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‘No, no, no’: Priscilla Presley says Elvis would not be on Twitter today

Elvis and Priscilla Presley are pictured in Santa Monica in 1973.
(Los Angeles Times)

If Elvis Presley were alive today, he would not be on Twitter.

“No. No. No, no, no. He wouldn’t.”

That, at least, is the firm position of Priscilla Presley, who’s likelier than anyone to know. As the former wife of the late rock ’n’ roll pioneer — and the most visible steward of his creative legacy — Presley has spent the four decades since Elvis died in 1977 trying to make decisions about him and his work as he might have made them.

And she’s sure of it: The King would not be issuing royal tweets.

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“He didn’t even write a letter,” she said late on a recent afternoon. “Elvis was very private. He didn’t go around telling what he had for dinner or taking pictures in front of stores with particular outfits that he liked.

“It’s very different today,” she went on, referring to the experience of pop stardom. “Now, people do anything to get attention.”

Of course, attention of a more managed variety is exactly what Presley, 71, was looking to draw by sitting down in Hollywood to discuss “The Wonder of You,” a new album released last week with freshly recorded orchestral arrangements added to Elvis classics like “Suspicious Minds” and “Kentucky Rain.”

It’s the sequel to a similar record that came out in 2015 and became a surprise hit, debuting at No. 1 in Britain and selling more than 1.5 million copies around the world, according to Legacy Recordings.

“That was a surprise,” Presley said of the success of the first disc, “If I Can Dream,” which added lush strings to “Love Me Tender” and “In the Ghetto” — as well as the voice of Michael Bublé to a virtual duet of “Fever.”

“Afterwards, people were writing in: ‘Are you going to do more?’ ” she said. “So we jumped right on it. We didn’t want to lose the momentum.”

Yet Presley insists that the new album — not to mention an upcoming U.K. tour that will have the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra accompanying video images of the King — is no mere catalog cash-in. The way she sees it, these projects are educating even devoted fans that Elvis “was so much more than rock ’n’ roll.”

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Perched on the edge of a sofa, her dark hair hanging loose around her face, the author, executive and sometime-actor said, “His taste was so diverse. Yes, he had country. Yes, he had rhythm and blues. Yes, he had black music. But he also loved opera and Bach and Brahms.” By setting his vocals in a pop-classical context, “I wanted to expose him in a way that he never had the opportunity to — wanted to, but never was able to.”

That last part is important to Presley, who insisted that “If I Can Dream” and “The Wonder of You” realize a musical vision that originated with Elvis himself. In fact, she said, these albums come closer to what he heard in his head than some released in his lifetime.

“He was stifled by his label, even his management,” she said. “Records were altered after he left the studio.”

The alterations here, in contrast, “are authentic to who Elvis was, to his DNA” — a claim she feels is bolstered by the fact that Joe Guercio, the singer’s trusted bandleader during his days in Las Vegas, approached her with the same idea shortly before he died last year.

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“He told me, ‘Priscilla, I want to get a full orchestra and put Elvis’s music to it,’ ” said Presley, who was married to the singer from 1967 to 1973 and with whom she had a daughter, Lisa Marie. “I said, ‘Oh, my God, Joe, we’re already doing it!’”

“Authentic” is a word Presley uses often to describe her work overseeing an empire that’s proved influential to the lucrative estates of Michael Jackson (to whom she was briefly a mother-in-law) and Prince (whose family reached out for advice on turning Paisley Park into a Graceland-style museum).

“I’m very protective of his reputation,” she said. “People can’t get enough of Elvis. You give them a little, and they want more.” But each new thing “has to feel right,” she added.

Her goal at the moment is advancing the notion of Elvis as “a true artist” rather than the young pop phenomenon whose name rhymes with “pelvis.”

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To that end, “The Wonder of You” is meant to showcase the power and depth of his singing, as well as “the breadth of his repertoire,” said Legacy’s president, Adam Block. Indeed, the new album casts a wider net than “If I Can Dream,” with uptempo numbers such as “A Big Hunk o’ Love” alongside the plush ballads.

Elvis was very private. He didn’t go around telling what he had for dinner or taking pictures in front of stores with particular outfits that he liked.

Priscilla Presley

And Presley is shepherding a pair of television projects that she hopes will reveal something of “the inner Elvis Presley.” One is a limited-series biopic she’s working on with the Weinstein Co.; the other is an HBO documentary directed by Thom Zimny, who’s made several films about Bruce Springsteen.

Not that she’s turning away entirely from flashier prospects.

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In 2002, Dutch DJ Junkie XL scored an unlikely global hit with an amped-up remix of “A Little Less Conversation,” and Presley said she’s not opposed to trying something similar again “if we found the right DJ.” (Block said the number of remixes submitted to the label “would overwhelm anyone.”)

She seemed less enthused about touring an Elvis hologram, an idea she said had been presented to her.

But perhaps that’s because taking Elvis to the people might mean fewer people coming to Elvis in Memphis, Tenn., where Graceland remains a wildly popular tourist attraction.

Presley, who lives in Los Angeles, still gets there herself now and then.

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“And every time I walk in that door, it’s like I never left,” she said. “I can hear the sound of the piano. I can see him coming down the stairs.

“This is when the gates are closed and I’m by myself,” she clarified. “The memories I have there are just unbelievable.

“It’s kind of eerie.”

Twitter: @mikaelwood

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