The year was 1999. Ernst Mikael Jorgensen sat nervously in the lobby of the Hotel Nikko in Beverly Hills, Calif. A man who grew up reading detective novels in his native Denmark, he was about to exper

The year was 1999. Ernst Mikael Jorgensen sat nervously in the lobby of the Hotel Nikko in Beverly Hills, Calif. A man who grew up reading detective novels in his native Denmark, he was about to experience a cloak-and-dagger caper of his own making.

A middleman chosen by a jittery seller would soon deliver 25 Elvis Presley tapes stolen from RCA long ago, including the master for "Heartbreak Hotel" and the outtakes for "It's Now or Never."

Carrying a bag stuffed with $10,000 in cash, Jorgensen was so edgy that the night before he hadn't been able to eat. He didn't dare leave his hotel room with that much money.

He never learned the name of the seller, but he got what he came for -- no surprise to those who know the tall, mild-mannered Dane as the Columbo of rock.

Jorgensen, a record producer/compiler/researcher, has earned a reputation not only for ferreting out Presley's lost recordings, but also for cataloging the King's music and documenting elusive concert dates.

Today he rides his own private "Mystery Train" as one of the premier redeemers of Presley's legacy as an electrifying performer and seminal recording artist. Without Jorgensen's work chronicling Presley's recording sessions and artfully preserving and packaging his BMG catalog, the image of the singer at the end of his life -- a sad self-caricature -- might have lingered in the American consciousness.

Instead, Presley is largely remembered the way Jorgensen thinks of him, as "probably the most important star of all time."

Just how the 53-year-old Jorgensen came to rescue Presley's creative standing and put him back on the top of the charts decades after his death is a story so unlikely it could be the subject of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

It all started in the early '60s with Jorgensen's sister, who bought the singles "It's Now or Never," "(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame" and "Little Sister." The last is "the one that really caught my attention," Jorgensen says.

Jorgensen didn't get his own record player until 1963, when he was 13. The first albums he bought were by the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

But he also began collecting early Elvis Presley records. By 1967, however, when Presley sang "Old McDonald" on the soundtrack to the movie "Double Trouble," Jorgensen recalls in his Nordic accent, "I found it very hard to defend my appreciation for Elvis' music."



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