|By Connie Swaim
ABINGDON, Va. — Aug.16, 1977 was the day the King of Rock and Roll died. Elvis Presley was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m. at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., after he had been found unresponsive on the floor of his bathroom at Graceland.
Everything surrounding The King was already in high demand so it is not surprising those who surrounded Elvis at his death realized they were holding pieces of history. One of those people was James McQueen, who maintained medical equipment at Baptist Memorial Hospital. On the day Elvis died, McQueen stopped George Nickopoulous, Elvis’ personal physician and told the doctor that he had marked the defibrillator paddles used on Elvis with a cutting tool so they would always be recognized. McQueen then waited for the hospital to sell off its surplus equipment and he grabbed the EKG printer, table and defibrillator paddles. On Jan. 4, 1996 Nickopoulous wrote a statement of authenticity stating he had seen the items McQueen owned and “I unequivocally without a doubt recognize the paddles by the inscription on the handle being the same original paddles I used on Elvis Presley.”
McQueen also saved an EKG strip showing a flat line. Proof that the King of Rock and Roll was indeed dead. That EKG strip along with information from McQueen and Nickopoulous will be offered at auction on April 6 by A-OK Auction Gallery. The one-of-a-kind item is from the collection of well-known Elvis impersonator Matthew Elvis Dollar. Dollar owns a massive Elvis collection and decided to part with a few items including the EKG strip. On the strip is written “This part was in my house fire but it didn’t catch fire. James T. McQueen (Mac) to Matt Dollar My good friend.” The strip is framed with a letter from McQueen to Dollar.
A-OK owner and auctioneer Alan Shope says the EKG strip is without a doubt the most unusual item he has sold with the possible exception of the recipe for Dr. Pepper in 2015. For sure it is the first EKG strip the auctioneer has sold. “It is something I never even thought about selling,” he said.
Dollar, whose legal middle name is Elvis, has made a name for himself as an Elvis impersonator (although he likes to use the word tribute artist instead). He is also on The Matt Dollar Show, which can be seen on various Appalachian Regional Community Television outlets. On that show he explores the Appalachian outdoors. “I feel that there’s a lot more to me than Elvis,” Dollar said in a 2018 interview with Tom Netherland for the Herald Courier. “The Elvis show has taken me all over the world, from Japan to about all over the United States. I want people to know the real Matt Dollar and not just the Elvis tribute artist.”
On a website devoted to Dollar, it says he has been an Elvis impersonator since the age of 8 and has been doing this for more than 24 years.
Shope first saw Dollar when he walked into A-OK’s auction house a few years ago. Shope said he looked up from the podium where he was selling and saw the man walk in with very distinctive Elvis sideburns and said flippantly to the crowd, “Elvis is in the house.” Later the two met and Dollar discussed selling some of his Elvis collection. Besides his television show, Dollar runs a firm that specializes in reupholstering vintage vehicles and Shope says Dollar wants to concentrate on that business and expand it.
According to Shope, Dollar was six years old when he met Elvis in 1976. Through the years, Dollar met many people who had worked with Elvis and those friendships led to the acquisitions of some of Dollar’s most unusual items — such as the EKG strip.
Part of the letter from McQueen to Shope reads, “Hello Matt, I thought I would write you a letter, thanking you for all the kind words, you are very special to me. I can tell you come from a very good family, and was raised a lot like Elvis. …. I’m going to send you part of the paper that came off of the EKG cardio (word illegible). … May God bless you my friend. Your friend (Mac), James T. McQueen.”
Shope said Dollar is “an extremely interesting individual. Elvis is his passion.” Shope said he could not even begin to describe the many items in Dollar’s collection. For this auction Shope is selling 12 lots from that collection. He hopes in the future to sell more of it.
Another interesting item up for bids is a yellow Mid-Century Modern chair from the private suite at the Holiday Inn on Volunteer Parkway in Bristol, Tenn. Elvis stayed at that Holiday Inn from March 17-19, 1976. While staying in the suite, Elvis reportedly fired a gun at the television set in the room. There are numerous articles online regarding Elvis and his apparent love of shooting things. Some news reports say he shot televisions any time Robert Goulet came on, but other sites say that isn’t true. It is true, however, that he shot up several televisions in various hotels. The chair has a metal plaque that reads “Chair from Elvis Presley’s private suite Holiday Inn Bristol, Tenn.” A certificate of authenticity signed by Dollar accompanies the chair. It reads in part that Dollar got the chair from longtime hotel owner Jack Trayer.
Bidders will also be able to purchase a piece of carpet which came out of Graceland. The green shag carpet piece measures 6 feet by 47-inches and was said to be removed when some of the carpet at Graceland was replaced in 1982.
Shope has no idea how much these unusual items will bring. He said some people may think the EKG strip is morbid, but Shope feels others will find it fascinating.
The auction will take place at the A-OK Auction Gallery in Abingdon and it will be available for online bidding as well. Shope encourages bidders to keep checking the online information as Dollar is still deciding on whether he will part with a few more items.
The auction also features one of the best gun collections Shope said he has ever sold. That collection came from an 85-year-old collector who used to take guns in payment from coal miners.
For more information visit the firm’s listing on Invaluable at www.invaluable.com or call the auction house at (276) 676-0009.