Elvis' debt to Cricklade composer
TODAY marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley.
To date he has sold over one billion records in America alone, and has had 150 different albums and singles that have been certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum.
Hundreds of thousands of fans have undertaken the pilgrimage to Graceland this week to celebrate the legacy of the undisputed king of rock and roll and enjoy a special 30th anniversary concert featuring recordings of the king and thousands of impersonators.
But few realise the humble Wiltshire roots of one of the King's most famous hits.
Love Me Tender, which reached number one in America, was originally composed by George R Poulton, a man born in Cricklade in 1828.
He was baptised in St Mary's Church and was raised in the town until the age of seven when his parents, Charles and Hannah Poulton emigrated to Lansingburgh, New York.
George Poulton grew up to become a celebrated musician and in 1861 composed Aura Lea, one of the most popular tunes of the 19th Century which became a very famous Civil War song.
It went: "As the blackbird in the spring, Neath the willow tree, Sat and piped I heard him sing, Sing of Aura Lea."
The legacy of this tune evidently lived on well into the next century because in 1956 Elvis changed the lyrics to form Love Me Tender, which also became the title of one of his films.
George Poulton's descendants still have connections with the Saxon town where he was born.
Betty Wickam, great-grand daughter of George's sister Mary Ann, recently became a member of Cricklade Historical Society.
George Poulton died only six years after writing Aura Lea in 1876 but his work is still celebrated.
In 1976 the Lansingburgh Historical Society co-sponsored a bicentennial music salute to commemorate his work.
But according to the society's treasurer Kathleen Tivnan, George Poulton ended his career in disgrace.
She said: "He was an interesting character to say the least. He got into trouble in 1864 because he was too friendly with one of his music students.
"He was dismissed from his position as a professor for conduct unbecoming of a teacher'.
"A few days later he was tarred and feathered by the girl's enraged family by the River Hudson and forced to move further west.
"This affected his health and he died a couple of years later."