Elvis’ ex-wife, daughter greet fans at Graceland

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MEMPHIS, TENN. (AP) - Elvis Presley’s ex-wife Priscilla and their only daughter Lisa Marie stunned a crowd of thousands Wednesday night when they unexpectedly greeted fans who had flocked to Graceland for a candlelight vigil marking the 35th anniversary of the singer’s death.

The vigil began Wednesday night after Priscilla Presley and her daughter made the unscheduled and impromptu appearance on a stage set up just inside the walls of Graceland, Elvis‘ Memphis mansion. Together they briefly thanked the crowd for their undying admiration of the rock `n’ roll icon.

It was the first time both women had appeared together at the annual gathering, which became an official event in 1980.

Priscilla said the sight of thousands of fans holding up candles in tribute to Elvis was amazing.

“This is something that Elvis would never, ever have believed could have taken place here,” said the actress and businesswoman, who was divorced from Elvis Presley in 1973.

Lisa Marie Presley, on the stage alongside her mother, told the fans she loved them for their devotion to her father. She also acknowledged she had shied away from making public appearances at past anniversary vigils.

“I’ve always avoided this because I felt that it would be too emotional, but I really felt it was important to come down here tonight,” the singer’s daughter, herself a singer-songwriter, told the crowd. “I love you very, very, very much.”

Elvis admirers from around the United States and the globe have flocked each anniversary to Graceland, where the singer, a native of Tupelo, Miss., is buried. Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, from a heart attack after battling prescription drug abuse. His abrupt death at 42 shocked legions of fans still mesmerized today by his singing, sex appeal and on-stage charisma.

The vigil, which runs through Thursday morning, marked the high point of Elvis Week, the annual celebration of Presley’s life and career. Organizers said about 75,000 people were expected by authorities to take part in the vigil.

Those who participated in the procession moved up the tree-lined driveway to the right of the mansion, where the gravesite is located near a swimming pool. Heart-shaped wreaths made of red and white flowers lined the entrance to the site.

Mourners walked slowly through the tomb area, the candlelight casting shadowy figures against a stone wall.

Some teary-eyed mourners laid flowers on the gravesite, where Presley’s father Vernon, mother Gladys, and grandmother Minnie Mae Hood Presley also are buried.

Outside, some fans used chalk to draw pictures of Elvis’s face on the street, where groups of fans set up folding chairs to wait for the line to die down.

Sergio Galleguillo, of Santa Cruz, Argentina, said he became emotional when he walked past the graves.

“I felt the spirit of Elvis there, as if he was alive,” said Galleguillo, who was making his first visit to the United States. “It really was a beautiful experience.”

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