MEMPHIS — The humidity near Graceland melted makeup and hairdos, but it did nothing to dissolve the passion that kept diehard Elvis Presley fans waiting to pay homage to the rock icon on the 40th anniversary of his death.
People lined up to have their bags probed and prodded by security officers to get inside the barrier near the mansion for the annual vigil honoring the star, who died of a heart attack Aug. 16, 1977.
Some came from nearby. But many came from afar. Really afar. Like…from Chile.
“When I was a child, I used to listen to him all the time,” said Roxana Galaz, who came from Santiago, Chile, to join the throng of thousands who descended on Graceland for a candlelight vigil for Elvis.
Galaz, 45, said she especially loved Elvis’ movie, Jailhouse Rock, as well as the song.
“I love him so much,” she said. “He makes my day all the time.”
Galaz, who is a member of Elvis Country Fan Club, wasn’t the only one who cultivated a love for Elvis as a child.
Her friend and fellow club member, Amy McNeilan, said Elvis also was a part of her upbringing.
“I’ve been coming to the vigils since 1989,” McNeilan, 41, said. “My brother left me his albums when he went to the Army, when I was 3 or 4 years old,” she said.
She doesn't remember ever not being an Elvis fan.
Georgann Reynolds, 70, president of the fan club, said the fandom expressed by Galaz and McNeilan is typical of the way in which Elvis’ music — a mixture that spoke to blues, country and rock and roll — touched the world.
Which pretty much explains why people from around the world showed up in the heat.
“We’ve got over 2,500 people in our fan club,” Reynolds said. “We’re here to honor and pay our respects and celebrate his life…
“He crossed the barriers…he made the world feel the music.”
Follow Tonyaa Weathersbee on Twitter: @tonyaajw