? APElvis PresleyElvis Pretenders Welcomed at Graceland
Aug 13, 11:02 AM EST
The Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Elvis Presley pretenders in bespangled jumpsuits and 1950s sportcoats gyrated across a Memphis stage for the opening round of the first "tribute-artist" contest with an official Graceland blessing.
Finals for the contest sanctioned by Graceland's management company, Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc., are set for Friday as a weeklong celebration marking the 30th anniversary of Presley's death winds down.
The contest marks a big change for managers of Graceland, Presley's former Memphis residence and the center of a $40 million a year business in all things Elvis. The opening round of the contest was held Sunday.
Since Presley's death on Aug. 16, 1977, Graceland managers have had little to do with the thousands of Elvis impersonators haunting the concert halls and barrooms of the world, regarding them at best as minor pests and at worst as downright embarrassments.
But with a new company, CKX Inc., controlling EPE and the Elvis world, that attitude has changed.
Two dozen "artists" ? Graceland doesn't like the word "impersonator" ? made it to Memphis by winning preliminary contests around the country and abroad.
Ten contestants from the qualifying round at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, a downtown concert hall, were to be picked for the finals and a shot at the title of official "Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist."
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