To say that Fermanagh woman Denise Kettyles is fanatical about the late Elvis Presley, would be an understatement.

Everything about the “King” fascinates Denise, who marked her recent 50th birthday on August 13 this year by joining a trip to the United States, which included a visit to Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, the world famous residence, which was owned by Elvis Presley.

The travels coincided with the 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis (who died on August 16, 1977).

Denise explains that she has been a fan of the famous American singer and actor, since she was 10; it was around this time that she had heard an account of his death.

She admits she is passionate about Elvis as a person and as an entertainer. “He was very charismatic,” acknowledges Denise, adding that he was a “very good person” and he “thought of others.”

She believes he was “a style icon” and that he was fun. She also thought he was a very handsome person.

“I went to Graceland for my 40th. I thought it would be once in a lifetime,” she said. And now she has been for another “once in a lifetime” trip, having gone back for a second time.

In August, she joined a tour group with Tour America Dublin. “I met lots of lovely people” she said, adding “they were good fun. Very helpful; very pleasant and very friendly.”

Denise explained that she went for 10 days and stopped off at Nashville, where they visited different Country Music museums. 

The Honky Tonks in Nashville was also one of the places she visited. She says she learned about the history of country stars past and present. “I loved to see the style and their clothes,” said Denise.

She says she learned a lot about Johnny Cash. “It was lovely to learn about him,” felt Denise, who also has an interest in the late American singer.

One of the locations she enjoyed stopping off at was the two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, where Elvis was born in 1935.
“We walked through it,” said Denise, who visited other places in Tupelo associated with the star. They visited statues there and they also went to the Tupelo hardware store where Elvis’s mother bought him his first guitar.

From Tupelo, Denise’s group went to Graceland, where they got to see parts of the famous mansion, which she found very interesting.

They also joined a candelit vigil, attended by tens of thousands of people. “It’s a walk on the eve of Elvis’s death,” which Denise pointed out takes people along the Elvis Presley boulevard up to Graceland to his grave. “Everyone has a candle lit and they walk in the procession as it darkens,” she said.

Another experience had been to Beale Street, which Denise explains is all about the music of that area. She spoke about Lansky’s shop; she explained Mr. Lansky was a tailor in Beale Street and did tailoring for Elvis. It is now based in the Peabody Hotel, she said.

There is a lot of history attached to the area, outlined Denise, who also spoke about the fantastic restaurants in Beale Street.

Summing up her recent 10 day ‘non stop’ experience, she felt “it was brilliant”. I had “a fabulous time,” said Denise, who compiles photo story books, which include her itinerary, memorabilia and provide a record of the trip.

“It was a wonderful experience,” enthused Denise, who over the years has amassed quite an Elvis collection, including clothes, t-shirts, pictures, lamps, ornaments and stickers.

In addition to her travels to the States, there was a birthday celebration at home too with her family at Tully Mill Restaurant, when she received a surprise birthday cake - a character cake, complete with an Elvis figure on top, which she said was made by Elaine Nelson, and which totally delighted Denise. Very much the icing on the cake for the Elvis aficianado, she was thrilled with it and said it was “exactly” what she wanted.

“It was a brilliant birthday celebration and I’m still celebrating,” concluded Denise. Having now done “two one offs” to Graceland, she says she will have to think of something different for her 60th birthday. But without a doubt, it will be Elvis related, as Denise confesses that she is fascinated by Elvis in every way.