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Consumer Reports

Elvis is just one of the music legends inspiring furniture makers | (KRT) Elvis is back in the building --- and so are Billie Holiday, Burt Bacharach and George Gershwin, all music legends who have become the latest inspiration for furniture companies.

Elvis furniture may have started it all, but now fans have more music-inspired furniture: the just-released "New Standards: The Steve Tyrell Collection" by Pennsylvania House. Its Billie Holiday slipper chair, Bacharach sofa, Stardust chair and Gershwin sofa represent music greats associated with Tyrell. Tyrell, a jazz singer/composer/producer, has worked with a wide range of musicians, from Ray Charles and Otis Redding to Rickie Lee Jones and Elvis.

The Elvis furniture idea came to John Bassett, president of Vaughn-Bassett Co., when he couldn't get a rental car or a hotel room in Memphis during the annual August anniversary events marking Elvis' death on Aug. 16 in 1977.

"They told my father there were 40,000 people in town because of Elvis," said his son, Doug Bassett, as he guided a small group around the Elvis showroom at last fall's semiannual High Point International Furniture Show in North Carolina. "The first thing my father thought is: `That's 40,000 bedrooms!' "

He imagined fans sleeping in a Love Me Tender bed or gazing into a Gold Record mirror and began the collection with two bedroom sets: Love Me Tender, a Victorian style, and a trendy Hollywood `50s look.

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"Elvis had the misfortune to die in the least tasteful decade in the history of man," Bassett said, having fun telling the story and showing the furniture. "It's Elvis interpreted for today's customer, more a `50s or `60s look," Bassett said. "Not the way things looked in `77 when he died."

In the first pieces, references to Elvis were subtle: a heart-shaped mirror and EP-shaped drawer pulls were about the only sign of the King. Leather for the Hollywood headboard was a natural. "White leather says Elvis," Bassett says. "And it's a great retro look.

"We tried to be witty," he added. "Doesn't that blue suede sofa remind you of the back of a `57 Chevy?" Or try relaxing in an Elvis vibrating recliner that leaves you All Shook Up.

Elvis fans loved it, and the company has had requests for information from as far away as Australia and Iceland. Furniture stores weren't so sure. Interest has cooled, and about the only thing the company is still selling are the bedroom sets (some pieces available through Rothman's furniture stores).

At (click on Shop Elvis, the Home Decor), you can buy fun lamps printed with Elvis images, as well as phones and other home accessories. Or call 888-358-4776.

The Pennsylvania House collection name comes from Tyrell's 1999 album, "A New Standard." The collection (available in the fall through Shubert Furniture Two) is about standards_classics, but with a twist. It's sleek, sophisticated, a little sassy. Just like good music.

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© 2003, Chicago Tribune Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services