Helsinki - Die-hard Elvis addicts might not approve, but hits by the man who defined cool when he took rock 'n' roll into the mainstream can now be heard... in Latin sung by a Finnish literature professor.

In yet another testament to the irrepressible influence of The King, fans can croon along to the broody Nunc Hic Aut Numquam (It's Now Or Never), shake hips to the slightly scary sounding title Nunc Distrahor (All Shook Up), or just have fun with Ne Saevias (Don't Be Cruel).

"Latin is an eternal language and therefore I believe it is important to document Elvis' songs also in this eternal language," said Jukka Ammondt, known by his stage name Doctor Ammondt.

The late Pope John Paul II was one of his fans, as is former United States president Bill Clinton, according to this professor at the University of Jyvaeskylae who released his first Elvis album in 1995 under the title, The Legend Lives Forever In Latin.

But why the language of Caesar?

"In my high school years in the early 1960s I had my own band and I sang Elvis in English," said Ammondt.

"Later, as a university professor in the 1990s, I realised that it was my calling to sing Elvis in Latin."

He now tours every summer during university break, playing across Europe or the United States where he has performed in Memphis, home to Elvis' Graceland mansion, New York and San Francisco.

Ammondt, whose lyrics are translated by a fellow professor, is passionate about all things Latin - he often listens to the Finnish public radio's news broadcasts in Latin, the only one of its kind outside the Vatican.

His musical "calling" started in the early 1990s when he recorded an album of Finnish tango songs in Latin, Tango Triste Finnicum, before moving on to Elvis.

In 2001, he recorded an album in Sumerian, a now-defunct language of ancient Mesopotamia, today part of Iraq.

Ammondt, who has a gift for languages and a sense of humour, insists that Finns have an easier time pronouncing Latin than English.

But it's not everyone who can get their tongue around Elvis' 1956 hit Tedere Me Ama" (Love Me Tender):

"I tenere me, suaviter

Ama intime

Me beasti dulciter

Et nunc amo te

Tenere me adama

Vero somnio

Amo te, o lux mea: Fiat unio."

Even with the twangy electric guitars and heavy horns, the Latin lyrics are jarring and some might say Ammondt is not a born crooner.

His renditions have been compared more to karaoke singing than to Tennessee recording studio material.

That doesn't matter for Ammondt, who may be described as eccentric. An expert on Bertolt Brecht, romanticism and melancholy in literature, he doesn't mind jeers or criticism.

He says Elvis' songs have given him the "courage to be myself and to think as an individual and to pay attention to my own feelings".

In his early 60s, with long grey hair and round spectacles, the thin, divorced father of three posed almost-nude for his 1997 Rocking In Latin album cover.

Ten years younger than his idol, Ammondt, who has his own website, www.drammondt.com, never had the chance to play for Elvis before the rock 'n' roll legend died of a heart attack on August 16, 1977 at age 42.

But he met Carl Perkins, who wrote the music and lyrics to Blue Suede Shoes and first recorded the song before Elvis turned it into a smash hit - and which Ammondt has transformed into Glaudi Calcei.

Perkins, who died in 1998, was "interested" by his endeavours, Ammondt said modestly.

He said Pope John Paul II, who received some of Ammondt's recordings from the Finnish embassy to the Vatican, was "positive about the idea of promoting the Latin language in this way".

And former US president Bill Clinton, who plays the saxophone in his spare time, sent Ammondt his regards after listening to his music.