As we remember 39 years since the death of Elvis Presley, the star of The King of Rock and Roll has failed to wane, with bedazzled, jumpsuit-clad fans and tribute artists crowding to Memphis and to his former home in Graceland last weekend to celebrate the life and untimely death of the iconic singer with Irish roots.
Gracing Memphis' Beale Street alongside his fellow music-lovers was 45-year-old Keith Hart from Portland, Oregon, who as a life-long fan of The King was enticed by the rhine-stone sparkle of a career as an amateur tribute artist. As Elvis himself discovered, however, the struggle to stay healthy as we age is a battle often lost and with concerns about his health, and a subsequent lack of confidence keeping him of the stage, Keith's dream of sending avid Elvis fans into the throes of excitement in the same way as his idol was one placed firmly on the backshelf.
Working as a software tester, work projects kept Keith stationary for most of his day and with a grandfather who suffered from a heart attack (as well as a musical hero who suffered with heart problems), he knew that his best bet of changing his lifestyle came from pursuing his hobby further and making it to the stage.
"Initially I wasn't happy with where I was with my body," he said. "My grandfather had a heart attack and I really didn't want to go down that road. I knew I had to make a change."
Mentored by the world famous Elvis tribute artist, Dean Z, Keith donned his blue suede shoes, brushed out his sideburns, and equipped himself with a Philips personal health program, to put himself through his paces over six weeks with the aim of performing in front of a crowd for the first time.
"To begin with I was somewhat overwhelmed, but I took it one step at a time, and my confidence grew as my activity levels increased," he said.
With the help of the Philips health watch which monitored his activity, heart, rate and sleep, as well as the Philips body analysis scale, and blood pressure monitor, Keith rock and rolled his way through six weeks of training with Dean Z, increasing his activity by 9% in just a month and a half and losing seven pounds.
"Singing and moving isn't easy, but by making small changes to my lifestyle and monitoring my activity my stamina grew, which really helped with my stage presence," he admitted.
As the day of the big unveiling closed in, Keith was feeling the heat, only to be thrown another curve ball when his mentor reveals a surprising venue for his first performance: Memphis, Tennessee, the home of rock and roll.
"This has been a truly amazing experience, I have fulfilled a lifelong dream and I feel better, more healthy and agile."
As we Irish have a habit of claiming some of the best and brightest throughout the history of the US, of course the possibility of Elvis having Irish roots was investigated and eventually confirmed in April 2016 through an 18th century court document.
The star’s link to Ireland was first rumored in 2013 when genealogists claimed his great-great-great-great-grandfather William Presley was a Co. Wicklow-born farmer who fled Ireland for Tennessee.
Just this year the truth was revealed to the public in the form of a 1775 Irish legal document outlining an attack on William Presley in neighboring county Carlow in which he feared for his life.
Originally from the townland of Stranakelly near Shillelagh, Co Wicklow, Presley claimed he was the victim of an unprovoked attack by Wicklow men while in Hacketstown, Carlow, naming some of his attackers and claiming they threatened to kill him.
Presley told the magistrate in Carlow Court of Assizes on August 25, 1775, the group had used their “whips and fists, dragged him down by the legs” while they fired “several kicks in his body and face.”
Naming the perpetrators as “Andrew Morris of Mullannashea; ffrancis Morris of Whiterock; Samuel Morris of Cross; Thomas Morris, William Wilson, Thomas Matthers and Several Other Persons whose names Deponent knoweth not,” Presley concluded that he was now in “great dread and fear of his life”.
Although the magistrate had scheduled a further hearing for the case, the outcome is unknown but William Presley and his son Andrew did move to the US later that year, first settling in New Orleans and later moving to Tennessee where he died in 1802. His American born son Dunnan is believed to be the great-grandfather of Elvis's own grandfather.
Today marks the 39th anniversary of Elvis’ deaths’ and fans have descended on Graceland over the past week to celebrate Elvis Week and pay their respects.