‘Mr Cole,’ he said, very firmly, ‘I am the Deputy Sheriff of Memphis. I am commanded by the Presley family to invite you to visit with the deceased.’
I then spotted my business card in his hand. I wasn’t sure I wanted to ‘visit with the deceased’, but, in the interests of journalistic enquiry, I accepted.
The Deputy Sheriff took me by the elbow and began walking me up the serpentine path that climbs a small hill to Graceland, with its white columns and classical pediment.
He ushered me through the doors to a scene I shall never forget.
In the hall, a coffin had been placed on trestles. Behind the coffin, in a sombre arc, stood members of the Presley family, including Elvis’s ex-wife Priscilla, daughter Lisa Marie, and his father Vernon.
One by one, I shook hands with them, extending my arm across the coffin where the greatest singer of the 20th century lay dead at the age of 42.
I heard myself expressing condolences on behalf of myself, the BBC, the people of Britain and Elvis fans throughout the world. They smiled and said gracious things.
It turned out I was the first person invited into Graceland — the home Elvis Presley only ever left to perform a concert or make a record — since his death.
How did Elvis look? Not too good. Being English, I didn’t like to stare. But it was such an extraordinary sight, I had to take in every detail.