Concern, which would be released the following year. Lisa did not sing the song, but played the recording of it as the lyrics scrolled on the screen. I cried. The second act, Elvis’ 1970s show, began and I cried again during “American Trilogy,” which I usually do. But this time even more emotional during the lyric “you know your daddy’s bound to die” after Lisa had played her song earlier. (I could have sworn I saw Nic Cage back stage. Lisa and Nic had just gotten married, and I still loved Nic Cage back then. I believe I may have even shouted out to him.)
Interesting to read in my journal I did not go to any of the official EPE events, except the concert. It was my first Elvis Week, and I didn’t really know I guess. But I think I went to the coolest events.