News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

Lyle Poteet with his 1960s four-door wooden entertainment center that once belonged in Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s bedroom. It has a “RCA Victor” brand television, radio and record turntable.
Daily photos by Brennen Smith
Lyle Poteet with his 1960s four-door wooden entertainment center that once belonged in Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s bedroom. It has a “RCA Victor” brand television, radio and record turntable.

Viva las Elvis
Local fans of the King celebrate 30th anniversary with trip to Graceland and cherished memorabilia

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

Some local Elvis Presley fans are marking the 30th anniversary of his death today by enjoying treasured memories and legacies from “the King.”

Lyle Poteet of Somerville and Bobby Lewis of Trinity were among thousands of fans who made the pilgrimage to Graceland, Beale Street and Memphis this week to remember Presley.

They were lucky enough to attend a Sunday reunion of a group nicknamed the “Memphis Mafia,” which included Presley’s songwriter, drummer, doctor, nurse and those closest to him.

The men also stopped by the Elvis memorabilia sale and swap at the convention center before returning home to share their memories and Presley gifts.

“Memphis and Beale Street are packed with people from all over the world,” said Poteet. “To think that Elvis has been dead 30 years Thursday, and all that madness in Memphis is still going on. And his music is still selling like crazy.”

His friend said they saw one man who looked like he’d had plastic surgery in an effort to resemble Presley.

“It amazed me to see so many under 30 who are Elvis fans ... it’s not going to die out in my lifetime,” Lewis said.

A 14-karat gold lighter once owned by Elvis.
A 14-karat gold lighter once owned by Elvis.
Poteet said he got a phone call from George Kline about the gathering of this Presley crew at Alfred’s on Beale Street. He was invited because of his longtime connection through his “Uncle Charlie” from Decatur, who died March 3, 2006. His uncle still “got the biggest applause of any they announced,” he said.

Charlie Hodge met Presley while performing with the Foggy River Boys, and they became friends while in the Army. Hodge became background vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the star and passed him scarves and water on stage for 17 years. He also was the only band member to live at Graceland.

Poteet said his Uncle Charlie was blue for a long time after Presley’s early death, and his possessions that once belonged to the legend were special to him. He came home to his house on Jackson Street Southeast for a few years and then eventually went to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., to work with a show featuring Elvis impersonators from every decade at Memories Theatre.

When Hodge died at 71, he left Poteet a Presley Cadillac and a 1960s four-door wooden entertainment center with “RCA Victor” brand television, radio and record turntable. The center was in Elvis and Priscilla’s bedroom, Poteet said, and they played demos on it to determine what records went on what album.

“Elvis’ hands have been all over it. If that entertainment center could talk, there’s no telling what it could tell you,” Poteet said.

Hodge continued to live at Graceland for three years after Presley died, Poteet said, and the piece of furniture was given to his uncle during that period.

“I remembering going up to Graceland with other family members when I was pretty young, and we brought this entertainment center back to Decatur in a pickup when Uncle Charlie was leaving Graceland,” said Poteet.

His mother, Margie Poteet, was a sister of Hodge, who later took that piece of furniture to Pigeon Forge with him.

Elvis’ Cadillac

The 1976 Cadillac he now owns and is having restored was one of the last cars Presley bought.

“When I was 19, Uncle Charlie flew me to Los Angeles, and I drove that Cadillac back for him,” he said.

When Poteet was much younger, he went to a Presley show in Huntsville with his uncle. When it was time for his Uncle Charlie to go on stage, “He asked Linda Thompson and Joanie Esposito to look after me until after the show.”

Lewis, whose parents were friends of Hodge, got to know Uncle Charlie long before he met Poteet. Hodge gave him the 14-karat gold lighter that Presley had given Hodge. When Lewis’ father married Poteet’s grandmother, the men began sharing family occasions and Elvis enthusiasm.

Fans forever

“My wife and I used to drive everywhere to see Elvis perform,” said Lewis.

She couldn’t travel to Memphis this week, so he brought her back a Graceland 50th anniversary fan featuring a Thomas Kinkade painting of the mansion Presley bought a half-century ago (see it at www.thomaskinkade. com.)

Diana Lewis, a Presley fan long before she married, recalls getting them fourth-row seats to a 1971 concert in Tuscaloosa while she was a student there and Bobby was at Auburn. She has ticket stubs from many other performances.

“Elvis Presley’s music changed the course of musical history,” she said. “And even if you didn’t like it, you’d have to appreciate the contribution he made.”

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