Elvis fans say long live the King, 30 years after his death

Thousand fans from the different countries -Europe, Asia, Australia, South America - are spending their hard-earned money for T-shirts, coffee mugs, salt and pepper shakers, refrigerator magnets and other trinkets during the events commemorating his death 30 years ago.

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Many are making the 110-mile (175-kilometer) trek from Memphis, Tennessee, where the King of Rock 'n' Roll enjoyed his fame and gaudy fortune in Graceland, to Tupelo, the northeast Mississippi city where Elvis came into the world on Jan. 8, 1935, in a tiny shotgun shack built by his father.

They are also filling hotel rooms as far away as northwest Mississippi's casino row in Tunica and are spending money on meals, rental cars and gasoline, giving a significant, although difficult to quantify, boost to the area's economy.

Dick Guyton, executive director of the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation in Tupelo, estimated that fans will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars there and at area hotels and stores this week, which - even at the birthplace - is the busiest of the year for Elvis tourism.

The more lucrative earnings are in Memphis. Last year, Graceland took in $27 million in revenue, and the overall Elvis business brings in more than $40 million a year for CKX Inc., the New York-based company that controls most Elvis enterprises.

That made the King the second-highest grossing dead celebrity in 2006, behind only Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, according to Forbes magazine.

About 3,000 people went to Tupelo on Saturday for an annual Fan Appreciation Day, and Guyton predicted the visitor totals could reach 5,000 by Friday.