Thousands mark 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death

Get surprise visit from Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Thousands of devotees converged on Graceland to mark the 35th anniversary of ElvisPresley’s death and got a surprise welcome from “the king’s” former wife, Priscilla Presley, and their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley — the first time the two have appeared together at the annual gathering.

The two women appeared on an elevated stage in front of the crowd Wednesday night, the eve of the Aug. 16 date when the rock ‘n’ roll icon died at home in 1977 from a heart attack after battling prescription drug abuse.

Fans held up lit candles, illuminating their faces in orange light as they stood in the street outside the gates of Graceland, Elvis Presley’s longtime home and his burial place.

“You should see this from our point of view. It’s amazing,” Priscilla Presley said, standing alongside Lisa Marie. “The candles are lit. It’s truly a sight to behold.”

The two women stunned the crowd with their unexpected appearance.

Denise Recatto (right) of Baton Rouge, La., sings with other Elvis Presley fans during the annual candlelight vigil at Graceland, Presley's home in Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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Denise Recatto (right) of Baton Rouge, La., sings with other Elvis Presley ... more >

Later, fans who participated in the vigil 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, their candlelight casting shadowy figures against a stone wall.

Some teary-eyed fans laid flowers on the gravesite, where Elvis Presley’s parents, Vernon and Gladys, and his grandmother Minnie Mae Hood Presley also are buried.

“This is something that Elvis would never, ever have believed could have taken place here,” Priscilla Presley said.

Elvis admirers from around the United States and the globe have flocked each anniversary to Graceland to celebrate his life and career. His abrupt death at 42 shocked legions of fans still mesmerized today by his singing, sex appeal and onstage charisma.

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

Lisa Marie Presley 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 told the crowd. “I love you very, very, very much.”

Outside, some fans used chalk to draw pictures of Elvis’ 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.

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