MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Elvis Presley left behind hit songs, epic performances, some so-so movies and an image as a handsome, rebellious, talented and sometimes-troubled artist that remains indelibly marked in America’s pop culture psyche 35 years after his death.
Presley also left behind memories held closely and deeply by the songwriters and musicians who not only helped him work his magic in the studio and onstage, but also worked hard to keep his music alive today. Many described him as intelligent, humble and generous.
DJ Fontana, Elvis’ longtime drummer, met Presley during the popular “Louisiana Hayride” shows in the early 1950s. Fontana, who still tours and plays Elvis songs, said Presley rarely rehearsed and always appeared cool.
“He never did prepare for nothing, early on,” Fontana said. “Every time he came onstage he was ready. He never did get really nervous, you know.”
Fontana, studio musician Bobby Wood and others are playing a 35th-anniversary tribute concert in Memphis on Thursday, commemorating the day Presley died — Aug. 16, 1977 — at 42. The event is part of Elvis Week, the annual celebration of all things Elvis that includes the candlelight vigil at his mansion, Graceland, on the eve of the death anniversary.
Elvis Week will draw about 75,000 fans. Ex-wife Priscilla Presley and daughter Lisa Marie Presley are expected to attend the concert, which will include live musicians playing along with video footage of Elvis singing.