LONDON – For decades Elvis Presley's English fans have accepted that the King of Rock and Roll never set foot in England — his only known visit to Britain was a quick stop at Glasgow Prestwick Airport in Scotland, which has an Elvis lounge and a plaque to commemorate his 1960 stopover there.
Now the denizens of "Elvis world" here are buzzing about reports that Presley made a secret visit to London in 1958 to see the sights with popular British rocker Tommy Steele, who apparently promised Presley never to reveal that they had gone to the Houses of Parliament and other famous landmarks together.
The half-century-old secret was revealed on a BBC radio show by prominent theater producer Bill Kenwright, who said Steele told him that Presley flew in for a day after calling Steele out of the blue to say he liked the British rocker's music. The call came while Presley was stationed at a United States Army base in Germany.
Steele, now 71 and acting in a production of "Dr. Dolittle," told London's Daily Mail in a written note that he wished the secret had never come out. He said he had promised Presley not to reveal it.
"I can only hope he can forgive me," he said of Presley, who died in 1977 at the age of 42. "It was an event shared by two young men sharing the same love of their music and the same thrill of achieving something unimaginable."
Presley had been known to visit Paris while stationed in Germany, attracting hundreds of fans as he stayed in a fancy hotel near the Champs Elysee and went to some well known Parisian nightspots, but there have been no prior reports of him touring England, where he never performed.
The news of the visit has been welcomed by English fans and caused some consternation in Scotland, which may lose its status as the first and only part of Britain visited by Presley.
"It does sound feasible; I heard Bill Kenwright say it and he's not the sort of person to make things up," said John Talbot, director of Capital Elvis, one of many Elvis fan clubs in Britain. "It's of interest to those of us in Elvis world, to put it mildly."
He said the apparent visit from the King would be the number one topic at the all-Elvis disco he hosts the first Saturday of every month in The Minories, a London pub.
"We never heard a whisper of it," he said. "No one knew he and Steele were friends."
The news was not welcomed at Scotland's Glasgow Prestwick Airport, where officials are proud of their Elvis connection. The bartender at the Elvis-themed lounge hung up the phone Tuesday when asked about the King's visit to London, and airport Chief Executive Mark Rodwell told the British Broadcasting Corp. that he wants photographic proof that Presley was actually in London.
"As far as we are concerned, until it is proved otherwise Prestwick Airport remains the only place in the United Kingdom that Elvis Presley ever set foot," he said.