The birthday celebration kicked off what is expected to be a year of global Elvis mania, marking the 35th anniversary of his death, aged 42, on August 16, 1977.
Memphis officials expect record numbers of visitors all year, leading to an anniversary commemoration at Graceland, where Presley and his mother are buried.
In Dusseldorf, Germany, a new Elvis Presley museum opened its doors in December; an “Elvis Cruise” departs from Florida to the Bahamas next week; and in Sao Paulo, Brazilian officials are planning one of the largest exhibitions of Presley memorabilia outside the US, to open in September.
“Every five years, we see history repeat itself and we expect that to happen again this year as fans remember Elvis Presley,” said Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, who added that the city is preparing for a wave of visitors to exceed the typical 600,000 to 700,000 fans who visit Graceland each year.
Georgina Trejo, 55, from Mexico City is among the singer’s diehard fans who flew to Memphis to attend Presley’s birthday celebration, and plans to return with friends – all members of the Mexico City “Forever For Elvis Fan Club” – in August to observe his memorial ceremony.
“He sang the sound track of my life,” said Trejo, who was bundled up against the blustery Memphis morning in an Elvis-illustrated jacket and carried a black purse painted with dancing Elvises.
“All the important moments in my life, I can remember Elvis’ songs playing.”
Trejo said she has lost count of the number of times she has visited Graceland since the site first opened to the public in 1978.
Presley’s popularity has endured since he released Blue Suede Shoes on his first studio album, Elvis Presley, in 1954.
He has sold more than a billion albums since then and continues to outearn many other living celebrities.
Graceland will open three exhibits to mark the 35th anniversary of Presley’s death.