Happy birthday to the King

By Danza Johnson / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Even though it was his 76th birthday party, it was Elvis who gave a gift to his fans.
For the first time during an Elvis Presley birthday celebration at the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum, admissions was free for all the attractions for all the King’s fans.
Henry Dodge, president of the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation, said the King wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Elvis always lived his life by it’s better to give than to receive, so allowing people to attend the birthplace free of charge today would have made him proud,” said Dodge. “We felt giving this gift to Elvis fans was in the true spirit of Elvis.”
More than 200 people showed up to sing happy birthday and to have a little cake and punch for the King. Some as close as east Tupelo and some as far as England made the trip. Mike Clough of Fort Hood, Texas, flew up to join the party. Despite being a lifelong Elvis fan, Clough had never made the trip to Tupelo to see the birthplace.
“I’ve loved Elvis all my life, so I decided to just come this year see his hometown and the house he was raised in,” said Clough. “This is a wonderful experience for me.”
Unlike Clough, David Wade makes a trip to the birthplace at least twice a year from his home in England and usually brings a few busloads of his friends, which can reach up to 1,000 people. This time only 25 came but that didn’t make birthday No. 76 any less special to them.
“Even though Elvis never visited England, he has a very big following in the U.K.,” said Wade. “We love his music there and we always come over to support the birthplace. We love coming to Tupelo because of the hospitality that we are shown.”
Because the 76th is between the 75th and 80th birthday of Elvis, Blair Hill said they didn’t expect the usual large crowd like when it falls on a five or zero year.
“The 75th was huge and the 80th will be as well,” said Hill, the assistant executive director of the birthplace. “But we are very glad that so many people showed up today. It’s always good when we get people here who love Elvis and want to see where it all started.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@journalinc.com.