BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - As fans marked the 36th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death Friday, a Biloxi woman remembered her close connection to the music legend. Martha Ebberman performed numerous times on the same stage as Elvis. She shared her memories of the singer before he became the king of rock-and-roll.
Pictures of celebrities and other famous faces line the walls of the Burger Burger Restaurant in Biloxi. One of the most precious for owner Martha Ebberman is a picture of her standing next to the "King" himself.
"That's the one with Elvis and of Mae Axton. She wrote Heartbreak Hotel. We were at Jimmy Roger's Memorial Day in Meridian, MS, when that was taken," said Ebberman.
Ebberman was only 16 when she sang at the same festival where Elvis performed. Ebberman, whose stage name was Ann Rae, first met Elvis in 1955. That was when they both performed at a show at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.
"He was very good looking and he was very down to earth," she said.
When asked if she fell for him, Ebberman replied, "No, because I was dating my husband at the time and I was in love with my husband."
What Ebberman also noticed was Presley's amazing talent. She convinced her dad, booking agent Frank Barhanovich, to bring the then-unknown star to Biloxi.
"I told him you have to book this guy. You have to book him in Biloxi. Maybe if daddy hadn't booked him, we may have not gotten to see him here. Who knows if he ever would come to Biloxi on his own," said Ebberman.
Elvis Presley's performance at the Slovonian Lodge was the first of many gigs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Ebberman continued to open shows for Elvis, mostly at military bases across the southeast.
"Everybody just fell in love with him. Everybody just thought he was wonderful and he was. He was a great, great performer," she said.
Ebberman lost touch with Elvis after he hired a manager. She did see him two more times when she attended his concerts.
"I would have loved to be able to talk to him, but we couldn't get close to him after that. He was too big," said Ebberman.
Like so many fans, she was devastated when Elvis passed away in 1977.
"It will always be emotional, because he was such a great performer, and I had the privilege of performing with him. Not too many people can say that, you know. It was just a time in my life that you'll never forget," said Ebberman. "People kept saying: Oh, you didn't perform with Elvis. But I did, and it was a very, very wonderful experience."
Ebberman was looking forward to Elvis's return to Biloxi. Her dad booked Elvis for a show at the Coast Coliseum in November of 1977. Elvis passed away in August, three months before that concert.