Kevin Wasley was born in Hawera, went to Hawera High School, worked in the town as a contract painter and decorator, and in 2019 celebrated 60 years of collecting Elvis Presley memorabilia.
The Elvis Presley Museum is located in the garage, attached to his home at 51 Argyll Street, Hawera. KD has visited 20 times the Elvis Presley Graceland Mansion and its grounds, in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Elvis Museum website provides the following background which admirably captures the flavour of the Museum, also known as the Elvis Presley Memorial Room :
‘People look at his feet and ask where are his blue suede shoes? He’s known by some as The King. Not that KD minds. He’s as enamoured of the man as he ever was. KD owns the Elvis Presley Memorial Record Room at 51 Argyle Street, Hawera, and don’t let the fact that it’s in his garage put you off.
Step inside and it’s a veritable shrine to the singer from Memphis who died 16th August, 1977, though KD, self-styled curator will argue, “it’s a celebration of Elvis’ life” he says, “not his death”. And so, very definitively, it is. Elvis on the walls and the ceiling. Elvis on the glasses, mugs, ties, cufflinks, book sleeves, album covers, even the barstools. The television plays endless Elvis reruns.
There’s an accumulation of Presley detritus on every flat surface, and on round, curved, and oval ones to boot. It’s probably fair comment that KD is, and will always be, intimately involved with The King. Everything in his own personally-appointed museum comes with a known history. Simply staying too long in front of an old china cabinet can jumpstart a flowing dialogue.
Rock around the record room “I’ve got hundreds of things” KD says, as he casually surveys the room. “These records over here might mean nothing to anyone else, but they came out of a juke box in Tennessee. The middle one, that’s an original recording. I paid phenomenal amount for those – 75c each – and they’re priceless, today, priceless”.
“See that bloke there?” He asks. “His name is Roy, he was my pen pal. Not an Elvis fan. He’s got more photos of Mt Egmont\Taranaki in his lounge than I have got of Elvis. When I was at High School, I wanted a pen pal in the States, and it had to be in Memphis, because that’s where my hero lived. Well, Roy happened to want a pen pal in New Zealand. I was like a rat up a drainpipe. I got my block and chisel out and wrote to him. He wrote back. A lot of things he got for me”
For visitors, it’s KD’s passionate oratory that accompanies them around the floor. KD’s a natural raconteur, with an erudite feel for his subject. He’s read every Elvis book, heard every Elvis song. There surely can’t be much about the man he doesn’t know. And better still, he likes to share it. “I’d probably not be exaggerating if I say I’ve had thousands through here” he says. vis first crooned into
His hair, though grey, is kept in the familiar smooth-combed style and he’s not opposed to a bit of the old imitation ‘leg wiggle’. He’s a perfect mix of the bloke-next-door and showman. He’s used to the attention, now, and though he downplays his role in keeping The King alive, he’s really what the museum is all about.
It’s not just his private collection that sparks enthusiasm for young and old, but an undiminished zeal which is as infectious as his grin. If Elvis Presley has become KD’s addiction of choice, it’s fair to say that somehow he’s learned to keep it under control, how to take it or leave it, and not push it onto people who don’t care to know. “This place is not a shrine,” he says, reassuringly. “It’s a tribute. It’s my tribute to the man. To me he’s still alive”.
For more information click on the following links:
One of the reviews on TripAdvisor says it all:
'You won't find a better collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia outside Gracelands'.
As the 'Lonely Planet' commented 'KD's pride and joy is the Elvis Presley Memorial Record Room. Elvis has not left the building'.
Thousands of people have visited the Museum, from over 100 different countries. One of KD’s biggest fans is his mother-in-law Nancy West, a very old friend of the Stockwell family, who lives in Laurent VC Street, Hawera.
An appointment needs to be made to visit the Elvis Museum. This can be done by phoning either 06 278 7624 or 0274 982942. There is no admission charge but donations are appreciated as a contribution towards the upkeep of the museum. The Museum is a unique and quirky destination for any out of town alumni attending the Hawera High School Centennial celebrations 25 – 27 October 2019.