Elvis Presley fans looked back to his beginnings as they gathered at Graceland on Thursday to celebrate the 69th anniversary of his birth.
The Elvis faithful also are all shook up this year because of another anniversary — the 50th year since he cut his first record, “That’s All Right Mama,” written by Arthur Crudup.
“If that song hadn’t been made, pop culture might not be what it is today,” said 30-year-old Lee Wood of Wolverhampton, England, among several hundred fans who gathered on the front lawn of Presley’s former residence to sing “Happy Birthday” and cut a cake.
Elvis Presley Enterprises, the business arm of the Presley estate, billed the birthday celebration as the beginning of a yearlong remembrance of “That’s All Right Mama.”
The single on the Sun Records label was cut in Memphis on July 5, 1954. Within two years he was at the top of the charts with “Heartbreak Hotel” and on track to become the king of rock ’n’ roll.
Presley’s estate organized a series of gatherings to mark his birth on Jan. 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Miss. Events included fan club meetings, screenings of DVD releases of two of Presley’s best-known TV specials, a dance and a gospel brunch on Sunday.
Fan meetings also were scheduled with some of Presley’s former backup singers and other associates.
Presley died in 1977 of heart disease and drug abuse, but new releases of his recordings still sell briskly.
The Recording Industry Association of America announced Thursday that sales of Presley albums have topped 117 million in the United States, making him the nation’s best-selling solo artist.