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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Elvis

Today would have been the 76th birthday of the King of rock ‘n roll, Elvis Presley. In Memphis, this winter celebration attracts hundreds of loyal fans for concerts, conversations with former El associates and the birthday bash, but it garners a much smaller pilgrimage than the August weeklong event to acknowledge Elvis’ passing.

The highlight of this year’s event was the guest of honor, Edison Pena, one of the 33 rescued Chilean miners. When rescuers first broke through to the trapped men and learned that Pena was a self-avowed Elvis fanatic who had been singing the King’s hits to bolster the morale of his co-workers, an MP3 player loaded with Presley songs was quickly dispatched to the mine site and, reportedly, helped sustain Pena and others.

The visit to Memphis was promised when the miners were lifted to safety, and it’s been a whirlwind for Pena who was treated to many special events. He stayed at the historic Hotel Peabody where he was accorded the privilege of serving as honorary “duckmaster.” (Learn about the march of the ducks at Pena also visited a practice of Memphis’ NBA team, the Grizzlies, and was a half-time honoree at this week’s game.

But I’m sure his favorite activity was the personal tour of Graceland and Elvis’ birthplace in nearby Tupelo, MS.

Today, the miner and hundreds of fans sang birthday greetings to the King in front of a four-foot-high cake decorated to look like stacked television sets.

Although Pena does not speak English, he can belt out perfect renditions of Elvis’ hits. Check it out.

Happy Birthday! Long live the King.

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