Memories of the Jailhouse Rock

PUBLISHED: 11:18 07 January 2010 | UPDATED: 17:29 25 August 2010

Michael Shepherd
Simon Hildrew

Michael Shepherd Dartford 05-07-07 Simon Hildrew

ELVIS has left the building! These are the words prison guards bellowed continuously for ten months as Elvis look-a-like Michael Shepherd was held on remand in Belmarsh Prison. More than two years later the 58-year-old is a free man after being clear

ELVIS has left the building!"

These are the words prison guards bellowed continuously for ten months as Elvis look-a-like Michael Shepherd was held on remand in Belmarsh Prison.

More than two years later the 58-year-old is a free man after being cleared during an Old Bailey trial of dealing illegal guns to undercover cops.

But for the country's media and Elvis fans around the world, the trial was more noted for the registered gun dealer's resemblance to the 'King' of rock'n'roll - Elvis Aaron Presley.

For months Mr Shepherd, from north Kent, attended court complete with Elvis quiff and a striking Teddy Boy-style suit and was dubbed the 'Elvis look-a-like gun dealer'.

Tomorrow sees what would have been the legend's 75th birthday and the retired Bexley council worker is keen to put the trial behind him and focus on his real passion - Elvis.

"Turning up to court like that gave everyone something to talk about," he said. "Whenever I left a prison wing or went to court the last thing I would hear the guards shout would be 'Elvis has left the building'.

"While on remand you can wear your own clothes and I wanted to express who I was, I wore the old Western-style clothes. I'm not fashionable but that's me. And for court I wore my best suit everyday, of course it is one Elvis would have worn."

Like his childhood hero, Mr Shepherd was not only obsessed with the star's music but his love for guns.

That love found him in court, but after being cleared of all charges he was glad to have shown the world that Elvis' fashion, music and lifestyle lives on thousands of miles from his Graceland home and decades after his death.

Having grown up in India and moved to the UK in 1960, it was only here that Mr Shepherd was able to pursue his love of Elvis.

It was that decade when Elvis cemented himself in music history.

Mr Shepherd added: "What did it for me was his originality. There was no-one like him and in my mind no-one has topped that.

"To say there would be no rock'n'roll without him is the exact truth. He was totally unique.

"I followed his music and his life all of my life. In India it was hard but when I came here, to the Western world, everything was open."

Having visited Graceland several times his passion for the 'King' has never waned. In an outbuilding he built at his humble home in Dartford, he has created a shrine to the superstar.

Replica road signs of Elvis Boulevard, framed pictures of his hero adorn every space on the wall and souvenir trinkets litter the sides. A bootleg LP of Hill Billy Cat - before Elvis was famous - is one of his most prized possessions.

And of course legal firearms cover the walls and lock-up of his home - another passion the former council worker and Elvis 'coincidentally' share.

Much of the American star's private life was a closely guarded secret up until his death but his love of guns was widely known.

One of his favourite weapons was a Colt Python because of its great accuracy and low recoil. He used it for target practice in the back yard of Graceland with the 'Old Smokehouse' as a bullet stop.

"Graceland is not what people would think. It's not like the stately mansion you would imagine, it's more of a family home.

"Out the back he had his stables and a pistol range, with targets.

"It's just a coincidence that our love of shooting is intertwined with my love of his music.

"I have a dream of setting up a shooting range in Spain and making the building a replica of Graceland.

"It's just a dream but it would be the ultimate tribute to such a legend who has enriched the lives of millions."

Throughout the '60s, Elvis went on to make some of the most memorable music ever. In January 1969 he recorded From Elvis in Memphis.

His first gold album since 1965, it set up classic singles such as Suspicious Minds and In The Ghetto.

Elvis was born in Mississippi in 1935 before moving to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948 with his parents. He died at the age of 42 in 1977. Globally he has sold over one billion records, starred in 33 films and served in the US Army.

Although Mr Shepherd has watched endless tributes acts and attended a show at the O2 on the anniversary of his death last year, tomorrow he will remember the 'King' in private.

"At Christmas we had this modern music on and you could barely sing to it," he said.

"Tomorrow, I will sit at home and listen to the music of a genius.

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