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Elvis lives on in music, culture as fans mark his 80th birthday

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) - Happy birthday to the King!
/ Source: Reuters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) - Happy birthday to the King!

Elvis Presley would have been 80 years old on Thursday, an occasion that will be marked with a multi-day celebration in Memphis, Tennessee at his Graceland mansion. The party will include birthday cake, movie screenings and an auction of artifacts like his first driver's license and first acetate recording.

Even though he died in 1977, Presley remains one of the best-selling artists of all time and still deserves the title of the "King of Rock and Roll," according to fellow musicians and fans.

“He has stayed on top all these years," said Scotty Moore, 83, of Nashville, the guitarist and last man standing from the recording session that yielded the 1954 hit "That's All Right."

That first session at Sun Studios in Memphis changed everything in popular music and culture, said Peter Cooper, writer and editor for Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

“It changed all of our lives, even those of us who weren’t born yet. It changed the way we dress and the way we wear our hair and the way we talk," said Cooper. "It was a reset button for the United States of America."

Presley was born in poverty in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935, and as a teen moved to Memphis with his parents and absorbed the mixture of blues, rhythm and blues, and African-American gospel from which rock music emerged. His influence has been cited by top pop acts from The Beatles to Justin Timberlake.

“You could hear Dean Martin in his voice, you could hear black gospel, you could hear country music," said Nashville-based musician Bill Lloyd, one half of the country-rock duo Foster and Lloyd.

Country Music Hall of Fame guitarist Harold Bradley, 89, who played on many of Presley's RCA recordings on Nashville’s Music Row, remembered Presley as "a terrific guy" with a tremendous influence.

“I think we still play some of the licks that he and Scotty Moore and that group that kind of invented rock 'n' roll played," said Bradley.

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni in Nashville; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Eric Walsh)