South West Wales

Llandaff Cathedral celebration of Elvis's gospel greats

Image caption Elvis Presley as he was in the 1950s

In the 1950s some scandalised clergymen and parents disparagingly dubbed Presley 'Elvis The Pelvis', and warned of his degenerate influence on young people,

Little could they have imagined that 60 years later, the singer's life would be celebrated in not one, but three UK cathedrals.

But on Friday his life and love of gospel music will be commemorated in Cardiff's Llandaff Cathedral, as part of a tour by his Las Vegas backing group, The Imperials, in partnership with the Morriston Orpheus Choir.

The tour has been organised by life-long Elvis fan, Carol Pugh, from Merthyr Tydfil, who runs the Elvis in Wales fan club.

"For some it will seem strange that Elvis is being remembered in a place of worship, but times move on, and nowadays you'll find plenty of vicars and bishops who're happy to admit that they're Elvis fans."

"In fact the suggestion that Elvis was in some way unholy deeply upset The King himself, as he imagined how it would hurt his devout mother," she said.

Presley grew up profoundly influenced by both the teachings and music of the church - initially in Tupelo, Mississippi, and then in Memphis, Tennessee , where his family moved when he was just 13.

Although a spiritual man throughout his life, Presley was however reluctant to be tied down to any specific religion.

Image caption The Imperials were Presley's backing group in Las Vegas

And even though Elvis has sold more records than any other solo artist in the history of music, Carol Pugh explained that it was his gospel arrangements which won him the most critical acclaim.

"Incredibly Elvis only won three Grammies in his life, and all of them were for gospel songs."

"When he first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in the fifties, they asked him what he'd like to sing the show out with; expecting him to say Jail House Rock or Hound Dog."

"Well he chose Peace in The Valley, because it was the song which his mother used to sing to him, when he sat on her knee in church."

"I think that says a lot about The King's feelings towards his mother and his god!"

Touched Elvis

The Imperials were Presley's backing band for his box office smashing 1969 and 1972 Las Vegas shows.

This is the first time that they've ever played in Europe.

"Growing up as a young girl I saw Elvis on the TV in 1975, and knew that I wanted to meet him and see him perform live," said Ms Pugh.

"Unfortunately it wasn't to be, so bringing The Imperials to Wales, and touching the men who touched Elvis is the closest I'm ever going to get"

The concert is a sell-out, in common with the first at Canterbury, but there are still some tickets available for Saturday's performance at Coventry Cathedral.

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