Posted: Jan 8, 2011 3:36 PM by Andrea Babin
Updated: Jan 8, 2011 3:36 PM
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Hundreds of Elvis Presley fans, including
Chilean miner Edison Pena, gathered Saturday at Graceland to sing
"Happy Birthday" on the late rock n' roll icon's 76th birthday.
Pena, the guest of honor at Elvis' birthday party, cut into a
4-foot high cake fashioned to look like stacked television sets as
fans cheered both the singer and the miner outside Elvis' longtime
An avid Elvis fan, Pena has been on a whirlwind tour of Memphis,
getting a private tour of Graceland, attending a Memphis Grizzlies
NBA game and leading the walking of the ducks at the Peabody Hotel.
Pena and 32 other miners spent 69 days trapped underground after
a mine collapse in Chile. Pena sang Elvis songs to lift the morale
of his friends before their rescue in October. He speaks little
English - except for the words of Elvis tunes - and has been using
"It's a pleasure to be here, with so many beautiful people,"
Pena said in Spanish. "I never thought I would survive, and escape
my trap. This is a gift from God. Viva Elvis. Viva Memphis."
Then, he uttered two newly learned words in English of the
Southern variety: "Hey y'all." That drew loud laughter from the
Some fans asked Pena for a song, so he led everyone in singing
Elvis' "The Wonder of You." He was reluctant at first - he's been
asked to sing by fans and media at nearly every turn - but he
showed off his good singing voice once again and did some of Elvis'
trademark pointing and swirling arm motions.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton read a list of musical artists who've
said they were influenced by Elvis' music and performance style,
from Elton John to John Lennon.
"Before people over fainted over Michael Jackson, screamed over
Van Halen, swooned over the Jonas Brothers, and even goo-gooed over
(Lady) Gaga, Elvis Presley set the world on fire," Wharton said.
Elvis was born Jan. 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Miss. His birthday,
while meaningful to Elvis fans around the world, does not attract
the throngs of people who make the pilgrimage to Graceland to
remember his death. He died Aug. 16, 1977.
Jerry Engelby, of Jefferson City, Mo., has been an Elvis fan
since she was 13. She comes to Memphis as often as she can.
"He's been part of my life for almost 60 years," said Engelby,
68. "I love my youth. When I come back, I relive my youth with
Some fans were as eager to see Pena as they were to honor the
king of rock n' roll.
Sue Mack waved at Pena and took photos of the miner.
"I followed the miners the entire time they were under there,"
Mack said. "When I found out he was an Elvis fan, I said 'I've got
to see him.' He was the topping to the cake today."
Standing nearby, Pat Parris asked Pena in Spanish to give her a
kiss. He obliged.
"He's so sweet. You never meet a real hero," Parris said.
For one moment, Edison Pena again did what seemed impossible: He
was bigger than Elvis.