The cause of it all is that there is a lot of money to be made out of crazy stories. Thankfully, some people do learn about the truth!
I can't quite recall the first time I ever heard about him. I knew the name when I was a small kid, but the context it was in was never to be taken seriously.
When it was 1997 (I was 11/12 years old at the time), it was the 20th year after his passing away. Elvis got more airplay on the radio because of that, and so I got to know songs like Are You Lonesome Tonight and It's Now Or Never - I really liked the passion in his voice. He put some sort of spell on me and it hasn't gone away ever since.
I also saw some movies on TV around that time. I really liked the friendliness that Elvis had, the good looks, beautiful sceneries and good songs. I found his movies to be entertaining because they were not 'violent all the way'. Even his most violent movie ( I think it's 'Flaming Star') is pretty tame compared to 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' or 'Die Hard With A Vengeance'.
Elvis should be seen as an example of how people can be entertained without blood and internal organs all over your screen.