Burning love: Elvis fan Barney Mabey's lifelong obsession with the King

by Sam Button / 16 August, 2018
Barney Mabey

Barney Mabey. Photo/Richard Brimer.

Inside Barney Mabey's man cave

Dannevirke car salesman Barney Mabey remembers the first time he saw Elvis on television, back in the early 70s. He was six years old and the King was beaming his “Aloha from Hawaii” concert out of Honolulu. Now the self-described “Elvis nutter” has transformed his unused car shed into a shrine.

“It’s what he sings, his dancing, his charisma...” he says, when asked what’s driven his lifelong obsession with Presley. “I remember being very young and thinking, ‘Hell, this guy is pretty good.’”

Mabey picked up a few bits and pieces of memorabilia as a teenager, but it’s the explosion of merchandise available on the internet over the past 20 years that inspired him to build a room fit for the King. “Now you can buy everything from spoons to salt and pepper shakers; anything with Elvis’s name on it.”

His collection ranges from posters to figurines to his personal favourite: a “TCB” ring he bought in Memphis, referencing Elvis’s personal motto “Taking care of business”. Mabey, 50, also owns three Las Vegas-style jumpsuits, and while he shies away from calling himself an impersonator, he’s donned them for the occasional performance in retirement villages.

Family and friends think he’s crazy, admits Mabey, who stocked up on official merchandise when he was in Memphis for the 30th anniversary of Presley’s death, in 2007. “But I’ve spoken to a few other Elvis fans – it’s a calling.”

The old shed where Presley’s memory lives on is no heartbreak hotel, though, but a place where he gathers with friends. “Mainly we go out there on a nice summer’s weekend, crank up the karaoke, have a sing-song and just relax.”

And the “Man Cave” may be in for another transformation. “I’m going to need a bigger room,” he says. “I’ve got more stuff coming!” 

This was published in the February 2018 issue of North & South.

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