“The King is gone but he’s not forgotten,” sang Neil Young in his oft-quoted classic track “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).”
That holds true on this day and every day for Elvis Presley fans throughout the Dayton area. Sheila Johnson is one such fan, having devoted two entire rooms of her Beavercreek home to the rock and roll legend.
“I remember just screaming and yelling,” Johnson said of her first time seeing Presley at the University of Dayton Arena in the early ‘70s.
Johnson started picking up a modest collection of Elvis memorabilia when she first became a fan at the age of 21. Some are things she’s found during her four visits to Graceland and some are gifts, like the giant statue -- bigger than The King himself -- found by her husband Fred in a furniture store years ago.
One of her other prized possessions is a bust of Elvis given to her by friend Carol Gilbert of Dayton.
“A lot of them are just gifts. I’ve picked up a few things at Trader’s World or garage sales,” Johnson said.
Clocks, countless photos and paintings, records, bottles, ornaments and nearly two dozen shirts all dedicated to all things Elvis also fill out her collection. Those clothes include a jacket supposedly worn by a crew member during one of Presley’s tours in the 70s.
“My friends are amazed at all the stuff I have,” Johnson laughed.
It was on Oct. 26, 1976 at U.D. Arena that Johnson would see her musical hero for the last time. Though she enjoyed the show, she says Elvis wasn’t his usual self that night.
“He was stuttering ...with sweat just rolling off him. He still moved around a lot, but you could tell it took a lot out of him,” Johnson said.
When the news broke on Aug. 16, 1977 that Presley had died, Johnson was beside herself.
“It was awful. I was in tears. I think I went blank. I was so stunned,” she said. “ We couldn’t believe it, but in a way I kind of knew he was bad.”
But Johnson hasn’t let that diminish her zest for listening and collecting anything having to do with her favorite artist. When asked, out of the many songs Elvis Presley recorded, which her favorite is, she has a ready response.
“‘How Great Thou Art.’ Just the way he sings it and how much he was respected for his religion. His gospel music just hit the heart.”