TUPELO – For a man who never actually met Elvis, the Rev. Ulf Fritz Sanned has made the acquaintance of a lot of the King’s inner circle.
“I’ve traveled all over Northern Europe and the United States, meeting Elvis’ friends and fellow performers,” said Sanned, 58, a Lutheran chaplain and Elvis historian from Jonkoping, Sweden.
On Friday, Sanned and his wife, Irene, made one of their semi-annual visits to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s birthplace, bringing with them a black denim jacket signed by several of Elvis’ confidants as well as musicians with whom he worked, like the Jordanaires.
Tupelo residents James Ausborn and Guy Harris, both childhood friends of Elvis, added their signatures to the collection of 50.
“I sat behind Elvis at East Tupelo School,” said Ausborn, 76, adding that he and the Presley used to eavesdrop on neighborhood jam sessions in a black section of Tupelo called Shakerag.
Harris, 71, said he and Elvis used to go swimming in Mud Creek.
Sanned works with museums and cultural organizations that trace the influence of American music, particularly rockabilly, in post-World War II Europe. He said that for many Europeans in the ’50s and ’60s, Elvis’ music represented a sense of rising optimism.
Sanned started collecting signatures on the jacket a couple of years ago while traveling with the TCB Band, a group of musicians who once played with Elvis.
Today the Sanneds will take the jacket to the International Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tenn. Then it’s on to California where Ann Margret and other stars have promised to sign it.
Sanned estimates it will take a year and half to collect all the signatures, about 150 total.
When he’s finished he’ll bring the jacket back to Tupelo, where it will be on display in the birthplace museum.
“I see clearly why Elvis loved this place,” said Sanned. “It is relaxed, hospitable, not unlike my childhood Sweden.”
Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal