By Stephen M. Silverman
August 13, 2003 04:44 PM

The journey to Graceland begins anew: Elvis fans are once again gathering in Memphis, this time to mark Saturday’s 26th anniversary of the King’s death on Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42, the Associated Press reports.

On Monday night, songwriters Mike Stoller and partner Jerry Leiber, whose songs for the King included “Jailhouse Rock,” met with some of those fans inside the Presley estate’s Beale Street club to watch the movie “Jailhouse Rock” and begin a weeklong observance of Presley.

Stoller, 70, said the King might have become a decent actor if only his manager, Tom Parker (known as “the Colonel”), hadn’t sold him out to lousy movies — 31 in all, made from 1956 and ’69, and, despite some good musical moments, each one more embarrassing than the last.

“Unfortunately, the Colonel had the golden goose and he wanted him to keep cranking it out,” said Stoller, according to Reuters.

Stoller also expressed his lingering shock over how Elvis could have allowed the Colonel to wield such power or such profits; Parker’s slice of Elvis was 50 percent of the star’s income for management fees, while the industry standard still remains 10 to 20 percent.

“The Colonel’s only interest was the Colonel’s,” Stoller said. “Elvis was merely a vehicle for the Colonel’s greed.” (Parker died in 1997 at age 87.)

The week’s Elvis events in Memphis include a candlelight procession past Presley’s grave in a garden beside Graceland, which still attracts more than 600,000 tourists a year.

This entire week, says Reuters, estate managers expect up to 4,000 people a day to tour Graceland and for even more to shop at its array of souvenir stores and museums.