When Rosemarie Birdsall gave birth to her third daughter, she asked her other children to help pick a name. They picked Lisa Marie, after Elvis Presley's daughter.
"That's definitely where it came from," the Greenwich resident said.
Many years later, Birdsall and her family are still big Elvis fans. She remembers seeing the King perform "Hound Dog" on the Steve Allen show in July 1956. He jokingly crooned to a real basset hound. When she visited Graceland, Presley's Memphis, Tenn., mansion and museum, she pocketed a leaf she found on the ground as a souvenir.
"I've been a fan for as long as I can remember," Birdsall said. "We bought all the albums on 45 and collected every photograph we could."
One of Birdsall's last memories is of a 1975 concert at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. Her Lisa Marie was little more than a year old at the time.
"It's hard to believe he died so long ago," she said.
Friday marks the 25th anniversary of the King's death at age 42. But although he may be gone, Elvis Aaron Presley is not forgotten.
Beginning today, Graceland is sponsoring a weeklong festival in his honor, including memorial services, tours of Presley-related destinations throughout Memphis and a simulated concert featuring video clips of his performances.
Some Presley fans cherish brushes with their idol.
As a young Army sergeant stationed in Germany, Tony Pia, now 78, saw the singing star who also was stationed in Germany from 1958 to 1960 as part of the 1st Tank Battalion, 32nd Armored Division. The only special dispensation the military made for Presley was letting him live in his own apartment off the base, Pia said.
"He would always be surrounded by a big crowd wherever he went," the Stamford resident recalled. "But I think he had the respect of all the men because he just served his time without complaining. All the soldiers took him in immediately."
Other fans' memories are limited to movies, recordings and memorabilia.
Birdsall's sister-in-law, 48-year-old Greenwich resident Barbara Reichert, displays a collection of commemorative Elvis Presley plates along her dining room wall. She began collecting those in the early 1990s, but her memorabilia includes most of the posters and records she purchased in her teenage years.
"I think all the little girls had a crush on him at that time," she said. "He seemed like an honest and wholesome person and I don't think you would say most of his biggest fans were guys back then."
Presley's appeal combined his singing, personality and smoldering good looks, Reichert said. Her favorite movie, "Love Me Tender," which debuted in 1956, is a tear-jerking western in which Elvis' character dies.
Two years ago, Reichert made her pilgrimage to Graceland, where she was most impressed by the Jungle Room, Presley's den that holds leopard skin upholstered furniture and one wall with six televisions.
After the visit, Reichert wrote her name on a wall of remembrance on the property.
"It was very moving," she said.
While fans consider Presley a monolithic rock 'n' roll icon, others remember him as a jumpsuited lounge singer. A number of rock 'n' roll fans believe Presley never matched the creativity and energy of his early recordings, produced from 1956 to 1960.
As a young guitarist, Jim DiStefano learned early songs such as "Jailhouse Rock," "Mystery Train," and "Heartbreak Hotel." Later, he and his band performed Presley's hits at bars and clubs.
The Fairfield resident, who manages Greenwich Music, favors Presley's early period, before he entered the U.S. Army in 1958. That's when Presley cut the majority of his best known rock 'n' roll records. DiStefano refers to his later phase as "Vegas Elvis," although he concedes that the aging Presley did record some great songs, including "Suspicious Minds."
"He will never fade from the culture whether or not you like him, because he was the catalyst who threw the floodgates open," DiStefano said. "He was such a strong influence on rock music. Without those Elvis records, there wouldn't have been any Beatles or Rolling Stones. There wouldn't have been anything. It's that simple."
Today's popular music has lost much of the craft and finesse Presley brought to his own records, Pia said.
"A lot of his songs had stories to them and I think they've lost that in the music of today," he said. "Although he sang happy simple songs, a lot of his music was serious, with a lot of depth."