Feeling 1% more ‘Elvis’ in a little town in Germany

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It’s 40 years this month since Elvis Presley died. His Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee is a place of pilgrimage for fans – but so too is a German town which, as Rob Crossan found, is very proud of its connection to the King of Rock and Roll.

The street was the very picture of sturdy German middle-class prosperity – dappled, leafy, with white wooden dog-tooth fences, weather vanes and plane trees.

Yet one house seemed a little different. A sporty, defiantly rebellious-looking white BMW 507 coupe was parked outside and a small cardboard sign by the front gate read: “Autographs: 7:30-8pm.”

In the evenings, you could hear singing coming from inside the front room. The songs would range from gospel to country – even hymns. Holding the higher notes and occasionally breaking into yelps of laughter, the voice sounded strangely familiar.

Because here, on Goethestrasse in the small spa town of Bad Nauheim, Elvis Presley was in the house.

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The house on Goethestrasse where Elvis lived

Six decades later, things haven’t changed much in the street that Elvis – then Private Presley – called home during his enforced two-year stint with the US Army at the height of the Cold War.

“My love of Elvis came before my love of this car,” admits Mario Wichelhaus, a 42-year-old heating salesman, as we glide to a stop in his huge 1961 Cadillac Coupe DeVille outside the King’s former home at number 14.

“But they’re both pretty special in my life. Driving this car does make me feel about 1% more ‘Elvis’.”

This summer, Mario and his Caddy (which he called “Dicker” – meaning big and beautiful) will be joined by more than 60 other vintage cars in this tiny spa town, along with at least 6,000 Elvis fans from across the world, to celebrate the star’s life.

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Elvis fans in 50s attire at the 2014 European Elvis Festival in Bad Nauheim

Bad Nauheim is where Elvis did his military service between 1958 and 1960. As he once wrote in a letter home, he felt like “a little, lonely boy 5,000 miles away”.

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