Elvis pretenders finally get Graceland welcome

MEMPHIS , Tenn. (AP) - Elvis Presley pretenders in bespangled jumpsuits and 1950s sportscoats gyrated across a Memphis stage today (Sunday) 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.

The weeklong celebration marks the 30th anniversary of Presley's death. 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.

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.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)