WACO, Texas – Wednesday marks the 43rd straight year Elvis Presley has missed his birthday since his 1977 death, but the people at Chuy’s restaurant refuse to let his spirit die in their annual celebration of “The King.”
Across its 102 locations nationwide, Chuy’s is celebrating Elvis with a special one-day offer. For anyone that dines at Chuy’s Wednesday dressed as Elvis or Priscilla Presley, their meal is free. The deal is in addition to the other tributes on the Chuy’s menu, including Elvis-inspired entrees and cocktails.
The chain’s infatuation with Presley comes from its humble beginnings.
“When Mike [Young] and John [Zapp] founded Chuy’s back in 1982, they didn’t have much of a marketing budget, or a decorating budget for that matter, so they hung up one velvet painting of Elvis Presley,” server Melissa Zuniga said. “All the guests from around the area started bringing in all their Elvis stuff so we built a shrine. And now every Chuy’s that opens has an Elvis shrine.”
Bobbyee Oliver and Judith Williams have celebrated Elvis’ birthday together for 30 straight years. They sat at Chuy’s Wednesday afternoon in Elvis t-shirts, surrounded by memorabilia they’ve collected such as lunchboxes and a model of Presley’s iconic hot pink 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood. Oliver has been to Graceland 19 times and saw Presley live in concert during his breakout year of 1956.
“I was in the front row,” says Oliver. “Believe me when I say he looked me right in the eyes.”
It was in that same year, at age nine, when she discovered the phenom with the rest of the world.
“I remember where I was when I heard him,” says Oliver. “It was ‘Don’t Be Cruel’, and I was in the car with my dad, and that was it.”
It was around this same time that Williams also discovered her lifelong obsession.
“He had my heart then,” says Williams. “He had it then and he’s had it ever since.”
The two friends started the tradition of meeting on Elvis’ birthday at Oliver’s house, but say they are fortunate to have a restaurant in town that embraces their idol.
Presley would have been 85.