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Record Collection Fit For The King

Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises have cataloged Presley's record collection with 1,000 albums and singles filling up a 24-page list.

Elvis Presley Enterprises, which owns the rights to all things Elvis in the United States, allowed only a cursory look at the list.

A partial copy of the list will be released this month as a perk for members of the Elvis Presley Collectors Club, formed by Graceland as an insider's view of the King's things.

"He used to say, `I can appreciate the best of everything,"' says Elvis friend and disc jockey George Klein, who once asked Presley why he liked opera stars Mario Lanza and Enrico Caruso.

There is only one opera recording (by Lanza) in the Elvis collection, which Graceland spokesman Todd Morgan says "leans heavily to black rhythm and blues and to black and white gospel."

Graceland archivists cataloged the recordings by title and last names of artists, so exact numbers in each category aren't readily available. That's because many who began as gospel singers crossed over into pop and R&B and later returned to their gospel roots.

But Elvis' friends said they didn't need a list to know that gospel recordings were his favorites and the music he most often played for friends.

"He loved close harmony," says Red West, a former member of the Memphis Mafia, the nickname given to Presley's closest group of friends.

He says Presley's favorite groups were the Harmonizing Four and Golden Gate and his favorite gospel singers included Jimmy Jones, Jake Hess and Mahalia Jackson.

It was that close harmony that also made him a big fan of the Ink Spots and The Platters, especially love songs, says West.

There are relatively few female singers in the record collection, but friends say his favorites included Anne Murray, Vicki Carr, Jackson, Della Reese, Dionne Warwick, Gentry, Leslie Uggams, Timi Yuro, the Andrews Sisters, the McGuire Sisters and his former backup group, The Sweet Inspirations.